On one of the last days of Chanukah, I was the beneficiary of my own small miracle. I had just finished up the piece I was planning to post on my blog this week when I heard from my long-time friend and thought partner Kimberly Folkening. If you’re one of the rare regular readers of my postings, Kimberly’s name may be familiar to you because I’ve written at length about our work together which began way back at the turn of the millennium when she came to teach at the North Kenwood Oakland Charter School on the South Side of Chicago. We stayed in touch during the years when she was at home raising her two children, and when she decided to return to the classroom she invited me to visit regularly to help her recreate the magic she and her students had made together at NKO.
Kimberly now teaches at the Ideal School (I didn’t make that up) in Countryside, Il, a Chicago suburb. Her second graders are a diverse lot. Many of them are second language learners and like children everywhere the pandemic has hit them hard. Yet Kimberly was excited to tell me about an amazing writing project they had just completed – they write together every day – a copy of which every student carried home with them at the start of the winter holidays. (The school is operating on a hybrid model so the kids are in class two days a week.) The class had been reading a book called I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and had decided to write their own extensions of Barnes’ brilliant work. When I read them, I decided that I had to share them with you as a much better alternative to the piece I had been planning to post which will keep for another day. Kimberly cleared permission with her administration, and although these young authors and artists deserve individual recognition for their work, it was decided, out of an abundance of caution, as we say these days, to delete their names.
Unfortunately, my blog isn’t set up to allow me to include the accompanying illustrations, so you’ll have to take my word for the fact that they are as vibrant and kinetic as their words. You can feel the energy and the pent-up imagination in their language which Kimberly has watched grow like wildflowers after a rain. Their mastery of the use of figurative language thrills me. I want to offer their work as a gift of hope in this holiday season and as a tribute to all the teachers who, like Kimberly, have stretched themselves to the breaking point to serve their students under unimaginably difficult conditions. They deserve our appreciation.
I am a shining star. I reflect light in the night.
I am a book because I get flipped over.
I am a monkey jumping on a bench.
I am water because I jump in the air when I get splashed.
I am an artist. I am musical. I am a teacher. I am a dancing girl and a gymnast.
I am a cat rolling down the hill going to my friend’s house.
I am a math lover in school.
I am a cat dancing on a stage and I am fabulous.
I stand straight like a Christmas tree with people putting ornaments and a star on me.
I am a fashion designer. I love to draw. I loave to see many colors.
I am a book waiting to be read.
I am like a dog waiting to go outside for a walk.
I am a seed growing and growing.
I am a squirrel jumping on the tree helping my friend to get their kite.
I am good at math. I can solve hard numbers. I am getting better at reading and writing.
What I am is brave when I climb to the top of the rock wall in the gym.
I am a cat lover waiting to get to cat heaven.
I am a TV in a room. Watch me. I have good movies. I am going to sleep. Turn me off. Good night.
I am a ball jumping up and down in the grass waiting to be kicked in the air.
I am like a shoe because I walk everywhere.
I am like a microphone because I like to talk.
I am a lamp because I shine.
I am a dog waiting for someone to play with me.
I am like a watermelon waiting in the fridge for someone to eat me. I like watermelon and I eat it almost every day.
I am a piece of paper waiting to get drawn on.
I am a hot spicy girl because I like hot spicy chips.
I am a baseball flying high in the sky, feeling the breeze. They see me flying over the fence like a gliding squirrel gliding to the ground and landing in a puddle. Blop, blop, blop.
I am like a mom because I take care of my baby brother and my cousin.
I am a sugar plum fairy dancing on top of a sunset.
I am every good thing because I am kind. I help people and I’m being me not someone else.
Last thing. I am me. I am (student’s name)! I am a rock star. I am treated good and that’s all that matters.
A better and happier New Year to us all.