Thursday, March 26, 2009


Yesterday, the mother and grandmother of one of our second graders came to speak to us about Villa Victoria, a primarily Puerto Rican neighborhood we are visiting today as part of our neighborhoods curriculum. Like the other neighborhoods we are studying, the Villa has a history of gentrification and housing loss for the long-time residents, followed by community activism that led to the creation of a vibrant, affordable neighborhood.

Our student's grandmother spoke about living in the Villa in Spanish, and her daughter translated. We have been talking a lot about how to show someone you are listening and how to stay focused on what is being said, even when you feel distracted (more on this in a later post). And my students outdid themselves. They were silent and still while the women spoke. They gave each other nonverbal reminders to pay attention. They maintained eye contact and nodded their heads to show understanding. At times I heard "uh huh" or "hmmmm," verbal feedback to the speakers that they were listening. And they had many thoughtful questions delivered in a professional manner.

Tyshaun began the questions and comments: "My name is Tyshaun, and I have a connection. Just like in Villa Victoria [where landlords fire-bombed buildings to try to force poor renters out and claim insurance money], people burned houes on Dudley Street also," he said, remembering what we had learned in Roxbury a few weeks ago.

[I did not teach him to begin questions with his name, but it worked beautifully, and the other students followed his lead.]

"Who was the first person who immigrated to Villa Victoria?" Jaylin asked, sounding like a pro.

"I'm Julio, and I'm Domincan and Puerto Rican," Julio began. I noticed immediately his personal connection to the speakers because of their common heritage, and he clearly wanted to share that with them. "Why did people put bombs in houses there?"

The speakers explained again about insurance claims and trying to scare the tenants away. "Yeah," he said, "but why did they do that?"

"Are you trying to ask how someone could do that to someone else, Julio?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said.

"Was Harriet Tubman important to Villa Victoria?" Jarad asked. [He knows we will see a statue of Tubman made by local artist Fern Cunningham today.]

"Are there black people or white people living in Villa Victoria?" Amalia asked. [The answer was both, as well as latinos and asians.]

"Were there only spanish people fighting for the neighborhood?" Ramon asked. Again, the answer was no, many different kinds of people worked together.

It was a good morning for teaching.

No comments:

Post a Comment