May can seem long, but is so chock-full of activities, it tends to go by quickly. At school we have had some exciting goings-on amidst the warmer air, the increasing hormonal activity, the teen angst, and the preparations for transitions.
In a beautiful example of integration, our arts integration teacher (Elena Betke-Brunswick) and one of our ELA teachers (Michael Lawrence-Riddell) collaborated to create propaganda artwork in a sort of counter-narrative to the novel, The Giver. In Michael's words, "the students took on the POV of those two characters and created art to protest the injustices in the community. We made many connections between this work of fiction and how art can influence change in the real world." The idea for this project stemmed from a song that Michael wrote about The Giver. He often uses his own and others' hip-hop music in his teaching. Here is a link to his song about The Giver: youtu.be/UdtBIj-zzn8
I love reading the propaganda posters every time I pass by that part of the hallway. Here are a few of my favorite:
In other exciting news, my school is the first public school in the country to host this exhibit: familydiv.org/exhibits/pioneering-voices/ Our advisories are participating in curriculum to encourage our students to examine and discuss transgender people with an eye to creating empathy and understanding. The exhibit is prominently placed in our front lobby, sending a strong message of support to our community.
And finally, last Monday, my colleague and I revisited one of our small local zoos with the ELL students from our classes. They complained at first that there weren't many animals, and it was a cold and blustery day. However, many of them had never been to a zoo, and loved seeing the animals. When the gift shop opened, we all went in to warm up. The popcorn machine there was the big excitement, and they all got bags of popcorn. We then had lunch right outside the zoo, where there was a children's playground. They ate quickly, then ran to play on the structures, losing all middle school inhibitions. Reluctantly, they came when we called them to get on the bus. As we drove back to school, the teachers in the front, students all the way in the back, we could hear them happily chattering, laughing and listening to music. Another successful field trip!
I've written about parenting before. With each stage of parenting, there are new and scary challenges, amazing transformations, and incredible insights into our parenting and our kids. Now that mine are 12 and over, I find myself missing the days when the biggest problem was not having a snack, or falling and getting a skinned knee.
Now, the problems seem big. They're complicated. And you can't just fix them with a Band-aid.
I think about my own kids and the various issues we have had. I would say we're a middle class family. We have a certain amount of privilege, being a light-skinned educated Latino family. We have resources, or we know how to access them. We speak English. We have a community, family nearby. We are mentally stable. We can afford therapists if our kids need them. Being an educator, I know the educational lingo used when talking about kids and learning. I can communicate well with other teachers and administrators. And yet, it is still so challenging to be a parent. When our kids have problems, we want to help solve them. When they hurt, we want to take away the pain.
What about the kids whose families can't cope? Don't speak English? Don't have the resources or know how to get them? Don't know how to navigate "the system"? Don't have community supports? Are focused on getting food on the table? If it's stressful for me, how must it be for them? Sometimes, I roll my eyes at the cray things parents throw at as and demand of us as teachers and administrators. But really, when I am able to put myself in their shoes, and imagine their world, I am able to change my perspective a little and build empathy for them. No wonder parents let the ball drop in different ways. No wonder kids come to us so needy. No wonder they have issues with coping, too.
I have been trying to flip my thinking in this way. Even when I do roll my eyes or let my mouth open in disbelief, ultimately, empathy fosters understanding and patience, and sympathy, and that is worth a lot.