Meeting the special needs of an older demographic—through yoga

Yoga instructor Toni Small (center first row, wearing black) and the yoga-instructor students who took the “Yoga for Seniors Teacher Training” at the 47 Main Street studio in Tenants Harbor on Columbus Day weekend. The training was offered as an educational module through the 300-hour training level by Shiva Shakti School of Yoga in Union. Additional instructors were Kirshna Perry, Dr. Richard Kahn, Katie Snow, P.T. and Donna Gioia, P.T.

The week after Toni Small’s father, Comstock Small, died in 2007 she drove to Rockland to take a salsa dance class. She was surprised to find that her father’s doctor was also in the class. “That made the second time that week that I had seen him, which I sort of loved.” She realized that both she and he were probably there for the same reason—to lighten up and move as a means of relieving the stress and grief of caregiving and loss.

Small and her mother, Linda, had at Comstock’s request brought him to live out his life in Port Clyde in 2006. Then for the next 18 months the two cared for him at home. “One of the fallouts of caregiving was not moving,” Small says. “During those last months of my father’s life he had become more and more tender, more needy, more fragile, so we felt pretty tethered to the house. And both my health and Linda’s health began to deteriorate to the point that there were diagnoses and symptoms that were obviously from the stress of caregiving. I realized I had also stopped moving. As caregivers we had really suffered. I realized then that for my mental health as well as for my physical health it was really important to keep moving.”

For Small, who before this had “always been a mover” through dance and periodically studying yoga, that salsa class was the beginning of not only reconnecting with what had been an important part of her life, but also of exploring a new sense of vocation that came out of her experience caring for her father.

First, reconnecting with her movement past involved Zumba, with which she became familiar in 2009. “It was a way to move that was fun, was definitely dancelike and fitness oriented.” She began Zumba teacher training soon after and began teaching classes in 2011.

Then, almost as soon as she began teaching Zumba, Small also began training to become a yoga instructor, studying with mentors at the ShivaShakti School of Yoga in Union to become certified. But in addition to her desire to learn how to teach yoga basics, she was also feeling the tug, as her Zumba “Gold” classes were already attesting, to apply the principles of yoga to a “senior” demographic, one that would not only include caregivers, but also people in need of care.

“What I started looking for were yoga programs specifically designed for family caregivers, who are often approaching seniority themselves, and for other seniors dealing with physical limitations, whatever the cause.” Eventually she discovered the work being done by Kimberly Carson and Carol Krucoff at the Yoga for Seniors program offered at Duke Integrative Medicine. The two women had developed an eight-day training program for Western yoga instructors in how to adapt yoga practice to the needs of older people, people “whose breathing, mobility, strength, flexibility, balance, joy, and overall peace of mind may feel impinged upon by our aging, by pain, or simply by the effort to avoid feeling lost in the midst of an ever-accelerating Western civilization,” as Duke Professor of Medicine/Cardiology Michael Krucoff notes.

Small journeyed to North Carolina in November of 2014 to take the Carson/Krucoff training, which included not only senior-appropriate yoga practices but also a rigorous program of lectures from Duke’s medical staff about physiological and other factors relevant to seniors that instructors should bear in mind. When she got back to St. George she began integrating what she learned at Duke into her classes at the 47 Main Street studio in Tenants Harbor. This past Columbus Day weekend, she took the step of holding her first workshop for other yoga instructors on a ‘Yoga for Seniors Teacher Training’ in association with Union’s ShivaShakti School of Yoga.

“Here in the West, the focus of many yoga classes is on posture practice,” Small explains. “Basically yoga has been about sport, about fitness. But there is more to it than that—it’s the breath work, the mindfulness work, meditation as well. As [Kimberly Carson and Carol Krucoff] point out, if reaching a peak pose equates with spiritual enlightenment, we have a problem.”

Small goes on to explain that there are now yoga instructors who have been teaching for 30 or 40 years or more who themselves have repetitive movement injuries and are getting hip replacements, which is causing them to question whether their focus on head stands and forward-folding postures makes sense for every student.

“So there’s a way the yoga-teaching community is growing up,” Small says with a wry smile. “For me, the beauty of focusing on the ‘senior’ demographic is you can meet the needs of a wider range of people, a demographic that has special needs. Some people have said I’m teaching ‘permissive yoga,’ that I’m letting students do what they want. But what I’m trying to do is to give a program that moves students through balance, strength and flexibility but at the same time that asks them to pay attention to what is working for them. Yoga is about learning how to take care of yourself, so that a student learns, ‘I have the resources to take care of myself, I know what to do to invigorate myself when I’m feeling sluggish, what to do to calm myself when I am stressed.’”

So Small tells her students that they are in class “to be present in your own body and to take on the discipline of doing your own practice.” Moreover, she says, “mindfulness on the mat leads you to practice that in every other realm—yoga is about heart, body and mind. It is about approaching life in a balanced way.” In this respect, she adds, “If I had been doing yoga when I was caring for my father, I think I could have coped better. In our Western culture we deal with poor health by saying here’s the pill, the surgery, the diagnosis. But I think we have more power than that.”

Referring specifically to the older demographic she is trying to serve, Small reflects, “Just because we are winding down doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be dancing and moving. We have so much more capacity than we give ourselves credit for. We can invite ourselves to challenge what aging means.”—JW

[For more information on Toni Small’s classes go to oryxworx.com. For more information on the yoga-for-seniors program pioneered by Kimberly Carson and Carol Krucoff at Duke Integrative Medicine see their publication, Relax into Yoga for Seniors: A Six-Week Program for Strength, Balance, Flexibility and Pain Relief, New Harbinger Publications, Inc.]

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November snow

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Beaver dam

A November forecast calling for five inches of snow brings excitement. I was pumped for some early-season snow lessons, coming down with a severe cases of giddypation and, in the end, I was not disappointed.

The first snow stopped on a late-afternoon and so the next morning I covered myself in orange and headed to the Tenants Harbor marsh. I got out before sunrise. When possible, It’s good to observe tracks at their “freshest” and that is before the sun starts its track-altering ways. There hadn’t been a significant November snow event so far in my time in St. George, and thusly my giddypation made it easy to get up and out and to see what lessons might be available in the frozen precipitation.

The thing that grabbed my attention first was the obvious disturbance in the snow on top of the local beaver lodge. Where one may have expected a clean, snow covered pile of sticks, fresh mud and trails told stories of a busy night. The beaver(s) had been patching, fixing and adding to the roof of their winter accommodations! Once winter and cold temps truly set in, beaver activity is largely confined to within the lodge and small excursions to eat food and branches stored under (and in) the ice. These types of winter outings rarely bring beaver into the snow, and so I had not seen beaver trails and sign captured like this before. It was November work that the beaver would have done anyway, but without the snow and the trails it captured, observation and awareness of this night work would have been tricky. Instead it was easy as pumpkin pie!

Otter slide

The main goal, however and “as always,” was to see if the local river otter where out and about overnight. When searching for river otter trails it can be helpful to start at culverts, beaver dams, and other places where bodies of water bottleneck. The beaver dams in the marsh support this generalization (thank you beaver dam). After a day of 32-degree snow, the water levels in the marsh were high and the associated overflow cascaded forcefully over and down the dam. A rock in the midst of, but rising above, the overflow preserved a single patch of snow that held tracks where an otter had paused for a momentary view of the lower marsh. Ah-ha! There was some otter activity in the marsh overnight.

Subsequent visits to a few locally prominent (and favorite) otter latrines found they held even more sign of otter visitation from the night before. Mounds, scrapes and fresh spraint—consisting of either fish scales or crab exoskeleton–were in healthy supply. Apparently all three local otters—Moe, Larry and Curley—had visited the latrine since the snow had stopped. The latrines and marking areas were great for finding fresh tracks and claw marks. Otters are creatures of habit and routinely visit latrines and marking areas. We like that.

Otter scrape and slide

The ice was too thin to support humans (other than the tiniest of sorts, who probably shouldn’t be out there by themselves). It was, however, crisscrossed with tracks and trails of belly slides and bounds left behind by river otter. The trails connected otter latrines to openings in the ice and the access to fishing and food below. The thin ice provided a unique view of otter behavior and decision-making from the night before, views that were available only through the use of ice, snow and slush. Man, I can get used to November snows!

As if that weren’t enough, the snow in the woods surrounding the marsh was full of animal sign as well! Over the course of this single night, deer had created “highways” in the snow and multiple spruce-cone stash spots were dug up by red squirrels. Snowshoe hare were also present, but left the impression that they were not too numerous. One might say the prey species came across as a little cautious heading out into the snowy world. Felt a little vulnerable (maybe) and rightly so.

Coyote track

Where there are deer trails there are also coyote trails, and in sections of the woods I found tracks and trails representing multiple coyote in the snow. Two coyote even ventured out onto the ice, and while their trails don’t show them breaking through they retreated back to the safety of shore very quickly. Might have been the ones who visit my yard. Time may tell.

 

Otter track

November snows are a luxury. An “off-season” view into the tracks, trails and behavior of St. George wildlife with the relative comfort of November temperatures. Can’t always count on them, but I’ll gladly learn from November snows when they fall. A wise man down the road likes to say “use it before you lose it.” I agree, but would like to add “use it when you got it,” and what we got was winter in November!

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A sewing machine that went to sea

The great-granddaughter of Capt. Henry Giles, Sylvia Keene of Nobleboro, recently donated the sewing machine shown here to the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum. She said that it had gone on board several seafaring vessels captained by her great-grandfather and had been passed on down through the family.

Capt. Henry Giles was born in 1828 in St. George and went to sea at an early age. The first sailing vessel he captained was the two-masted schooner Boyne in 1847. Other sailing vessels on which he served as captain were the brig John A. Taylor, schooner Almira Ann, schooner Levi Hart, schooner Clara W. Elwell, and the ships Baring Brothers and Sarah Newman. The Downeaster Baring Brothers was the last vessel he captained, leaving the sea in the 1880s. He retired to his hometown of St. George and lived in the house that is now known as the East Wind Inn Meeting House Annex on Mechanic Street in Tenants Harbor. The sailing vessels John A. Taylor, Levi Hart and Clara W. Elwell were all built in St. George.

One of the other great-granddaughters of Capt. Giles, Laura Cliff, amassed quite a collection of family history and upon her death it was left to the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. Included in the collection are several journals and diaries of family members who accompanied Capt. Giles on some of his voyages. These papers are available for viewing at the library in Searsport and some of the material will be copied and placed with the sewing machine in the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum. It will give a great understanding of the day-to-day life on a sailing vessel.

The treadle sewing machine dates to the mid-1800s and is amazingly heavy. It would be interesting to find out how they fastened it so it wouldn’t move with the motions of the sea. The journals mention sewing to pass the time and the effort to have certain items done by the time they returned to port.—John Falla

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Letter

To the editor:
I’m writing to thank everyone involved in the wonderful Thanksgiving dinner ath the Town Office on Sunday November 18th. It was so delicious and plentiful and the tables very pretty. It was great to see such a wonderful attendance. Thanks again.

Sincerely,
Sylvia Armstrong Murphy

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Eighth graders reflect on their recent experience at Camp Kieve

At the end of October, the 8th grade class spent a week at Camp Kieve in Nobleboro, Maine. Our experience at Camp Kieve was amazing, influential, and most of all, one to remember. It was hard for me to accept all of the different opinions brought up [during class discussions] at Kieve. I learned that there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to opinions and that everyone has different opinions and that is ok. —Willow McConochie

At Camp Kieve, we did lots of team-building activities that brought us closer together. We learned that we had to trust each other, that it’s okay to ask for help, and that if even just one person doesn’t work with everyone else as a team, the entire team won’t reach their goal.—Maggie Gill

We learned that collaboration is good and it is an important skill to have in the real world. At first I was challenged by collaboration but it didn’t take me long to get over that. I learned to ask for help if you need it because that can be a major thing to life because everybody needs some help every now and then. —Shaun Hopkins

Many things happened that week that helped us grow as people and discover how it feels to really work in a group with trust, knowing that everyone will have your back. This experience will help us in life by using the many skills that we learned there such as collaboration, listening, and to always treat others with kindness and respect.—Lydia Myers

We really enjoyed climbing and all of the rope courses because we got the opportunity to step out of our comfort zone and try new things. We also had a really fun time doing team challenges and silly games. What challenged me the most was speaking up in front of everyone. I learned a lot more about my classmates. I also learned that I can have more trust in other people in my class that I hadn’t had before. This will help me step out of my comfort zone and put myself out there sometimes.—Gwen Miller

Overall, we had a very enjoyable and life-changing time. The things I learned I will try to carry with me for as long as possible. I want to remember everything that I learned, felt, and did, and I want it to affect the rest of my life through high school and beyond. —Grace Yanz

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For nearly 40 years, working to keep the town’s history ‘in the public focus’

On October 25 Jim Skoglund stepped down from serving as president of the St. George Historical Society after nearly 37 years in that position. The society selected John Falla to be the group’s new president, but Skoglund will continue to serve as vice-president and as a trustee. Although this was a seemingly modest shift in leadership, it was not lost on any of the society’s members at that October gathering that a tremendous sea change had occurred during Skoglund’s watch—over these past several decades St. George had gone from being a community where there was little public recognition that the town’s history was a valuable community resource, to a place which celebrates and safeguards its heritage proudly.

The idea behind founding a historical society in St. George began with an old gun, Skoglund says. “One of my neighbors [in Wiley’s Corner] had died and he had in his possession an antique gun that we always marveled over—he used to fire it occasionally. And it was probably left to someone, but it kind of disappeared so I was left talking to one of my friends, Bradley Beckett, who lived in Cushing but was also descended from St. George families, and we decided there should be a place in town where people could leave things so everything didn’t get dispersed or sold.”

So the new historical society, which Skoglund, Beckett and five others—Albert Smalley, Steven Sullivan, Ed Hilt, Bernard Rackliff and Ralph Cline, Jr.—founded in 1981, was the first step in publicly flagging that there was an organization in town devoted to safeguarding St. George’s historical heritage.

Part of the reason the town’s history wasn’t widely known, Skoglund says, was that most records were not accessible. “Town records were kept in private homes,” he notes, adding by way of example, “For years I had in my own selfish possession the records of the old town poor farm and records of deeds because I was afraid someone would throw them away.” At that time, Skoglund explains, town officials were not particularly interested in keeping old documents, sometimes throwing them out. But after launching their new organization, Skoglund and the society’s history-minded members began focusing on changing that situation.

A major opportunity arose when the fate of the lighthouse keeper’s residence at Marshall Point became a question of community debate. While the lighthouse had been automated in 1971, the keeper’s house had continued in use as a LORAN station until 1980, when the building was boarded up and abandoned. Private development was floated as a possibility, but in 1986 the town, which had been leasing the lighthouse site to keep it available to the public, decided to ask the St. George Historical Society to take responsibility for restoring the keeper’s house for use as a museum, with a rental apartment upstairs for both income and security.

The society accepted the request and set up a subcommittee to raise the needed funds and oversee the restoration, which began in 1988. Because of the massive effort put into the project by people like Grethe Goodwin and Dana Smith, the museum was ready to open in 1990, swiftly becoming a popular town attraction as well as a repository of artifacts and materials documenting the history not only of the lighthouse property, but also of the town and its villages.

At this same time, two developments at the Town Office also proved helpful to the historical society’s efforts “to raise awareness of the richness of the historical significance of the town that wasn’t here before,” says Skoglund. First, the town hired John Falla, coincidentally an enthusiastic student of St. George history, to be its new town manager. And second, the town was planning to build a new Town Office, which opened the possibility for including a space that could be devoted to archiving historical documents, something Falla highly favored. Then, when the fire department addition was built a few years later, a long-term vault was added downstairs. Funding from the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum made it possible to get expert archival help and advice in managing existing and future historic holdings.

Since then materials germane to St. George’s history have continued to make their way into the Lighthouse Museum and the archive at the Town Office. “It’s amazing how much comes in from out of state,” Skogland observes. “Recently a woman from Colorado sent a package that contained a receipt from 1798 for my great, great, great grandfather’s tax bill. Imagine that coming back! Her aunt and uncle had lived in Wallston in the 1940s and 1950s and had collected stuff and couldn’t part with it. That stuff eventually came to her and she sent lots of it back.”

In 2002 the historical society was the grateful recipient of the historic 1805 Andrew Robinson House in Wiley’s Corner, the oldest documented house in that part of town, from the estate of Ruth Hazleton, whose mother was a Robinson. Along with the keeper’s house at Marshall Point, the Robinson House has become another highly visible reminder of the town’s historical roots. Regular programs on a wide range of aspects of St. George’s history—from the granite and shipbuilding industries to baseball and schools—along with facilitating the work of such researchers as Steven Sullivan and Robert Welsch (“Cemetery Inscriptions and Burial Sites of St. George, Maine and Nearby Islands”) and Marlene Groves (“Vital Records of St. George,” Maine Genealogical Society Special Publication No. 43) have been other ways Skoglund and his historical society partners have “helped keep the town’s history in the public focus,” as Skoglund puts it. In addition, the group worked in partnership with the town’s Conservation Commission to provide access to both Fort Point and to a portion of the trail going to Jones Brook.

While Skoglund, whose love of local history led him to pursue a 27-year career teaching geography and history to middle school students in Thomaston, believes that every aspect of St. George’s history is important, it is the Wiley’s Corner area of town—to him and most everyone who lives there this is the real “St. George”—about which he is especially knowledgeable and devoted.

As Skoglund explains, “You can only know with any depth [the history of] where you were brought up. So a person’s understanding of an area, a thorough understanding, is limited to a mile of where you live. I know this area—I was born here, brought up here, went to school here. And still within a mile of the Andrew Robinson house there are at least 20 households, including mine, descended from the person that lived in that particular house.” He then adds reflectively, “Everything about St. George history is of interest, but the names of the individuals [who lived elsewhere in town] I don’t remember very well. You remember the names of people you’ve heard many times. You don’t know the place if you haven’t roamed it as a child, burrowed around, pestered all the neighbors, listened to the stories.”

Perhaps, then, it is not so surprising that the idea behind starting an organization devoted to preserving and highlighting this town’s history began with a local man’s curiosity about a lost antique gun owned by a neighbor. —JW

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

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Lessons from the road, the back woods and the neighbor’s yard

 Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Mostly mummified star-nosed mole

November is a tricky month for a nature observer in Maine. The problem is that you are supposed to wear orange because it is hunting season. Wearing bright colors in the woods does not allow for a close, calm approach to wildlife. But you know it’s only for a month, right? So what’s an observer to do? Hit the road of course!

Bicycle rides are full of natural history lessons year-round. And you know it’s fall in St. George when multiple preying mantii bodies are encountered on a single ride!

A few warm, non-windy days this month found this observer on the road and learning from some road kill. A dead ring-necked snake in November felt unfortunate­—how many days could there have been until it was to hibernate? It may have even been on its way to an overwintering burrow (so close!). The score of the day though, was a mostly mummified star-nosed mole! With long claws and short arms for digging, it was easy to see it was (had been) a mole, and upon closer inspection I could see a few remaining “fleshy tentacles” on its snout. I don’t cross paths with moles too often (dead or alive), so a find like this increases “mole awareness” dramatically. I often carry bags on my bike and needless to say this star-nosed mole is now on display in “the clubhouse” museum. No two bikes rides are ever the same and we like that!

Coyote claiming the compost

A simpler strategy for November nature observations, and one that requires minimal time in orange, is through the use of motion-triggered game cameras. These are the cameras that you put up in the woods where you find signs of wildlife, let the camera do the work for a couple of weeks and then come back to retrieve the memory stick and see what’s turned up. A basic ethical consideration, of course, is that it is a good idea to place cameras away from human trails (people don’t like being spied on in the woods) or anywhere hunters may pass. For this hunting season I focused my camera on a bucketful of compost I dumped just off our backyard field—an unlikely spot for hunters to be. It was no surprise to see photos of skunks and raccoons making repeated visits to the pile. One deer was so curious about the smell (or sound) of the camera that she stood in front of it, staring, seemingly forever. (That’s what deer do and that’s why they are prey). The highlight though, was a series of photos of a coyote (or ‘coy-dawg’) that took interest in the small heap. In the earliest photos, coyote eyes and silhouettes were limited to the background, but over time this one coyote couldn’t fight the temptation and urges that the smell of eggshells and coffee filters inspired. It took a while but the coyote completely overcame its initial shyness and marked the compost for its own! He just strolled on up, hunched his back and left a pile himself, essentially claiming vegetable bits as his own! So glad I put the camera up­—he can have the pile all he wants!

Muskrat at home in the neighbor’s pond

There also are times when wildlife comes to you, even when not attracted to discarded food bits. The other day I was backing up the truck when I spotted a brown lump across the street in the neighbor’s pond. I pointed it out to my son Leif at which time he exclaimed, “it’s moving!” And with that the lump went from stump to muskrat in a matter of moments. There is a healthy population of muskrats nearby in the Tenants Harbor marsh, especially in the northern stretches of the wetlands. But sightings and observations are few and far between. So now we keep a close eye on the pond, ready to observe whenever this “brown lump of a critter” appears, which happens a few times a day. No orange is required when using a spotting scope in your own driveway, and fortunately the pond is off to the side enough so it doesn’t appear that the scope is pointing at the neighbor’s house! That wouldn’t be very neighborly now would it? What is downright neighborly, however, is to provide muskrat habitat so my family can watch the chunky rodent’s activities! Thanks neighbors!

There is so much life to see throughout St. George that essentially giving up the woods for one twelfth of a year seems like a small sacrifice. We don’t stop observing though, we just change how and where we look a bit. We’ll see you out there!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

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St. George ‘First-Grade Crew’ helps P.A.W.S.

During the month of October, St. George School’s First-Grade Crew—which consists of all first-grade students and their teachers—focused on completing a service project. First graders were inspired to help P.A.W.S. Animal Shelter, located in Camden, after meeting Oakley, a rescue pup who was adopted by Miss Betsy, one of the school’s bus drivers.

After brainstorming different ways to assist P.A.W.S. Animal Shelter, first graders agreed to host a pet supply drive at the school. Students created posters and stationed four collection stations around the school asking for donations of various supplies on P.A.W.S.’s wish list. First graders also wanted to provide the animals at P.A.W.S. with some homemade treats as well. Students baked homemade dog treats and sewed small cat toys to donate to the shelter.

To culminate the service project, the First-Grade Crew headed to P.A.W.S. to donate the supplies they had collected and the treats they had made. First graders were treated to a tour of the facility and got to peek at all of the animals. Our crew also participated in an animal craft and got to eat our lunch at the shelter!

“I liked when we got to peek in and see the dogs,” said Violet Bedell. And Bentley Robinson added, “I was very happy when we gave the donations to the animal shelter.”
—Meghan Smith (Smith is a first-grade teacher at the St. George School.)

PHOTO: Heather Weeks

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Teaching law in China

Glennon and Adam with the class in Qindao, China

Last spring St. George residents Karen Adam and her husband Robert Glennon were offered the opportunity to spend three months teaching law at Ocean University in Qindao, China. It was an opportunity they embraced because at the very least they thought the assignment could be a fun—and enlightening—adventure.

“Part of why we wanted to do this was to be part of [an unfamiliar] community and figure out how to live there,” says Adam, who in November 2015 retired after 34 years as a Tucson City Court magistrate, Superior Court commissioner and Superior Court judge. “We knew no Chinese, but we rode the subway, Robert found a gym and a cleaners, we shopped in the local stores. We often were the only Westerners around.”

The chance to go to China arose because the University of Arizona’s Roger’s College of Law, where Glennon is a professor, has in recent years been moving toward being more international and global in its orientation. “We’ve always had an international law curriculum,” Glennon explains, “but now we are bringing international students into our JD program here in the U.S. and we are pursuing joint programs with universities in other countries.”

The University of Arizona’s partnership with Ocean University is one such new joint program. The way it works is that for four years Ocean’s undergraduate law students study both Chinese and American law, earning both an undergraduate degree from Ocean University and an undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona.

“The first two years the students are studying English, studying some Chinese law and taking some basic introductory classes in common law subjects and legal writing,” Glennon says. “They’ve had instructors during those years, but we were the first real American law school professor and the first real American judge to be there in person to teach. We were there from the end of April to the end of July, teaching 63 undergraduate juniors. Karen taught procedure and I taught public law.”

The reason for creating this kind of joint program, Glennon says, is the increasingly global nature of legal practice. “China and the U.S. are the two biggest economies in the world and there’s an awareness in China that even if the students don’t ever practice law—and most Chinese law students don’t end up practicing law—they feel that knowing how the legal system works in the U.S. can help them in whatever they do. Mostly they are interested in intellectual property, business, trade.”

For Glennon, teaching public law meant he could use the curriculum he has developed for his constitutional law classes at the University of Arizona (these days, however, his primary focus is water law, a specialty he’s been developing since 1988).

For Adam, the preparation for teaching American procedures, which is basically about due process—a citizen’s right to fair treatment under the law—was more involved.

“I’ve never been a law school professor, so it was lucky that I had access to the curriculum used by the law professor who is teaching the procedure class for Arizona’s new undergraduate major in law. So I had a PowerPoint presentation and I had the cases, but I still had to learn the material. I hadn’t thought about any of those cases since law school, which was 42 years ago. And I’d been busy since then being a judge. It was incredibly hard work—Robert is delighted that I figured that out, that being a law professor is hard! He thought I thought it was easy,” Adam says with a laugh. “So I spent last winter working on it, reading all the cases, reading interpretations of the cases and getting prepared to teach these students.”

But much of that preparation went by the wayside after the couple’s first class with the students, a four-hour session that Glennon and Adam taught together.

“Even though these students had been studying English at the college level for two years and some had very good English, others did not,” Adam says. “And we realized that the way they learn is very different. It is based on code, which is Chinese civil law, and in which there are clear answers to every question. In the U.S. we have a constitution and a judge rules on a case in light of that and interprets it and then other people disagree with the interpretation and it’s all about that, about the analysis of what a case says and how it applies.”

In addition, Adam points out, in China the students never talk in class. “There’s no give and take. A Chinese professor comes to class, stands at the podium and delivers information. And then the students regurgitate it on a multiple-choice final exam. That’s how it is done.”

So taking these factors into consideration, Glennon and Adam made some decisions during that first class. In many ways it was Adam’s judicial experience with self-represented and non-native English-speaking litigants that suggested the direction those decisions took.

First, Adam says, she knew that reducing stress in the courtroom, particularly when litigants are unfamiliar with the law and/or unconfident about their English, led to a better performance for all involved. So to reduce stress for their Chinese students who were not used to answering questions in class, let alone in uncertain English, she and Glennon told the students that neither of them would call on the students during class. “We said that if they wanted to volunteer that would be fine and if not, that would also be fine.” With a wry smile she adds, “And it turned out, of course, nobody would volunteer, so that meant we had to be prepared to lecture for two solid hours each time we went to class since we couldn’t count on a lot of engagement as we might in the U.S.”

Second, because when Adam was on the bench she had found it very important to get everyone’s names right, to be respectful as a matter of fairness, she and Glennon told the students they would call them by whatever name they wrote down on the seating chart. “Ninety percent of them wrote down their Chinese names, not the English names they had been assigned in English class to make it easier for Western teachers like us,” Adam says. Pronouncing those names was not easy, however, since in Mandarin there are four different ways to pronounce every word. So Adam made phonetic notes below each name as an aid, hoping this would give herself and Glennon a chance of getting the names right.

Finally, for her procedure class, which required that Adam be able to assess each student’s ability “to research a legal issue, employ legal reasoning and then argue a position effectively”—in a climate where students were not engaged in dialogue with the professor—she staged a moot court exercise for which they could prepare in advance and work with a teammate. This also gave her the chance to call each student by name (as best she could) at least once during the term.

Not surprisingly, both Glennon and Adam say that over the course of their time at Ocean University there were many situations which highlighted for them that they were teaching American law to students who live in a country with a completely different legal framework. In an essay Adam wrote after coming home she gives this anecdote by way of illustration: “One of the sharpest students in class … challenged her grade on the midterm. She got an A but was upset that her answer to a multiple-choice question about the balancing of private vs. government interests was wrong. ‘I’m Chinese,’ she said, ‘the government’s interest is always more important.’ I respectfully reminded her that this was a class in American legal procedure and that, though she might think us silly, her answer was still wrong.”

Reflecting on this aspect of their experience Glennon adds, “We were in an awkward position because it is a communist country. The rulers exercise total power. Yet at the same time it is a full-blown capitalist country with people making tons of money—it was not unusual to see cars that cost six figures parked on the street. But it’s an oppressive place. Everything is censored. There are cameras everywhere, including in our classroom. There’s no accountability, no transparency. So by the end of three months we were ready to leave.”

That said, Adam also is clear that her Chinese experience “was one of the best things I’ve done in my life. Yes, the government is oppressive, but the people everywhere were so amazing to us. We considered ourselves so lucky to be living there for three months and not to be blowing through. And our students—we just loved our students!” —JW

(The article Karen Adam wrote about her experience at Ocean University, “Teaching Law in China: What works in the courtroom works in the classroom,” can be found at the website of the National Judicial College, judges.org­­

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‘LBJs’ on the side of the road

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

White-throated Sparrow

Animal migration is a wonderful phenomenon to observe. Be it lobsters, monarchs, or in the case of this column—birds—watching the comings and goings of animals can bring a lifetime of lessons about the earth’s tilt, weather patterns and survival in general. Connections between water depths, different countries and even hemispheres can be made, and after a while the earth starts to feel a little smaller. Power of migration.

At times, bird migration can be subtle and tricky to see. The hundreds (or even thousands) of Saw-whet Owls that pass through mid-coast Maine each fall (passing through as I type) may go largely unnoticed by humans except for the random, stressed owl(s) that remains active during daylight hours. Observing fall songbird migration can be tricky as well, as male songbirds aren’t singing as they do in spring. Instead, some songbirds get shy and stick to the shrubs and thickets, or go high in trees during migration–meaning the average nature observer has to use patience and maybe even a little work to get a good view.

Dark-eyed Junco

For every tricky migration observation, however, there is an example of a more readily accessible migration observation. Such is the case with species each fall that use the not-so-subtle bird habitat and migration corridors that line the sides of our roads. These birds feast on seeds and insects while following safety-in-numbers survival strategies. Within a group word of incoming threats spread quickly in the form of “alarm calls” and groups will erupt in flashes of browns and whites at the drop of such a call. These groups of birds can be impressive in number and, depending on weather conditions, may show up where a single bird had not been seen the day before.

Some drivers of St. George’s roads have been referring to the roadside birds as “Kamikaze birds,” as they seem to play with death while darting in front of cars, buses, and bikes. Others describe such roadside birds as “Little Brown Jobs” or “LBJs.”

White-crowned Sparrow

The vast majority of LBJs along Watts Avenue I saw recently were Dark-eyed Juncos (easy to identify in flight as their outer tail feathers–both left and right sides–are white in contrast to the dark central tail feathers) and White-throated Sparrows. Both are members of the Emberizidae and both species breed in the midcoast. The large numbers of roadside individuals, however, tells a story of birds from further north stopping at our “roadside diners” before heading to their wintering grounds in the south.

White-crowned Sparrows also made up a healthy part of the LBJ groups I saw in St. George. This species breeds up north, Hudson Bay, Labrador and above. But, for a few weeks each fall we get to see this species as individuals pass through on their way to wintering grounds in the southern half of the U.S. Along the coast most White-crowneds seen in migration are first-year birds (hatched just a few months ago) and “white-crowned” can seem like a misnomer for them as their crowns are red-and-cream colored. Song, Chipping, Swamp, and Savannah sparrows rounded out the sparrows I crossed within the LBJ groups.

Hermit Thrush

Two larger bird species that I also saw in this year’s roadside groups were Northern Flicker and Hermit Thrushes. Flickers–state bird of Alabama!–are a woodpecker that spends a lot of time on the ground eating ants. When they take to flight, the white rump patch at the base of their tail (dorsal side) is easily seen and makes identification just as easy. Hermit thrushes–state bird of Vermont–have been extremely tame this fall, especially those with the roadside groups, and approaching close for great views has been the norm! That is never the norm at all!

All in all, I picked out nine species of birds in the St. George roadside LBJ groups and there were undoubtedly other species that passed through. It was hard not to note the sheer numbers of LBJs. They showed up almost magically overnight and seem to have disappeared as quickly as they appeared. The power of migration–a quick show along a roadside near you! See you out there!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

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High School Choice: An important part of the 8th grade year

8th grade students at the St. George School browsing high school handbooks and brochures

This year’s 8th graders are currently going through the High School Choice process as it is their last year at St. George School. This month we are taking tours and getting presentations about the main schools we have to choose from: Oceanside High School, Camden Hills Regional High School, Watershed High School, Lincoln Academy High School, and Medomak Valley High School. The choice process is an important part of the 8th grade year because the school we choose is the school we will be attending next year. It may be stressful for some of us, but St. George students are fortunate to have this choice of schools. The High School Choice process helps each of us pick the right high school best suited to our way of learning.

The High School Choice process begins in September, starting with High School Choice Night. This is when representatives from each of the main high schools as well as Midcoast School of Technology (MCST) sets up a small table with handouts, brochures, and schedules. The representatives each give a brief presentation about their school and what it offers, including different programs or clubs they have and graduation requirements. After the schools have presented, students and their families are free to walk around to the different tables and ask questions or take handouts that the high school representatives provide. This year, in addition to the regular schools, we also had presentations from North Haven Community School and the Maine Ocean School in Searsport.

The next step in the process is when 8th graders tour each high school in October. This is helpful because students can get a feel for each school and can even see classes or activities they are interested in. So far, our 8th grade class has visited four of the five schools. Each tour has been excellent; many of us have had a great time exploring the schools’ music programs, their theaters, and their visual arts. Others enjoy checking out the hands-on programs, international options, sports programs, and electives.

The third step of the High School Choice process is the potluck for families of students who have gone to St. George in the past. At the potluck supper, students and their families can chat with high schoolers to get an idea of how they like the school they are attending and answer questions we might have about their schools.

After the potluck, students have a chance to shadow a student at the high school that they are considering. For some students, it may be two schools. Eighth graders get to spend about one school day at that high school shadowing a student who has the same interests and a similar schedule as theirs. By shadowing a high school student, St. George students can get a good feel for the school they are considering.

The final step of High School Choice is when you have made up your mind about what high school is the best fit for you. To complete this step by January 31st, you must fill out a form stating what high school you will be attending the following year.

In the spring, the counselors from the high schools help get us registered for courses, and we each attend orientations at our school of choice to help ease the transition and meet other students. No matter where we go to high school, we will always know that we can come back to St. George School for advice and support or to give back to our community.
—Adeline McPhail, Grade 8

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