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The Surreal moment I just had

I just had a beautiful but surreal moment.  I went to the Washington Middle School 8th grade Graduation.  I was able to witness every one of the students I’ve been working with walk across the stage that not only completes their Middle School education but begins their High School career.

Only 12 days after my own graduation, it came at me like a wave of surrealist paint.  Like Paul Fleet’s An Eye With A View, I felt like I was looking at a scene of looking at a scene.  Another UNM graduate spoke at the ceremony, a UNM graduate who had once attended WMS.  She spoke to them of trying circumstances and not being asked to join groups during High School, but rather having to take a leap of faith, put the goal in front and just go join the Honor Societies, the soccer team, the academic clubs.  She had to take the initiative and because she did, she’s now a college graduate.

She spoke of the statistics these kids are bombarded with from every direction.  Half will drop out, 1/3 will become unwed parents, 2/3 will be arrested for something before 18.  I saw many not so dry eyes, because some of these kids are the first in their family to make it this far.  Some are the first to be headed to High School in America, the land of opportunity, as long as you’re not Mexican.  These kids are fighting the odds put against them, and winning it right now.

It made me think of all the things people said to me when they first found out I was going to teach at Washington, largely known as one of the toughest schools.  Wow, really, are you scared?  Oh my gawd are you trying to change placement?  Make sure and bring a whistle, it startles them.   These children are pre-teens, barely teenagers, and they are faced with obstacles that would make a lot of different people drop out, but they are doing it through those circumstances.

I know students who live with distant relatives because those relatives live in the US.  Their parents still live in a different country; Cuba, Mexico, Chile.  I know students whose parents are in jail, dead, or not part of their lives for various reasons.  These kids are just kids.  The various reasons they are in the situations they are in are not their fault.  But they are dealing with the stereotypes, the people telling them they can’t, the biased tests telling them their not smart enough to, the families that can only offer so much, and making their education important for themselves at the same time.

I see my own Middle School experiences, my lack of High School, and now my struggle and triumph with college.  It was hard, really hard for me.  I had to fight for every moment in College.  But I did it in a society that accepts me simply because of the color of skin I was born into.  I can’t help the skin I was born into any more than they can.  I can’t change the fact that there are privileges I have, that they will rarely have, for no other reason than being born with fair skin.

I too was born into a low income home.  I too dealt with abuses.  I rarely found moments in which I felt supported.  I often raised my siblings.  I didn’t finish High School, dropped out in 10th grade.  I was married too young, had children too young.  I connect to these kids on more levels than they will ever understand and fewer levels than I can understand.

It was surreal, these many thoughts running through my mind as I hugged every one of my students after they received their diploma.  I don’t know if I was technically allowed to, but I stood at the foot of the stage stairs like one of the faculty and hugged them all as they came down the stairs.  I know that life is about to hit them harder than they’ve ever known.  BUT I also know that this group has an outstanding chance.  Maybe it’s my bias because I taught them, talked with them and learned from them, but I feel like this group is really going to go somewhere amazing. They are fighters for their own education.

 
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Posted by on 24/05/2012 in art, being a student, teaching

 

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Thank you – the touchy-feelyness of graduation

My first real weekend in so long.  I worked in the garden, threw away lots of papers, organized my desk, drank a beer in the middle of the day, bought Rubbermaid “easy find lids” containers, and watched a solar eclipse.  I wrote some thank you cards for graduation gifts, made a real dinner, went to the movies, rode the motorcycle, put away my clothes that had been in a basket for over a week now, put together a day/ trundle bed, and ate another piece of cake.

I have to be prepared if I get called in to substitute teach, but I am absolutely in summer mode.  How am I going to convince myself to get a summer job now? Aagh.

I am so lucky to have such good friends and relatives, I am closer to my goal for necessary funds for the school in Prague and have new beautiful accessories for while I’m there.  Most importantly I have their support and care – that knowledge is more important than money or things!!

This blog is dedicated to each and every person that has been part of my life.  Good or bad I have learned so many things along this path.  There are parts of where I’m at now, that I always knew would happen.  I knew I would travel across the planet, I just didn’t know for sure how.  In September that dream will begin being fulfilled.  I knew that I would be a teacher, I just didn’t know I’d be a real teacher.  I thought I’d teach people the things I’ve been learning, but now… now I’m a real honest to goodness teacher.  It was the people in my life that have helped me take the path – the direction that I have been on to get where I am and to go where I’m going.

I made friends along the way that have influenced me long past the time that I’ve been able to hang out with them in person: Tahirih and Brett, Jennifer T, Jennifer E, Dawn K.  And new friends that I am so glad for.  I hope that I give them as much as they’ve given me.  It’s been a long road.  Too much of it painful, but because of friends, I’ve made it.

I can honestly say that I now have teachers that have made a difference in my education.  It may have taken until college to be able to say that, but now I can say it with full meaning:  Lois M., G. Martinez, Kent B., Mel S., both Szasz’s, Alice W., these are incredible teachers, incredible human beings.  I feel lucky to have been taught by them.

I know, I know… this is the touchy-feely blog, but I needed to put it out there into the universe that I am grateful.  Grateful for the path I’m on and for the people that supported me along the way.

My promise is that I will do my best to support those around me, to encourage and uplift, to learn from and teach.

 
 

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Graduation, Final Projects, and being free enough to breathe again

We finished Les Miserables on Friday.  My students were stunned as we went through the turbulent changes that Victor Hugo packs into the book.  It was kind of fun to go through half a day and explain the French Revolution and what the ABC society was all about.  I had them connect to the student walk-outs in CA and AZ.  I played the 2008 version of the movie for the final film segment of the story.

As Jean Valjean, Liam Neeson, walks away from the river, I paused the movie and had the students talk about what they saw in his face; the freedom, the happiness.  Then we talked about what other people they’ve been studying might have had this same look on their faces.  Students right away mentioned, freed slaves, women after they got the right to vote, followers of Martin Luther King Jr. and Caesar Chavez.   We discussed how my graduation had me feeling like I was free to begin my new life.

Today, (now technically yesterday since I’m posting this a day after I wrote it) they began planning their final project, a small-group collaboration of all the work they’ve been producing this last month.  They will present their projects to the whole school on Friday.

They are feverishly planning how to visually display everything they’ve been learning, feeling, and wondering about.  They have to answer the question, “Can 1 person change society?”, and there is already some interesting debates happening in their groups.   I am glad to have them finally started on the projects and it’s wonderful to see them working so hard, especially now at the end of the year.

Aahh my graduation was on Saturday.  I can’t believe I am done with any kind of undergraduate anything!  It feels surreal.   I’m still getting used to the idea.  What a crazy, wonderful, hectic weekend.   I had quite a bit of family stay with us.  I am forever grateful to my dad and step mom for all the work and help and support they were.   Thane’s mom just left today and she was also extraordinary.  My momma, Jean, and Brian cooked for days to have a wonderful, delicious feast for all of the guests!  I can’t ever thank them enough.

I got to drive a ’66 Shelby Cobra as one of my graduation gifts!!  I am truly in awe.  It felt like something I’ve seen in an old movie.  Man, driving must have been SO fun before power everything.  It was really cool to steer …and the wind in my hair!  Of course the hair was also in my eyes a couple times, but it felt amazing to drive that car!

I’ve been looking in to a few places to take my art to this summer.  I plan to paint like a starving artist this summer J  along with teaching a few evening classes etc.

I am TRULY looking forward to getting back to learning Spanish, staying in shape, feeling like I have enough time to put my clothes away after they get washed, and reading a few books just for fun.  And being able to write whenever I feel like it instead of the few spare moments that accidently get thrown my way.  Ok, time to grade the final weeks papers!  I am actually a little sad that it is my last week of student teaching……

 
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Posted by on 15/05/2012 in Uncategorized

 

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