Tuesday, August 25, 2009

three little birds

"...and when your stomach is empty and your mind is full its hard to sleep. But eventually, sleep and Wilbur found each other."

It's nearing 11 o'clock on a school night, two and a half weeks into the year. I've been lying in bed for the past 45 minutes hoping that, by some miracle, I would fall asleep. Instead I lay here reviewing the day in my head, my mind unable to focus on anything else but my students- present and past.

Today I had my students create timelines of their lives. We are going to use them as starters for writing autobiographies. The kids were really excited. I was a bit worried that they wouldn't know what to include (expecting to hear a thousand "I don't have anything to put"s) so I gave a few of my own examples- the birth of my brother, graduating high school, going to college, a family vacation- just to get their ideas flowing. They didn't need my help. My little worker bees got right to it; recording every wonderful (and less-than-wonderful) event they could remember from births to 'fiestas' and everything in between. I was impressed by how well they were doing. I myself had had a difficult time coming up with momentous occasions to include on my own timeline. After taking a closer look at each student's work, I realized they had an advantage over me--they have experienced far more life in their nine years than I have in 23.

Scattered among the cheery memories of birthday celebrations and first pets were those of sibling death and family upheaval. It isn't that I forget that my students are different than most students living in the surrounding areas. Many are from single parents homes, and almost all are economically disadvantaged, but my knowledge on those topics is often from paperwork, not observation. On the surface, they don't 'go without.' For the most part they are all fed, clothed, and clean; but, underneath the Hannah Montana and WWE t-shirts are hearts that are marred with hurt. Now don't get me wrong, our school is filled with smiling, happy children who love life and thirst for knowlege, but I will never know what it is like to live in their shoes. I have never experienced the pain of leaving all I've ever known (family, friends, my native language and country) for a so-called 'better life.' Nor do I know the grief of loosing my older brother to gun shot. I don't know what it is like to "apartment jump" or be bounced around to which ever family member is the most stable at the time. I especially don't know what it is like to brush my sholders off and move on afterwards.

I am amazed at the things my students have experenced at such a young age, but even more, I am amazed at the twenty-six fantastic little people who show up in my classroom Monday-Friday with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts, ready to take on the day. They look adversity in the face, give it the proverbial finger, and keep going. I don't know how they do it, but I hope that one day they realize what outstanding people they are-even at age nine.

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