Statistics and crime map…
Sep 25 Published in Remembrance, Reflections by Purple
This is a continuation of my journal from my 2001-2002 school year. Please read the previous posts to give this entry context. The first post contains my prefacing comments.
Autumnal Equinox - 2001
“I had a student today ask me to teach her the football song,” a colleague regaled us in the teachers’ lounge. She works with SDAIE (Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English) students, the last level of English language development before entering the mainstream.
Maybe because I’ve worked with this teacher for many years or maybe because I’m familiar with our students’ cultural gaps, I was able to guess what the student meant. “The Star-Spangled Banner?”
That was it. “The football song.” The incident brings me back to my rant about cultural literacy. Instead of reaching to the students with songs like “Manaitas Tapatias” and “Guantanamera,” we need to teach them the songs of the culture they are entering. I say this with all due respect for the culture they carry. I have no desire to squelch or to eliminate it. As a matter of fact, I would advocate for a more truly bilingual state, if not bilingual country.
Think of all the new jokes. In my fifth period, for example, one of my students had a paper with the letters T N S L P T O T S O on it. If you pronounce these letters one at a time in English, you sound like you’re saying, “Tienes el pitio tiso,” which translates something like, “You have a hard-on.” This joke requires knowledge of both Spanish and English.
I believe eventually the economic power of the Spanish speakers will create a de facto bilingual state. In the meantime, during this time of rallying patriotism, the kids keep hearing this song, the “football song,” and suddenly they know that it means more, but they don’t know what and they’re left out. Most of our students do not intend to return to Mexico to live. They need to be able to succeed here, in the United States of America. They need to know the national anthem.
At the autumnal equinox, as light and dark become even, we enter the astrological sign of Libra, a sword in one hand, a scale in the other. It’s a time of reflection, unlike the more vibrant, energetic vernal equinox.
Following my mom’s tradition, I take in eggs for my students to balance on their ends. We pause for a day of reflection and write poetry. For inspiration, I’m taking in Pablo Neruda’s “Keeping Quiet.”
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity,
Life is what it is all about . . . .
If we were no so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead in winter
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
I imagine this poem as a great lead in to the quiet writing time, a time to reflect on the last two weeks in our new world. (For pre-writing activity, I often ask each student to provide one sensory word--going back to show, don't tell--that he/she associates with autumn.) Today, to provide structure, I may ask the students to incorporate set words. The words I've chosen are: balance, sword, scale, dark and light.