Getting along

Let's get along!
Why can’t we be friends?

After the racially-motivated food fight at South High, a friend asked me if I’d seen any interracial tensions at Wellstone. I said that everyone seems to get along, although their close friends are generally people of their own ethnicity/language background. I’m not naive, and I know I don’t see everything. So I decided to pay closer attention to student interactions.

I think I was right in my initial belief. I haven’t seen anyone getting bullied or even giggled at as they walk away. Some kids keep to themselves more than others, mostly the ones without big groups of students of their own backgrounds. (Wellstone is about 45% Latino, 45% East African, and 10% other.) But the other students are friendly enough to them, both in class and on the field trip I took last week.

I’m not sure why this is. I know these kids aren’t angels and I’m sure they’re plenty capable of being jerks, same as the rest of us. I suspect that it has to do with the fact that they all feel like outsiders to certain extent. “I miss where I’m from, you miss where you’re from, let’s not make a big thing out of it.”

The school is also not very big. I estimate about 200 students, although I only see a percentage of them. The teachers refer to most of them by first names only (as in, “Penelope* is doing really well lately”) and everyone seems to follow along. And all the students all have started within the past few years at most. There’s no teasing about how you puked on spaghetti day in third grade because nobody knows about that. I have noticed a few boy-girl couples, but none that cross cultural boundaries.

There is also the fact that the Latino kids have Spanish, and everybody wants Spanish. I’ve come across two African boys on two separate days saying, “I know ‘te amo.’ That’s ‘I love you,’ right?” (Why do they want to say “I love you”? Are they planning to make moves on the Latino girls? Hey, they seem like nice girls for the most part.)  I also heard a Latino boy saying either “cono” or “coño” instructionally to one of the African girls. I tried to nip that in the bud just in case. The boy in question is likable but a bit of a troublemaker, and I would not put it past him to bust out “coño.”

According to the teachers, the African students have started saying “finishado,” which means absolutely nothing, when they’re done with assignments, and that’s traveled back to the Latino kids. “Oh my gatos” is also a popular expression. Is this how creoles are born? If so, I’m completely in favor of it.

I’m going to keep observing this because it’s a fascinating topic. I haven’t witnessed any interactions with the Roosevelt High kids, who are in the same building as Wellstone. And I realize that my presence affects the situation–nobody is going to knowingly break the rules in front of a perceived authority figure. I’m glad I haven’t seen any trouble, but I hope it’s because it’s not there and not because it’s deep underground.

*Name changed. As far as I know, there are no students named Penelope at Wellstone.

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38.5 hours of volunteering

This showed up in an image search for "Wellstone International High School." Sure, fine, whatever.
This showed up in an image search for “Wellstone International High School.” Close enough.

I’ve done 38.5 hours of volunteering at Wellstone International High School. 42 if you count lunch breaks, but I’m not counting lunch breaks (although I do get a lot out of listening to the teachers discuss school issues). I’m really enjoying it, even more than I thought I would. But it’s been hard to write about. I guess I generally write about things that bother me as a way to process, so it’s harder to tackle the good stuff.

Field Trip

I helped chaperone a trip to the state poetry competition (you can look at poetryoutloud.org to find out more about the competition in general). Overall, I was so impressed with how well-behaved the students were in general. One even thanked me–thanked me!–for coming along.

As the program went on, I observed some of the students affected by the performances. I’m not saying they were sitting rapt with hands folded the entire time. But they had definite favorites when we talked at lunch and at the ride home, and they didn’t play with their phones nearly as much as I expected.

Cell Phones in Class

Cell phones in class were never a problem when I was in school in the ’80s and ’90s, obviously. But some days it’s like, what are you doing? You know you’re not supposed to have phones in class. Yet there they are, watching a video. They’re supposed to surrender the phone to the teacher, but it’s hard to get them to give it up, and I never quite feel comfortable pushing hard enough. Then the other day, I caught a girl on her phone twice in the space of ten minutes.

To be fair, one kid was translating from Spanish to English with his phone. I still made him put it away, because it’s not like I can tell from a distance. I hauled a Spanish/English dictionary to his desk, but I don’t think he used it.

The Truth about the Moon Landing

A lot of my time is spent helping kids read individually. I was helping an East African boy read a book about the moon that was written at approximately a second- or third-grade level. The book stated that the moon has mountains, and this kid’s mind was blown. “I don’t believe it!” It just completely threw him. I know some of the students have had very little formal education before coming to the US, and I can only assume he is one of them. “Are they big mountains?” I said they were. (Are they? I’m actually not sure.) I showed him the photos in the book and explained that the dark spots you see from the earth are the craters.

The next page talked about humans landing on the moon. This was less surprising to him–maybe he’d heard it before. Remembering the book Packing for Mars, I told him that the first spacecraft carrying humans only had about as much seating area as a love seat and that everything had to be done sitting next to your crewmates, including bathroom activities. That either went over his head or he thought I was being rude and was polite enough to ignore it.

I am tired

Also, tired of being admired.
Also, tired of being admired.

…of wondering if every male potential client who calls me is a potential creepy dude. Maybe I should have thought things through before I started massage school, but I really didn’t realize I would be accused of/mistaken for/butt of jokes about being a prostitute.

I had a creepy guy come in last May. And let me tell you something: I don’t use the word “creepy” lightly. (I normally dislike the word, since it’s imprecise and, I think, often used to marginalize harmlessly odd people.) This guy was just…strange. And he wanted a lot of groin area work. He stormed out before the session started. Why? He REALLY objected to using a face cradle when face-down, and I was just getting the vibe that he wanted to boss the situation. I’ll work with people, but you have to acknowledge that I have a skill set and respect that.

I think I’ve always been cautious about this sort of thing, but I feel like I have way less tolerance now, or less willingness to give the benefit of the doubt. Meeting new people isn’t my strong suit anyway, and having to on guard against that sort of thing is an added stress I don’t want to deal with.

Sorry to be so whiny. I’ll post about volunteering soon. It’s going great.