Day 13: Burn it. [We all carry around beliefs that are no longer serving us. Maybe you’ve been telling yourself “The only way to succeed is with a lot of struggle” or “I have to change for people to accept me”. Whatever the story is that’s keeping you from your desires, it’s time, dear sister, to let it go. On a piece of paper, write down the belief you’re done with carrying around. Then (carefully!!!) burn it - releasing the story and replacing it with a new one that supports your dreams and desires.]
What a sunset.
One Headlight - The Wallflowers
She said it’s cold
It feels like Independence Day
And I can’t break away from this parade
But there’s got to be an opening
Somewhere here in front of me
Through this maze of ugliness and greed
And I seen the sun up ahead
At the county line bridge
Sayin’ all there’s good and nothingness is dead
We’ll run until she’s out of breath
She ran until there’s nothin’ left
She hit the end-it’s just her window ledge
Paloma Noyola: The Face of Mexico’s Unleashed Potential
When a report emerged in September 2012 that a girl from one of Matamoros’ poorest neighborhoods had attained the highest math score in Mexico, some doubted its veracity. It must be fake, they said.
But it wasn’t fake. Her name is Paloma Noyola, and what most reports failed to mention is that almost all of her classmates also scored very high on the national math test. 10 scored in the 99.99% percentile.
Paloma and her classmates also scored in the top percentile in language. Something special was happening at José Urbina López primary school in Matamoros, and Wired went to take a look.
The high test scores turned out to be the work of a young teacher who also came from humble beginnings. Sergio Juárez Correa was tired of the monotony of teaching out of a book and wanted to try something new to help engage his students when he came across the work of Sugata Mitra, a UK university professor who had innovated a new pedagogy he called SOLE, or self organized learning environments. The new approach paid off.
Although SOLE usually relies on unfettered Internet access for research, Juárez and his students had very limited access. Somehow, he still found a way to apply Mitra’s teachings and unleash their potential.
From the beginning, Paloma’s exceptional abilities were evident:
One day Juárez Correa went to his whiteboard and wrote “1 = 1.00.” Normally, at this point, he would start explaining the concept of fractions and decimals. Instead he just wrote “½ = ?” and “¼ = ?”
“Think about that for a second,” he said, and walked out of the room.
While the kids murmured, Juárez went to the school cafeteria, where children could buy breakfast and lunch for small change. He borrowed about 10 pesos in coins, worth about 75 cents, and walked back to his classroom, where he distributed a peso’s worth of coins to each table. He noticed that Paloma had already written .50 and .25 on a piece of paper.
As Mr. Juárez implemented more of Mitra’s teachings in his classroom, Paloma continued to stand out as an exceptionally gifted student:
Juárez Correa was impressed. But he was even more intrigued by Paloma. During these experiments, he noticed that she almost always came up with the answer immediately. Sometimes she explained things to her tablemates, other times she kept the answer to herself. Nobody had told him that she had an unusual gift. Yet even when he gave the class difficult questions, she quickly jotted down the answers. To test her limits, he challenged the class with a problem he was sure would stump her. He told the story of Carl Friedrich Gauss, the famous German mathematician, who was born in 1777.
When Gauss was a schoolboy, one of his teachers asked the class to add up every number between 1 and 100. It was supposed to take an hour, but Gauss had the answer almost instantly.
“Does anyone know how he did this?” Juárez Correa asked.
A few students started trying to add up the numbers and soon realized it would take a long time. Paloma, working with her group, carefully wrote out a few sequences and looked at them for a moment. Then she raised her hand.
“The answer is 5,050,” she said. “There are 50 pairs of 101.”
Juárez Correa felt a chill. He’d never encountered a student with so much innate ability. He squatted next to her and asked why she hadn’t expressed much interest in math in the past, since she was clearly good at it.
“Because no one made it this interesting,” she said.
Although this Wired piece focuses mostly on Sugata Mitra, it does once again highlight the story of Paloma Noyola. Unfortunately, after a brief spurt of media attention, little on Paloma was ever mentioned and, as was pointed out by Wired, nothing was ever said of Mr. Juárez.
As with most stories in the Mexican press — and those popular with the middle-class — things suddenly become very important once it’s featured in a gringo publication. Which is a very sad commentary. We hope, however, that this story pushes those in the press, state and federal government to look not to the United States for validation but to Mexicans like Sergio Juárez doing good work in places like Matamoros.
The clear message in this story is that there are thousands of Paloma Noyolas going to school in Mexico who, just like her at one time, are not being challenged and therefore aren’t very interested in school. This story can, if we want it to, raise enough awareness to shift the discussion from poverty to opportunity.
Paloma truly personifies both Mexico’s challenges and unleashed potential.
Read the entire Wired story here: How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses
Editor’s note: As an addendum, Wired provided information on helping support Sugata Mitra and his School in the Clouds project, and although they donated school supplies and equipment to José Urbina López School, we’re interested in seeing if we can help set up a similar fund for Sergio Juárez, the teacher featured in this story.
Also, $9,300 was raised to help fund Paloma’s education last year. We’re going to follow up with the economist who led the fundraising campaign to see how she’s doing. Stay tuned for the updates.
This girl and her teacher are amazing.
There is so much genius all over this world. What makes the difference? Opportunity.
Everyone deserves it, and don’t let anybody convince you otherwise.
I’ll start on the Andrews Street bridge and run all the way to Franklin Street where I’ll be taking a right. I’ll run down East Avenue, past Main Street, through the neighborhood of the arts all the way down to Winton Road. On Winton, I’ll take a right and run all the way to San Gabriel. On San Gabriel, I’ll take a right and run all the way down to Cobbs Hill Drive. At the corner of San Gabriel and Cobbs Hill Drive, I’ll be taking a left all the way to Highland Avenue. At Highland Avenue, I’ll be taking a right and running all the way to South Clinton. At the corner of Highland and South Clinton, I’ll be taking a left and running all the way to Westfall Road. At the corner of South Clinton and Westfall, I’ll take a right and run to Brighton Town Park where I’ll find the Erie Canal Path. I’ll run down the Erie Canal Path all the way to GVP . I’ll continue on the path to the U of R (yay! home :D) and then I’ll take the downhill path, past the Interfaith Chapel straight under the abandoned railroad bridge onto Joseph C. Wilson Boulevard. I’ll run down Wilson all the way to the Ford Street bridge (I’ll be taking a left). I’ll run through the Ford Street bridge, take a right onto Exchange and run all the way to Plymouth where I’ll be taking a left. Once on Plymouth, I’ll run on it all the way to Frontier Field to the finish line (left on Morrie Silver Way) and BOOM - DONE!
So, why run a half marathon? There’s a war inside of me that goes on day to day — it always feels like I’m barely staying alive. Yet when I run, that changes, the internal dialogue that usually tells me that I’m worthless and ugly and fat and useless and the scum of the Earth, begins to change — the dialogue quiets and suddenly it becomes filled with marvel and wonder. “Wow, who knew you could run that far?” So the first reason is for (1) survival. This brings me to my second reason. It is often that I wonder “why human?” I think being human is an intense way of existing — it’s hard and difficult. But if there’s one thing I love about it, it’s the experiential nature of being. We get to use our senses to have experiences in ways that differ from other beings — not necessarily superior, just different. A dog running a half marathon, would not have the same experience as I would (or any human) or any specie that differs from it for that matter and I think that’s pretty cool. So you can say that reason number two is (2) experiential. I’m here to collect experiences.
At the moment, this half marathon is the only thing keeping me alive. Half marathon training saved my life. I do have a death wish — this is helping me hold on a little longer — I’m on a thread, but I’m hanging. Holding on to it so, so tightly. When I cross that finish line,I would not only have completed a pretty awesome physical feat, but I’d also would have stayed alive one more day, one more week. Similar in fashion to the moments when I hold on one more mile, one more mile….and mile by mile I make it to thirteen. Will it be uncomfortable? Absolutely. Does running come easy to me? No. Will it be hurtful? Perhaps. Will it be a challenge? The hell of a challenge. But along the way, I’ll get to see my favorite neighborhoods and reminisce on all the memories I’ve made in them. I have a memory for every single leg of the way …. I’ll be internally reciting my memoir each step of the way, until that finish line. And once I cross that finish line, regardless of how long it takes me, I will have won.
A friend of mine sent me a snippet from Toni Morrison’s Sula — I MUST read.
"Oh they’ll love me all right. It will take time but they’ll love me." The sound of her voice was as soft and distant as the look in her eyes. "After all the old women have lain with the teen-agers; when all the young girls have slept with their old drunken uncles; after all the black men fuck all the white ones; when all the white women kiss all the black ones; when the guards have raped all the jailbirds and after all the whores make love to their grannies; after all the faggots get their mothers’ trim; when Lindbergh sleeps with Bessie Smith and Norma Shearer makes it with Stepin Fetchit; after all the dogs have fucked all the cats and every weathervane on every barn flies off the roof to mount the hogs…then there’ll be a little love left over for me. And I know just what it will feel like." She closed her eyes then and thought of the wind pressing her dress between her legs as she ran up the bank of the river to four leaf-locked trees and the digging of holes in the earth."
I could write a book about why this sentence shocked me, but I will not. I’m currently reading “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed and came across this:
"The word ‘obliterate’ comes from the Latin obliterare. Ob means ‘against’; literare means ‘letter’ or ‘script’. A literal translation is ‘being against the letters.’ It was impossible for you to write me a letter, so you made me a list instead. It is impossible for you to go on as you were before, so you must go on as you never have……The obliterated place is equal parts destruction and creation. The obliterated place is pitch black and bright light. It is water and parched earth. It is mud and it is manna. The real work of deep grief is making a home there."