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Week 21: hey 6th graders, what do ya think love means?

I remember during my middle and high school days my fellow peers would flaunt everything they got on Valentine’s Day as if they were the most important person that day. This in no way is supposed to sound bitter – because I really didn’t care and still don’t care for Valentine’s Day – but I couldn’t help but think of my secondary school days on Tuesday because it was the same exact scene at Markham Middle School.

Valentine’s Day at a middle school is by far the most hilarious day of the year. Students carry around all the knick-knacks they get – teddy bears, flowers, roses, chocolates, etc. – to show off just how much they got. Moreover, classmates sneak Valentine presents to each other (like how one of my boys gave one of my girls a really neat necklace!)

I couldn’t help but bug my kids about their crushes all day, but that doesn’t mean they don’t pick on me as well! Rumor has it that I’m dating every one of the four guys on my team. Every time they call me out for “dating” someone on the Markham team, I start cracking up. If I laugh, it makes them think that I’m “blushing” and “giggling” because I am “dating” that person. Really, though, I’m cracking up because the thought of dating that person is one of the funniest things to run through my head that day (Disclaimer: my team is like a family, just think of dating a brother. No, no, thank you).

The materialistic nature of Valentine’s Day brought forth a good discussion in my English class – “What is love?” Is it defined by how much gifts you get on Valentine’s Day? What OTHER kinds of love can you have? Family? Friends? Love for yourself?

My students came up with some creative answers, including this:

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Some of them were a bit shy talking about the subject, but my English teacher made sure everybody understood that love could mean so many things. The take away message of the lecture was that love starts with having love for yourself before you can love other people and things. Amen to that.

My teammate Angela put together a Valentine’s Day celebration for the kids during our after-school program. The after-school students made candy Valentines for their family members and then we played a game called, “Baby I Love You.” The rules of this game are to place all players in a circle and one person is in the middle. The person in the middle has to go up to anyone in the circle – face-to-face – and say, “baby I love you.” If the person in the circle laughs, then he or she has to go inside the circle and do it all over again. The students (and City Year members!) got a kick out of this; we all couldn’t stop laughing.

Some of my teammates then put on a “Dating Show” skit for the students. Three of my teammates played contestants, one played the host and the other played the man-on-the-market.

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Dylan and Melanie – the two “nerds” from the “Dating Show” – running for each other after the students made the final vote.

As much as “love” (or should I say middle school lust?) spawned across our campus, it’s hard to not note the new security personnel on campus. Last Friday, a series of fights broke out between racial groups. This called for extra security from other schools to be brought to our school and even the discussion that possibly some of our extra funding will be used to hire more security, although Markham cut its security personnel in half from last year due to budget cuts.

My students have been a little more on edge lately, and my English teacher can usually tell when something’s going on in the neighborhood. There’s been a lot of fighting between gangs due to a disagreement and the tension is felt on school grounds.

Ironically, my latest GOOD article is about two of my teammates: Ricky, a Latino man, and Aaron, a black man. Ricky and Aaron’s friendship on campus demonstrates racial unity for these students, which the students rarely see. This story is by far my favorite to come from Markham this year and I’m very happy it was published!

Despite everything going on in Watts, my students got off campus on Thursday for a field trip to the Pan-African film festival in Baldwin Hills to celebrate Black History month! My teammates Chariya, Jeanny and Becky’s classes joined. All of our students attended a free screening of a documentary about an African-American man going back to Ghana to find his identity. The film featured a group of African-American men who traveled up and down the Ghana coast to revisit their ancestor’s footsteps before they were shipped off in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

The director of the documentary, who was also a main character in the film, was there for a Q and A session after. I wish I was able to watch more of the documentary (it looked very interesting!), but I had my hands full. I spent the whole time escorting students to the restroom and telling my girls to “be quiet and listen to the movie” every 10 seconds.

My students will have to write a paragraph about the film this coming week, but when the ask me for help I’m just going to laugh and say, “I was telling you all to be quiet the whole time I didn’t get to listen to the movie!” Sucks to be them.

Afterwards, we split up into groups of ten students per chaperone to wander the Baldwin Hills mall, check out some African artwork on display and eat lunch. This was the first time I had to chaperone a large group of students in a public space. After my students each ate 20 chicken McNuggets at McDonalds (gross), my girls pestered me back and forth to go to different stores in the mall. Thankfully, I was really proud of them because they stayed in a group and stuck with me the whole time…until the last five minutes. One of my girls left one of the boys in a store. We found him five minutes later, but he was all shaken up because “we left him.” This student is known to be a drama queen, so even though my students called me a “bad mom,” I didn’t let it get to me. Hey, I don’t want kids anyways! Regardless of the five minute disaster, it was great to spend time with my students outside of school.

I’m prepping for next week because now it’s cracking down to three-five paragraph essays in English. The journalism unit is over. It was fun and exhilarating, but now it’s back to the reality of the LAUSD curriculum. Dear five paragraph common assessment, my English teacher and I are ready to put up a good fight. Sincerely, Room 48.

Peace Corps update: I flew back to the Bay Area on Thursday to get my wisdom teeth out on Friday. Luckily, I feel no pain at all and I am free rollin’. My lab tests are back at the doctors office and I NEED the results/forms signed from my physician so I can send it into the Peace Corps and move onto the placement process ASAP! My goal for this week: Call the doctor’s office everyday until they look over my lab reports and sign my forms. Sorry for being the annoying patient, but this is extremely time sensitive! Oh, and I was legally-cleared on Saturday morning. Hooray! One step closer.

Onto a new week with no wisdom teeth,

Liz

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