Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What's the use in love poems?

After the sixth grade assembly a boy came up to me and asked, "Why do poets always write about love? Never did ME any good."
"How old are you?"
"Well, give it another chance, you've got time."
"Love is just a kick in the crotch." And he walked off before I could get any more senseless words out of my stunned mouth.

A teacher from NY wrote to me tonight and asked me to talk about my time in middle school -- how was it really? I honestly told her that I have spent the rest of my life trying to get over middle school. The best I could say about it is that it didn't last forever.

But how to you convince love weary 11 year olds that the sun is shining on the other side of 6th grade? Cheer up, kid just doesn't cut through his skeptical squint.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Memorial Junior High and beyond

It is rare that I visit a school and get to come home for lunch, but Memorial is right down the road from my house. I had a great time with the writing club and with an honors English class writing. In the afternoon, the two assemblies went well. But in between, I visited a social studies classroom where I am friends with the teacher (she is my aerobics instructor). They were beginning a unit on ancient China. So, when I came home for lunch, I took back a book I have of 1000-2000 year old Chinese poetry to share with the kids. I love old poems because they are first person accounts from folks who were really their, letters from the past, like reading someone else's journal with permission. The poems lead to a discussion of my recent trip to China and the Middle East, including talking about meeting the dedicated teachers from Afghanistan.

"They teach the street children in 2 hour shifts, arranging school around the kids' work schedules."
"What kinds of jobs do they do?"
"Various things, some work in rug factories making rugs for Americans to buy at Sam's Club."
One student looked at me very seriously, "I'm never buying a rug again."

Of course we all buy products that are made overseas, many of them by children. How does one know if buying such a rug or pair of jeans keeps those children in poverty or actually is their only means of eating? While work may be a fact of life for kids in some places, no one wants to see their lives limited by that work so that they never learn to read or a trade that would enable them to have a better life. Which got me to thinking . . .

While I was at TARA, I met an incredible educator named Anna, who taught in Kabul in more peaceful times. She is now working to help raise money and gather supplies for teaching street children and women to read and learn a craft in war weary Afghanistan. I decided to write to her to see if there is anything I can do. If anyone wants to read more about her efforts, here is a link to her blog: annakuchi.blogspot.com.

I'm not sure what I can do, but it would seem to me that with a few friends, we might be able to make a slight difference in the lives of some of these women and children. School supplies? Blankets? I'll be waiting to hear from Anna. Watch for more postings.