Tag Archives: children

Tell Me What Prayer You Say

Tell Me What Prayer You Say

Tell me what prayer you say
when you’ve been afraid, terrorized, misunderstood, forgotten, discarded.

What words do you use?
Do you have faith?

What prayer do you say when your body, mind, soul, life
have been trampled on, or assaulted?
What prayer do you say when you’re fighting for your life,
or the lives of others?
Is marching your prayer?

What songs do you sing when they’ve stolen everything,
broken—Everything.
Burnt or tortured or shot through you or near you?
After you’ve buried your family, fled, drowned, collapsed?
What is your prayer for the child alone at sea?

Which direction do you face?
East or west?
Where is your True north or south?
Is your head covered or exposed?

What prayer do you say when they have come for you,
labeled, sorted, and separated you,
detained you, stripped you, held you down, shackled you, enslaved you?
What is your prayer for the ones who are already dead, or for the dying?
What about Saying the Names or the markers or protecting the sacred grounds?
What about the wind and the sun?
What about the Earth?
What prayer do you say when your child wants to
live, but there’s not enough food, water, air, shelter, medicine?
The bombs and guns and bullets shatter everything in classrooms and
in all the broken places here or there.
Where is the clean air, the safe drinking water, the place for dreaming?

What prayer did you say when they took your father, mother, brother, sister, child, land, food, water, home, homeland?
Are you standing?
Do you pray at night?
Do tears roll into your pillow?
Do you have a pillow?
A bed?
Are the stars your roof?

What prayer do you say when you’re kneeling,
leaning against a wall, stretching down on the rug,
sitting on a bench, or a branch?
Are you dancing in a field?
Do you light candles and drink wine?
Do you have bread?
Are there flowers? Feathers? Stones? Beads? Holy water?

When you stand on the mountain or in the valley or on the street corner
do you see a way forward?

Are we not, every single one of us here under the same sky?

Do you pray to go forward, or are you about surviving only this next minute?
Is it the same thing? Is standing still an option? Do you carry signs?

Is your prayer Resistance? Is your prayer Justice and Freedom for every single human, or just for some?

What prayer did you say when you were abandoned, lied to,
when you were disapproved of, given up on, turned away from, shut out,
stepped on, beaten down, shackled, locked in?
Locked out?

What prayer do you say if you’re not strong enough?
If you’re sick?
If you’re dying?
What prayer do you say for living?
For animals and bees, rivers and trees?

Is there a prayer for when you’ve lost hope?
Who hears that prayer?
What if you don’t believe in God or that anyone is listening, or anyone cares?
You are different, you are the same, and you’ve been hurt badly.
You’re holding on, broken inside, and your legs buckle.
You’re still grateful for your legs,
and the floor beneath you.

What prayer did you say? All those years
you’ve cried over the elephants, bears, seals, the coral reef,
the lost and stolen children, the tigers, the lions, the whale,
and you’ve done everything you could
to help.
And, it is never enough, and you tire of fighting to be seen, to be recognized,
for your birthright,
your human right; that you are born, and therefore, you exist,
a human, born for
Peace and Love, but denied it daily.
Until you’re buried, and even then the liars and bulldozers come.

You’ve cried over children and the ground, over hangings, over beatings,
Over evil in hoods or suits, they shape shift,
They bear unwanted gifts, stealing lives.
We cry together over lost dreams
and broken pipes, while poison flows, and the tears of millions fall.
Still: silence and violence. Still: Never Again.

But, it continues,  over and over again, never stopping.

What are the words for that?
What picture do you paint?
What dance do you dance?
What music do you play or sing?
What funny story do you tell?

How do you pray when you don’t believe in prayer?
What is your prayer today?
When you need a miracle; that is: a hand up, a door opened, someone who sees you and doesn’t look away when you’re suffering.
What if your prayer isn’t heard today but you need it to be heard today?

Who has your back?
Who’s with you?
Who gets it?

When you’ve been hurt and you already despair and a man of the cloth
Says, go die, what prayer is there for that?

When you or someone you know has given up, and too many around you want you gone,
And all you want is air, water, to be free, to love.

When after waiting, after being crushed, after disappointment, after being silenced, after broken promises or treaties, after despair, and somehow you’re still standing,
and maybe you even know that you’ll never give up,
And you know exactly what you’re fighting for, but you still need help.

How do you help?
Did you ask what is needed?
Did you listen?

Is your prayer a hug, a bowl of rice, warm gloves?

When hope is gone, what is your prayer?
How do you pray for strength and to not give up?
Which part of you do you call on to get through the day? This hour?
Is your job not to save another?

Is every child and creature not a world of wonder?
Does your planet not spin? Does gravity not hold you here?

In your prayers,
Do you see light and the infinite colors?
Do you float? Rise? Chant?

Do you say: count me, too.
Have you saved yourself?
Have you saved another?

Please,
Tell me what prayer you say.

© Elana Halberstadt, January 27, 2017

 

The Goodbye Window

Dear Ones,

It is a sad day for America and the world. Our country and planet are in danger.

We’re saying goodbye to one of the greatest men, one of the greatest presidents to ever live. So much has been written and said by others, I had no idea what I could write, or how to say goodbye today.

When M was little, and in preschool, if he or other children were having a hard time separating from parents, saying goodbye at drop off, there was a little window, near the front door, and a teacher would hold M up to the window on the inside, and I was outside, and we said goodbye, blowing kisses, and waving at the goodbye window, and then he would be OK, and so would I.

So, back then, I made this:

The Goodbye Window
The Goodbye Window

 

This was a poster I had made during the 2012 election:

supportobama

And this was inspired by the First Family’s 2016 holiday / Christmas card photo:

1stfamily2017

Thank you, President Barack Hussein Obama.

Thank you, First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Thank you, First Daughters, Malia and Sasha.

Thank you, First Dogs, Sunny and Bo.

President Barack Obama boards Air Force One at Norman Manley International Airport prior to departure from Kingston, Jamaica en route to Panama City, Panama, April 9, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama boards Air Force One at Norman Manley International Airport prior to departure from Kingston, Jamaica en route to Panama City, Panama, April 9, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Looking through the many pictures and waving goodbye, through the screens, or waving goodbye in our hearts inside, while you’ll wave back to us, no doubt, and we already miss you, tearing ourselves away and muttering yes, we can, we have to, but its super scary, and its real, and can we really?  It is such a long fall downwards from the high bar you set.

Thank you, Mr. President, Our President.

Thank you, to everyone who’s been marching and fighting for justice for decades, or days, and to those who have not started yet, but will.

Thank you, to all the artists, writers, musicians, singers, comedians, journalists, filmmakers, dancers, scientists, organizers, activists, dreamers and believers in all that is good in the world because we need everyone to pitch in more. We need many voices and art and comedy and film and songs and it will be  oxygen, a compass, and a way through and over and out of hopelessness, despair, and defeat. As it always is.

M is 10, and he came with me vote in 2008, 2012, and 2016, and he worries about more then a child should have to, because he feels and sees the truth, like so many children do, and he and many others are  deeply sad today. And it shouldn’t be this way; that children  everywhere are afraid and sad because a new president is taking office in the United States of America.

And we, the grown ups, somehow have to explain how this happened, how we’ll protect him, how we’ll continue to work to try to change things.

Every single child needs protection and love and clean air and water  and shelter and food and education, and we as a country already fall terribly short on that, but it could get worse.

It is impossible to explain to M how a dangerous bully tyrant, a most unfit to serve man is going to be in charge and is already working to dismantle life as we know it here and in the world.

So we tell him the truth: Yes, this is really bad. We look forward to the impeachment process to begin as soon as possible.

We stay who we are. We fight back. We don’t give up.

Be well and safe,

Love and Peace.

Elana

Day 21: Thanking Teachers and Wondering

Dear Readers,

As we near the end of the school year (only three days left next week), I got to thinking about my early days at school.

I started ballet lessons soon after seeing Swan Lake when I was four years old. I remember wearing  my blue velvet dress and white tights and looking at the stage and thinking–I want to do that. My teacher, Paulette, taught me how to grasp the barre, how to hold my head up, how to tie my hair in a bun, my first plies. There was leaping across the wood floor.

My 2nd or 3rd grade teacher (I can’t remember her name) taught me how to write haikus. One day she said, “You don’t have to give a fake smile when your real smile is so beautiful.”

My gym teacher in 3rd  grade made up  knock knock jokes with my name,  it was funny and silly (pre-politically correct days) and I learned to walk on the balance beam and do gymnastics.  I was a good sprinter and  did well running short distances really fast. One of my teachers (was it Miss Julie?) ran a Boston Marathon and we went to cheer her on. I was terrible at baseball, always afraid the ball would hit me. Once I hit a home run, but had to  be told (yelled at, really), “RUN! Go, go, go!” I never liked ball sports. That’s been a constant.  These days, I  enjoy a short game of throwing a ball back and forth (preferably a large, light, beach ball type deal) with M. Somehow with him its fun.

In  4th grade I won my first art award, Best Design for The Great Paper Airplane Contest. It remains one of my prized possessions. I had painted my paper airplane with the blue stars and stripes of the Israeli flag, rainbow colors, peace signs, and flowers. It didn’t go far or fast, but that wasn’t the point.

greatairplane

Ever since I was very little, I was into the arts and the performing arts . I did well with language, reading, and writing. I adored painting,  drawing, and just about any art project. I loved dancing and playing make-believe and had a very imagination filled childhood. I spent hours making up stories, making mud pies, talking to imaginary characters in my head, in the garden. I don’t remember being tested much. I don’t remember having to do excessive amount of homework. But maybe that’s the kind of stuff one forgets? I don’t know.

I watch M  and he spends a long time making up his own stories. His most interesting pictures are those he makes himself in the spur of the moment— inspired by something, he will say, “I need paper and to paint.” And off he goes, choosing his markers, crayons, or sometimes coming into my room  asking me for my paints. Sometimes  we paint side by side. I never tell him what to do. I ask open-ended questions. I tell him all colors are beautiful, and he can choose whichever he wants and put them together anyway he likes. I tell him there are no mistakes in art. He usually has confidence when he draws, or paints. He  does his thing. One teacher  told me  last week that “he’s an out of the box thinker.” I beamed with pride.

I’m  lucky, I guess, to have had a progressive, well-rounded public school education in the suburbs of Boston in the 1970s. To have had parents who were artists (wacky, no doubt) who believed in coloring outside the lines. I have passed that on to M. And I hope what happens in our district doesn’t squash what he has. If I was a child who had to go through what is being suggested for my child, I’d be sad. And I am sad, that the district we live in now, that we moved to especially for the schools, is now infected with a sickness of sorts.

I wonder if or how teachers can teach freely,  passionately, and happily when they’re afraid. I wonder what kind of effect that has on the atmosphere of a school. I wonder how much that will be noticed when M goes back in September. Or  by some miracle will things  stay the same? Is it possible? I dread what might happen but at the same time, can’t let M know all this.  How do I make everything be OK? This is a child who wants to play. Paint. Make up stories. Be with friends. Investigate and explore. If they say he must be tested or assessed in first grade, do I allow it? Do I opt him out? Instead of sitting here simply able to enjoy his accomplishment of finishing Kindergarten, I’m now worried about what first grade will bring. I try to compartmentalize this so that I can be here now and be happy in what he’s done and where we are. His potential,  abilities, and mind are always growing and changing, but some things of his essence probably will probably stay the same.   I will do whatever I have to to make sure he gets the kind of learning he needs. I thought I had found IT. But IT has changed. The ground we stand on has shifted.

Goodnight, good morning.

Happy Summer.

Elana

Day 15: Father’s Day & the Revolution

Dear Readers,

Whew. The Revolution has begun! So much going on and I’m prepping for the next BOE meeting on Monday.  Hoping to get a big turn out of parents and community.

And tomorrow is Father’s Day.  For anyone  celebrating, I hope you have a wonderful day. Here’s to all the dads who make our children’s world go around.

Mine taught me how to be a rabble-rouser; to speak up and protest when I see injustice. He taught me how to read  starting when I was   a toddler. He used antique printing blocks to teach me letters and words. We had an old printing press for woodcuts (made by my mother) and signs and did all kinds of hand printing work, too. He helped me publish my first “book.” He showed me how make art; how to capture a moment in photography;  how to look for  light or shadows and really see them.  Among many other things, he’s been a   Civil Rights , social, and environmental justice activist for decades, and to this very day.

Thank you, Dad.

Remember this?

ehprinting
photo credit copyright Jerry Halberstadt

Day 13: My Chameleon

Dear Readers,

Ms  year-end performance was this morning. All the Kindergarten classes did a show together, The Chameleon’s Colors. There was a group of K students on African drums who kept a beat all the way through, a different one for each animal. There were groups of lions, tigers, elephants, monkeys, giraffes, and chameleons. M was a chameleon. It was quite the array of tie-dye, costumes, and masks.

chameleon

It has left me with a case of cuteness overload syndrome.

Please, I got teary last week when M brought home the handmade invitation.

invite1

invite2

For some of us, the waterworks started for real as we sat down.   Max did a great job and so did  his friends and classmates. Really beautiful work by everyone involved. Seeing the teachers in action always amazes me. They’re incredible!

Anyway, that’s where my head is today. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing here. Reformers always say, “it’s for the children” all the while implementing practices that aren’t good for them.  The parents are the ones who are really for the children. And so are  teachers.

This Revolutionary must rest. As we say in Yiddish, its time to kvell and schlepp nachas from our boy. I’m so proud.

aftershow

Day 5: Regrouping after meeting and lots of links to share

Dear Readers,

It’s day 5 of the WordCount Blogathon 2013. I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a real challenge to post every day so far.  But, I’m humbled and grateful for the incredible support I’m receiving from you: new subscribers,  old timers, bloggers, friends, family, colleagues, teachers and parents. It’s great to get your feedback. Every good word you send me helps a whole lot and gives me energy to push forward. Thank you!

ferriswheel

Still working on reading through the latest draft plan and attempting to understand it.

From the current Strategic Plan Draft for our district, first page, Core Beliefs:

  • Challenging all students by providing academic rigor is essential to student success
  • All children, regardless of socio-economic circumstances can be high achieving students
  • Academic achievement gaps can and will be eliminated

There’s more. Let’s just think about those top three beliefs for a moment. This  wonderful blog from a teacher  addresses these  issues really well.

And this piece from Salon.

And this.

I’m  sick and tired of the ongoing dismissal of the many out of school factors that contribute to a child’s “success” or “achievement” at school. I’m always happy to see articles that debunk the reformers theories about “achievement” and “gaps.”

There’s big disparity between the rich and the poor. They live  at opposite ends of a spectrum,  in some places within a few blocks of one another. They might as well be worlds apart. To dismiss these factors  is to dismiss  reality. Children shouldn’t be   tested or assessed as if that is the solution or way out of this problem. The children have not created or caused their situation. Their parents want the best for them, just like the parents in the mansions want the best for their children. Just like the people in the modest  family homes do, too. The size and type of our houses doesn’t define how much we love our children.

It’s as if the system is punishing our most vulnerable population for circumstances beyond their control. But the business model being implemented dictates testing, measuring, assessing and rigorous standards, high expectations for all, uniformity, conformity, rigidity and from that we will have ACHIEVEMENT and SUCCESS and COLLEGE AND CAREER READY. They  tell us this is the  way, but it isn’t the right way. It is the absolute wrong way.

photo-31

Maybe one day in America, we’ll understand what has been done here. Blaming and then hurting the poor,  the sick,  seniors,  children,  women,  the middle class,  teachers,  unions, heck everyone —-except the greedy, rich, super powerful billionaires who are behind all this; along with the politicians  they  party with  on  yachts and in  super sized homes with marble countertops imported from Italy, while the rest of us citizens try to save our schools from  ruination. We make lunches on   laminate counters we’re happy to have because we have food to cut on the cutting board that we set down upon these very counters and which we take out of our fridge which is from the previous century, and (gasp) not stainless. How do we manage it? Oh, the horror of a non updated kitchen.

But I digress.

Read some of the greats: Diane Ravitch (and also visit The Network for Public Education), Jersey Jazzman, Mother Crusader, and Mark Naison.

The Learning Revolution Project gives me hope —many people are looking for a different future in education.

And this work at Mission Hill reminds me what is possible, and this chapter is about authentic assessments. Lots of talk about assessments here. Tests, tests, and more tests.

Let me leave you with this lovely bit on creativity and imagination.

I’ll stop there for now. Lots of info. Lots of work ahead.

Time for bed. Good dreams.

Love and peace,

Elana