Here’s the text of a letter to the editor of the Washington Post that I just sent this morning.
Dear French teachers,
Can you say “yes” to any of the following questions?
Would you like to have better and more interesting resources for your classes?
Is your own French stagnating because you’re only talking with your students?
Are you lonely because you don’t get to have intellectual conversations?
Are you nervous because your French isn’t as good as you wish it were?
Join me starting next week for a friendly, engaging, 6-week online class for French teachers (via Zoom video conferencing). Each week you’ll get a (short!) reading based on one of the AP themes. We then take time to talk with each other and break into small groups to discuss the reading. At the end of each session you have a text and discussion questions that you can use in your own classes… and plenty of ideas about how to engage students more & to have more fun yourself.
Two different sections (limit 12 per section)
- Tuesdays 7:30-8:30 pm ET
- Thursdays 4:30-5:30 ET
Register here by Monday, September 17 to reserve your spot.
Elevate CI Membership: Solid, sustained, support for culturally responsive world language teachers.
Rachelle and I have been working all summer to get the online membership ready, and we’re just about there. If you’re on Facebook, check out (and “like”) the Elevate Education Consulting page and you’ll see a series of videos we made this week about our new membership (we did Facebook Lives for the first time ever!) & lots of other information as well.
The membership will officially open doors this Tuesday, September 4 (we’re waiting until after the long weekend). Sign up for the wait list now to be the first to hear when it opens and to get information. People on the wait list will get a few special extras to start off the school year as well. 🙂
Your Brain Can Learn French!
Fall French classes are starting up, and I’m offering them both online and in person. You can register & see a list of classes, dates, and prices here. Highlights include two new sections of Advanced French for French Teachers (online), a Beginner French class (online), and in-person classes for all different levels. Oh, and have you seen our new website? Our fabulous intern Aidan Creamer spent the summer redesigning it and it is BEAUTIFUL! Take a look at www.elevateeducationconsulting.com. The French class page is elevateeducationconsulting.com/your-brain-can-learn-french.
Your Brain Can Learn Spanish!
Rachelle will be offering Spanish classes this fall as well, again both online and in person—and she’s got lots of options this year! Believe me when I say that you will not regret spending an hour a week in her company. You’ll learn a ton and you won’t believe how much fun you’re having. Take a look at elevateeducationconsulting.com/your-brain-can-learn-spanish. If you’re already ready to register, click here.
We look forward to seeing you soon!
Sermon delivered on 8/26/18 at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Silver Spring, MD
- Ephesians 6:10-20
- John 6:56-69
For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places…. (from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians)
Last week, Father Ted Johnson stood here and, referencing Jim Wallis, named racism as the original sin of our country, reminding us that the United States of America was, as Wallis has said, “established as a white society, founded upon the genocide of another race and then the enslavement of yet another.”
Whether “original sin” is a helpful metaphor for you or not, we are all of us deeply affected and influenced by the founding reality of our country. To shift to Paul’s words in today’s Epistle, the “spiritual forces of evil” of this founding racism are lurking in every one of our institutions; they are present in the way we see each other; they can be seen in who we most readily trust and who we see as dangerous. The “cosmic powers of this present darkness” are present in how we see ourselves. They are present in the presumption of innocence I have been granted throughout my life, wherever I go… and likewise in the presumption of guilt faced by my friend’s 17-year-old son, who has been followed in every store he’s entered since he started middle school and who has been stopped several times by police because he “fit the profile” of someone they were looking for.
Many of you know that I have been profoundly affected this summer by the shooting death of my neighbor Robert White on June 11 at the hands of police. (I’ll be attending his memorial this afternoon at the John Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church on 14th St. I invite you to join me if you’d like.) In a blog piece I wrote about his death just a few days later, I described my deep upset at what happened and called on my fellow white people to join me in educating ourselves about our socialized thinking and responses so that we can cause less harm.
I wrote a postscript to that piece when a friend pointed out that my assumption that Rob was homeless when we first met was very likely a manifestation of negative attribution bias—that is, I had assumed he was homeless due to pieces of information that would likely not have made me assume, say, that a white woman was homeless.
This is the same unconscious bias that made him seem suspicious to the police officer. I have watched the video from the officer’s body camera, which was made public this month. I watched through the officer’s eyes as he approaches Rob with an assumption that this is a suspicious person who needs to be stopped and questioned. From there this assumption builds into a scenario that becomes more and more dangerous until, finally, Rob is dead.
For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against …the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places….
Two moments in Father Ted’s sermon last week particularly stood out for me. The first was when he described his conditioned response of fear and anxiety when he’d be out walking in Petworth at night and he’d encounter his black neighbors—and his dis-ease and despair at finding that racism in himself.
The second was his invitation that we each sit with Jesus in prayer and ask for help in healing this rift in ourselves.
I wonder how many of us sat down and took on this prayer practice over the past week?
Sitting in prayer with the knowledge of our own imperfection and sinfulness is deeply uncomfortable. Yet, how else can we hope to see the bigger truth? How else can we hope to be healed?
Paul invites us to: Stand… and fasten the belt of truth around [our] waist and put on the breastplate of righteousness.
Let’s take a moment right here, right now, to do just that.
Find a comfortable position that is relaxed and yet alert. I’d recommend you wiggle about a little to see if you can settle into your seat more fully, and give yourself some space between yourself and the person next to you, even if you love holding hands with your spouse as much as I do!
Now, allow your eyes to close. If you’re uncomfortable with your eyes closed, you can let your gaze be soft and look down toward the floor.
In your mind’s eye, picture your belt of truth. What does it look like? What color is it? What is it made out of?
Touch it and feel its texture. Become familiar with it. Notice how heavy it is, or how light. Now, imagine putting it around your waist. How does it feel? Can you adjust it so that it offers you real support, so that it’s neither too tight nor too loose? Breathe into it. Adjust it again as needed.
Now, the breastplate of righteousness might be a little harder to picture. Perhaps it is a particular shirt that helps you feel courageous. Or a perfume. Or maybe even a great deodorant! Take a moment to find what the breastplate of righteousness could be for you, today. Being quite literal is fine, too… An actual breastplate that offers protection. Put it on.
With this breastplate of righteousness, you are courageous. Your heart can be open, but it is also protected from shocks that are too forceful or intense. You are available and you don’t need to be frightened.
Now, keep your breathing deep and slow, and allow any thoughts that are in your mind to float through without trying to hold onto them. You can bring yourself back to your belt of truth and your breastplate of righteousness if you find yourself following other thoughts. Bring yourself gently back to center.
Now, invite Jesus to be with you. Feel him looking at you with deep, deep love.
And now ask for clear sightedness. Ask for the truth. Ask to know and to be known.
Open yourself …. and see what Jesus is inviting you to see.
Who do you trust and feel comfortable with? Feel how good it feels to think of these people. Who is in your closest circle? Imagine their faces…
With that love and support around you, and Jesus’ profound love…
Who are you afraid of?
What images come up for you?
What were actually the first images that came up, before you replaced them with images you felt more comfortable with?
How does it feel to think of these people? Do they have faces?
What’s happening to your breathing? To your heart rate? Is your mouth dry?
Are you finding yourself thinking about all sorts of other things instead of this question? Has your mind gone blank?
Notice. Breathe. Feel Jesus’ love. Adjust your belt of truth and check your breastplate of righteousness.
Ask to see the truth. You are courageous and protected. You are held in love.
Does Jesus have anything to say to you? Do you have anything you want to say to Jesus?
Who do you have contempt for?
Who do you want rid of?
How does racism show up in your life?
Ask to see the truth.
Ask for help.
Ask for forgiveness.
Ask for strength.
Breathe deeply once again. Notice how your body feels, where it comes in contact with the pew, where your feet are touching the ground, how your back feels against the wood.
Wiggle your fingers and toes.
Gently open your eyes.
The disciples said to Jesus, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”… and many turned back and no longer went about with him.
Today Jesus asks us: “Do you also wish to go away?”
Let us keep putting back on that belt of truth when it has slipped off, and that breastplate of righteousness…
And let us answer Jesus in the words of Simon Peter:
Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.
We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.
May we all, individually and corporately, continue saying YES to the holy, transformative, and healing power of God.
Sharing from Silver Spring Justice:
NOTE: The starting point for the rally has changed. We will now meet on the Fountain Plaza, about a half-block down Ellsworth from Veterans Plaza (916 Ellsworth Dr – Silver Spring, MD 20910; parking at Wayne or Ellsworth garage).
It has been almost two months since Rob’s life was taken. (You can read my blog post from June about Rob’s death here.) This week, the Howard County State’s Attorney declared the shooting justified. I do not agree. Rob was walking as he did every day. His walking through his own neighborhood was not a threat to anyone’s safety—except, as it turns out, his own.
I continue to feel sickened and angry and deeply sad that our neighbor will never again walk by our house on his daily walk around the neighborhood.
I am profoundly touched that I was asked to speak at the rally tomorrow, which starts at 6 pm at the Civic Center in downtown Silver Spring (details below). I will be holding the group in prayer, but I won’t be able to be there since I am leaving for the Express Fluency conference in Burlington, VT tomorrow afternoon.
If you will be in town, please attend. It is important.
See below for information about the rally and about recent developments from Silver Spring Justice, a group that has been formed in response to Rob’s death.
Since we last wrote to you, there have been two very important developments. First, the Howard County State’s Attorney deemed the shooting to be “justified.” We are dismayed at this ruling (you can read our statement here). Then, on Wednesday evening, the police released the bodycam videos of the incident.
The video shows a police officer stalking Robert White through the neighborhood based on the flimsy rationale that Mr. White’s hoodie was ripped. It’s a horrifying video of an innocent man being chased through his own neighborhood until he finally shoves at the officer and ends up shot 9 times. We strongly believe that the officer acted to escalate the situation rather than to engage in any de-escalation tactics. In fact, we can hear him tell the dispatcher that it could be a ‘suicide by cop’ situation… yet instead of calling in mental health specialists, he continues to relentlessly pursue Mr. White until he ultimately kills him. (You can watch the video here, but do be aware that it is violent and disturbing of course)
In response to these developments, we are holding a protest and candlelight vigil on Sunday. I hope you can join us:
**Added 8/5** NOTE: The starting point for the rally has changed. We will now meet on the Fountain Plaza, about a half-block down Ellsworth from Veterans Plaza (916 Ellsworth Dr – Silver Spring, MD 20910; parking at Wayne or Ellsworth garage).Apologies for the change; we do not want to disrupt an Ivorian cultural festival on Veterans Plaza tonight.Here is the event Facebook page, which has the most updated info: https://www.facebook.com/events/629279404123250/
DEMONSTRATION forJUSTICE IN OUR BACKYARDSunday, August 5th at 6pmSilver Spring Civic Center/Veterans PlazaRally at 6, we will then march 1.4 miles along Wayne Avenue & Sligo Creek Parkway to Three Oaks Drive for a candlelight vigil(we’ll have rides for those who can’t do the walk)Join Mr. White’s family, community and faith leaders, activists, neighbors, and friends to demand accountability for Mr. White’s killing and demand change in how officers patrol communities.Please bring a small piece of torn cloth to add a message to & wear a piece of torn clothing if you can. Route is accessible, ASL interpreting provided. Please let us know if we can help you participate with other accommodations.