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Poem: "Learning Together" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Learning Together"
This is the free epic for the July 3, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl reaching its $200 goal, chosen in an audience poll.  It came out of the July 3, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] zianuray. This poem also fills the "peace" square in my 7-1-18 card for the Winterfest in July Bingo. It belongs to the Mercedes thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Learning Together"

[August, 2014]


After a fractious spring, Caton Teager
had had it with the bigots in Mercedes.

Still stinging from the injustices
that he had failed to prevent, he was
determined to do better by his students
as well as visitors to their small town.

He needed to do something
to restore peace in the community.

Peace wasn't just the absence of conflict,
though, it was something positive in its own right,
something you had to build from the ground up.

Caton was willing to put in the effort
to make lasting changes in town.

He just had to figure out how.

At least the new principal
was better than the old one.

Dari Jiang had made it clear
that she would not tolerate
the kind of abuses that had
happened in the past.

Caton thought about
networking with the scouts
for that Italian school who'd been
scoping out the town, but he already
taught Italian and he wanted
to do something new.

So he asked an expert.

"Is there any language
particularly favored by soups,
or even supervillains?" Caton said,
sidling up to Cold Cash in line
for the Tastee Shack.

Cash gave him a cool look. "Why?"

"I teach at the high school," Caton said.
"I want to do something concrete
to show that Mercedes isn't a -- a --"

"Shithole village?" the supervillain said,
pulling his thin lips into a smirk.

"You said it, not me," Caton muttered.
"Listen, I'm looking for ways to fix it,
and I could really use your help."

"Well, there are the world languages
that most travelers use, just the mix
is a little different. Some rare languages
are more common too," Cash said.
"Then there's Esperanto, which is
designed to promote tolerance."

"Esperanto," said Caton.
"Isn't that the language
Graham Finn swears in?
Not Gaelic, the other one."

"Yeah, now everyone knows
how to say 'eggplant' in Esperanto,"
Cash said with a soft chuckle.

"I don't speak Esperanto,"
Caton said sadly. Then inspiration
struck, sudden and bright as lightning.
"But maybe that's a good thing."

After lunch, he hustled over to
the high school, its halls quiet over
summer break, except for the bustle
in the office as people prepared
for the new school year.

"I have an idea," Caton said as
he bounded into Mrs. Jiang's office,
"but it's ... a little far out."

"Tell me all about it,"
she said, leaning forward.

"I want to teach Esperanto
this fall," said Caton.

Mrs. Jiang tilted her head.
"That's not on your transcript,"
she said. "I didn't know you spoke it."

"I don't," Caton said. "That's the idea --
I want to explore it with my students.
We'll be learning together. It's a way
to show that we're willing to work on
local problems and make a place
for everyone at the table."

"Do you have a plan for how
to learn and teach a language
at the same time?" Mrs. Jiang said.

"I think so," Caton said, showing her
his outline. "Esperanto offers all kinds
of educational materials -- books, audio
and video, movies, you name it. I figure
we can mix formal and informal materials
in each class, with weekly quizzes and
monthly tests to track progress."

"And what if you flunk?"
Mrs. Jiang said, eyes sparkling.

"Well then," Caton said, "I'll
get to model mature ways
of handling failure."

"All right," said Mrs. Jiang.
"Let's see what happens."

So Caton placed an order
for a teacher's manual and
other materials he needed,
then posted the class on
the high school website so
students would know they
could take it if they wanted.

By the end of the week,
the class had filled up.

Language classes were
capped at fifteen students, and
more often held ten or twelve,
to optimize learning opportunities.

Caton added another session,
and within days, that one filled too.

He hesitated over his schedule,
but he already had two hours each
of Spanish and Italian. He needed
both the free hour and the study hall
in order to keep up with classwork --
especially with the extra demand of
learning while teaching Esperanto.

Reluctantly, Caton posted,
I'm sorry, but the classes are full.
Everyone else wanting to study
Esperanto will have to wait until
next year. Here is a signup list
to give you priority for that.


A few days later, he got a note
from the community center, asking
if he would consider teaching
Esperanto classes there.

Caton thought about
his workload at school, then
replied that he could not take on
a whole extra class by himself
but would be happy to assist if
they could find more teachers.

By evening, another message
arrived. The program organizers had
decided to hire an Esperanto teacher
to present a weekend intensive.

After that came a listing of
several volunteers along with
a suggestion that they take turns
teaching about subjects of interest
to them with Esperanto vocabulary.

That was actually a great idea,
and Caton promptly volunteered
to lead with a class on rock painting.

He took the intensive class, which
was right before school started, thus
giving him a head start, which helped.

He made it through the first two weeks
of class, scrambling to stay one step
ahead of his students, who were
inspired by his enthusiasm.

The next weekend was
the rock painting workshop.

Caton brought a big bag of little rocks
and a small bag of large rocks
for people to choose from.

He demonstrated the steps
of basic rock painting and
described how the hobby
worked -- you made rocks,
hid them, and looked for ones
left by other people. When you
found one, you could keep it or
take a picture and re-release it.

"The first option I'm offering is
a set of vocabulary cards," he said,
holding them up. "Learning a language
is work, so to keep up your interest, you
need to learn words that matter to you.
Pick a topic and then practice writing
your words on these pretty little rocks."

Kids and teens swarmed his table,
grabbing cards about animals, fish,
vehicles, food, holidays, and more.

"For the more ambitious, I have
some proverbs and bigger rocks,"
Caton said, attracting more adults.

Soon everyone was busy painting
rocks and writing on them with paint pens.

There were students of all ages, from
a toddler helping her mother to an old man
who used a writing bird to hold his pen
and drew on stickers that could be
glued onto the rocks later.

Caton loved working with
such a large and diverse group,
everyone learning together and
all at peace with each other.

Smiling, he picked up
a piece of slate the size of
his hand and began to inscribe,

Por sperto kaj lerno ne sufiĉas eterno.

* * *

Notes:

Caton Teager -- He has pinkish-fair skin, brown eyes, and golden-brown hair buzzed short. He is married with two young children, a son and a daughter. He tells funny stories about them in class. Caton teaches foreign languages at the high school in Mercedes, California. Previously, those consisted of Spanish and Italian. After recent upsets, he started offering Esperanto -- which he doesn't speak, so he and his students are learning it together, as a way of making Mercedes a more soup-friendly town. As a hobby, Caton enjoys making, hiding, and finding painted rocks.
Qualities: Good (+2) Enthusiastic, Good (+2) Linguistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Rock Painter, Good (+2) Teacher, Good (+2) Upstander
Poor (-2) Moral Injury

Explore the hobby of making, hiding, and finding painted rocks. Most people paint pictures or abstract designs. Some paint words or proverbs in a heritage language. Some use runes, ogham, or other symbols. See some examples. Learn to paint your own rocks, hide them, and hunt for others. This is a very popular hobby in Terramagne and people often paint positive messages on their rocks.


Dari Jiang -- She has tawny-pink skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and long straight hair of dark brown. She is petite with a soft, pear-shaped face. She wears glasses. Dari is the hearing child of deaf parents. She speaks American Sign Language, English, Chinese, Filipino, and Spanish. Dari is married with twin daughters who are just starting preschool. After the fiasco with the last principal, Dari took over leading the high school in Mercedes, California. She has no patience with bigots or discrimination of any kind and is taking steps to improve the school culture. Cheerful and supportive, she excels at knowing when to take a chance on people or ideas.
Qualities: Good (+2) Agility, Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Encouraging People, Good (+2) Principal, Good (+2) Taking the Right Risks
Poor (-2) Tolerating Discrimination

* * *

Moral injury occurs when someone crosses, or is forced across, their ethical boundaries. Read about how to heal from it.

Esperanto is an auxiliary language designed to promote tolerance. Find out how to learn it.

Proverbs may be found in Esperanto and with English translations. Most are borrowed from other languages instead of coined inside Esperanto itself.

Enjoy vocabulary lists for aquatic animals, farm animals, wild animals, Valentine's Day, Halloween, Christmas, food and drink, and vehicles.

Por sperto kaj lerno ne sufiĉas eterno.
• English equivalent: We are to learn as long as we live.
• Paczolay, Gyula (1997). European Proverbs in 55 languages. DeProverbio.com. p. 182. ISBN 1-875943-44-7.
-- Esperanto Proverbs

A writing bird holds a pen or pencil so that someone with low dexterity can write. It is shaped similar to an ergonomic computer mouse with a hole through it.

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