I can make a puppet faster than you.

Yesterday I went to a kindergarten class to help with the spanish speaking students. I was asked by the teacher to help with centers, which I never entirely understood why or what exactly they were doing, or how these 5 year olds were following such a complex system of groups, rotations and activities. I sat in the tiny plastic chair with my knees nearly up to my chin. At my table I was in charge of four kids.

By the time I sat down Whitney, a buck-toothed, wild-haired, rasacally girl was racing the boy on the other side of the table, Luke, to trace and write her line of upper and lower case e's. She was in such a hurry to win, and continously say that she was winning that her small e's looked like lop-sided blobs floating below the dotted line. On the back of the page she doggedly circled all the e's she found in the short paragraph, yelled out "Twenty E's" and slammed her pencil down. She took it to the teacher aid who stamped her paper with a 'good job' next to a small winkng frog. She ran the paper to the 'turn in' basket at the front of the room and began on her elephant puppet. Next to her was a tiny little girl named ellie. The conversation started because she told me proudly that her name both started and ended with e. She asked me my name and I said Ashley. She said, "Oh, that's cute. My mom's name is Amy, and my dad's name is Mark." It was a strange sensation realizing that I could have gone to high school with her parents. And being in a city where timpviewites seem to always be reuniting and buying houses next to their parents, it was even very likely that I knew them.

Ellie immediatlely struck me as the popular, adorable, fashionable type. I pictured her in 10 years with long blonde hair and that flippant attitude that drives sophomore boys crazy. She seemed very aware of her cuteness and the fact that she was wearing jeans with sparkles and gems. Whitney and Ellie pointed across the table at the dark, pig-tailed girl sitting next to me and still furitvely tracing e's. "She can't speak english", they pronounced. "She speaks spanish." Whitney said, "Look, I can speak spanish to her; Azul." Nathaly didn't even look up, and she did in fact speak english. Whitney and Ellie were done coloring in their paper-bag elephant puppet and set off across the room to weigh pumpkins with one of the other classroom moms. Nathaly turned to me, testing the waters and said, Hola. I said it back and she seemed pleased. She then sped into a flurry of spanish, telling me the full names of her 3 younger brothers and her parents. Nathaly Isabella Fernandez Garcia. When the girls came back she stopped talking. I asked them how much the the pumpkin weighed. "I don't know, I don't remember." Ellie said.

This went on for an hour and then parents started to come. I felt dazed, out of touch and unfashionable amongst these fancy kids, charmed, like I want to teach more than anything right now and a bit disillusioned with the education system. Why were all these kids coloring in the lines? Why were they so eager to do busy work and move onto the next assignment without taking time to think about what they were doing?

However, regardless of those questions. I realized that this morning in my puppetry class, not only was I wearing a jumper and a plastic barette in my hair, I also had a sack lunch with a capri sun and string cheese in my back pack. As we were making our puppets I stuck close to Davey and followed what he did. I had somehow gotten distracted while the teacher was explaining all the steps and was looking around trying to follow the top students. Cutting out patterns, pasting, and coloring in pieces for our puppets. As I got up to follow Davey and cut out the pattern for my mouth piece I whispered to him that I thought we probably would have been friends in kindergarten.


britt said...

Can we open a school together? I've been thinking about this idea for some time now, as, like you mentioned in this blog, I too am concerned about the "get-A-done-to-move-onto-B" method of education. Education to me is more about learning how to learn as well as what you learn; about how to make wise decisions your whole life, and not that you've become a book of facts.

Portland. 2010. Done.

See you Saturday!

david. said...

thinking of us as kindergarteners makes me smile a lot.
i'm glad we not only get to make puppets together but that we are friends.

shelly said...

I used to volunteer in an elemtary school in 1st Grade classes -- and WISHED I could speak Spanish to the many Spanish-speakers that were there. All the situations you describe finally made me so frustrated I finally told the teacher I could only be there when they needed help with their reading. And that was fulfilling. We read, we reasoned, we discussed (that wasn't the teacher's intent, and it took WAY longer than she wanted), and it was wonderful. I made some really good 1st grade friends, and I think we each learned a lot from each other!

Sofia Deyanira said...

We had the principal of Atkinson Elementary, a dual immersion program and multicultural public k-5 school in Portland, speak today in our linguistics class. I am totally enrolling Caribou and am going to be involved in this school. http://www.pps.k12.or.us/schools-c/profiles/?id=234#slenv
We need more schools like this one and Sunnyside environmental, another hands-on public school. We need more devoted and bilingual teachers. I am with Britt. Let's do it! I think in a few terms we will all have our bachelors...

Joseph said...

I like this.