Don’t Miss the Bus!

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Yesterday the 4th-8th grade students at the local public school went on a special field trip. They got to see a play-version of The Hobbit in a live production at a theater in Albuquerque.

This trip was planned weeks in advance. Students were given permission slips to return, which clearly stated that parents needed to bring their children to the school one hour early on the appointed day. Most students promptly returned the required forms.

During this past week, students were reminded each day that they could not take the usual school bus; they needed to find someone to drive them to school so they would not miss the field trip. Everyone seemed to understand this requirement.

There were 6 students (out of 50 or so eligible for the trip) who never brought back a signed permission form. Perhaps they “forgot,” or they “lost” the form, or their parents never signed it. Most likely they made the decision that they didn’t want to go on the trip. After all, in most Navajo families the parents rarely say “no” to their children. If it was important to the child, the signed forms would have been turned in long before the trip occurred.

I was assigned to oversee these students who were being left behind. It was still a school day with attendance expected at either the theater or back at the school. When I got to school yesterday morning, I discovered that there were more students who had “missed the bus.” I was responsible for 15 students, rather than just 6 children.

A few of the girls were belligerent. They had returned the required permission forms weeks earlier. They were grumpy that they had been left behind. They rode the usual school bus to school and were shocked to find that the classes had not waited for them. I reminded them that they had been told (and told, and told) that they needed to find their own way to school to be there at least an hour earlier than usual. That didn’t seem to sink in. The girls remained grumpy throughout the day that the teachers had been so mean and left them behind.

As I looked around the room, I realized that 25% of the eligible students were sitting in that room with me. It was interesting to note that these were the same students who are significantly behind—both in grade level and in day-to-day assignments. These are the students who lack family support for education; the ones who seem to be least knowledgeable about cultural differences in time management and expectations between Anglo and Navajo worlds. These are the children of adults who walk through life as helpless (and hope-less) “victims.”

I realized yesterday that we are failing these children in more fundamental ways than merely their lack of a solid education foundation for adult life. They lack models who can show them how to “catch the bus.” They lack understanding of the expectations of the work world they hope to join someday.

STOP! How can we help these Navajo children not “miss the bus” in life?

Perhaps even more important than teaching these kids the 3 Rs, we need to help them gain skills for functional adulthood. We need to help them take responsibility for their own lives. We need to help them so they can change the patterns in their family culture so that THEY won’t “miss the bus” in their own lives!

 

(all photos from fotosearch stock images)

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Anna’s Crying (Guest Post #5)

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This is the fifth in a series of Guest Posts shared by Jianping (Corey) Yang. You can read the introduction to these posts HERE.

I always wonder how life in rural New Mexico affects the growth of Anna, this ten-year-old girl. To me, at her age, life should be all about being carefree and joyful. From an adult’s angle, I think Anna is as innocent and happy as other ten-year-olds. However, I noticed her cries occasionally.

(Anna crying when she can’t keep a stray puppy…)

Kids may not always be as self-disciplined as much as parents expect, and Anna is no exception. Sometimes when Jill scolded her for not following her schedule or fulfilling her duty, I could hear Anna weeping. Her weeping came and went quickly. At her age, crying might be the only way for self-protection. It might also be a means for negotiating with her parents.

One time, I heard someone knocking my door. It was Anna. She wanted me to go with her – cycling, exploring, or things like that. I said I was busy with something, and I could be free in half an hour. I returned to my laptop, almost forgetting my ‘promise’. About half an hour later, my door was knocked hard again. Anna said in a semi-trembling voice that it had already been half an hour. I told her that I hadn’t completed my task and so couldn’t join her, so maybe next time. A little later, when I had resumed what was left over, I heard that Anna cried very loud at a distance. But she probably would not know that I heard about that. I felt somewhat guilty for not keeping my promise and I didn’t remember children tend to take things seriously. She needed someone to communicate with in this rural area where it is not very often to see people around. I let her down.

Once there was a fair in a nearby town, which was supposed to be fun for kids. When we arrived there, only empty booths and a few people were seen. We had no choice but to go back. I knew Anna had looked forward to it since she looked so excited before going. When Randy explained on the way back that we could do nothing, Anna burst into tears and said, “I was just wanting to see…” I know in this rural area, there are not many amenities and events that people can enjoy conveniently. I could tell that it was indeed disappointing.

I like Anna’s straightforward way of emotional expression. Her cries remind me that childhood is innocent but can be lonely. I keep asking this question for myself, “what are the gains and losses of growing up?” Tonight, I will make a cup of coffee for myself and contemplate this question.

Little Stories from Big Writers

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Since January I have tutored a group of 2nd and 3rd grade students twice weekly in math and reading. We have fun together, writing stories, taking turns reading out loud, and playing a variety of math games. I’m not sure who looks forward to our time more…me or them? I am proud to report that all three of them made gains in both subjects based on test scores. I’m hoping that we will continue to spend regular time together next school year.

little guys

My “Little Guys” writing group

At the end of the year, I gathered the best of our writings into a short book, complete with photos and a few drawings. It was interesting to see how much their writing improved in just a few short months!

I would love to share the book with any of you who are interested. Just leave me a comment (on facebook or here on the blog) or email me. I will happily send you a pdf copy of this simple, fun little book!

 

Readers

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The most significant predictor of success in school is the reading ability of the student. Unfortunately for students at Lybrook School (just like students across most of the United States), there is limited time during the school day for them to read for pleasure. Far too much time is taken up with required curriculum in core subjects. Completing textbook reading and filling out worksheets is no substitute for time spent reading actual books.

Fortunately, there are short time periods during most school days when students are given free reading time. Many of the teachers allow students freedom in where to get comfy during reading time:

couch readers

Relaxing ON THE COUCH while reading

musical readers

Relaxing with MUSIC while reading

reading alone

Reading ALONE

group reading

GROUP reading

floor reader

Reading ON THE FLOOR

desk readers

Reading ON THE DESKS

For this reading addicted mom who has raised a family full of voracious readers, sights like these are a delight!

Playing with “my” 1st Graders

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I have had SO much fun this past year as I have gotten to “play” with the 1st grade class at Lybrook School. There is something delightful about walking into the cafeteria or into the classroom or onto the playground and hearing, “Mrs. E, Mrs. E.” And even when the “mob” threatens to tip me over, it is gratifying to be buried in a group hug when these little ones see me. Can I keep them at this delightful age forever?!!

1st graders

Here are links to posts about some of the fun we have had together this year:

MONET Art Project

VAN GOGH Art Project

General FUN in the classroom

 

“Blended Zine”

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This past winter both Peter and Cherisse wrote amazing poems. I helped them submit the poems to “Blended Zine,” a magazine “for teens by teens,” published by Farmington Public Library. Out of over 200 submissions of poetry, photographs, and art work, both of them had their poems accepted for publication in the latest issue of the magazine.

published poets

Proud Published Poets from Lybrook School

The library hosted a Release Party at the beginning of May, to celebrate the achievement of all of the students whose work was included in the magazine. Food was catered for the occasion. During the program, each student’s work was shown on the big screen as they were called forward and presented with a hot-off-the-presses copy of the magazine.

peter

Recognizing Peter

Peter couldn’t attend the celebration, but he and his poem were recognized during the program. A copy of his poem is at the end of this post.

cherisse

Cherisse’s Proud Family attended the release party

It was stressful for Cherisse’s family to attend an unfamiliar event in an unfamiliar setting, but how could they not celebrate her success with her? Here she is with (left to right) Audrey (cousin), Dorisha (big sister), Cherisse, Doris (mother), Dorothy (grandmother), Tom (grandfather), and Chester (father). A copy of Cherisse’s poem, celebrating her family roots, can be read is this earlier BLOG POST.

group

Group Photo of published writers and artists

Congratulations to all of the teens who were included in the latest issue of Blended Zine!

We are especially proud of “our” two students. Good work Cherisse and Peter! We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

Peter’s poem is as follows:

let it all go forever

by Peter Brown

I will never find

all I left behind

the lost memory of my past

that faded away so fast

The time I was gone

was a little too long

It made me forget

It made me regret

the time I messed up

ran out of luck

and took off in the rain

left you alone in the rain

you handled all the agony

dealt with the misery

put your life back together

let it all go forever

Culture Day

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This past Friday most of the students and staff from Lybrook School traveled up to Gallina for the Jemez Mountain School District’s CULTURE DAY. Much of the district is Chicano (some of whose families came to New Mexico 300-400 years ago!) so the date is always the closest Friday to Cinco de Mayo. Students come from other ethnic groups as well, so this day is meant to celebrate the heritage of the various groups of students in the 3 schools in the district.

After the program, there were a variety of food booths, and info booths outside. Students had fun milling around, trying a variety of activities (such as a fun maze, and hula-hooping) and eating lots and lots of JUNK food 🙂

Here are photos of some of the most interesting dances from the program:

eagle dancers

Eagle Dancers — traditional Pueblo Indian dance

eagle dance drummers

Drummers for the Eagle Dancers — the older man started this internationally recognized group many years ago to keep teens from drinking.

Eagle Chick

Isn’t this Eagle Chick adorable?!

los viejos

Kindergartners dancing as “Los Viejos” (the old ones) were quite entertaining!

latino dances

I always love the energy of Latino Dancing…no matter where I see it.

walk in beauty

Lybrook 1st Graders signed the words to “Walk in Beauty”

ribbon dance 1

Lybrook 2nd Graders perform the Ribbon Dance

ribbon dance 2

Another view of the Ribbon Dance

basket dance

Lybrook 3rd Graders perform the Basket Dance

anna

Our oh-so-Anglo, oh-so-white daughter joined her 4th grade class in singing “The Four Sacred Mountains”

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