My First Day of School: As a Parent

This is my sixth "First Day of School" post. Click HERE to read others.

Summer vacation has flown by, and over the past week I've been getting ready for the start of the new school year. As usual, there have been the preparations in my classroom, and the making of copies, and the bracing for the coming break-neck pace of life during the school year.

But this year, we're also getting ready for Kiara's first day of kindergarten. While I prepare for my middle schoolers, I imagine her kindergarten teacher seeing her name on a roster the same way I have looked at my students' names over the past 21 years. He or she is preparing the classroom and writing Kiara's name on a card for her desk, and making copies of information for us, and bracing for the coming break-neck pace of life during the school year.

I'm so thankful to be a teacher, because I know how that teacher feels, and I can't wait for my girl to start her educational journey at our neighborhood public school. Thank you, teachers, for all you have done to prepare for tomorrow. I'll try not to cry and to let her go have her experience. And then, after kindergarten orientation, I will head to school and greet all of my new students.

"I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."


I Asked for Help and the Interwebs Responded

Yesterday, I was at a loss. I was overwhelmed by displays of hatred and violence and I wrote how I needed help explaining displays of ignorance and intolerance to my kids.  Today, answers came through and some of you asked me to share them, so here they are.

First, Ashley Cassandra Ford, a writer at Refinery29, posted this on Instagram. When I saw it I was happily waiting for my coffee with my kids. I love the idea of smiling and living my life full of joy and using all of my time and resources to counter hate and terror.

Then, another writer of color, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, shared her plans for the day, and her work as a writer and educator reminded me that the resistance is in our art, our writing, and our teaching.

The rest of my day was spent getting Kiara ready for her first day of kindergarten, back-to-school shopping, and a popsicle meet-up at the park for our neighborhood public school where she will continue her Spanish education.

As I sat down to do a little writing, I came across the twitter hashtags #CharlottesvilleCurriculum and #CharlottesvilleSyllabus. Check them out. So worth looking at as a mother, a teacher, a writer, and an activist. We have to illuminate the past to understand what is happening today.

I will continue to seek joy, to write the truths of my American experience, to teach my children and my students how to be kind and helpful and brave. And on Tuesday, I will continue the work of empowering my students to read critically, question thoughtfully, and find their own voice within this grand cacophony. There is work to do, and we are ready to get it.


Help me, please.

In the wake of white supremacist gatherings, rioting, and violence, will someone please help me explain these things to my kids.

Help me explain to their cousin, who is the best basketball player my kids have ever known, that she will likely be paid less because she is a Black woman, despite the fact that she will work harder and be more educated than her peers.

Help me explain to their cousin, who can play any tune by ear and analyze NBA efficiency statistics in his sleep, that he should develop a healthy fear of the police because he could, at any time, be targeted because the world sees him as a tall, Black man.

Help me explain to their cousin, who plays shortstop and point guard like his dad, that the Japanese Internment memorial he attended earlier this year illuminates the same America that marches with torches and claims an America that wants to drive people like us away.

Help me explain to their cousin, who already writes poems and stories, that people will not expect her to speak her mind, to exude confidence, to preach because they think she should know and keep her place, and that if she dare speak the pidgin her mother speaks, they won't listen at all.

Help me explain to my daughter, who is equal parts princess and soccer star, that there are people who will tell her, "Go back where you came from" even though she was born here, but she speaks Spanish and her racial ambiguity provides her with some privileges, but she will never know when her passing-privileges will be revoked.

Help me explain to my boy, with inexplicably long eye lashes, that there are people who do not see him as American, because he is brown, because the names Ichiro and Nakada identify him as "other," and that the immigrant status of grandmother on one side, and great-grandparents on the other, some how make his citizenship worth less.

Help me explain that people in this country hate them, hate us, because we live in cities, and we value diversity, and we want to help others who have come to our country for a better life, and some people are threatened by the expansion of the American Dream.

Tonight, with images of burning torches and hate-filled faces peering at me, I need help explaining it to my family, but next week, I will also need help explaining it to my students, to the black and brown and white faces who gaze up at me when I ask a question. They hope I will have the answers, but I don't have them, and I don't know who does.