Sunday, February 25, 2007

Whew! The vacation that wasn't!!

As you can probably tell by the date of my last post, the snow and my life finally caught up to me. I owe you all two great books to feed the writer within you and many, many thoughts on writing!! But I took some downtime - which really wasn't!!

You see - I spent the past week caring for my 84 year old grandmother while my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in Florida. In her prime, my grandmother was a tough Polish woman who proudly survived the Great Depression and saved every scrap of tin foil that entered her house. She told you how it was and there were no arguments. At least we always knew where we stood!!

Three years ago, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. For those of you who have experienced it, this disease is the most devestating thing that I have ever come up against. Her body remains healthy - her mind does not. And the worst part is that she can sense that her mind is failing her.

What is interesting is that my grandmother has always done those things that the doctors will tell you will help ward off this disease: she plays cards, used to do word puzzles, read everything she could get her hands on and walked almost two miles a day. Her mind was always stimulated!! Instead, I think the disease snuck in when she was her most vulnerable - right after my grandfather passed. Ironically - eleven years ago this week.

So, I have been off of work and away from my blogs, but hardly on a vacation. And what does this have to do with writing? EVERYTHING!!

In teaching social studies, I always encouraged my students to interview their relatives as a means of getting their family history. What personal stories did they have about the events we were studying? Few took me up on this extra credit offer!! But I was reinvigorated by reading a recent Will Richardson post on how his daughter made some YouTube videos by interviewing some older relatives. Imagine the history we could preserve by engaging students in the new technologies available to us: podcasting, streaming video!!

It seems that the Internet and social networking spaces are preserving the present - how can we help to preserve the past? In the spirit of capturing the wisdom of our fathers and mothers, some links for oral history projects:

What did you do in the war, Grandma? is an oral history of Rhode Island women in World War II conducted by a high school honors English class.

The Oral History Project: A Culture and Heritage Exchange Initiative is a streaming media project in partnership with the Library of Congress that captures the histories of Vietnam Veterans, Native Americans, and African Americans.

Tell Me Your Stories contains an oral history curriculum which is fairly comprehensive in providing resources for developing an oral history project for your classroom.

And of course, American Memory has a remarkable set of materials for teachers and students interested in preserving our social history. These are sets of DBQ like resources using oral history as references and can help spark the historian in most students. (A personal bias here as I used this site often in the classroom.)

These stories are important - how can you help to capture them?

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