29 September 2008

Special one...

The most fun thing happened during school lunch the other day.
As I was walking through the cafeteria, a third grade student was calling my name,
"Ms. L! Ms. L!"
I approached his table and briefly overheard the table of third graders talking politics, confidently repeating phrases they'd heard their parents say.
They asked with enthusiasm, "Who do you want to be president?"
I bent down to their level and paused, to build suspense, then eagerly I replied, "President Barack Obama!"
The table of nine-year olds erupted in a chorus of "Yehs" and high 5s.
It was so invigorating witnessing their excitement, and it made me, again, hopeful for change.

27 September 2008

Bright lights, brown tights

I work in an elementary school setting with students who need intense help with learning the English language. Most of them are from African countries they've fleed. They have lived in a refugee camp. They've experienced a lifestyle I only read about in books. They come to school with mismatched outfits; girls with colorful, printed, small, birkah-style hair coverings. Boys with pants too short and shoes too big. They fascinate me and I think they are beautiful. They are so much a part of my world that I don't differentiate skin color anymore. I forget when I did.

It becomes evident though that children are aware of skin color. It is innocent, charming and alarming.

I wore brown tights to school the other day, and three of my students , kindergarteners albeit, questioned me so intently.

"Ms. L, why are you black, but not your arms?" I was questioned.
I savor teaching moments like these when I can pull at my brown tights and tell them these are called "tights" and watch them as they look to their skin and back to my brown tight-laden legs, almost in disbelief, almost understanding, somewhere in the middle.

When do we start to see black instead of brown, and a color instead of beauty?