Elly's Explorations

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Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 206
Location: Virginia, USA

PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 8:58 am
PostPost subject: Elly's Explorations
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April 26, 2006

Two days ago I found myself on the phone talking to member Elly Mallen on her cell. My voice carried on speaker to her third graders. Elly asked me to listen to them rehearse the presentation they would be making to parents and school administrators for ‘author’s night’. Their project was ‘Orange—Around the World.’ Orange refers to the designation of their ‘class color’ and they would be taking a Trip Around the World through their puppets. The narrator’s voice, a girl, came through, her English clear, proud and plaintive, and knowing that she was reading for me made me well up inside for a minute. I was an important part of their experience, I mattered to them, and they mattered to me: the technology was connecting us, and for the next few minutes I would be in a classroom of third graders in a school just outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Elly was taking another risk: she wanted to avoid just having kids read book reviews—that’s what normally happens on author’s night. Instead, each student had researched a country, and made a puppet to tell about itself. So the presentations would be animated, and the narrator would help the journey unfold by introducing each puppet: among them Michelangelo from Italy, a volcano from Hawaii, a parrot from Puerto Rico, the Statue of Liberty from America, a pyramid from Egypt, a Koala from Australia. Some of the puppets were simple flags—talking symbols.

That evening, Elly and I talked on the phone. She was nervous, but mostly from anticipation. But she was also the most relaxed she had ever been in situations like this where her kids are ‘performing.’ They had done this almost all on their own. Even one of her problem kids had called Elly because she was absent and didn’t want to miss practicing. As I listened to the voices of her kids, in part reading and sharing the information through the puppets, I could hear almost all of them clearly, despite the open windows and noise of traffic and street life Elly said were constant distractions. I was listening to kids whose English was clear and fluent with the beautiful Latin lilt, self-directed, energized, and completely in control of their journey. The power of play was asserting itself in Elly’s classroom. This was an experience, she said, they will remember for many years. Still she was apprehensive to be doing something different with her kids for an event that held its convention in reading. It’s not easy doing something different. Conforming is, after all, a kind of censorship. And she was bucking the norm.

So as I write this, it is the day of the evening of her class’s presentation. I will speak with Elly again this evening just afterwards, and she and I will talk soon about the whole process leading up to tonight’s Journey Around the World.

Stay tuned,
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