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13 June 2006

The Last Day of School

Today was the last day of school, with a big ceremony for the promotion of the children to the next grade and awards for attendance. This year the speaker was Billy Mills, the Olympic gold medalist, and he was a wonderful speaker. First we were shown a little bit of film of the 1964 Olympics so we all understood who Billy Mills is - winner of the 10,000 m race at the '64 Olympics in Japan, who won in an incredible upset. After being shoved and losing stride he put on the juice and got into third place, where he was boxed in. An opening was created when a German runner moved, and Billy fairly flew out in front of the other racers and won. No other American has ever won the 10,000 m. race. He is Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge, and was orphaned fairly young.

It's important for our students to have successful role models from their community. There's a ton of negative stuff that they are exposed to and absorb, and although some people might be too jaded to understand, the simple messages directed to our young people goes a certain way to balancing things out. Basically he said they would come up against people's preconceptions and stereotypes but couldn't let those determine how they lived their lives.

At the end of the year, when the 8th graders realise they are leaving forever, they become attentive and hard-working and full of emotion. Sometimes they are like that for weeks. One year a group of students did odd-jobs like sweeping and who-knows-what in order to earn money to buy a card and a gift certificate to give to me on the last day. Tears are usual. Each student asks two adults, as a recognition of support, to assist on that day. The two stand on either side of the student and place a button robe across his or her shoulders. The young person then speaks into the microphone, giving thanks. This year the boys were overcome with emotion, and it was odd to see these rascals who usually seem confident break down.

I sat next to Tobin's mother, which was nice. I'd left home a bit late and arrived at school past the time it was supposed to've started. After 16 years I must've become trained in Indian time, as I got there at exactly the right time. There was a parking spot directly in front of the door and I had to wait about 5 minutes before the event began. I saw Halisa's mother, who told me that H got into the summer art program I'd written her a recommendation for, but that since it began before her school got out she'd had to decline. That bites. I talked to Alex, who has been jerked around in about 30 different roles this year, which is not good at all. He was having to be the A/V person, and at one point Billy asked him to turn up the volume on the DVD, which caused a screech of feedback. Alex said, "And THEN I find out he's deaf..." The bad thing is that the more one is dragged from task to task the worse one can perform, as one gets further and further from what one does best and tranquil concentration. THEN it really is easy for those who are doing the jerking to criticise. I feel that's an unfair situation to be placed in.

One 8th grader is a girl I first met at her naming ceremony, when she was two years old. I'd never seen such poise and grace in such a tiny child. She had a lot to do - and she did it all perfectly. Another was a boy I had in my art program until he hit a certain teacher's class and she wouldn't let him go. I advocated until I was blue in the face. It's like speech therapy or something for those students who are very creative: you wouldn't say "Johnnie didn't bring in his homework so he can't go to speech therapy."

posted by - 1:56 PM


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