Monday, April 8, 2013

Todo es Playa

1) This will be another attempt at bad writing. I figured that I need to start somewhere, so let me tell you about what is closest to me these days.

 2)      Students: Today my seventh grade girls stole ketchup packets from the cafeteria and started leaving ketchup stains on chairs in different classrooms to trick boys into thinking it was period blood. I admire their brilliance. How’s that for some feminist art.

 3)      More students (On Love): When I was, three relationships ago, 1,000 quarts of booze ago, 500 different hairstyles ago, when I was much younger, I found that my life could be tangled to other people’s lives for no necessary logical reasons. At the time, I called those relationships love. Now I would rather call them being somewhere at the same place and at the same time with somebody, and leaving some factors to luck and chance. I was thinking about this because this afternoon, during my recess coverage, a group of seventh grade girls came up to me wanting to talk about boys. They do this a lot with me, and the monologue usually sounds something like this:

 “Ms. Drake, I am tired of being single, I’ve been single all my life, since the 4th grade! And my longest relationship lasted 12 minutes. I think that Evin likes me, but I don’t know if I like him back. What should I do?”

 To this, I usually tell them to please go play some volleyball during recess and stop thinking about dating until they are in their late twenties. The best mentorship I can give them comes with the knowledge that some of my twenty something year old friends (male and female) sound exactly like my seventh graders. My inability to trace a distinction between these age groups is somewhat frightening.

 4)      Teaching: I am a social studies and Spanish teacher at a public school in NYC, but sometimes I think that I make a living as a free lance writer who is still gathering material to produce the contents of a book. The problem is that this is how life has felt to me since I was nineteen years old, man, 2,000 quarts of booze ago, 1,000 hairstyles ago, 100 odd jobs ago. And yet gathering material is always more productive than spending an entire day procrastinating while trying to write a paper or essay that is not happening, and feeling bad because the paper or the essay are not happening. I notice that most of my friends from graduate school, those who continue in Academia trying to finish dissertations, spend hours and hours dwelling on this issue. I would rather have things happen to me, whatever that means at this stage.

 5)       Childhood and Adulthood in perspective: Speaking of teaching Spanish and gathering material, I have a 6th grade student whose father is from Ecuador. He never eats breakfast in the morning and has witnessed his father come and go, in and out of AA groups, and in and out of his life drunken episode after drunken episode. My student does not enjoy sitting in his desk, nor doing his homework. He says FUCK YOU to teachers. He comes in late to homeroom to avoid mandatory reading. He is failing many of his classes. Once he threw a textbook at me when I threatened to call his dad to speak about his behavior.
 And yet, my student has a decent grade in Spanish, because it is the language of his childhood in Ecuador- the language of his father. This student’s behavior in my class has caused me many calls to my mother crying. It has caused me to re-evaluate my profession and my ability to manage a classroom. But some days, I remember that children cannot give what they do not always receive at home. Last week during class, my student asked me if I could edit a note in Spanish that he was about to e-mail to his father. It said something like this, in translation:

 “ Hello Dad, Today I am eleven. You left your clothes at home since last spring and mom wants you to come pick them up. If you stop by I will be a happy man thank you.”

 I asked him if he meant “boy” when he wrote the note, and if he wanted to say “chico” instead of “hombre.” But he corrected me: “ I meant ‘man’ Ms. Drake, how do you say ‘man’ in Spanish again?”

After this episode, I decided that I would give my student more opportunities in the classroom to grow up and back into the childhood that he lost. There might not be vast differences between eleven and thirty, but some of us need to learn how to be adults while others need to experience childhood for the first time. We give because we receive, whatever the language.


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