D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

Filtering by Tag: esl


I won a gift card to Powells at an ESL literacy conference I was presenting at a while ago. So I thought it fitting to finally buy a book I have been dreaming about for a long time: Where Children Sleep by James Mollison. The book is  devastating in the best possible way: engaging, enlightening (without judgement), inspiring, heartbreaking. Mollison was asked to use his photography to raise awareness about children's right around the globe, and he definitely rose to the occasion.

Mollison took portraits of children around the world and also took pictures of where they slept. The images are great for sparking discussions on inequality (and what constitutes happiness). I use these images in various ESL settings, but I think the book would be wonderful for older children as well (all the bio's of the subjects are written with 9-13 year olds in mind, without shying away from the harsher realities of living situations). You can go to Mollison's website to see more pictures yourself. Here are some of my favorites (if I can even use that word in this context).













The discussions these pictures have sparked between the hubs and me, and the students in my classes, are so valuable. The connection to the plight of children around the world is something I never want to be far from my mind. It helps us not get so comfortable here, makes me realize the true worth of our lives.






Another book I bought was What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio. This is another collection of photos from around the world, this time detailing the amount (and variety and cost) of food that families eat in one week. It is staggering in the inequality, the visual equivelent of a record scratch. When I have shown this to students there are looks of sorrow and disbelief, of nodding heads in solidarity, in remember when they were hungry and only had one bag of rice to share with their extended family. The pictures from the refugee camps hit the hardest--but so too do the pictures of overweight low-income families struggling with diabetes and addicted to McDonalds.

The whole crazy picture of sin as it relates to food is laid out in this book.

To view pictures, TIME magazine posted two series of photos from the book. You can view them here and here.

Here are two of my favorites:







I am all for using realia in teaching, and you can't get more real than this stuff. All of us would do well to keep these images at the fore fronts of our consciousness; many thanks to photographers for bringing the world in all its hurt and glory to our eyes.

Mutuality: Not Just a Buzzword!

So, part of my angst after the Justice conference spilled out into my newest column. It feels good to have written it down, and to have a reminder of what my expectation vs. reality often is. But as I was writing, I started to get mired in all that is not right, I could feel the sad stories start to eclipse the hope. Then, the soul-crushing guilt comes rolling in, telling me I am not doing enough, that the good years are behind, that the future is always in flux, never in solid relationship.


And then, two nights ago, we left the door unlocked and the refugee kids creep in, looking for a friend, content to just sit and play for awhile.

Yesterday, we go to our neighbors house to have chai and delicious Nepali food, to sit and talk about babies and the sunshine and possible small business ideas.

Last night, a former student of mine, a sweet, nearly toothless Vietnamese man, brought bags and bags of food to school for me. This is the second time in a month; he never says much. Just smiles and shoves the beautiful, ornate, smelly food in my hands and walks away, takes the bus back to his house.


And all of this is so unexpected. Nobody wants anything from me. They want to be friends. I know this sounds strange, but this might be the weirdest part of my life right now. I feel uncomfortable with my friendship, like I must offer something more in order to be worthwhile. English class, small business opportunities, a play group. But my friends and neighbors just smile and nod politely and go back to cooking me food (I am racking up a delicious food debt so high there is no hope of ever paying it back--I must cut my losses right now and declare grace in the realm of cooking hospitality).

In a season of questions, I am being blessed by the people I thought somehow needed my help. It is blowing my mind, this mutuality, this risk in only being friends.



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