I took off my shoes and lined up with a group of ten Portland teens and faced instructors Kimonee and Kianna. “This is a black-belt school,” we chanted in unison. Kianna and Kimonee, two black-belt trained instructors, approached teaching teens self-defense at the library with both a seriousness and a passion for their discipline. The focus was not only on self-defense but also on self-respect. The program attracted a range of library users. Some of the teens were familiar faces to me and others I had never seen before. The first session started out as all boys, but by session four, a third of the participants were female.
Each class started with a series of exercises that involved pushups, sit-ups and jumping jacks. Once our hearts were thumping, we were ready to learn new techniques. Kianna and Kimonee demonstrated their skills against each other, demonstrating what to do when faced with an assailant. Fighting was a last resort and the focus was on how to thwart a predator and to learn confidence in leaving safely from a dangerous situation. It got even more interesting when they brought in props such as (fake) knives and guns. Some teens laughed and others were more serious in mastering the skills to defend themselves as they practiced amongst each other and played the roles of mugger and victim.
Since starting work as the Teen Librarian for the Portland Public Library, I had wanted to do a program that involved something physical. I had two reasons for this. One is that beyond the power of books, the library has enormous potential as a social community place for teenagers. Many of our teen patrons have a common interest in soccer. They communicate and enjoy the company of their friends while playing FIFA Soccer on the library’s XBOX. I wanted to get them away from the TV for a moment so that they could learn something new. I also wanted to offer an activity that was social, but also civil. Such a program would teach ideas of self-respect and empowerment in a way that was fun and not too didactic.
The second reason is that I believe that the library is a great place for self-education. It is a place for teens to try new things, whether it is reading a work of fiction or being introduced to something that might not be offered to them in school. Just as I do not expect someone who checks out a novel to become an author, I do not have the expectation that someone who attends a library program will become an expert in whatever subject the class or activity is based around. Either way, it is an introduction and a jumping off point to get teens excited. The library’s strength is that it can foster a love for self-education, something that should continue for lifelong learners inside or outside of a classroom.
Karate seemed ideal for our library space. No special equipment was needed and teens did not need to come with any prior knowledge. On the other hand, the idea of karate was not a completely foreign one to them, even if they had never tried it. Most teens are familiar with karate whether it is through watching movies, reading manga or learning about it through books. I was lucky enough to find two great instructors willing to help out. Initially I contacted Kianna, a woman in her early twenties, and she suggested that she co-teach the program with her teenage sister Kimonee. Great! The teens responded well to the youthful energy these two radiated. I believe that some teens left the program learning something new. And for those who didn’t, they still had fun and are more likely to visit the library again. Either way, this program was a success and definitely something I’d be happy to offer again.
AARP will once more be at PPL to help you with your taxes!
Where: Portland Public Library
5 Monument Square
Meeting Room #5
When: 2/4/2013– 4/9/2013
Tuesdays and Wednesdays
10:00- am – 5:30 pm
Appointments recommended, call: (207) 776-6316
AARP staff will also be at other locations throughout the Greater Portland Area from 1/31/2014 to 4/15/2014:
Mondays: South Portland City Hall, 9 to last appointment 5PM. 207-776-6316 *
American Legion Hall, Yarmouth, 12 – 4. 207-829-4675
Tuesdays: Gorham Community Center, 9 to last app’t at 12:15. 207-776-6316 *
Unity Gardens, Windham, 2 to last appointment 5:30 PM. 207-893-8170 Portland Public Library, 10 to last appointment 5:30 PM. 207-776-6316*
Wednesdays: Portland Public Library, 10 to last appointment 5:30 PM 207-776-6316*
The Woods at Canco (Portland) 9 to last appointment 12:30 207-776-6316
Westbrook Community Ctr, 4 to last appointment 7:30. 207-776-6316* Portland Public Library, 10 to last appointment 5:30 PM. 207-776-6316*
Thursdays: AARP Office, 1685 Congress St. 9 to last app’t at 12:30. 207-776-6316 *
Unity Gardens, Windham, 2 to last appointment 5:30 PM. 207-893-8170
Scarborough Public Library, 4 to last appointment 6:45 207-776-6316
Fridays: Southern Maine Agency on Ageing Scarborough 9 to 1 207-396-6500
Saturdays: Westbrook Community Center, 9 to last appointment 12:30. 207-776-6316*
Select a tax preparation site. Then, call the number shown for that site and make an appointment. When you make an appointment, they will tell you all of the paperwork you need to bring with you in order to have your tax returns completed with one visit.
* These locations MAY be able to prepare return(s) for people who walk in without an appointment. Appointments always have priority! And, if opting to just walk in you may not bring all the necessary paperwork with you and have to make another trip home to get it.
Last year on this date, Maine poet Richard Blanco shared his poem “One Today” at the Presidential Inauguration. The poem reminds us of all we share : “One ground. Our ground… ” and reminds us that our differences also shape our uniquely personal path:
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever.
In the end, Blanco reminds us that it is our collective vision, spirit, effort and attitude that will shape our collective future.
It is much this same message that No Name Calling Week proffers — a message to youth and adults and to the institutions within which we learn and work to embrace kindness and make it active… to Choose Civility in a big way. To resist a bullying culture is not just to punish those who cross the line but to develop strategies to encourage and enhance empathy in ourselves and our communities.
The GlSEN site offers many resources for engaging young people in conversations about bullying and about kindness — their suggested reading list is here.
Portland Public Library offers many provocative and helpful materials as well — a small sampling is here but a reference librarian can help you find just what you’re looking for!
Join us on Thursday January 24th for an evening of “Kindness Shorts” including winners from Kindness The Movie‘s video contest and an opportunity to watch Blanco read “One Today.”