Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Social Networking

I would like to thank all of you who have invited me to be part of your online social networks. As you probably noticed, I did not join your network. This is in no way a reflection on you or my willingness to be part of a social network, per se. Let me explain why I do not accept these invitations.

First, because my office is located within a Denver Public Schools facility, I am unable to access any online social networking Website through the school's Internet service. There is nothing I can do about this as it is just DPS policy. Many sites are blocked here, including FaceBook, Bebo, Hi5,, LinkedIn, MySpace, YouTube, and most other social networking services.

Of course, I could set up social networks from my computer at home, but I still choose not to. Within the last 18 months, someone who apparently knew me from long ago saw my profile on and tried to track me down. Doggedly. It got scary and I no longer felt safe at work or at home. I removed myself from every kind of online thing I could think of, from Classmates to Amazon, Yahoo Groups, and more. If I need to be part of an online group, I do so under a pseudonym with my location listed as an obscure town in the Southwest that is actually uninhabited. Seriously. There is always going to be public information available that I cannot control, and I don't mind my work information being out there, but otherwise, I prefer to keep a low profile (or no profile, in the case of social networking).

So, I really do appreciate that so many of you have invited me to be part of your social networks, and I'm sorry that I can't accept those invitations right now. I am not anti-social, just trying to stay safe, or at least, as safe as I can in this cyber age.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Summer break

Your volunteer coordinator is currently out of the office for the duration of the summer break at Emily Griffith. If your student has a family member enrolled in ESL classes at EGOS, please be aware that school will not resume until the first week of September.

CRESL In-Home Tutoring Headquarters will be closed for three weeks from August 9 through September 1. We will resume normal office hours on Tuesday, September 2. Classes at EGOS also start on September 2. Sharon will not be available to check voice mail or email messages during the summer break.

See you in September!

Back to school

Although classes at Emily Griffith don't resume until September 2, the kids attending Denver Public Schools return to classes very soon--August 18. If your student is the parent of a DPS child, there are ways you can support her (him) in getting the kids ready for school.
  • School supplies: Most schools provide a comprehensive shopping list prior to the start of the fall semester. Consider donating a few supplies to the cause. School supplies are drastically on sale right now. Click here for a list of schools and links to their Websites, which link to supply lists

  • Uniforms: Many of the kids on the east side of town will attend Place Bridge School. Although uniforms are not required, per se, there is a very specific dress code for students. Parents might need some help getting the right clothing for their kids. Some will have the money to do this, some might appreciate a helping hand. It is better to buy the clothes outright rather than giving money.

  • Start-of-school papers: It amazes me that considering the level of diversity within K-12 schools, teachers still send home very complicated information packets for parents. Our students can't understand any of it, and this can be a real source of stress and frustration. Anything coming from the school must be critically important, right? Often it isn't. You can help by sitting with your student and separating the important from the not-so-important, and if possible, explaining what each thing is in simple language. Also, some things will need to be signed, and you can explain those, too.

  • Expectations: In many cultures, parents have no involvement in their child's education. In U.S. culture, we expect parents to monitor homework, assist with school projects, and attend parent-teacher conferences. In the schools, there is often a misinterpretation of parent interest regarding a child's education. It isn't that refugee and immigrant parents don't care or don't wish to be involved, rather, they don't know they're supposed to. Also, parents may feel embarrassed because they speak less English than their children or have no formal education themselves. Role-playing the parent-teacher conference--maybe even going along--might be one of the most helpful tings you can do.

  • Homework: Explain what it is and that parents should make sure their children do it. You may be called upon to help with homework or at least to check it. Whether or not you actually do this is entirely up to you! Parents may feel frustrated and ashamed that they cannot help their children in this regard. Be sensitive to this fact and reassure your student that someday she'll be able to do it!

  • Nutrition: Some of our refugee kids will be enrolled in school breakfast and lunch programs. A good lesson for the parents would be to explain what good nutrition is for kids and how critically important it is that children are properly fed at breakfast and lunch. A hungry child cannot learn effectively, but if parents have never had to prepare their kids for school, this may not be something they have thought about until now. See the earlier post on this blog about nutrition lessons created specifically for refugees.
If your student's child comes home with a paper that requires more explanation, don't hesitate to call the school directly. While you're at it, help your student learn the language of asking questions on her child's behalf. This is a skill your student really needs!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Invitation from Denver's Burmese Community

Memorial Service for the 8888 Uprising
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Colorado Capitol
Lincoln St. at E. Colfax Ave.
4:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.

Twenty years ago today, the people of Burma demonstrated in the streets of Rangoon, demanding democracy and the restoration of human rights in Burma. The protests soon spread throughout the country. The oppressive military regime sent soldiers out to stop the uprising, and over the course of several days, thousands of people were killed. Nobel Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi, emerged as a national icon for freedom and democracy among the Burmese people.

The Burmese people have struggled for democracy and their very survival since the 8888 Uprising.

Each year, Burmese people around the world gather to commemorate this sad day in their nation's history and to help build awareness of the plight of the people who live under the brutal regime that still rules Burma. The anniversary is marked by candlelight vigil, community gatherings, or peaceful rallies.

On Saturday, August 9, the Burmese Community of Colorado will gather in front of the Colorado Capitol building for a memorial service honoring those who perished in the 8888 Uprising.

The Burmese Community in Colorado invites you to join the memorial service this Saturday. The group will remember the significance of 8888 in a show of support not only for Burmese people who still live under oppression, but also for those who have become refugees and are scattered all over the world.

Click here to learn more about the 8888 Uprising.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Troubling news linking autism and Somali children

This story has been circulating in the media for the past coupkle of weeks. In case you misssed it, you can access it by clicking here.

Here is the start of the article:
By Elizabeth Gorman
Thursday, July 24, 2008

Short yellow school buses deliver children with special education needs to Minneapolis public schools every weekday morning. As students arrive at the elementary school where I work part time, I can't help but notice something about the autistic kids as they climb down the buses' steep steps: Almost all are Somali children.

Autism is a developmental disorder that doesn't discriminate against race or class, and it is on the rise in the United States. But in Minneapolis, the mysterious disorder appears to be zeroing in on one of the city's newest communities: First generation U.S.-born Somali-speaking children in Minneapolis schools are disproportionately identified as having autism.

"We're definitely seeing it, and something is triggering it," said Dr. Chris Bentley, director of Fraser, a nonprofit in Minneapolis that assists autistic children and their families.

Bentley is helping organize an unusual forum next month to discuss the issue. Members of the Somali community, autism advocates and officials at the state departments of health, education and human services have been invited to attend. "This is something we're looking at first in Minneapolis and then in St. Paul, but this is a much bigger issue than that," she said, suggesting that studying what's going on in the Somali community in Minneapolis may provide clues to understanding the causes of autism.