Friday, July 24, 2015

Of What I Am Most Proud
By Dr. Roxanne Henkin
July 23, 2015
Haridwar, India

Today our writing prompt was, “What are you most proud of that you have achieved?”  That’s a hard question for someone who has lived so long.  The most personal achievements--to love my spouse and my children and grandchildren and my extended family and friends and pets are most meaningful.  To help and support my students at all levels is another accomplishment I try to do. Also, I try to be a good person, although I have to admit there are days when I don’t do that so well.  But outside of my personal life, what is it that I am most proud that I have achieved?

Sitting here at Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya University in Haridwar, India it is so clear to me that I am proud of the work of the San Antonio Writing Project and our international connections across the globe.  The teacher consultants in SAWP are doing such good work even this week and throughout the summer, with our writing camps and inservice in area schools.  I am so grateful to be able to learn along with these talented professionals. I am thankful for the many opportunities that opened up for us since we created the San Antonio Writing Project in 2006.  I am also grateful for the support of our ILT Department Chair, Dr. Mari Cortez and our Dean, Dr. Betty Merchant.

It’s also clear to me that rather than talking about achievements, this is a vehicle for me to be thankful for all the gifts in my life.  Last night on Facebook, there were posts about the international work that I am proud of.  The first is an article on Thandiwe Dlodlo, who came from Limpopo, South Africa and attended the SAWP 2015 Summer Institute.  She stayed at our house and we had a wonderful time showing her the sights in San Antonio. But more importantly, the article about her shows all that she has learned and is taking back to South Africa with her.

And then there is India.  I feel so moved to be able to be here, writing with wonderful and talented professionals from so many disciplines.  I am learning so much more that just content as we write and discuss with our hearts and listen with an intensity that does not always happen.  Each person’s unique insights change my world outlook.

Kalpana said that you couldn’t know India unless you come here.  You can’t really know India through Bollywood or the movies or even documentaries.  You have to meet the people and fall in love with them and their beauty and their intellect and creativity and their insights.  You have to listen to the people and learn from them, and be changed.  That is what I am proud of and that is what I am grateful for: the opportunity for knowing all of you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Saying Goodbye

Spending the month with Thandiwe Dlodlo has been a wonderful experience. Thandiwe is gracious and loving and puts everyone at ease whether it is my Ninety-three year old father or my four and one-half year old nephews. She comes from South Africa, and shares information about her country that always leaves us wanting to hear more. Dr. Ndimande greeted her at the airport with us when she first arrived, the day before the institute started. They started talking and realized that they had gone to the same University, though in different years. We asked her if she ever imagined that she would travel such a long distance only to find a person from her own country and we marveled at how small the world has become. The SAWP 2015 Invitational Summer Institute has been a time of exploring social justice issues through writing, among other things. We’ve explored injustice from multiple perspectives. We’ve looked at the impact that social justice issues have on education, our teaching and on our classrooms. And we’ve also examined these issues through a global lens. Thandiwe’s gentle voice has reminded us of the similarities and differences we face in our lives as teachers. The participants have all brought their own unique perspectives and contributed to our shared understandings. As the SAWP 2015 Summer Institute comes to a close, we leave enriched, inspired and ready to continue making a difference in our students’ lives.

Friday, June 26, 2015

This is the Historic Day!

This is the day that I have been waiting for. This is the day that makes every bad day worth it. This is the day that when I didn’t receive awards or win elections, I thought, all other things really don’t matter. It’s really the ruling on gay marriage that is important because it will change my life. This is the day I have been waiting almost 40 years for. Mary Lou and I moved in together in 1976 and married legally in Canada in 2006, on our 30th anniversary. This is the day that our marriage is finally recognized in Texas, and in all of America. This is the day that Mary Lou and I become eligible for the many rights most married Americans take for granted including social security benefits and being listed as spouse on each other’s death certificates. I know this may sound morbid, but I’ve heard too many times how devastating it can be to not even be recognized when a spouse dies. This is the day I have been waiting for. My cousin Elissa remembers when I told her that I wanted my marriage to recognized somewhere in the world before I died. I didn’t really think I’d see this day. This is the day I have been waiting for. To no longer to be a second--class citizen in the land of my birth. To be legally connected to my in-laws. To be told no more, that my marriage doesn’t count. It makes all the work, all the activism, all the disappointments worth it. It makes me believe in America again. This is the day I have been waiting for.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Kalpana Iyengar is the UTSA Roadrunner of the week. She talks about the San Antonio Writing Project and the Writing Project we'll be starting in India this summer.

Monday, June 30, 2014

SAWP SI 2014 with Paula Lemperis Kelderman

San Antonio Writing Project ISI Summer 2014

This is the last week of our SAWP Institute. I'm already feeling sad that our time together is coming to a close. Even though I know that we will see each other and we'll be working together in the future, there is nothing like our intense month of writing together and working together. Every week has been different and exciting depending on who visited us and who presented. We write journals each morning. Here's one of mine. My former student and keynote presenter at the Water Conference, Paula Lemperis Kelderman stayed with me. She also presented to our SAWP 2014 Summer Institute. I had time with Paula, and she had so many treasures with her. She had kept the school pictures from the two years I was her teacher. As I looked over the pictures I was amazed at how many names I still remembered. She told me that Steve McWilliams who had been in my class was now the Principal of Barrington, High School. We were all so young in the pictures. She still had the goodbye letter I had written to my students, and she read it aloud to me. As I listened to it, I marveled that I had actually written it. Then she asked me if I remembered Arlene Baumgart. Of course I did. She started out as my permanent sub whenever I was out giving presentations. Then when a job opening became available, I helped hire her as my teaching partner. She gave me a gift from Arlene that had a copyright of 1985. The book was still wrapped in the clear plastic. It was Loon Magic, because I loved the call of the loons at Whitefish Lake, where we took the kids every summer. Around that time the cabin at the lake was sold, and our family never returned until now. Until this week Until the fifth of July When we asked the kids if they’d like to go back to the lake, everyone wanted to go. So we booked a townhouse and a cabin for the week starting July 5th. This modest resort is just a few houses down from our old house, and we’re excited to show it to our grandchildren and our kid’s spouses. But all of this, both Paula and the cabin on Whitefish Lake take me back to my young self. One I remember but it’s almost as if it happened to a different person. I’m certainly a different person than I was then. What a gift it has been to rediscover old memories and a younger me.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Traveling the Baltic

As our trip comes to an end, I'm finally able to post. We never were able to connect to the internet on the ship and ended up canceling our internet contract. The Baltic Cruise was beautiful, but with 8 ports in 7 countries, it was also exhausting. We often were off the ship by 7:00 a.m. and back on it just in time for a late dinner. We visited Oslo, Norway; then Berlin, Germany; next Tallin, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden. Some highlights were the Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo. Others include what's left of the Berlin wall has become a place for public art which is often stunning. We also visited the Jewish Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. There is a stone garden of the Jewish Museum. If you look closely you can see trees growing on the top of the stones. We also saw the new synagogue which is now a museum. Next came the old town of Tallinn, Estonia, one of the "best preserved medieval cities in Europe." St. Petersburg was beyond words. It's known as the city of art and culture in Russia and it lived up to it's name. The Hermitage Museum and the Peterhof Palace were beyond description with the art collections and the gold on staircases and in the rooms. The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and St. Isaac's Cathedral were surprisingly beautiful. Finland was lovely and Sweden was filled with surprises. As we sat on a park bench, suddenly music played and soldiers on horses came marching in. It was the time for the changing of the guard in front of the Royal Palace. Something amazing happens when you travel. As you see new sights, you are forced to confront your old beliefs and understandings about life. Travel helps you grow. My ancestors left Russia, the Ukraine and Eastern Europe in the late 1800's because of the Pograms, violence and anti-semitism that were directed at the Jews. There was no love of Russia or identification as a Russian among my family. I grew up during the cold war when Russia was our enemy. My feelings about Russia were complicated and I had no identification with the country. My knowledge of Russia was limited to the samovars and the nesting dolls that my Grandmothers had in their houses. Our guide, Anna is an interpreter for dignitaries and reporters in St. Petersburg. I shared my Russian ancestry with her and she asked when my family left. "That was a long time ago," she said, and we both realized that my family was spared the suffering of Russians in the 20th century. When I asked her about seeing a Samavar, she suggested there might be one in a museum that we could find. I grew up thinking I was the only one I knew who had such white skin with such dark brown hair. In St. Petersburg, I saw many people who looked like me. I remembered other Russian influences in my life such as the borsht my Grandmother's served or Ms. Sybil, my Russian ballet teacher with whom I spent many years taking ballet lessons. When we watched a Russian Folk Group perform on the ship, I remembered the Russian Club at my high school and the balalaikas they played on. Our whole tour group became close to our guide, Anna. We took up a collection and offered thank-you speeches to her. We all felt the similarities in people far outweigh the differences as our time together had just proved. When it came time to say goodbye to Anna, she kissed Mary Lou and I goodbye on both cheeks and hugged us. She said that she could tell that I had Russian in me, and I felt proud. So traveling opens up our lives, helps us learn and in my case to even learn something new about myself. The final picture shows us with our friends Jan and Phil from Sydney, Australia. We met them last year on our cruise of the Western Mediterranean. After our first night on the ship, we missed them and wished they were with us this year. A few minutes later, as we were looking at photographs taken on the first day of the cruise, we bumped into them. Jan and Phil were on our cruise! We hadn't talked with them in a year, hadn't made any plans but had somehow ended up on the same cruise a year later! All four of us were thrilled and we spent the rest of the cruise having dinner and going to the shows together. This time we made sure to exchange addresses and promised to keep in contact. As we prepared to say goodbye, we marveled that although half a world away from each other, we shared so much in common. The world is becoming smaller as we transform into global citizens.