Tag Archives: teaching writing

CHRISTMAS LIVES

MORE STORIES from “Fighting For Ms. Rios:

BookCoverImageIn December, Fighting For Ms. Rios was released in both paperback and Kindle formats.  It is a fictional collection of journals written by a gifted fourth grade student named Aiden, about his school, his friends, and his inspiring first-year teacher– Ms. Rios.  I have resurrected my blog to break down some of Aiden’s many stories and themes… all observations about our schools from a child’s point of view.

Christmas lives.  In spite of the best efforts of the ACLU or whoever else is as busy as one of Santa’s disgruntled little elves trying to dismantle Christmas and remove it from all mention in public schools– it is still mentioned. Frequently. And celebrated.

Aiden is in awe at his teacher’s gift for telling stories, especially when it comes to weaving in cultural traditions. In “Storyteller” he writes:

“In December she told stories about Christmas and Kwanza and Hanukkah and didn’t make it sound like she was just trying to provide equal time to be politically correct.”

That’s the thing with Christmas.  We aren’t supposed to talk about it in our schools because we don’t want tax payer dollars expended to propagandize any one faith. No Christmas carols, Christmas trees, Christmas Santa Clause scenes, or Christmas Tannebaum art projects.  It’s one of those holidays that we are supposed to whisper about as an odd tribute to all the people that don’t actually celebrate Christmas.  As if children aren’t aware of the imminent arrival of their favorite day of the year.

But for Ms. Rios, even the arrival of Christmas presents itself as a teachable moment: there is more to December than  racing to the shopping malls to contribute to stimulate the economy.

“The whole world worships God,” she said at the end of the last story of the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa season. “Each to his or her own. This is all of humankind’s most spiritual time of year—maybe because it’s so close to the beginning of the new year. Maybe because it’s symbolic of our deep, deep desire to live in peace. Maybe because it represents the origins of our collective religions or the source of our individual faith. But it is universally a time for family. And food. And prayer. And light. And forgiveness.”

Aiden’s own references to Christmas are sprinkled throughout his journals- not as prayers– but as vivid metaphors:

It reminded me of Christmas and how time seems to move so slowly in anticipation of the big day, but then when the day actually gets here, it seems to speed past in a blur. (From– Beware of Bilbo)

 Just before Mrs. Holstrum interrupted her conversation with two other teachers, I heard Ms. Rios talking about her class and her students and “light bulbs that go on and off like Christmas trees.” (From– Minimum Days)

• Every child’s eyes were as big as Christmas morning. I looked around and thought, “My goodness…this is gonna be an interesting year.” And I was right. (From– Labradors)

• One day Ms. Rios said that “being a teacher is like coming out to the living room on Christmas morning and having thirty-two gifts to unwrap.” (From– Storyteller)

There is much to unwrap in Fighting for Ms. Rios.  Aiden is unconstrained by political posturing.  For him, Christmas lives.

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SAY MY NAME

MORE STORIES from “Fighting For Ms. Rios”

Now that my book is published and available (even for your iPad) through Amazon, I want to resurrect my blog.  There are a lot of really good posts here. So I’ll highlight different stories from Fighting for Ms. Rios and connect them back to a previous post.  It all comes full circle anyway.

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Sometimes kids don’t know much… but they know the sound of their own name.  They know it’s sacred.  It gives them an identity on a crowded campus when the day-to-day grind of school life is eating them alive.

In Juvenile Hall and in the schools for our incarcerated youth that are hidden away in the back country here in San Diego, I was always pushing back on the practice of calling students only by their last name.  Like they were in the army.  Or prison.

Every kid has a first name– we call it their given name because somebody took the time give it to them.  It is so unique, it even distinguishes them from other members of their own family.  It may be common or cosmic or utter syllabic nonsense– but it is theirs– and they want us to use it.  They want us to pronounce their name correctly, too– like their moms pronounce them.  With respect and reverence.

Aiden is on to the adults who don’t know his name.

“My name is not honey, babe, baby doll, young man, sir, all star, big guy, hey you, you there, hon, sweetie, champ, kiddo, sport, new kid, mijo, laddie, buster, goofball, or dumbass.”

You can’t fake it.  You know their names or you don’t.  And knowing their names is the first step to building authentic relationships with kids you hope to teach.

 “I love the sound of my name, and though I know there are a thousand other students in my school, I want you to know how to say it.  My name is Aiden:  little fire.”

–From THE FIRST JOURNAL:  Back in Line

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Filed under Fighting for Ms. Rios, gifted children, public education, resiliency, spiritual intelligence