Last Thursday, I trekked up to DC to spend a day at Marie Reed Elementary School in Adams Morgan.
Four years into my life as a published author and I’ve realized that I’d rather do a thousand school visits than a book signing, which for me are often skimpy on attendance. There’s something about being around little people with no teeth that is much more satisfying.
Marie Reed is a lovely school, if a little oddly appointed. (Partitions offer a reminder of the open education experiment of the 1960s.) Truly, if Christine Reuss, my host, hadn’t been with me, I would never have found my way around. There’s a surprise around every corner. They have a garden that Michelle Obama planted to help them attract butterflies, and they have murals of the late salsa goddess Celia Cruz (¡azucar!) and Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor. The auditorium is an amphitheater.
What I loved most about this little gem of a school, though, is that it offers both an English only and a dual language curriculum. This seems so much more sensible to me than trying to teach a language in middle school, when we all know that their tongues go thick and their courage, thin. To see an Asian kindergarten student rattling off “Asi Baila Juanito” like a native is about the loveliest thing I can imagine.
I read to the students, told them about how I wrote Tia Isa Wants a Car and Milagros.Then I listened to their songs and dances, and got treated to a writing project where students wrote – in Spanish or English – something they wanted to work hard to achieve – just the way Tia Isa had worked hard to get her car. Counting to big numbers. Reading for a long time. The list was impressive.
But maybe what I will remember most is the part of our day when I asked the kindergarten and first graders where they would go if they could have a car. Chuckie Cheese was a popular choice. Also, the beach. But one little girl came down the steps to where I was standing with my microphone.
“¿Donde quizieras ir en tu carro? Where would you want to go in your car?
“I would go to El Salvador to see my family,” she said. “I miss them.”
I thought of her the whole train ride home.
Meg’s next appearances: SCBWI Midatlantic Conference, Arlington, VA, Oct.22
Holladay Elementary School, Henrico, VA, Monday, Oct. 24
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Meg, I got all choked up reading about your visit to Marie Reed. What a magical day for everyone – you and the students!
Let me know if you’re in DC again!! 🙂
I will be there this weekend, in fact, at the SCBWI conference in Arlington. Chance that I may be very near your school on Sun, so I will call you.
So descriptive and lovely Meg. I’m glad the children got a chance to meet you.
Very touching. I loved reading this post. While in law school, I taught (through a clinical program) for a year at a school in Adams Morgan. Many children from El Salvador. Many hardships. Each child was wonderful. (They were teens, of course).
What a lovely surprise to hear from you about the post, Samantha. This little girl was just as you suggest – sweet and gentle. I hope I can get back to the school again. It was a terrific experience for me. I honestly think I get more out of meeting the children than the other way around.