Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Just Read It....K?

Forgive my rather uninspired title.

I spent the entire day at the elementary school for the annual Science Day. It's a tradition that the kids love because it's a fun change of pace. It's terribly exciting, and most of all, interactive. It's a way for them to experience learning, rather than having it force fed to them.

Since this is a schoolwide event, it's a HUGE undertaking. Huge. And spending the day with 23 4th graders is always an enlightening experience. I invariably come away from events like these with my respect and admiration for teachers firmly in place.

I am truly humbled by people who can do that day in and day out without having a nervous breakdown. I only did it for six hours, and I am reeling.

So, as you can imagine, on a day like today, I hit the motherlode for blog fodder. I could write from now until the New Year and still not say everything I want to say about education, kids, teachers and parents.

But I am exhausted. Happily exhausted, but exhausted all the same. I am exhausted in body and spirit.

So, because I currently lack the mental fortitude to craft a meaningful and coherent post on one of the many topics whirling around my fevered brain, and because, I still have to go to the grocery store and figure out what the hell I'm going to feed my family for supper (so mundane and unglamorous this motherhood gig)....I'm going to repost something I wrote last year when we took our Science Day show on the road, to an elementary school in a much different socio economic class from ours.

The piece is called "No Hablas Engles". I thought of Marta today. I wonder if the year has been kind to her. I can empathize with feeling like a fish out of water and I can't help but wonder if she has been able to find some measure of familiarity in the place she now calls home

No Hablas Engles

Friday, a platoon of suburban Moms took our elementary school Science Day exhibits on the road. We are Partners In Education with another school in a working class neighborhood, where the socio-economic status ranges from abject poverty to the comparitively comfortable lower middle class.

These children come from homes where parents work long hours at minimum wage jobs doing back breaking labor. Volunteerism is low, and enrichment programs that my kids take for granted are simply not possible at a school like this.

We set off full of altruistic vigor and self righteous do-goodism.

The school was very old, but well tended. The greenery outside was painstakingly groomed and the playground equipment had been freshly painted. The halls were cheerily adorned with all the things one would normally expect to find on the walls of an elementary school. But these embellishments could not hide the water stained ceiling tiles, or the cracks that marred the cinder block walls, or the worn linoleum underfoot.

Still the sounds of children laughing rang through the halls and the staff seemed good humored and friendly. They were touchingly and somewhat embarassingly thankful that we had come with our simple little production.

When I reached the room in which I would be peforming my experiment, I was shocked to learn we would be dealing with classes of forty children at a time. Forty. To put this in perspective, my youngest son's class has 22 children, and I complained loudly about the increase from 18 the previous year.

I settled down on the floor in the hallway, waiting for the "Animal Lives" presentation to conclude so my group could set up the "Simple Machines" exhibit. I chatted idly to another Mom and we commented to one another about the differences between this school and the one our own children attended.

As we looked around, it was easy to see that the student body was made up largely of minorities. I heard snatches of conversation in no less than five different languages. I saw children in every color of the rainbow, and they were inexpressibly beautiful to me.

After a while, the other mom left to get a beverage from the hospitality room that had been set up for us. I was alone. I looked around, enjoying the happy chaos that pervaded the atmoshphere.

After a moment, a little girl came bursting out of one of the classrooms. She was Mexican, with long, lustrous black hair and dancing gold hoops in her hears. She wore a leopardprint tracksuit with a bright yellow tshirt underneath and pink clogs. She was sobbing in big, hiccoughing gasps. Her plump little shoulders hitched up and down.

I was vaguely alarmed by the intensity of her upset. I approached her and asked what was wrong. She did not answer, but sobbed even harder.

"Are you sick, sweetheart?"

She looked up at me, her huge jet black eyes swimming with tears and wailed,

"Yo no hablas Englay-ay-ay-ays!!!"

I pantomimed a stomachache, and she shook her head. She repeated,

"No hablas ENGLES!"

I tried again.

"Are you hurt?"

I pantomimed stubbing my toe, hopping up and down, and she giggled a little through her tears. But she shook her head again and told me once more that she didn't speak English. I was puzzled. Surely my pantomimes demonstrated my understanding that she couldn't speak English. Why did she keep repeating it?

And then it occurred to me. No hablas Engles WAS the problem. She was crying because she couldn't speak English.

"Ohhhhhhhhhhhh." I said. "No Hablas Engles." And then I pretended I was crying.

"Si." she said dejectedly, and hung her little head so that her hair hid her face and her tears.

I hadn't the words to tell her how sorry I was that she was scared and feeling so alone, so I did the only thing I could think to do...I hugged her. An embrace is the language of motherhood I suppose; a universal gesture of comfort. She melted into me and sobbed her little heart out. When she was finished, I pulled a crumpled kleenex from my purse and dried her tears.

A voice startled us and we both jumped like frightened little bunnies.

"Marta! You scared me to death! You can't run off like that sweetie!"

I looked up to see an obviously unsettled woman whose t-shirt identified her as staff. All the adults had worn t-shirts so we could tell one another apart. Ours were bright green ones emblazoned with our school name, theirs were gray. This was her teacher, apparently.

I was a little irritated. How long had it taken her to realize the child was gone? But I tried to tell myself that one person in charge of 40 children can only do so much. Two eyes and 40 kids does not make for ideal supervision.

"She was crying." I said, unnecessarily.

The teacher nodded grimly.

"She's new. It's always hard for them at first."

"Is there no translator here?" I asked.

She shook her head, grimness again distorting her pretty young face.

"She quit a month ago. They haven't sent anyone else."

"What about another child to help her?"

She sighed and said,

"Half of them don't speak enough English to really help. The other half are doing all they can to get through their own work. It's tough."

My irritation toward her vanished. It was obvious that she was doing the best she could in a bad situation. She took Marta gently by the shoulders to lead her back to the classroom.

Marta turned back to look at me and said "Adios Senora neeza." (I think)

Unsure of what she had said, I simply waved a little wave and smiled. She smiled back.

Shortly after that it was our turn to perform. I was stationed at an exhibit with a fulcrum and a lever. Each child was to try lifting the load with the fulcrum at different positions. They were extraordinarily excited by the simple experiment. Their enthusiasm and earnestness touched me.

One child asked me where I came from, and I told him. He said that he had never heard of that town, and mused that it must be very far away.

How do you explain to a child that literally, my town is only a few miles away, but figuratively, it might as well me Mars?

As we reached the end of our visit, I heard another child remark,

"I wish school could be like this EVERY day!"

Oh God, me too, kid. Me too.


  • At 3:28 PM, Blogger Girlplustwo said…

    i remember this most excellent post.

    and happy exhaustion is the best.

  • At 4:27 PM, Blogger Amie Adams said…

    God! I love seeing the world through your eyes. Marta would have broken my heart. The teacher would have found the two of us in the hall crying.

    Glad today was fun.

  • At 4:49 PM, Blogger PunditMom said…

    Good luck with dinner, and thanks for sharing this -- I missed it the first time around.

  • At 5:15 PM, Blogger flutter said…

    I love that feeling of happy exhaustion, this post was amazing

  • At 6:15 PM, Blogger Mary Alice said…

    oh my God, that post broke my heart. My sister teaches 4th grade in a poor school in California. English is a second language for the majority of her class. Last year she had a little boy who cried his heart out everyday for the first three weeks of school, because he was confused and he didn't speak English. Every day the little boy's older brother would come and comfort him at recess. It is so hard for is also so difficult for our teachers. Our schools have such big jobs to do, with so little.

  • At 6:38 PM, Blogger Gidge Uriza said…

    I did Junior Achievement a few years ago, not realizing what an undertaking it was. Kids are so great and simulateneously horrifying......I'm so fascinated by them - I really wonder how teachers do it. :)
    Wonderful touching post.

  • At 8:47 PM, Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said…

    This broke my heart.

    But you, friend, have an incredible way of telling a story.

  • At 12:02 AM, Blogger S said…

    How do you explain to a child that literally, my town is only a few miles away, but figuratively, it might as well me Mars?

    you can't. it's incomprehensible, as it should be.

    lovely post.

  • At 4:05 AM, Blogger Polgara said…

    I really enjoy reading your blog, have been popping in from time to time, has been nice that you have been posting some of your old stuff which has given me the chance to get a feel for the place.
    I really felt for that little girl!


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