Teacher Let The Monkeys Out Year Two

I have never in my life seen so many students crying.  Today was the last day my kids were in school, and you know how in the States kids get super excited?  My kids cried.  I would like to believe that it’s because I am an amazing teacher and they will miss me so much, but really, it’s not that.

First of all, they have a flare for drama–it is what makes my Mexican students so lovable, fun, and frustrating.  So when the waterworks started in one kid, I knew it was because he is moving in about three weeks to Monterrey.  When two girls started crying, I knew it was because their home lives are a little lonely.  But then, it was like an epidemic.  Before I knew it, half of my class had teared up, and this hormonal teacher started crying too.

Now, here’s the thing.  I love my students.  I care about them.  I have enjoyed them.  I will even miss them to a degree.  But I am NOT sad that it is the last day of school!!  While other first year teachers have been telling me how sad they are all week, I have bit my tongue.  Because saying, “Oh, well, that will change!” isn’t something a first year teacher likes to hear or believe.  I remember.  So I didn’t say it.  But I sure did think it!  So these tears?  I attribute them to hormones.  I knew crying would just make things worse, so I choked them back and hid them from the kiddos.

THEN, we went to dismissal.  A older student found out that his cousin died.  Someone called his mom while they were sitting there waiting, and I was alerted by his tone of voice.

“Que paso? Que paso?” he said urgently.  Then he broke down.  I was worried.  I was sad.  But I didn’t know him–so I was able to walk away dry-eyed when I saw he was being taken care of by the counselor.  Until I started thinking about that poor mama.  Oh, my!  If I were to lose my Bebita!  Ah!  I can’t even stand to think about it!!

I calmed down–and returned to normal.

Then, my little boy who is moving came back with his mom.

“He is sad, because he is going to miss you,” she said, “He doesn’t want to leave.”

“Oh!  You’ll have so much fun!” I assured him.   Before I knew it, the mama was tearing up.  I looked at her a little worried and confused.

I asked, “Are you okay?”

She nodded towards her son and said, “It’s just because…”

I sprung another leak.  I finally understand!  I used to think my Mama was silly when she would look so hurt when we were sick or hurting.  It always kinda made me laugh.  Never again!  I get it!  And while the office staff, other parents, my co-teachers, and students looked on, I stopped holding it back.

And there we stood, us three, crying over the last day of school (kind of).

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Mooooo!

My mamaw used to say, “I would rather look at a field of cows than a field of horses any day.”  She wasn’t too fond of horses, and to her they were a waste of space.  After all, what do you get from them?  Something to eat?  Nope.  (Insert joke about dog food here.)  Something to drink?  Nope.

Yesterday we went on a field trip to a dairy farm.  This particular farm is rather large, and produces milk solely for Lala–the Northern Mexico Dairy Company.  Also the producer of the two gallons of milk that I drink each week.  We called it “From Farm to Factory,” but really, we should have called it “From Farm to Miss Jania’s Glass.”

I forgot how much I missed the country.  Victor said to me last week, “I think I belong on the ranch.”  He also said I wasn’t suited for ranch life due to the massive amounts of skeeter bites I already have accumulated.  (For those of you who don’t speak Appalachian, skeeter is another word for mosquito.)  I feel the need to code switch in order to convince my husband of my country-life qualifications.

I don’t know about my students, but I left the dairy farm completely impressed.  The sweet baby cows torn from their mamas on the day they were born was a little heartbreaking.  It also might cause my milk to let down just thinking of their big sad eyes.  Just kidding.  I feel the need to make lactating jokes though in a moment like this.

I have only visited one other dairy farm in my life.  It was much different than this.  I mean, how could it not be.  On my drive to Minnesota when I was 20 I stayed with a friend’s family in Wisconsin.  I remember wanting to go out and see the cows, but I was encouraged to help out in the kitchen.  That was something that the two did have in common actually, our sweet (and handsome) tour guide both helped me across the barred road, and insisted that we allow the girls to sit down at the table before our little boys took all the chairs.  Try explaining that to a 8 year old boy…

The cows in Wisconsin stood in a line where they were attached to a milk machine.  The milk went up in pipes into a storage tank beside the barn.  These Mexicans have it down though–their cows march onto a revolving carousel, they’re hooked up to pumps, and by the time they make it back around, they back off into a corral.  I realized that my Spanish has reached a new level when I understood Old McDonald’s joke, “It takes 7-8 minutes for them to finish giving milk.  The rest is just a free ride.”

Sweet cows.  I really would like one of these old ladies.  Preferably one that speaks with a nice accent like they do in 101 Dalmations.  Moo.

School Celebrations

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It’s new for me: celebrating Halloween at school. I mean, really, it’s something I always wanted to do! Alas, our dictator principal told us that we could only have “fall” decorations in Northern Virginia.

But in Mexico, it’s game on! Pumpkins become jack-o-lanterns and scarecrows are replaced by witches, bats, vampires, mummies, and other frightening creatures. Door decorations are over the top–and crepe spider webs hang from the ceilings.

Children come to school in their costumes–scary costumes! Faces are painted and the little goblins are marched around the gym in a Halloween Parade! It’s my favorite part of Ramona the Pest in real life! The baddest witch in the world has nothing on these miniature Mexicans!

Halloween was, of course, followed by Dia de Los Muertos. This was a whole new concept for me: as our dead stay where they belong at home. The kids don’t talk as much about it, but big and small altars are all over the school. Each item on the altar represents one thing or another.

Honestly, I can’t wait until Christmas if this is what we do for Halloween! Christmas in the States was a big no-no too. But rumor has it that we go all out!

You know what’s interesting? The one time I’m allowed to have a celebration for a holiday I love, and the responsible me has a plan: my students were amazing. They didn’t blink twice as I taught Math with a green face. It wasn’t a free-for-all by any means: after all, got to keep the munchkins in control!

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Summertime Blues

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They’re right, you know… There ain’t no cure for the blues I’ve got. Well, there is a cure, but it won’t be here for another month. Sigh.

I was walking to school last week with our sixth grade teacher–and a super interesting man. He is a second career teacher–and an expatriot who resides (usually) in Canada. We were discussing the energy, lack of focus, and all around atnosphere of our school right now. Mr. Steve said, “It doesn’t matter where your school is–when you get to this time of year, everyone has a hard time.” If only (like schools in the States and Canada) we would be getting out some day soon…

It’s one thing that is pretty appealing about teaching in Tennessee. Their school year is over now–I know, I know: they start in August. But let’s be honest: I do too! And I work until the end of June.

Mexico’s calendar is super funky. We start in August–but get two weeks for spring break. We don’t officially end our school year until July 6th!!! My kids are bouncing off the walls!

I’ve started my summer-is-almost-here projects, but they are combating with summer-has-been-here-since-march attitudes. There’s no pulling the wool over these Mexican eyes…

Mayan Predictions Coming True

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This weekend when we visited Southern Chiapas, we were warned multiple times to be careful on Tuesday (today). My friend explained that the indigenous people were expecting an earthquake today. Again and again we were reminded to stay in safe places, and to tell the rest of the family here. I was assured that they were superstitious…

Last week we were told that today was a nation wide earthquake drill. Mexico has been worried because we’ve had an abundance of tremors. This drill was planned for around noon today, and so in the true spirit of the school, we practiced. The drill begins with a normal alarm (though not as loud and piercing as the alarms at home), and we line up in the classroom. When the cow bell sounds (true story), we make our way down to the small soccer field in the middle of the school grounds.

I was telling one of my co-teachers all about the weekend, and how according to the Mayans, we were doomed. All of a sudden, I felt like I was dizzy. The children, who were sitting on the ground, began murmuring and some jumped to their feet.

It happened. The Mayans do know what they’re talking about…

Escolta (Girls Dressed Up Marching Around…)

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Okay, so I told you that I only have a handful of girls, right? Did I tell you they were Mexican Beauties?

For the last little while, my class keeps getting interrupted by these Sweethearts-of-Chiapas. Today it was one of my questions actually…What’s the deal with escolta? I am glad I asked… I wad told that while it is a disruption, it is also a honor to be presenting the flag. That really helped. No longer was this the gym teachers taking my girls out of my class to march around–now, they are going because they’ve been chosen.

We also got to watch the girls today. All of the grade levels presented. Really, the little girls were (by far) the cutest. Seriously. Have you ever seen five year old girls march around? They stole the show. I have a video of my girls though. Please excuse me being teacher-of-the-year in the background…

On Mondays we have a flag ceremony at school. We have a couple drummer-boys (and girls). The main attraction though is when the big girls march the flag in. We all salute (with an arm parallel to the ground across your chest), and they sing the national anthem. Now that I am Mexican (not really), I have to learn the anthem. It is really pretty in Spanish, but I don’t really know what it says yet… I do like to kinda dance around while standing still. It has a nice beat!

Good days in Mexico… Please never end.

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What Newsweek Reports

Josefina Vázquez Mota, the first woman to run for the Mexican presidency, is a long way behind in the polls. But she’s getting a boost from an unlikely quarter: the frontrunner himself. In a newspaper interview, Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party was unable to recall how much tortillas (which Mexicans eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) cost. Peña Nieto compounded his elitist sin by saying, by way of excuse, “I’m not the lady of the house.” Will the presidency turn on the tortilla?

This is what I read today as I searched for an article to use in my class after school. Really? I can tell you how much tortillas cost–as I buy them every other day. I can probably tell you the cost of a lot of things. It reminds me of the price of arugula in the D.C. area–and the president’s dismay (as well as the people’s when they realized how out of touch he was).

My time is now earning me some extra money! Hooray! I am going to be able to pay my school loans sometime soon! Tomorrow I have a tutoring job from 4:30-5:30 and 6:30-730. Whew! Let’s hope my bus is a bit quicker than it is today! It seemed like I was on there forever! The good news is I made friends with the driver, Beto.

Yesterday, I had to work too. The school had this festival, fair, carnival… I don’t really know what to call it.
This is what I do know:
1). There were a lot of people there. I walked around thinking, “Hmm… Hope I’m not ignoring my parents!”
2). There was a soccer game that I watched the whole time I was there. I was lucky–we were sitting there, and another teacher said, “We should get our picture taken with him!” I grabbed my camera, and we quickly posed with the goalie of the Jaguars. Afterwards, one of the male teachers asked if I knew him. Nope. I got some serious street-cred today with the boys in my class!!

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3). I am pretty disappointed I didn’t win on the cake walk. I think the game was rigged. I was supposed to contribute a cake, but had the snots all weekend. I decided it would be better to refrain from cooking anything.
4). This is skill.

Open House

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I already get gawked at a lot. On the street. At the market. Standing in line for the bus. Now, the school has invited the padres of fifty kids to come gawk at me for a couple hours. Niiiice.

I wonder if the Real Housewives will still love me when they see how little their children know?

Today is our open house. Basically, that means that we will have to work late. I will have parents drifting in and out of my classroom to introduce themselves and say hello! I had my kids write about their families IN ENGLISH yesterday. Can I explain how telling that was? Some kids were interesting: they didn’t know the words, but knew the structure. Most others didn’t know structure or words. Big sigh. I am going to call this reality check time.

It has been fun creating these drawings though–the best is when THEY create them. We are getting this mutual understanding, my kids and I. If they ask–I will help! This means (mis)behaviors have lessened significantly. I’ve started hanging words all over the classroom. I really can’t wait to play bingo with them. That will be awesome.

It is good that I know some Spanish too. There are some words that are needed that pictures can’t describe. I feel like this is where the powers that be and I disagree. Ideally it would be best to NEVER speak English. I see First graders who respond to this nicely. My little boogers know very little English. Plus, for some reason, I have 50 kids–and only somewhere around 12 girls. Anyone see a problem? Those girls will be in Heaven by the time middle school rolls around…

Anyway, here’s to a night of trying to speak enough Spanish to get by!

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