Tag: students

He Was on an April Fools Mission

It was April first, and I had nothing prepared for April Fool’s Day.  I usually have some gag to get things off on the left foot.  I needn’t have worried, though.  A. provided the amusement.

We have a vocabulary routine where we focus on a different Greek or Latin root word each week and build a list off of that root.  This week we had the Latin root MISS or MIT to work with.  This led to a list that featured words  like omit, submit, and emit, as well as words like mission, missile, and dismissed.

One of the assignments the kids have to complete is writing each of the words in a sentence.  They practice the words during the week and then take a vocabulary and spelling quiz at the end of the week. Since last week was a short week, we were going to take the quiz on Thursday rather than Friday.  When it was time for the spelling portion, A. approached and reminded me that I had forgotten to check his assignment.  Then, he casually suggested that I could use his sentences as I gave them the spelling quiz.  In retrospect, his nonchalance was  impressive.  The typical fifth grader still has some difficulty with the poker face that most successful pranks require.

Unsuspecting, I commenced with the sentences on his sheet.  “Number One, Dismissed.  You are all dismissed, Dis–”  But I did not get to finish repeating the word, because A. and then several others, had leapt to their feet, slung their backpacks over their shoulders and headed for the door.

“Okay, have a nice weekend!” he said as he marched off for an early dismissal.

“Wait a second, let me see that sentence again,” I said.  “Oh, wait, I read it wrong.  It says, ‘You are NOT dismissed.’  Sorry.  My mistake.  I’ll be more careful.”

They had pity on me and returned to their seats.

I scanned the rest of the list and noted that A. had quite a few little gags on the page.  This represented considerably more time and effort than he usually put into this homework assignment, so I decided to play along.

A later sentence read, “There will be an intermission today.”  This was notable, since it was already a shortened day.  The class applauded my unintentional generosity.  

Still later, the “mit” parade began.  “Oh, and I will not omit that I will give everyone twenty-five dollars!”  I noted that he had actually spelled out the twenty-five, just in case I was thinking of dropping a decimal point in front of the 2 and the 5.  No such luck.  

The next few sentences relied on the tried and true fifth grade comedy bit, the fart.  It never fails to fill the room…with laughs.  I held my nose and continued to read.  “Emitted. Oh, and by the way, I emitted so much gas when I just farted, I could fill up a helium tank. Emitted.”  During my reading, A. had reached down to his backpack and pressed gently on the outer pocket, where he had strategically placed his trusty prop.  A long, low, but clearly recognizable sound emanated from the whoopee cushion.  Touché, A.

I’ll spare you his sentence for “transmit.”  I’ll just let you know that it involved more flatulence, a walkie-talkie, and the principal.  It received many guffaws from the giddy fifth grade crowd.  It never gets old.  Well, if you’re eleven.

I admit, though, that A’s submission rescued my April Fool’s Day.  I had been remiss in omitting some gags.  I will long remember his mischievous missive, remitted without charge, even with its overuse of the gaseous emissionsMission accomplished, A. You get an A for the day.

Confronting our History of Hate

“My nine-year-old son asked me, ‘Mom, why are you doing this [organizing a rally to support Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders]?’ My answer was simple. I told him, ‘I’m doing this for you.  It’s my job as a mother to protect you and your brother from physical and mental harm.’  I told him I didn’t want them and their generation to grow up the same way the people before them had.”

I was at a rally in the town where I teach, a town where our schools have a reputation as being some of the best in the state. That voice was the voice of the mom of one of my students.  Later, students from the town’s award-winning high school spoke.  What became clear through their stories of the slights, microaggressions, slurs and acts of bullying they had experienced was that those accolades and awards covered over some secrets that we need to address.  What good is a strong academic reputation if these same schools are a place where racial and ethnic ignorance reign? 

We have gaps in what we teach and discuss, and it leads to gaps in what our students understand.  Those gaps, of course, extend to us, the adults.  Connecticut’s Attorney General spoke at this event, too.  As an Asian-American, he said that over the past weeks he’d been asked repeatedly how he was doing, what he was thinking about the events in Atlanta.  He said he wasn’t sure how to respond at first, but the comment that pierced him most was when more than one person said, “I’m shocked that this could happen.  Aren’t you surprised?”  

No, William Tong was not surprised.  On the contrary, what shocked him was that some Americans had no knowledge of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that banned immigration from China to the U.S.  What shocked him was that some (most?) Americans had no memory or knowledge of the murder of Vincent Chin a full century later, in 1982.  It was a murder that got the brutal attackers probation and a $3000 fine. 

I listened to each speech, each testimonial, each call to action, and realized this:  it’s on me and my colleagues.  If we can’t combat this virus of hate that has infected and injured so many of our students, then we are not really an educational paragon.  We’re part of the system that permits and perpetuates racism.

Like my student’s mom said, “I don’t want this new generation of students to grow up the same way the people before them had.” 

We need to learn history, including (especially?) unpleasant history, so we don’t repeat it.