First Day of School

Tonight I told Ale about a first day tradition from my youth: at night, Aunt Jen-Jen and I would lay in bed and dream about the first day of school.  It was her secret to falling asleep, and rather effective!    “Just think about your first day,” she would say.  Tonight I added, “Think of all the fun you are going to have tomorrow–all the friends you get to play with!”  

I remember thinking about Sister Bear’s kindergarten as a kid–wishing I had barrels of clay to play with or a see-saw right there in the classroom!  I wonder what she thought of as she fought sleep last night.  Maybe getting to paint?  Reading her name like Froggy?  Having snack like Emily Elizabeth? 

Ale’s favorite book! This was taken for our summer reading storytime’s final day!


We checked out a pile of first day books last week, and we have read them together.  We’ve talked about “nap time,” and how it is okay to just rest quietly.  We tried on her socks and shoes, and practiced using the potty in her skirt.  And I have been the nervous one, knowing that this year will be one she remembers for the rest of her life!  

In just a few hours, my little girl is going to her first day of Kinder 1. In Mexico there are three years of Kindergarten, the first being when students are three years old.  She is excited, and ready for some out of the house stimulation.  And lucky for the both of us, she will be in my school!  I can’t wait to see her playing outside, talking Spanish to her friends, and wearing her tiny uniform.

When I had a class of students, I would always pray for them this first night before school.  I would pray that God would give me the kids that needed me.  I know that the biggest testimony is often that of a little life though, and I think of that these days: how can I help her little light to shine for others?

I read these verses this week in Deuteronomy 6:

“…and thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up

And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates.”

I want to do a better job of that first part (loving God more) AND the second part (talking to my girls about my love and desire to serve God.) If her life can be used, even at age three, then what she is seeing and hearing at home must be the right things!  

The backpack show


Quick pose before leaving



Family photo for Ale’s first day!


Ale and her teachers


World Read Aloud Day


My heart is breaking.  Seriously.  I take so much for granted–like this wonderful world of literacy!  Reading has been an escape for me since I was a little girl.  Writing became my therapy a couple years ago when I felt like the world was crumbling around me.

And now?  Literacy is my future!  It’s what my job is based on, and I’ve already signed a contract as a literacy coach for the next two years.  You could say that I can support my family because I learned to read.   That’s the truth.

But still, my heart is breaking.

My custodian just asked me sheepishly, “Miss, what does this say in English.  I don’t understand.”  He was holding a button that I had made proclaiming March 5th World Read Aloud Day.  I didn’t think anything of it, and I explained in broken Spanish the idea behind World Read Aloud Day.  It’s a day where you read with a loud voice (the actual translation).  Suddenly, a look of near panic crosses his face.  “Us too?” he asked?  I explained that no, we wouldn’t have everyone reading, but that some schools do celebrate like that.  “But, it’s because I can’t read.  I had to quit school when I was eleven,” he continued, “when my father died.”

Hard swallow.

I quickly assured him that I understood how that could happen.  My husband too worked his whole childhood and missed out on a lot of school.  I can help, I explained.  It will be hard.  But I know I can help him learn to read.

Wow.  I think back to the notes that I’ve written, the cards that we’ve signed, and the text that is literally dripping from my classroom walls.  Poems decorate my door, banners fly in the hallway with each writing celebration, and this sweet man who takes care of us everyday just told me his secret.

I know that it is a secret.  That expression on his face?  I know that expression.  I see it daily on the faces of the boys and girls who struggle with reading–Who know that they are struggling.

There are a lot of things I can’t do in this world.  But teach someone to read?  That’s something I can do.  And it all starts with reading aloud.  Reading with a loud voice.  Be loud.  Be proud.  Read someone a book tomorrow–even if that someone is just yourself.



Sleep is for the Week(end)

When I was younger, I could sleep forever.  No, seriously.  Actually, Victor and I were just talking about how my sleep is very important, so I don’t know if that has changed.  Since the baby has come along, there have definitely been nights where I’ve had to say, “Victor, I am sorry, but you have to take care of her tonight–I’ve got to get to sleep!”  Or even in those early days, I would get up and pump, then he would get up and feed Ale later when she cried.  (A friend just told me the other day that I had a diamond…so true!)

When Ale was young, she slept a lot! I didn’t complain like other new mommies about sleep deprivation all the time (Seriously, people, that can mostly be avoided if your baby sleeps near or with you…)  Now she’s learned that she can fight the sleep–unless we time it just right.  (Most of the time, she just cuddles up next to me and breastfeeds–which makes Bedtime Mommy a lot friendlier.)  In the evening, she will hang out with us, playing and reading, then when she’s tired–she doesn’t fuss–she just attacks me.

When I came to Mexico, I thought I had learned to put work in its proper place.  It didn’t follow me home.  It didn’t sneak into my dreams.  And my weekends were work-free.  Then I got offered a promotion for next year.  I will be the literacy coach for the teachers at our school–and I am oh-so-very-excited.  I am also determined to prove myself.  Here is where the trouble lies.

The monstruo that is inside the heart of every working mom has reared his ugly head.  I have started feeling guilty and resentful for the time I spend at work.  I know it is good time for Ale and Papi, but doesn’t a girl need her mama?  My work can’t help but follow me home.  And when I get home, I really don’t mind cooking.  It actually makes me feel like a better wife and mama–because I know my family is eating healthier than if we go out to eat.  Ale crawls around my feet, and I avoid stepping on her by letting her play in the cabinets.  Then we leave the dirty dishes (most of the time), and we play.  But we play with the conscious effort on my part to put the overflowing in-box of work that is always in my head to the side for later.

This brings us to the present–where I sit typing this blog while drinking coffee at 5:30 in the morning.  This is when I do my work.  It is when Ale and Victor sleep.  This time is productive (usually)–and waking up at 4:00 isn’t nearly as outrageous as it once would have been.  Waking up at four is just what I do to keep Work Mommy and At-Home Mommy from becoming Guilty Mommy.

Sleep?  As my mamaw used to say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

Teacher Reflections

I am currently taking a B.S. Master’s class on teacher reflections.  Today, our teacher said we needed to think of the most disturving experience in our history of teaching.  He told us not to share it with anyone–that reflections like this are highly personal.  So like all my other personal and most private thoughts, I figure that this is a good place to defy his wishes.

Where do I begin?  Six years of teaching have given me experience after experience that has “kept me up at night thinking of what I should have done differently” (the directions…).

1.  There was that time my first year when my student held scissors to his chest and a pencil to his neck.  He told me that he just wanted to die.  He was, of course, heart-broken at the tender age of 10.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how broken he truly was.  His home-life was in shambles, his step-mother resented him and treated him differently than the other students.  He followed up this event with a shoestring around his neck… and mandatory time being evaluated.  He is the student I remember the most.  The student that told me, “Miss Blakley, you saved me in there,” when he returned from the hospital.  I think of him constantly, and have called him to check on him.  Maybe someday I will find him on Facebook.

Maybe I should have kept in better contact with him.  Maybe I should have fought for him.  Maybe I should have done more to focus on his needs, and not the angry young man a couple seats over…

2.  There was another student that same year.  One that my mom suspected had been sexually abused based on her behaviors.  She wasn’t a behavior problem.  She wasn’t an academic problem.  She was ignored.

What if I had asked her more about her home-life?  What if I had reached out to her family?

3.  Student three made me promise not to tell anyone that her family was living in a van.  I didn’t.  She was well behaved.  She was poor.  She was well-loved.  She came to school clean each day.

What if I had thought to check on her family?  What if they didn’t have enough to eat?  I mean, after all, they were living in a van!

Ahh… I think of these kids often.  But they aren’t alone.

4.  This kid was a big kid–bigger than all the others.  The other students, their parents were scared of him–wary perhaps is a better word.  He thundered around the classroom, because he was too big to move quietly.  He threw his body around like every other seven year old–only he was the size of a ten year old.  He didn’t know how to play with other students, so I began playing with him.  I love this kid–I would have taken him home with me.  Alas, he did actually have a mama who cared–at least the best way she knew how.  This kid, he was too dumb to follow along–and too smart to qualify for services.  He was flying in the dead zone academically.

What if I had pushed harder against the system for him?  What if I had coached his mom on her rights to request testing for her son–after the school determined that he didn’t need it?  What if I had kept in contact with him–given him my email address to keep finding me incase he needed me?

5.  This kid was special.  She was sweet as could be–but suffered from physical issues as well as the issues that come when your parents refuse to admit that your kid can make mistakes.  Her mom made me nervous–there’s no other way to put that.  And she’s the ONE kid that I happened to screw up her test scores.  Convenient.  Once, I accidentally hit her in the eye when I turned around in the hallway.  Nice.  Totally an accident.  That kept me up at night.

Here in Mexico, I think about the academic needs of my kids more than their social and emotional needs.  It must have something to do with homes that have both parents, food that is on the table, and money that pays for quality education.  Sigh.  Thanks, teacher.  Thanks for dragging up my worries with my precious babies throughout the years.  That will for SURE keep me up tonight.