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Tag: community building

learning to “mud” with habitat for humanity

Me and four of my students spent this Friday morning and early afternoon with the kind folks from Habitat for Humanity renovating a home in Park Forest, IL. It was just a small crew–five of us plus the Habitat folks Kevin, Rebecca, and Dean. It was really a good time. We swept, patched, painted, sanded, taped and “mudded” drywall, and removed the exterior siding. All in all, it was light work as the site was waiting on supplies before it could [singlepic=1190,300,300] Hangin’ with Habitatreally push on to the next phase of renovation, but we did the best we could and enjoyed one another’s company and the luxury of not having to rush the job.

Kevin–Habitat site supervisor–greeted us when we arrive, and he was great. He took his time and taught us everything we needed to know to do the tasks for the day. He didn’t assume any previous knowledge on our part and he was super patient and encouraging. Heck, I even learned how to “mud” drywall–a job that has always intimidated me to be honest. It really wasn’t that bad. (Some sanding is certainly in order, but I think I could have done worse.)

As the work day drew to a close, we took some group pictures, and talked for a bit more, lingering on even after the work was done, as we were still enjoying getting to know one another better. While dragging my butt out of bed early Friday morning (my usual day off) honestly wasn’t something I was looking forward to, I’m really glad I did it. I hope to meet more friends at the next building day with Habitat. Kevin and the rest of the folks tell me we’re welcome back anytime.

jes karper and a life learning anthem

Stumbling through the Internet today while I should have been focused on other things, I discovered the music of Jes Karper and his string-pluckin’ conscious poetry. It’s great uplifting stuff that offers some clarity and perspective on what’s important in life. The first song I heard of his is called “Try On Life,” which to me sounds like an anthem for life learners everywhere. Give it a listen below; then if you like it, go buy it so he can keep making music.

[audio:tol.mp3] Listen to “Try on Life”
Cool tune. If you enjoy it, you also might enjoy the video below of Jes playing another one of his pieces off the same album. It’s called “Time Stood Still.” According to Jes’ web site, he is a singer, songwriter, naturalist, river guide, conservation mapbuilder, and environmental educator. Originally from Pennsylvania, he travels the world full time, but finds his home mostly in Belize. At the moment, he’s in Maui where he recently played the Mother Earth Day Festival. Here’s hoping he makes it to Chicagoland soon.

In the meantime, check out his video.

When I listen to it, it makes me want to go dance with reckless abandon around a campfire with friends. Life doesn’t need to be so complicated. Anything is possible–even the simple things.

a community writing center

As a writing teacher and a college writing center director, this project by Dave Eggers really caught my eye. He set up a storefront in his neighborhood in SF to help kids with writing. I saw Eggers last March at a conference in SF. He’s a smart and motivated guy (and a helluva good writer). This project of his is awesome. I can see myself doing something like this one day. Sometimes I feel like my life as a teacher can be a little bigger. I teach college writing, direct a college writing center, and help my son with his learning (some call that homeschooling), but expanding that to an even larger community might be really nice. I’ve been thinking a lot about community lately, and service, and a distinct lack of it in many places. Anyway, this project got me thinking. Check it out.

I’m a homeschooling parent. (Lately I’ve taken to calling that life learning, not homeschooling, but that’s another conversation.) When you say you home school (and the like), people take that as kind of criticism of mainstream schooling because, well, at least in my case, it is. There are many problems with the mainstream system, I think. The idea that it is a system in the true sense of the word is part of the problem. But I don’t think that means one should completely separate themselves from those within that system. Sometimes we life learners catch ourselves perpetuating a kind of homeschooling snobbery–most likely as a kind of defense mechanism against the prejudices we sometimes face. Of course, that is not the answer.

One thing that has attracted me to what Eggers is doing is that he’s bringing to public school kids what many life learners and homeschoolers strive for everyday–a real sense community, purpose, and authentic voice. The kids at 826 Valencia Street are really there–doing real and rewarding work, letting their voices be heard, enjoying the respect of adults who are really interested in what they have to say. These kids are participating in what Egger’s refers to as cultivating democracy and enlightened lives through the participation in community (and in the case of 826 Valencia via the primacy of the written word). These values are closely aligned with those of my family as we negotiate this thing called homeschooling and learning with others.

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