April 12, 2017 :: NICOYA HELM
SOME INSIGHTS FROM THIS SESSION:
Facing the challenges of integrating practice into a fast-paced, academic job.
Bookending intellectual work with quality microhits.
Bringing Herculean effort to your microhits.
Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Burma, Thailand, Sierra Leone, Togo, Azerbaijan, Kuwait, Somalia, and Sudan. This is the list of countries Nicoya’s students are from this semester alone. "I’ve taught students from well over twenty countries and from every continent…except Antarctica!”
Nicoya teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in Kansas City, Kansas, which has a large population of resettled refugees. She works with immigrants, refugees, and international students. “English as a Second Language isn’t quite as accurate as the term ESOL. Some of my students speak three or four languages already.”
Language has always been a big passion for Nicoya. She has traveled and lived around the world, acquiring varying degrees of fluency in French, Filipino, Japanese, Arabic, and Hindi. Spanish language is her most recent love, and she spent a summer intensive in Costa Rica learning to speak, read, and write.
Nicoya started meditating because of chronic health and pain challenges.
My earliest meditation training was in MBSR. Now I use many different techniques in an array of situations. These include Unified Mindfulness techniques, guided imagery, yoga, mantra, metta, and more. When it comes to formal practice, I self-evaluate about every two weeks and choose a formal practice to focus on for the next two-week cycle. Sometimes it's very narrow, like Feel In, but sometimes it's more integrated, like drilling into different aspects of Nurture Positive over the course of two weeks. When it comes to daily life practice, I pick and choose among all the techniques according to the situation.
I’ve found mindfulness seeping in and that I’m more focused. For instance, if I’m grading and have a really long stretch of papers, I feel aware and focused for longer stretches. That’s more fair to my students because I’m giving them due attention in their work.
Nicoya would like to incorporate more practice in life into her teaching work day.
I go into the day with an intention to slow down here, to do Feel In micro-practice there…and then I’ll think, ‘well, there went another four hours of class!’ Sometimes I even forget to stop at the bathroom between classes.
In addition to bringing mindfulness in to the classroom for herself, she wants to look for ways to include these secular skills for her students.
ESOL teachers are perhaps more involved in our students lives than in other teaching. Recently I had a student who arrived to the country just two weeks before he started classes. So in addition to navigating language, he’s trying to figure out the customs in American classrooms compared to India, how to address his teacher, where to buy his books. This semester I started doing some simple exercises at the beginning of class – Let’s breath out, let’s stretch out – that kind of thing. But the possibility of integrating more is becoming significant for me.
You can learn more about Nicoya and her work at http://www.readylanguage.com/
WAS NAMED “NICOYA” BY HER HIPPIE PARENTS, FROM THE SANTANA SONG “EL NICOYA,” LAST TRACK, SIDE B OF THEIR 1970 ABRAXAS ALBUM.
HAD AN ENTIRE CAREER PREVIOUS TO ESOL AS A UNIX/LINUX COMPUTER SYSTEM ENGINEER; SHE SET UP THE COMPUTER CONTROL SYSTEM FOR ONE OF TWO DEDICATED FETAL MEG MACHINES IN THE WORLD.
FIRST ENCOUNTERED SHINZEN THROUGH A BOOTLEG CASSETTE AT HER LOCAL ECUMENICAL BUDDHIST CENTER IN 1998.