Friday, April 17, 2015

Kids Quotes of the Week

"A devil-fat dog kicked me in the wiener."


"One time we killed a snake and he was full of babies."


Kid 1: "What came first, the wheel or food?"
Kid 2: "The wheel was first! Then after they finished the wheel they were all like, 'where's the food?'"


Friday, April 10, 2015

Parenting Feminism

Three times a week I teach adult ESL/Parenting classes at Tulsa Public Schools, and it is often my favorite part of the week. I love teaching English and watching these amazing parents become empowered and confident in their daily life. I've developed a great rapport with my students and consider some of them to be my good friends. Many of us have shared very personal stories and have created a little community of support around each other. It's the best.

Last night as I was trying to fall asleep, I realized that all of my materials for class were on my desk at a different school. I jumped out of bed, paced the hallway for a few minutes whispering a couple four-letter words and then made a list of as many activities that required no preparation or materials. My students are exceptionally flexible and forgiving, but I consider it disrespectful to show up to class with no direction, no plan and no grammar points. And half of my duty is to show them respect and let them know that they are valued members of society, not illegals who jump the border to steal our jobs and infect us with measles.

When I arrived to class, my students were organizing all of their casserole dishes on the library table, and it dawned on me: it's Raul's birthday! (All names have been changed, by the way. This shit is confidential!) On birthdays or holidays or when the wind blows in the right direction, we organize - or more accurately, they organize - a party. I attempt to make the party educational, and we play vocabulary games or have discussions about birthday traditions in their respective countries which are mostly Mexico, but also Colombia, Puerto Rico, and El Salvador in this class alone.

Today I was saved by enchiladas verdes and rojos. Also, by chocolate nut cake and arroz con leche. All of my last minute preparation was perfect for one of our party days, and they didn't bat an eye at the lack of worksheets or materials.

While we shoved our faces full of comida, I presented the class with a question, let them discuss it in their small groups and then worked through them as a class. The first couple questions were easy. "What do you like/dislike about your culture?" and "What do you consider to be rude in your country?" The question about rudeness resulted in me trying to help the upper-class Colombia couple understand that context is everything, and even though they believe everyone who lives on the coast in Colombia to be rude and uneducated, they might just be living in two separate cultures (which they are). I can't help myself with power and privilege. It is in my bones. I have to talk about it.

And then I dropped the bomb.

"In your culture, are responsibilities the same for mothers and fathers?" As soon as I started writing fathers on the board, a collective "oooh!" filled the room. My SalvadoreƱa mom who is a single parent, works two jobs and got residency because she was running away from an abusive husband in her country was raring to talk with her group about the question. The Evangelical Colombian woman asked me how to translate the word machista into English (misogynist or chauvinist, if you're so inclined).

I expected a subject like this between a raging feminist and somewhat traditional, conservative Latin@s to be rather tense. I expected to have to grit my teeth and nod. But it was beautiful. It was my dream class!

We discussed generational sexism, cultural differences and perspectives on gender roles, and the difficulty and stigma of attempting to overcome those traditional gender expectations. We shook our heads as we listened to each other share stories of oppression. We tsk-tsked as some of the women talked of their ex-husbands or fathers or mothers who told them that their whole purpose in life was to be a wife or caretaker. We confessed of the unfair responsibilities we felt that we had to bear in order to be a good wife or a full woman in society's eyes. And we did it all in the library of an elementary school in the middle of Tulsa in their second language.

Never was I prouder.

Kids Quotes of the Week

"We have 5 minutes left, okay?"
"I love 5 minutes!"

Kid 1: Why do they call her Miss Hawkins?
Kid 2: Probably because she likes hawks.
Me: Do you like hawks?
Kid 2: No. They suck!
Me: Oh really? Why do you think that?
Kid 2: They can't even fly good.
Kid 1: And they don't even know how to eat fish!


Can't Even Blame it on the Moon

I check the local news website every morning to make sure that whatever tragedy or arrest that occurred last night didn't happen to one of my clients. If I see "East Tulsa" or "Kendall Whittier" on the headlines then my heart begins to race, I start to sweat a little and I begin praying that I don't recognize a name or face. Unfortunately, this is not based on unfounded fears. I have flipped open my computer on several occasions to find out that a client's mother was being arrested for some very gross neglect and abuse, that a family's home was burned down, that a father had been caught driving under the influence, and most horrifically and recently, that a client's mom had been murdered.

Sorry if that's too disturbing for a little blog post. I'm not sugar-coating any of this job, because there's not much sugar to coat it with. Don't get me wrong, it is the most fulfilling job I have ever had, and lately I've been coming home saying, "This is it! I know that this is what I am meant to do!" However, just because I'm being fulfilled doesn't mean that I'm not being a little traumatized as well. 

I am learning how to leave my work at work, but some days it is impossible. I am a very emotional and empathetic person by nature. Ever since I was a child, I've felt the emotions of others so intensely. It is impossible for me to watch someone get embarrassed, it pains me to see someone cry, and I'm prone to putting myself in others people's shoes and then tying the damn laces so tight that I can't get out of those shoes as I obsess about their pain the rest of the day.

This week has been a sad one. My high school kids are losing their shit: one was placed in a psychiatric hospital, one is spending all his time with gang members, two are waking and baking and skipping class every day, one is awaiting a court appearance, another is in juvenile detention and yet another is realizing that high school graduation may never happen for her. On top of that, a school bus crashed and a client broke his leg. ITS BEEN A WEEK, Y'ALL. And it's not even a full moon!

Although I don't agree that there is always a silver lining or that everything happens for a reason, I do believe that life cycles through the shit and the blessings. Right now, we're on a shit cycle. And so to cope and get through it, I choose to find joy within my job. For example, when asked who her favorite person in history was, one of my adult ESL students said, "St. Patrick because he was good to the black people." And as I attempted to keep my face neutral, as any good ESL teacher must learn how to do, she added, "Yes. St. Patrick Luther . . . Jr. . . oh wait . . ." And then we all burst into laughter. Her excuse was that the two holidays were very close to each other, and also she's not from here. If that's not joy, I don't know what is. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Kids Quotes of the Week

Kid: Why is your mama so fat?
Me: I don't know. Why?
Kid: Because she eats too much and she was born that way.


Kid 1: My uncle killed a snake this weekend. He stabbed a stick right through the neck.
Kid 2: I'd kill it with a beaver.
Kid 3: My dog would eat the face first.


Me: So I talked with your mom.
Kid: Did you touch her hair?
Me: No... what's up with her hair?
Kid: It's so soft.