Sunday, February 17, 2013

Her Dream

My "Little Sister" wrote this.  She is nine years old, in fourth grade, and has been through far too much already.

                                                               My Dream


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that there would be equality and peace. Dr. King wanted his children not to be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

  I have a dream that when I grow up I can go to college and work very hard so I could get a great job, and live a long, happy and harmless life.  I hope and pray that I won’t get killed or die early.

 I have a dream that none of my family will be killed or die unnaturally. I also want my little brothers to grow up and be whatever they want to be.

  I have a dream that my community won’t have any more shootings especially people in my family. Specifically, my cousin. At sixteen shot and killed whom I Love so much. 

  I have a dream that this country will never again have segregation, discrimination and people being treated badly because of the color of their skin. (Like Dr. King said) 

 I have a dream that the world would be a better place. I think that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would love this nation today because his dreams came true. There is equality and peace in the world today. His children aren’t solely being judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Me Duele/It Hurts

I tutor a 7-year old English-speaking child who is in a Spanish immersion first grade.  She didn't do Spanish immersion kindergarten so she's a little behind but she's really smart.  However, she doesn't really like to pay attention and is having a hard time sort of buying into her new class, so that's been the challenge.

The other day, I was at her house when she came in limping and crying and being very dramatic about her fall from a tree. She wouldn't stop talking about how much it hurt (she forgot to cry when I gave her a sticker so I don't think it hurt all that much) so I told her how to say it in Spanish.

This child really really likes singing so she started humming and singing "me duele, it hurts me, me duele it hurts."  Sensing an opportunity, I taught her the names of some of the body parts.   Pretty soon her song went something like this:

Me duele la cabeza
Me duele, it hurts

Me duele el brazo
Me duele, it hurts

Me duele, me duele, me duele, it hurts
Me duele, me duele, me duele, it hurts

Me duele el pelo
Me duele, it hurts

Me duele el dedo
Me duele, it hurts

Me duele, me duele, me duele, it hurts
Me duele, me duele, me duele, it hurts

It was a very sweet little tune and I can't wait to see if she remembers it.  And no, her head, arm, hair, finger, and all these other things did not hurt, but she really does love drama.  And singing.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Too Many Victims

I have always felt an incredible amount of sadness not only for the victims of violence, but for the perpetrators.  Much (probably most) of the violence where I used to teach was both aimed at and committed by young men and I always felt (and feel; sadly, the violence has not abated) just as devastated for the people who took a life as for those who lost theirs.

I understand why people may not agree with me; especially those who have lost loved ones to violence.  But I see these kids when they are just that, kids, and I know them sometimes before they do this.  I've been there when they're scared because they can't control their temper, when they feel such a strong desire for revenge that they can't see any other option, and when they are violent and bullying because that's all they've ever known.  And I think that is just as much of a tragedy as someone dying - it's just a different way of someone losing their life.

Ever since I started teaching where I did, I had a fear of when I would find out that my first student was killed.  I knew it was inevitable.  It happened a few years ago, and it wasn't one of the students from my class, but it was a student who I spent time with outside of school and who I knew from school.  Even with my years of worrying, I never thought it would be someone so young.

I grieved for Josue/Joshua and I grieved for the kids I knew much better who had seen him killed and will probably never be whole again because of that.  I have lost touch with those kids for the most part for a couple of reasons, and one of them is because the older one has really hardened and wants nothing to do with me any more.

Throughout all of these years that I was worrying about "my kids" being killed, I never really thought about how I'd feel when one of my kids killed someone but now I know.

I got a text message from a former student who is now 20 or 21, married, with one baby and another on the way.  She texts me periodically to let me know how she's doing and it usually involves how so-and-so in her family is on such-and-such drugs and how she has moved because she can't have her baby in an environment where his uncles are waving guns around while they're high. (A parenting decision of which I strongly approve.)  Two days ago she texted me to tell me that her cousins killed one of her brothers.

The story I got was that her 23-year old brother was arguing with her cousin R. (who I knew from another third grade class when I was teaching), R. ran in the house, gave his brother A. a gun, and A. shot my student's brother in the face, killing him.  I don't know if drugs were involved, but it's likely.

I expressed my grief and condolences to my former student (although how, HOW do you express the appropriate amount of condolences and grief to someone whose cousin killed her brother, whose nieces are now fatherless, who has been trying her whole life to get away from this kind of senseless violence and it follows her because it is deep in the fabric of her family and community?)

What I didn't tell her, because I don't think it will help her right now, is that I remember A. and R. as children and I remember taking them all three out to Burger King when they were all 8-11 years old.  I worked with A. on Saturdays sometimes, helping him learn to read because he was going to graduate from elementary school without basic reading skills.  I could already tell that almost everyone was going to give up on these two - they were already getting hard and mean - and I treasured the fact that with me, sometimes, on those weekends, I could see them being kids and help them be kids.  I had some hopes that I would make a difference, but, as with so many of these kids, they need so much more of a difference than a few teachers can make.

So now I know, it hurts just as much to find out that a student you loved killed someone as it does to find out a student you loved was killed.  And that honestly, I might have been able to stay in that school if I could have figured out a way not to love the students.