Sunday, February 24, 2008

Why the Rain Falls

Good afternoon.

Speaking to Miss Mirah on the phone this afternoon, realizing that it's nearing the end of February (already?), I recall how quickly time is passing now that I'm old. This year of study here is two-thirds over, I can almost taste my MA and I'm so obsessed with teaching that I made my parents drive by my school last night, just because we were in the neighborhood and I miss it. Vacation has become a time to be quiet, alone and reflect and not a time to go crazy, as it has often been before. While I would love every vaca to involve travel, I get tired sometimes and just want to be home, just want to reconnect with those I love and have lost touch with. Just want to connect with Ntozake Shange's plays. I have no idea where home will be next fall, as it depends on where work will find me, but as per usual, I'll cast the nets wide and land feet first.

I'm teaching a short-short story by Zora Neale Hurston tomorrow and wrote a short myth explaining rainfall (in response to her "Why the Waves Have Whitecaps"). Mine is not the most compelling story, but I thought I'd share, I'm going to use it as a model for my students writing their own myths to explain a natural phenomenon.

Happy Sunday. I hope you are well-rested and well-loved. I keep coming back to how blessed I am.


"Why The Rain Falls"

First, there were only crystal clear cobalt blue skies all over the world, and each person, bird, mammal and fish was happy. Everyone awoke early in the morning with the sun, just to admire its rising. Every went outside at noon just to say how glorious the day became. But after years of gorgeous weather, Ms. Porcupine was getting bored of the beauty. She craved some excitement in her life. So she gathered all of her friends up in the forest and decided to have a bonfire.

Now, Mr. Sea heard all about the bonfire, it was the only event that people were talking about for days. But he was tired from a long day of work, and didn't want to travel all the way to the forest, so stayed home. It was a splendid party, and he could hear everyone laughing and dancing from miles away. He didn't appreciate all the noise, so he pulled his waves over his ears and tried to go to sleep.

The next day, everyone returned to the sea to tell stories from the bonfire. "It was the most fun we've had in all of our lives!," exclaimed Mrs. Dolphin, and the all the jellyfish agreed. Mr. Sea felt sorry for himself and decided that he wanted to be alone. He curled up in one corner of the Earth and told the fish that he didn't want to be bothered.

A few days later, when he began to hear the creatures talking about the next bonfire in the forest, he was still upset and didn't feel welcome. No one had invited him afterall. So he stayed home. At the last minute, however, he decided to surprise everyone and go. He went all the way up the beach and stood quietly at the edge of the forest, waiting for the right moment to burst out and show himself.

But the sea how much fun everyone was having dancing and singing around the fire that he wanted to join in too. He got so excited that he jumped up into the air and ended up spraying everyone with water. The fire went out, and at first everyone stopped, but Ms. Porcupine, always the optimist, said "Hey everyone, let's try to dodge Mr. Sea's drops as they hit the ground," and they all did, squealing and laughing and dancing in the raining seawater.

It became a tradition -- every time there was a fire in the forest, it would soon be followed by rain. Pretty soon, no one even realized the connection anymore, because it was no longer sunny everyday. And that is why the rain falls.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Nelson Mandela

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
-Nelson Mandela

Ah, I need to re-read his biography, perhaps this winter break will give me time.

When the Sankofa Drums and Dance group came to perform at our school on Tuesday, as part of the performance, they called Destinee up to the stage to read a poem about rising up and moving on, but knowing your heritage. A sankofa is a bird whose neck faces back toward its body, as if it's always reaching back to assist the molting process. The metaphor in many African communities is the need to look back at history in order to better understand how it has shaped us. When Destinee read the poem onstage, I noticed that she struggled a bit with pronouncing the name "Nelson Mandela", so I asked in 3rd hour if they knew who Nelson Mandela was. They shook their heads, no. While it's something they'll cover in history class, I'm sure, the man is 90 years old and will pass soon, and I think it's crucial that they know who he is and what he accomplished, as one of the most prominent activists of the 20th century.

Anyway, when thinking about it, he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, which is the year before most of my students were born. Aye, que rico! Perhaps it's because I was in 8th grade when that happened and have studied his life and work ever since that it came as such a shock to me that my students hadn't yet encountered him.

So, I'll be trying to work him in somehow

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Goodbye, Angel.

one of my most-improved students is leaving us, due to an unfortunate incident in which he participated today. i will miss him very much. i've come to realize how hard it is going to be for me to lose students, how i can't take it personally and have to hope that they will find another teacher willing to bet on them wherever they find themselves.

For J. Angel

I watched your eyes grow wide
with hurt and anger quarreling
in the deep vortex of your pupils.
Red rising to your face.
I don’t know what he said.
I’m not sure which word broke
the calm countenance you’ve
been wearing.

I remember first seeing you.
Large and looming, your first
piece of writing blowing my
mind with its blunt force honesty.
Peeling your life open,
we've found a sensitive soul
who has lived in the house
of anger for too long.

Today, you came in after lunch.
Told me what happened
with your girl.
You called me over,
asked for my advice and I
pushed back the beginning
of class so that we could talk.
Told you to take a breath, let her be.
Sometimes space is all you need.

You left us at the end of the hour.
We had written letters thanking
Sankofa drums and dance
for coming to our school.
Looking back to know ourselves
when we move forward.
We took a practice test
for the Terra Nova,
which will determine if you pass
this year.
You got a 90%.

After she held you down,
after we dragged the other kid away,
his mom came to pick him up.
I found you in the hall,
asked if you were alright.
noted the cuts on your fingers,
the tape around your knuckles,
you told me you were sad
that I had to witness the fight
and I told you to take care.

I will have trouble sleeping tonight,
knowing that today might be the end.
But I believe in you, past
This incident.
Toward what you’ll become.


God, it's hard to love them and lose them.