Precipitation and Perspiration


Rain is in the forecast for later this week, which means my students and I will be able to bond as we’ve already done on a number of occasions this school year.  Precipitation or Perspiration:  when either might be in a given weather forecast, rest assured that the kids will be spending time inside our enclosed, pod-like campus.

There’s a narrative to be found among the school year to this point, but damned am I to pinpoint exactly what it might be.  I’ve resisted sharing observations to this point not because I couldn’t, or didn’t want to do it, but because they’ve lacked a consistent commonality with which I could pull the constants out to write a story.  Instead, I’ve got stories that might or might not share common points as a whole, but work better as isolated images in a weird patchwork quilt.  Precipitation or perspiration, go figure.

Once a month, for instance, the school holds an award ceremony.  This is not unlike my old hunting grounds; many schools already do this.  On this particular morning last month, the kids start their day by depositing their backpacks at their desks, grabbing a carpet square from my closet, and heading back out to the school blacktop.

Walking out, I am by two of my boys, G. and J., football fans both, who, upon nearing the designated spot for my classroom, spy a primary grader wearing a Michael Vick jersey.  Despite it having occurred some time ago, both boys are nonetheless savvy enough to know of Michael Vick’s notoriety in his past life.  Any doubt to this is erased not even fifteen minutes later.  As it is an awards ceremony morning, parents are also in attendance; one parent has even seen fit to bring the family puppy, for whatever reason.  The puppy is being shown off like a newborn to the mingling PTA moms and my teaching colleagues.

The attention being showered on the pup is not lost upon G., one of the two boys I walked out with, and am now standing behind.  He motions to me to crouch down so he could say something.  I oblige.

“Don’t you think they ought to keep that puppy away from the kid in the Michael Vick jersey?”

On another day, I am finishing up the day’s selection from my daily Read Aloud, which is currently Susan Patron’s Newbery Winner, “The Higher Power of Lucky“.  The main character, Lucky, has a legal guardian who is French.  The previous month, we had read Cynthia Kadohata‘s “Kira Kira“, also a Newbery Winner, in which two Japanese American sisters begin to come of age in rural Georgia of the 1950s.  Naturally, the sisters begin to awkwardly experience the opposite sex for the first time.  Perhaps this is why J. makes his “big” announcement on this particular morning.

“I know what French kissing is!”  J.  Is very proud of this…

Finally, it is time for parent-teacher conferences.  Unlike most years, my class is ridiculously small this year, given the typical amount of students in an upper elementary classroom.  We are contracted to have no more than 32 students in our classroom, with arrangements for those situations where we are required to go over contract allowances.  For various reasons, myself and my two partners therefore consider ourselves to be fortunate to have only 25-26 students in our respective classrooms.  Even better, at least for conferences, we had 6-7 less parent meetings than we would normally would have had.

But less conference time didn’t mean less interesting conversations.  Not surprisingly, I learned where my student, G., apparently got his wit.  As we move through his specific report card, his mother mentions how much more talk she hears from her son about potential colleges. While nominally interested in going to USC, G. now “also talks about how much he’d like to go to Oregon, Washington, UCLA, Stanford…”

All Pac-12 schools, except my own.  No mention of Berkeley.  G.’s mother is somehow proud of this, in that I’ve managed to convince her boy to go to any school but the alma mater of her teacher.  (Fortunately, I have another student, C., who could claim both parents as Cal grads–yup!).  I mull over this reality however, and I am taken back to my own 6th grade year.  My teacher that year, as well as her husband, were both USC grads, and at that time, I thought that I might choose to go there as well.  This was status quo through my teen years until my newspaper adviser, during my senior year in high school, talked me into choosing Berkeley over staying home and commuting to downtown Los Angeles for four years.

The next day, I tell G. this story.  I grin to myself, and then at him.  I might know how his college script could end.  We all grow up, after all…



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