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Ezkina’s Moon 13 February 2009

Posted by ANNA in ANNA, Education, Spirituality.
3 comments

The yellow is fading from Ezkina’s world.

She sits at her table, coloring, singing a sad song to herself. A story of bees rests under her crayon; she spreads lemon over pink. “Ezkina,” I call to her from my desk. “Ta’ali, mama. Come here, please.” She looks up from her singing with the surprise of one who has felt invisible. Her head tilts to one side. “Me?”

I nod at my palest child. She lines up her crayons on the edge of the tape which marks her First Grade seat. From the box in the center of the table, she has taken three: lemon, chartreuse, maize. Why do you love yellow so? My heart wants to understand. Most of the girls in our class love blue, or purple or silvery pink. Our boys love green or red or red and green. They are too young to realize that these are the colors of Christmas. For a moment I wonder how they will feel when they realize that their favorites speak of a holiday which we do not celebrate. Who among my children will change, and who will stay the same?

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Arizona Pie 9 October 2008

Posted by ANNA in ANNA, Education.
2 comments

Aisha’s horse wants vegetables after salah. We pause at the playground’s entrance and I pat the front of my abaya, pantomiming pockets. “I have something special today,” I tell her. “For ‘Eid. Today, it’s not carrots.” She scrunches her eyebrows into a bow. “What is it?” I draw an imagined white bulb with my hand. “Today, I have fennel.”

“What’s fennel?” Aisha wants to know. While I am describing the vegetable’s virtues, Faiza joins us. Her hair is curled for ‘Eid. Today, freshly back from holiday, the class is uniform-free. Hands are dyed with henna. From the edge of the slide, turquoise satin shalwar cuffs shine around brown feet.

Faiza’s horse gobbles the fennel from my palm while Aisha makes up her mind. “It’s a crunchy vegetable,” I say. “Like celery. But it has a nice smell, and feathery leaves. I’m sure your horse would like it. Where is he?” I find another fennel in my pocket and hold it before her nose. This one is for you, sweetheart.

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Banishment 25 September 2008

Posted by ANNA in ANNA, Education.
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She frames it as a question. “Do you think that they’re too young to go upstairs to the masjid?” I watch lunchtime from the doorway; on my left, my twenty charges. On my right, elegance, in black, is waiting. “I know they enjoy the change of pace,” I try to avoid answering.

For a moment I imagine my two unruly lines, boys separate from girls, laughing and chattering. What a difference five children makes; at times this year’s group of twenty feels twice as big as last year’s fifteen. Leading them up to the masjid is an exercise in repeating. The “No”s and the “Don’t”s outnumber the “Do”s; paths and plants and bugs and shoes and stairs and voices and hands and cars and gaps can be overwhelming.

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Beginning 19 September 2008

Posted by ANNA in ANNA, Education.
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Three meters outside the First Grade door, my feet won’t go on. A container full of backyard grapes balances in my hands; a miniature snail, shell fingernail pale, climbs slowly between globes. She is as I feel: in trouble so deep she can’t begin to guess. Hopelessly out of place.

I cross the long way past the class, hoping that the children will not see me. At the end of the hallway, an exit door leads to the field outside. I prop it open with my knee. The breeze across Sharon is wet, as if carrying presents for the sea.

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Goodbye with Lemonade 26 June 2008

Posted by ANNA in ANNA, Education, Spirituality.
3 comments

There is consensus about Jannah among the children. Everyday we’ll have lemonade. “In rivers?” Hamza wants to be sure. Sister Isra nods her head. “In rivers. In Jannah,” she holds the room with her eyes, “you can have any drink that you want.”

The class is abuzz at this. “In Jannah, I will be able to fly,” Aly announces to his table. He holds his hands in the air, zooming. Ammar and Ahmad consider, while Marwa puts tape on her hands. I lean across my desk, and pat her on the shoulder. “I told you to stop it with the tape, right?” I ask. “We need to save the tape on my desk for the class to use, insha’Allah.”

“I made you a whistle,” she says, rolling a markered strip up off the back of her hand. She creates a tight cylinder and passes it to me. “See? You can blow.” She indicates one end. I try not to sigh outloud. “Thank you for thinking of me, Marwa,” I reply. I stand the whistle on its end next to the homework box. “But right now, you are having your religion class. You need to pay attention. And please do not take any tape more without asking.” She nods. I do not threaten to write her name on the board this time, or worse yet, to make her write it on the board in Arabic. The First Graders abhor this. Finally, at the end of the year, I have discovered the perfect punishment. Too bad it involves the language which they are meant to be learning to love.

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