Wednesday, April 29, 2009
In a line they inch up to the kitchen, where they watch as the lunch lady serves a rubbery chicken patty on a yeasty bun, or runny macaroni and cheese. The food is dropped, hurriedly slopped, on to a Styrofoam tray, often with a plastic-gloved hand. Several kids will ask for "two" of whatever is being served. They'll take a milk carton as well, checking the date as I've taught them to do, and a piece of waxy, bruised fruit that is piled up in a plastic bin.
Once they prance over to their tables, my kids unwrap they're straws and drink their milk. Then, they contemplate the food before them. YOU would not serve this food to your children. It's a tray filled with carbs and low-grade food. One day, my kids were served tater-tots (potato rounds), bread, corn, and a cookie! But most of the kids eat, quickly, they're starving. For some kids in my school, it's supposedly "the best" they'll get all day.
Today, bloggers are writing about hunger and hope. I have to think about my students. Children here in our country are hungry. They deserve good, nutritious food, fresh fruit and vegetables. Why is it that, in our country, food aid programs consist of low-grade, sub-quality left-overs?
Children in my school are hungry; they deserve better.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Here is a violent run-down of what's been keeping me occupied:
- Squeezing in more math skills
- Cramming in more writing
- Force-feeding hideously long reading passages to "practice" comprehension
- Killing the love of writing because they are making me teach formulaic strategies for responding to writing prompts
- Hanging up signs, posters, and other "nice-looking" items on every available blank space, because an important person will be visiting next week
- Slapping up extra vocabulary words on my Word Wall because K and X "are empty" and a few of the other letters don't have "enough"
I'm sorry kids, but they make me do it.
The mistreatment is self-inflicted as well. I've confined myself to my dark, damp basement to grade papers, do report cards, and write lesson plans. Meanwhile, it's 88 and gorgeous outside.
Our state test is scheduled to begin on May 4th. Until then, and until it's over, more gritting of teeth and relentless stress.
Can't wait to take back my classroom. Can't wait to read and write real stories and poems together. Can't wait for exciting math projects. Looking forward to returning to the kind of teaching and learning that actually means something.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
The boys left the table after a while and enjoyed some silliness, like crawling and creeping around the house, and sneaking up on me. Later, I heard them giggle as they gently tossed around what I thought was a small Frisbee. Their abuelo (grandfather) was not amused, but I assured my dad that no es nada (no big deal) and the boys returned to their cartoons.
Before I left, I tore out two slips of paper from a notepad in my bag. On each, I created an "Excellent Behavior" note, promising a special prize in the future, as long as they could present the slip of paper to me next time we meet. I handed the "coupons" to the boys and watched as they read them. They exchanged smiles, folded the slips back up, and placed them in their pockets. I kissed them good-bye, and made my way out the door.
I had to turn around though, realizing I had left my book on the table. As I walked out again, I peeked in on the boys. They were reading their coupons to each other!
Awesome. Now, assuming they're successful in preserving those little slips of paper for a few weeks, what should the prize be? Must it be a thing?
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
More than 20 years later, I came across this song again, and discovered how happy it makes me feel. Songs do that to us. Sometimes it's the lyrics, or the melody, or the memory attached to a song, that makes it linger, heal, or please.
I placed Closer to Fine in my iPod this past weekend. While I set up my son's iPod, he asked me to place it in his as well, and said "That one makes you smile."
Here's to songs that just plain feel good.
Monday, April 13, 2009
I close my eyes and say "I know. This is here. This is You."
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Yesterday I kicked off National Poetry Month with "Poem" by Langston Hughes. It's one of the most touching and simple poems I know.
"I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There's nothing more to say.
The poem ends,
soft as it began-
I loved my friend."
The students discussed the poem in groups; they touched on how "short and simple" the poem was, and how sad, "even though the poet didn't even say sad!" I then asked them to write a five-paragraph essay about a time when they lost someone or something they loved. They got right to it, first planning, then writing their first drafts. I did not have to coax anyone to write. Writing flowed freely, even from the three children who are often reluctant writers.
I was able to conference with half of the class yesterday, and the rest today. I was floored by the quality writing they had produced! My students wrote about lost friends, lost relatives left back home in their countries, lost pets, and a lost necklace. While they read to me, some of them got a bit choked up, and some managed to provoke a tear or two in my eyes. (Of course, I had to look away, or pretend like I was distracted by something on the other side of the room!)
Several students started to publish their work today. The rest will do so tomorrow, I'm sure. And today we read another poem, Life Doesn't Frighten Me, by Maya Angelou. They loved it and want to write their own poems about their fears.
These days... are magic. There's nothing more to say.