Friday, December 13, 2013

La Capitán

Happy Friday the 13th, all. 

It seems we have already had some frightening news today; keep all in and close to Arapahoe High in your thoughts. I was going to write 'unlucky' news, but unfortunately, luck has very little to do with it. It is time to talk about bullying seriously, and mental illness, and education, and gun control. Just as with so many social justice issues, these are not political issues - these are human rights issues. This is a public health danger, an epidemic as real as any other. If you find yourself struggling with epidemiology, with 'hows' and 'whys' and 'what do we do,' I will be true to form as an ELA teacher: do a write to learn. Find the errors, find the true points, and try to sift through.

Here's an assignment from my mum's notes on Frankenstein.
She alludes to Columbine. When I taught the text last year, however, we had a dozen more horrifying examples, and the photographs of 20 little children. We didn't write, but we did look at this cartoon, coupled with the recent tragedy and this op-ed

We didn't have any dialogue about school violence at Nye this past Thursday. That's probably because in the last two months I've taken a position for the remainder of the school year at a pre-school: I'm an assistant (basically, Spanish-speaking co-teacher) for a class of SPED three-year-olds. It is an absolute delight. Where I enjoyed the spontaneity and randomness of the 'hook-up culture' of day-to-day subbing, I adore the placid constancy of the Phyllis Nye community.

Every day:
* I arrive and walk to the bus. I pick up one of my little charges, often helping him down the tall bus steps. He reaches his tiny warm hand for mine and I ask, "Cómo estás?" He projects an enormous grin out from under his Micky Mouse cap and says, "Bien!" We walk to our portable, where Teacher Janice is setting up play-dough or painting or kitchen, usually "Juanito" or "Cinco Elefantes" playing on the stereo.

* I walk over to Nye and wait for the last bus. When it comes, I usher off our other morning bus student. She walks over and takes my hand and I ask, "Cómo estás?" She just looks at me; she's a serious little critter, and none too verbal. So we walk to the portable, on the way picking up our snack.

* We arrive. We play. We wash hands. We eat.

* We have circle. We sing the welcome song and then read a book or tell a story with a felt board. The greatest successes have been Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Mitten.
(Don't worry. I am always sure to push the progressive agenda - conservatives beware! For instance, while Janice tells that 'Mama Bear made the breakfast' in English, I say that 'they all made breakfast together' in Spanish. In this same trajectory, my girls are often brave, my boys are often beautiful. We have a lot of little boys who like to play with dolls and little girls who like to dress up as monsters. When we play house, generally there are two dads. This is a practical, as well as progressive, move; all the female figurines have gone missing from the Choices dollhouse.)

* We play outside. We play in Choices.

* We come back to class. We make a craft - yesterday, it was egg carton orgugas (caterpillars), and Wednesday it was paper-bag puppy puppets. We glue, we color. We sing goodbye. I walk the four to the bus and we all say, "Hasta mañana!"

It is delightful and beautiful to see little ones learn words, concepts, manners.

In the afternoon, I often go with Janice to the Head Start. Sometimes, however, I'm nabbed for a Nye SPED class, and those are perhaps my favorite days. I think this is because it is a class of very difficult little kids being managed very well. It is incredible to see how little ones thrive on loving structure. Just this week:
* One little boy said 8 intelligible things.
* Another, whose role model is the Incredible Hulk, consistently made sense when he spoke. He also self-regulated enough to remove himself and start doing 'belly breaths' (watch the charming video here).
* Another put a dot on a paper and beckoned me over. He said, "Pequeño!" I agreed with him, and asked him what it was. "Es una semilla." I must've expressed admiration, because he nodded, and then started scribbling on it, enlarging. "Mira," he said, "está creciendo." Well, then.

I also love this class, because we get to go outside with Osiris' class. There's a boy in her class, bright-eyed and gap-toothed, who (with a slight spelling difference) shares my name. He also shares my imaginative sensibilities. For when we go out with their class, we play "piratas." We look at the map, we bellow, we charge and fight ghosts, we gallop on horses and haul great chests of gold onto our ships. He - unprompted by anyone - calls me "La Capitán." Even when we can't all go and be wild buccaneers, we salute when we pass one another.

It is little wonder I am often bodily exhausted when I arrive back home. However, it is the perfect frame of mind (productive, at ease) to curl up and study study study!

Here we are working very hard.

Fortunately, all that remains this semester is my nursing entrance exam on Monday. The verdict? Four As in four classes: A&P I, A&P II, Stats, and Psych. Wahoo! Also happily done? A childbirth class and ongoing volunteering at the Birthing Tree Parenting Library. 

In a little less than a week, I'll be headed back to the Heartland for Christmas and New Years. I wish all of you safe travels. And, on the Eve of Sandy Hook, please be mindful. Send a thought or a prayer to those families in Newtown. And please send thoughts and prayers to Trayvon's family, and to Renisha's, and to all the children's families whose tragedies did not and do not make the papers.

And then realize in the midst of all of this, our school of three- and four-year-olds still sings good morning, and learns its colors, and hugs goodbye.