Thursday, October 8, 2009

A perfect Thursday and a perfect excuse

This is how a perfect night goes: I finally end my “workday” at 6:30. That means I’ve been in work mode for about 12 hours. This is typical. But today is Thursday, which means I get to go to dinner with Hilary, Amanda and Nicole. So I rush over to Canton, we end up at a small pizza place and spend the next 1.5 hours talking about TFA and not talking about TFA. I’ve never really had a group of girls, so this is all new and exciting. And perfect. It turns out that cracking up waaaay too loudly about boys we’re dating (and one’s we’re not dating but have to get out of our house by lying about going to church) only gets better when it’s echoed by 3 other girls. On the way home, I stop at the small market to grab a bottle of Rose. After hearing the underage clerk tell me about his Chinese-symbol-for-courage tattoo, I’m pulling out quickly to make it home for Grey’s. And then I see a familiar blue car pull into the market parking lot – Hilary. I put the window down, wave my bottle out, hear her scream back “Me too!” and burst out laughing. She’s my soul friend. On the drive home I put on my favorite radio station (thank you Baltimore) and hear the National, MGMT and my new favorite love song, Devendra’s “Lover.”

I think I’ve said this before, but every day I find another reason to love Baltimore. The leaves are starting to change! I told Eric how a couple of weeks ago I saw some reddish brown on a few young ones near a Target and assumed they just weren’t taking to the soil. Turns out, they’re not dying, I just really have no concept of the east coast. Other reasons to love Baltimore:

1. The history. Oh yeah, your kids sweated out an afternoon at the zoo? My kids went to Fort McHenry. That’s where the battle that inspired the Star Spangled Banner took place. I was all aflutter in the historical significance of those bunkers overgrown with grass. My students just enjoyed rolling in the grass. We don’t get recess outdoors because of the drugs in the area, so they were thrilled with the concept of running outside. One little girl literally dropped to the ground and rolled in a patch of long grass on her back, back and forth.

2. A few afternoons ago I was mad. It was an especially trying day, I was more exhausted than usual, it was raining, and I was stuck in traffic cursing the one-way streets and construction. After screaming at a driver that sheisted to cut me off and getting stuck behind my dozenth red light, I just fumed and laid my head against the car window. Then I actually focused my eyes to look out the window. There, on the corner 20 feet from my car and behind an appropriately dreary black gate, was Edgar Allen Poe’s grave. So cool. The rest of the afternoon got a little better.

Now for some school time. The one thing that has become the most obvious to me in the last few weeks is that you never know when a lesson will bomb and when a lesson will rock. Sometimes the only way that I get through a week is waiting to do a lesson that I’m particularly excited about. It makes planning easier, for sure.

This week I was excited for a lesson on being special and the first letter in everyone’s name. We were finally going to use the “People Paper” that Lakeshore sent to me – construction paper that comes in a dozen skin color shades. Then we would trace our hands on the paper, and put the hand on the ABC wall under the letter our names start with. I was both excited and apprehensive – I knew this skin color thing could turn out badly. I also knew that I wanted my kids to start out knowing that alllllll the colors are equally beautiful. Jaren’s told me about how his 4th graders will make color distinctions and tease each other about being more brown or more red. I want my kids to grow up believing that whatever color they are, it’s just their own special perfect one. The lesson went ok, but not great, and not for the reasons I expected. It’s interesting when a small thing (students talking while I’m talking until I get uber frustrated) can totally derail an otherwise exciting lesson.

On the bright side though, almost all the students came up excitedly to match their hand to a color of construction paper. All except one. He’s probably the lightest of my all-black class. And it never occurred to me that he might already be aware of this in a negative way. That’s why I wanted to do this lesson, to be proactive about being positive about differences. His hand matched the lightest brown, but he vehemently asked for the darkest brown and kept saying, “I’m black!” That’s when I pulled out a piece of actual black construction paper. That helped a bit. It also helped when I talked to him by himself and told him how special he is just the way e is. It’s classes like these that make me wish I could keep my 17 4-year-olds for forever. Be their only teacher and be there to keep them safe from all the teasing and divisions that seem so inevitable in a few short years. I talk to my TFA peers and know exactly how bad it can get even by 3rd grade. That’s why nights like this, with adult conversation, are a breath of fresh air. And now I have the perfect inspiration for getting out of any awkward boy situation. “Um. Can you please go? I need to go to church…”

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