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Thursday, May 23, 2013

20 Thanking is an action, not a tradition

A program to close schools was announced a week before Thanksgiving in the city. The Governor announced that it would close at least 30 schools but he was expecting  a revision of the Educational Council, because the number, far from being minor, could reach at least 50 schools.

Teachers, parents and children took the streets to protest. Sometimes there were protests against our school. The children began to ask that they would make if they closed the school. Sometimes our Director tried to give explanations that ended in a face of doubt about the future.

It was curious, when there is not enough money, Education suffers the consequences,  it was like if the State thought it’s not worth investing in children and public schools. But even when I attended private schools, I had begun to see one of many problems of the education: It does not focus on learning ability, but on the resources that are invested and in this sense, I didn’t feel bad by the Governor, or by the directors of the schools, but children who would end up suffering the consequences of the mistakes of others.

A day before Thanksgiving long weekend, I told children that we should each thank for what each wanted, and I gave thanks for having the great honor and pleasure of being with them.

Their faces focused on me, and each one was taking turn to talk while all of them to listen carefully every word...

  • Thanks for having a school to study, but above all, for having a teacher who let me laugh.
  • Thanks because my parents let me study, they say that girls don't deserve to go to school, because when they grow they get married.
  • Thanks because my dad was not angry at me  yesterday when I told him that I want to be an astronaut.
  • Thanks because my brother lent me his math book.
  • Thanks that the plants grew and we won in the science fair Blue Ribbon.
  • Thanks because my dog ate the note that music teacher gave me by distracting during class the other day. But I don't blame a dove crossing out the window.
  • Thanks God for not giving fleas to my cat, my father said that if he sees a flea  my cat will leave our house.
  • Thanks because my classmates  never scoff from my.
  • Thanks for the sandwich that my mom prepared me every day.
  • Thanks for the Turkey that mom will prepare and because the army allowed my brother to come to visit us.
  • Thanks because the doctors cured my mom.
  • Thanks for the new job of my dad.
  • Thanks because my mom has not been sad for several weeks.
  • When I believed that Isabella was not going to  speak,  she took her turn  and said:
  • Thanks because I already learned that I am capable of doing things that everyone said that I could not.
That afternoon I took a taxi to go to the airport to enjoy the holidays with my family. Children's words rang in my ears and I thanked for all those sandwiches that my mother prepared me when I went to school, by the employment of my father, because I never had a cat with fleas and despite having all the resources that my father and his empire could give me, I didn’t fall in something really spooky.

I realized that no matter whether you are rich or poor, a student is always vulnerable to the designs of Education, which aims to determine the future of each one, but at the end, every one  is owner of our own destiny.

When I arrived at the exit of the airport, I was ready  to search  how to take a taxi, when I saw my mother’s driver, as formal as always since I was a child. He was always who took me to school wearing his black uniform, with those same English manners, but today I stopped by to see his face,  and no doubt it had changed. As I became a man, he had aged, and  I noticed that I knew nothing about his family.

This time, I sat in the front seat and talked with him about his family and thanked him for so many years of loyal service and everything that had been done by my family, especially my mother.

When we got home, my mother opened the door and hugged me as if I  were going to   give her  a pink diamond ring. I thanked her for all she had done for me, and kiss her, like when I was a child.

My father was working in his Studio and by very first time, I heard saying to his partner: "wait a minute, I’ll call on Monday, my son came home". I  thanked him for never losing his job, not being angry with me when I told him that I wanted to be a public school teacher, to which he replied me with a smile that  he rarely exhibits: "who said I was not angry?

Thanking took sense that day, I remembered when I was a child I saw on television a child so poor that it seemed that he would die of hunger. I told my mother that if one day I found a poor street child, I would invite him to eat at home, but there was no poor children around the places  we use to attended, so I thought that those kids didn't exist. 

After dinner, I gave my mother all gifts that children's parents had made for her, and I asked her if she remembered my idea of inviting a poor child to eat at home, and she told me since then, she supported UNICEF in its fight against child poverty with a donation that had my name.

I thanked my parent for the person I am, and I explained them why thanking had to be action and not a tradition.

I invited my parents to Jamba Juice next day,, and I asked a tasteless smoothie and told my parents about my days as a teacher, and we did not stop laughing throughout the afternoon. I thanked them for letting me make my own mistakes, which now had a special sense.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

19. Enjoying the cultural differences

We did not know exactly what happened with the evaluatios, I think I expected a  kind message that would indicate that we were educating children in a good way or at least a well done!, but we didn’t have something like that. 

Director asked for a meeting in teacher’s hall and said that our school was between the 20 best schools of the school district. The document that gave us did not say if we were the number  1 either the number 20. Nor said that topics we should pay more attention in, there was only a phrase saying: school district is pleased to announce that you are  between  the 20 best schools in the region.

I won't deny that I was disappointed,  while the Director was happy because this implied a budget big enough for another 4 months,  nobody talked about our children, or the impact of this in their families. It was just a passing note that announced that the school would open next year. 

When I talked to Gaby to give her the news, she said that evaluation was always the same, and there was only the richness of the group and all our effort. Had children learned more with the exam?, be thus, who cares?, seems that nobody was thinking about kids, actually the program continue and we had to complete it. Evaluations were only a compass of anguish for all of us and education permission to continue spending money on everything except children.

The next activity in the calendar was the celebration of Halloween, for a native  Amerrican is a day of fun, candy and costumes, but for foreigners is perhaps an example of the American verve.

Asked to children  to do some questions to their parent about how do they celebrate Halloween, and we would make a discussion about the topic. I never expected that the result would be so interesting. Did you know that in other countries there are cults to death?

 In Mexico the celebration coincides with the Halloween time, and held to the death with joy and is reminiscent of the dead, it is somewhat between a party and the Memorial Day in the United States, people going to the cemeteries and provide offerings to those who left this world before.
In the India there is a celebration known as Mahalaya which is a special tradition for those who profess Hinduism and they remember the souls of beloved persones and adds wishes to this life, especially calls for peace and health; While other regions of the India celebrates Diwali which is known as the Festival of lights.

Halloween is celebrated in Ireland but but the Festival adds a note of sweet in the shape of a cake of fruit which is called Bambrack to which is inserted a muslin, which is a transparent fabric and who finds it is lucky to the persons who find it in their cake because muslin can predict their future.

 Australia celebrates a Guy Fawkes Eve who is known also as Mischief Night or Danger Night which is a night of mischief, during which children wear costumes and ask for sweets from house to house, in addition there is a organization of  dance festivals and costumes contests at schools.

In Spain is celebrated on 31 October the "Magosto" mainly in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula and in Catalonia is known as the Castanyada.

In Chile and the Colombia held the day of all Saints which is a Catholic tradition in honour of all the Saints, known and unknown in the modern world.

Children talked earnestly about each of the cults and all exchanged details concerning each of the parties, as well that of Mexico, Jose's parents sent me a sweet skull and a poem; Mita gave me a candle by the celebration of light, Stephanie gave me a chestnut and Mike gave me a traditional sweet of Australia. Megan and Carlos sang me a song that speaks of a Saint who is called as I do.

I remember with a smile the panic that I suffered when I could not pronounce the names of the children, but now I feel lucky to meet other histories, cultures and traditions without buying a plane ticket, because our activity add a  search for videos of each of their countries that speak about how every country celebrate the night of the dead, Halloween, all saints, the truth is that it is just a great excuse to have fun.

Each child chose a costume, but I asked  not to purchased, and the creativity arose so finely that I felt ashamed of my dog, Marshmallow-eared costume. Sure my mother would have bought me something expensive that I would not enjoyed it, but today I was child and learned that cultural differences do not exist when the eyes are  open and listening with the heart.

Who really scared me of death was Gaby, who offered to give me a ride  and when she arrived I saw her face and neck covered with blood, when I opened the door of her Prius, her look twisted my stomach!. Gaby!, I swear I find who made you this!, but then she smile and he gave me a bag with something that looked like vomit and  said: 

-I'll help to apply your make up and we can go together to the party at home of ¡psychologist ‘s school, I’m sure is going to be terrificly fun!

Trick or treating?

Friday, May 3, 2013

18 Shut up and focus: evaluating knowledge

Children and I had so much fun everyday that it was not difficult for the children to learn to answer questions, even those with a higher level of complexity, and when they doubted, found out the way of deducting responses based on what they knew it was wrong, I waslearning so much from their minds, until our mentor reminded us that assessments are applied in closed classrooms and in silence, where even your own breath can cause discomfort so that with enough time, I began teaching to  children to act like robots and still be ready for the test. Why does education forget that children are happy creatures?.
We started with 2 minutes of absolute silence to answer questions, to all of us it was like an eternity, and I guess I not had realized that our classroom was considered like noisy until  Director entered suddenly, opening the door as if there were a fire. All of us looked at her and when she called me, she did it in a way that  I thought her  cell phone had failed in the toilet.

-What is going on here, David?, your students are never so quiet what are you planning?.

 The question was so direct that caught me by surprise, I could hear myself  mumbling  while I attempted to answer her. 

 Nothing, Madam Director, we are learning to focus for exams.

  - She looked inside like if we were hiding a dead body behind the door and then withdrew. I felt like when you copied during the test and the teacher look at directly to your eyes.

The concentration time stretched more and more each day. We had a sign on the door saying: danger: kids thinking!. Theresa told me that she had already learned to control her breathing as she was moving the pencil, this was like a torture, but all of them  were taking it in good way. 

Evaluation day is not far from the moment in which a condemned to  death knows his sentence, everyone has to pay a debt with the education system. Nobody can  sleep since for weeks before, everybody  around students are nervous, there are extra hours of study, the stress begins, some suffer nightmares. I remember one I had frequently in which I was in the middle of the exam and my eyes were covered with  papers and everyone in the room laughed thunderously for my stupid and I couldn’t see, nor remove the  sheets from my face, I heard only the clock inevitably running. I always woke up covered in sweat and horribly, always happened the day of the exam, that made me even more nervous.

No child or student around the world deserve this torture. If tests are supposed to improve the way you learn,  why have things not changed with the passage of generations?

Oh in fact, I retract!, they have changed!, now everything is worse, and students will have more tests and more educators take a slice of this business which nobody cares about children.

The day of the test the security measures were so extreme that I thought that they  would put children through a brain scanner to make sure they did not have a brilliant idea, one of those that could change the world. We changed our classroom, teachers we raffled off and we could not even be with our children, because we could give them the answers (like if that would serve to learn more), they gave them special pencils, to prevent them to have tattooed all the answers on their pencils or perhaps on the erasers. They reviewed pockets children hair, like if they were condemned to death and decide to hide a clip to escape from the gallows.

No one could speak, and the silence was so disturbing for children of eighth grade that I felt sorry for them. I assumed that they were more comfortable but I guess that everybody has the idea that they have to adapt and for the first time in my life, I prayed a little for my children. I didn't care if they approved or not, no one cares what do they know, I just wanted that they felt no fear. We had practiced much, no doubt they would be fine.

The day was so intense that I began to feel thoughts flying all over the room and bombed everything on its way, I began to feel migraine and although it was on this occasion on the other side and I was not the defendant, I could not stop feeling embarrassed by all this way to annihilate the ideas, creativity and childhood of humans on behalf of a better future that does not exist.  How come replying multiple answers made me a better person? When children ask me something I should be able to explain them what they need to know, not to choose between answers that someone thinks that are correct.

When we walk through life, nobody will be thinking of multiple choices, do you want a coffee? A Hot, B cold, C with three Strawberry tarts , D all the above and what is going on with you?, have you not ever heard of hunger in the world?

When we leave the prison cell, I  was thinking about having a drink of tasteless lemonade with my Gaby at my mentor’s home, they were waiting anxiously for me, but when I was ready to cross the street, 8my children ran toward me, was so dull that I was not easy to give me notice that were real and not ghosts, until they all hugged me and if not for a post I would have tackled.

I hugged them all and I asked them how they had been, desperately look for lesions in their minds, but their smiles made me feel better, all of them spoke in order as usual and Dana read their minds explaining their thoughts: It was not difficult to focus, we were like zombies on Halloween and we answered everything!.

All were happy, as always, perhaps it should rely on that infant fortress to survive to everything, until one day, the rope breaks and we become unhappy adults.

We only needed to wait for the results to know if our school would still open or if parents would face the news that their children wouldn't have a school next year.

I hate to say the obvious, but education sucks sometimes, learning is the easy part, and it can even be fun!