Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Max's Closet, I mean Classroom

My mom is supermom. The summer I was twelve, I went to a remote corner of eastern Oregon with a school friend for a week. It was a mere seven hour drive from home. Two days into my adventure, I got a migraine. The family didn't exactly baby me as I'd been accustomed to, opting to leave me alone in the house while they all went to the county fair. I called my mom. Homegirl drove seven hours across the mountains and through the desert to come pick me up. My friend probably still hasn't forgiven me for that one. I'm sure my name is brought up every once in a while whenever the family's topics of conversation shifts to big weenies or crappy guests. But I know my mom loves me. Super-duper loves me.
"What can I ever do to repay you?" I often ask her.
"Just do the same for your kids," she smiles.
Okay, Mama. I pulled a Mama-Jan today, though my effort, I'll admit, was Lilliputian. Max forgot his flute (it's actually a cheapo recorder) at home today. For the second time this week. Being the amazing mom that I am *cough, cough*, I brought it to him at school. In the middle of the day. In the Caribbean sun. In summer time (it's still summer, isn't it?). Through the cat calls and everything. When I could have been at home blending up a delicious iced coffee to make it through the heat of the day, then relaxing on our hammock.
Okay, I suck. Max was, in my defense, elated to see me--soaked in sweat--at his school with his musical instrument in hand. Oddly enough, so was his teacher, Olga, who invited me to stay a while (which, by the way, is a sign of a strong teacher in my book).
"Do you want me to stay, Max?" I watch too much Hollywood.
He nodded eagerly.
"But you must go to the office for permission first," TeacherOlga advised me.
I went downstairs to the secretary, "Excuse me. I'd like to visit my son's classroom. Is it here where I get permission to do so?"
She stared at me blankly.
"Ummm," I tried again, louder, "Can I visit a classroom?"
I must have finally come into focus for her because she then pointed me to the adjoining teacher's lounge indicating I could take care of what I needed there. Two teachers were seated at a long table, pouring over a Bible.
"Excuse me. Do either of you know the process for a parent visiting a classroom?"
More blank stares.
"Anybody?" I was beginning to see a pattern here. I have noticed in the last decade or so that I've been a mostly-fluent Spanish speaker that some people (in areas where there aren't a lot of people who look like me) just can't process their mother tongue coming out of my face. I can only liken it to the delightful confusion I felt the first time I heard a thick, English accent. Oh my, EightYearOldMe thought, are they pretending to talk like that to entertain me or is it actually how they speak?! Forget about what they were trying to communicate or if it was actually something I could comprehend, I had my own little monologue going on in my head. That's what I guess they're doing.
I finally found out that I had to talk to the principal who granted and denied permission to all who wished to enter the school. He was upstairs. Forget that I'd been all over the building already.
He lit up when he saw me. "My sister!" he outstretched both arms as I went in for a handshake and ended up being kissed on the cheek. "She is my sister," he pointed to me, nodding eagerly at whoever he'd been talking to in the hallway, "Don't we look alike?" He chortled.
"Yes, well," I skirted the family reunion moment, "I'm meant to ask your permission to be in my son's classroom. May I?"
He elbowed the HallwayTalker, "You see!? In New York, they always ask permission to come into the school," he turned to me, "Don't they?" [New York here means all of the US in 9 out of every 10 cases]
"Yes," I responded matter-of-factly, "It's a matter of security." He didn't catch the irony and instead simply felt justified in a policy he had obviously enacted and apparently had been struggling to get staff buy-in.
I returned to Max's classroom where they'd just begun their daily math lesson. Although the content was dreadfully low for second graders, I was happy with the teacher's ability to encourage lots of focused, student talk and interactions. Max kept turning around to smile at me. For the first time in my life, I used a cell phone in class. Rebel. But with a cause! You see, I was thinking of you, dear reader. I snapped a few pictures with my cell phone, though poor quality, so you can see where my sweet boy learns Monday through Friday. And all the resources the teacher has: two books, chalk and a chalkboard. Homegirl doesn't even have a desk for herself.
Alas, my cell phone is akin to one you would find in those 25¢ candy machines.You know the ones with the fruit-shaped candies and you always throw away the banana-flavored ones? My cell phone is the banana-flavored one. So, I have yet to retrieve said photos from it. When I have an hour or two to figure that out, you shall behold the closet that is Max's classroom.

Update, September 27th:
Being the stealthy journalist that I am, I got you some photos of Max's classroom. Did my Claro cell-phone come through? Of course not. I went for round two. Just for you.

Please note: I am standing in the doorway of the classroom.
And that fan in the front of the room is broken.

"Excuse me. I'm Max's friend," this sweet boy told me.
Yes, I'll take a special picture for you.

Where is the teacher? She is hiding behind the camera because she thought her hair was out of place and didn't want you to see. I told her you wouldn't judge her, but I've never been very convincing of anything.


  1. Yes, I have already learned that NY is the only state that exists in the US to most Dominicans. Hence, I now say I'm from Chicago York, a part of New York, of course!! Wink :). I don't even bother mentioning North Carolina!!!

    1. Nice. Oregon York just doesn't have quite the same ring, but I'll try it on for size and will let you know. See you soon!