Culture in a Culture

December 2nd, 2009

The following is an essay written by a middle school student at my school. It was an extra credit assignment. I didn’t correct any of her grammar and the paper feels very stream of conscience when reading it. Take from it what you will.


Culture in a Culture

Different people around the world have different cultures. They act different, dress different and their lifestyles is different. But still there are certain people who have more than one culture such as Somalis or Ethiopians.

In addition, taking a different culture and adding it into your life would be challenging. For instance it will be hard to capture and may take a while. So as a result acting upon two competing cultures would turn your life around. It will produce challenges, experiences, and advantages.

Islam’s followers face a lot of challenges. A challenge that I really face is that people are acting on stereotypes and depending on terrorism. People see Somali people on the streets and say “well, that’s what Somali people are. They stand on the street killing people and not turning themselves in.” But that is not true. I have never killed anyone and never will. Neither did my dad or my mom. I just want people to get through their head that every person us different in different ways. People look at me like I am going to kill them just because I am wearing my scarf. They smile at me but I could still see in their eyes that they think I am a killer. Maybe they have experiences a bad person and say to themselves that maybe everyone is a bad person. But that’s just how life is and I can’t help it but still.

Every challenge itself produces an experience. Every minute in your life you experience something new. You might take it in a negative way or a positive way.

This happens in my life a lot. I always include this in my life and try it myself. Once day I saw this little girl who was pretty jumping down the street. Her big brother jumped inside a basketball court that was closed. I was curious to see the way he made it inside without harming anyone. I tried to try it myself but a police man caught me and brought me back to my house. That night I felt disappointed. My mom came inside my room and asked me why I did that. I told her how curious I was and from that day on I have a very good background experience on not doing everything that other people do. What people do may curious you but it also taught me that at the same time it might disappoint you.

I’ll admit it, I’ve got a favorite in my class.

October 5th, 2009

Remember my kid who meditates? Well, after being gone for almost 10 days due to a broken arm, he came back today.
And he’s learned to use “air quotes”. Sort of. He air quotes about every 5th word he says. Today he needed to “tell me something”. (yeah he put air quotes on tell me something).

“Ms. Abby”, I was at “home” because I broke my “arm”. My dad brought me to “school” in the “car” today. I can’t ride the “bus” until my “arm” is “better”.

Can’t wait to see what new habit he picks up next week.

This may jinx it, but…

September 13th, 2008

…my kindergarten class is pretty good this year. Some of you may remember last year’s boot camp. Last year redefined “difficult students” and I came into this year prepared for the worst. I know that I shouldn’t let my opinion of last year’s class influence my opinion of this year’s class but you didn’t meet last year’s class.

This year however…three weeks into the school year and my pro’s list is longer than my con’s list.

The pro’s:

  • They have volume control. This is huge. I can actually say 1 time to the class “use your #1 voice” and for the remainder of the work time all you hear is the low hum of 5 year olds working.
  • They raise their hands before talking
  • They can be trusted to go to the bathroom without me.
  • I can leave the room for 5 minutes and when I come back they are in the same spots I’ve left them.
  • They rest at rest time.
  • They attempt to do their work before asking me for help.
  • They don’t tattle (much).
  • They clean up without tearing around the room and shrieking.
  • It only took me a week to teach them the routine of the room.
  • They remember the routine.
  • When I do have to discipline the whole class by making them practice, they actually realize that if they fix the problem, the punishment is over.

The cons are few and far between. Their biggest issue is lining up. They can walk in a line just fine. They can line up in the hallway just fine but for whatever reason lining up in our classroom or the lunch room causes them to forget all common sense, forget all rules, forget their spots in line and start with the pushing and the shoving and the worrying about who gets to be first (even though we have a line leader everyday). I’m not really sure why they do this but trust me, we’ll be working on this next week.

As far as the kids go, for the most part they are great. There are only 3 that drive me crazy on a regular basis.

I have the younger sister of one of my boys from last year. And she makes her brother look like a saint. Her current favorite activities in class – starting laughing (while I’m talking) just to see how many kids she can get laughing, doing opposite of what I tell the class (for example Me: I need everyone to cross their legs, please. Her: (looks directly at me and sticks her legs straight out).), and in general making a mental list on how many ways she can irritate me in a single day.

The next kid is only going to be difficult for a few more weeks. He understands English but can barely speak it so his behavior is due to the language barrier and at 6 weeks (almost to the day) every non-English speaker I’ve had has started speaking enough English to feel confident enough to participate in the class. And we had a huge break through on Friday. He learned the phrase “what’s that?” so now, he points and asks that about 300 times a day but it’s better than him not having a clue as to what’s going on and chucking stuff across the room out of frustration. Also, next week the ESL teachers start doing pull-out work and lucky for the kindergarteners our ESL teacher speaks both English and Somali so they really like working with her.

And my third is a boy who has made it very obvious that I am clearly a serious inconvenience in his life. Some examples:

Me: A-M, please stop talking we are waiting for you.

A-M: (in a very exasperated tone) Okay. Fine. (and then the talking starts right back up again).


Me: A-M, you need to clean up. I already asked you once and [math, art, learning labs, journaling] is over now. You need to stop and clean up.

A-M: (eyes rolling) Uugh, okay, okay. Fine. (and continues to do what I asked him to stop).

Basically, I’m just in the way of him doing whatever he feels like doing. I’ve already told him that I was going to have to call and talk to his dad about the way he is acting and he looked right at me and said “my dad let’s me stop when I want.” Great. So now I have to fix the behavior of the parent and the kid. Well, it’s going to be a long year for him sitting in the take a break chair.

First Impressions of Kindergarten

August 25th, 2008

This probably won’t be of interest to anyone but me, but I want to get it down so when I am ready to toss kids out the window in December I can look back and remember that at one point I did think they were cute. And just to warn you, I’ll be doing that annoying initials thing instead of real names just to be on the safe side.

First day started off a little crazy. There was some type of bus mix up (which means they had no idea who to pick up where) so at 7:55 I still had only 8 kids. By the end of breakfast I was up to 13. I had 8 girls and 5 boys which is fine with me. Last year I had 20 kids and only 6 were girls so this year is already looking up.

I know we are still in the “honeymoon” phase of school so I’m not going to pretend that just because today was good the rest of the year will be too but hey, a girl can hope right?

Continue reading »


May 29th, 2008

When I worked at the King CDC there were 2 brothers that will always be my favorite kids. (Okay, technically there are 3 boys that will always be my favorites but Coby’s story is for another day.) Reaquon and Sakai were 2 of the best kids to have in my class. They were respectful, funny, empathetic and genuinely nice kids. And as an added bonus, their mom was really nice and easy to talk to.

When I first started at the KCDC Reaquon was 3. He was one of 8 boys in my class. There was only 1 girl and she only came about once a week. The boys used to love to run, tackle and pile on top of me. And Reaquon would land on top of the pile and shout out “It’s just Hendricks and her boys!” My favorite memory of Reaquon was when he came tearing into the classroom after a huge snowfall shouting “God heard my voice! He heard my voice!” Apparently, the night before Reaquon had wanted to play hockey or go sledding (I can’t remember) but his mom said it wasn’t cold enough or there wasn’t enough snow. Reaquon got upset and his mom told him he should talk to God about his problem. Reaquon did that and woke up the next morning to snow.

About a 6 months later, his little brother Sakai moved up from the toddler room to our room to join “the boys.” Sakai had a slight lisp and used to say “My name’s not Thakai! It’s Thakai!” He also used to say that the only thing he wanted for Christmas was a Christmas Tree.

Tonight at Target I ran into their family. It was crazy to see them. Reaquon is in 4th grade and Sakai is in 3rd. They were as tall as me.

Quote of the Day

April 22nd, 2008

This was overheard as a class was leaving for recess, as they passed the office the teacher told one student to go to the office.

Student: “But I’m SORRY!”

Teacher: “Sorry doesn’t cut it when you tried to staple your friend. Go to the office.”

Kindergarten – The Revolving Door

November 14th, 2007

On the first day of school my class list looked like this:

1. Hanad
2. Khalid
3. Zakariya
4. Khalid
5. Mohamed
6. Omar
7. Abdullahi
8. Adan
9. Higmo
10. Jamila
11. Mako
12. Cabdullahi
13. Abdirahman
14. Mohamed
15. Libon
16. Jamal
17. Soleyman
18. Siham
19. Qali
20. Abdirahman
21. Ugbat

Hanad and Soleyman never showed up. Libon was moved to the other kindergarten class but didn’t return to school after the first week. Abdullahi transfered to another school. Omar ended up testing high enough to be in first grade. Mako was pulled and put into a school that gives homework to kindergarteners (don’t ask). Mohamed moved to the other kindergarten class. Qali moved and Abdirahman’s parents enrolled him in a school closer to his home. So out of the original 21 on my list only 12 are still here.

But I’ve also gained Asli, Shamsei, Abdirashid, Abdifatah, Zakaria and Abas and since I’m only up to 18 kids, my guess I’ll get 2 more after Thanksgiving break.

It’s like the first day of school every Monday. Crazy.

Yesterday and Today

September 12th, 2006

Yesterday, 3 of my kids were absent. Yesterday, we had a great day. The kids listened the first time, followed directions, actually focused on the lessons, walked up and down the stairs without trying to trample the person in front of them, and in general had a great day.

Today on the other hand…today I discovered why my kids are so off the wall. All day, over the general hum of the classroom, I could only hear one voice. And I could hear his voice carrying from the hallways, the lunch room, the bathroom, pretty much any place in the school. If I didn’t hear his voice, then I heard the voices of 15 other kindergartens telling me what inappropriate thing he was doing, had just done, or was trying to convince the other kids to do. By 8:30 a.m. he had been to the office, twice. By 9:00 his parents were called, but lucky for him we only got voice mail. By 1:45 he had the whole class so worked up and out of control that nap time replaced gym class so I could regain my sanity.

There are 173 days of school. We have been in kindergarten for 12 days.

Kindergarten Update

September 1st, 2006

I’ve survived the first week. And the kids all survived as well. The days were all challenging, but when I got home from work everyday and Kevin would ask how my day was my answer always was the same, “It wasn’t as bad as yesterday.” I have an EA (education assistant) in my room all day and she’s extremely helpful. She was a teacher in Kenya before she moved to the States but for some reason she’s unable to get her license here (long story) but it makes her an excellent help in the classroom. She’s also fluent in both Somali and English which makes her a HUGE help with the kids who either can’t speak English or like to pretend they can’t speak English. And now that she found out that Lexi is 7 months and her daughter is only 5 days older than Lexi, she feels we have a lot in common and has started chatting with me on a less professional level, so we are getting to be friends, and we work well together. I love being able to work with someone that I can get along with.

The mini lessons I have been doing this week have been going fairly well. The kids have been rotating through different areas of the room to expore the toys, they are bouncing-off-the-walls excited for the fish and hamster to move into the classroom (two empty cages with the promise of pets is worse than waiting for Christmas), they are doing a great job practing to use different school supplies, pencils, crayons, paper, and scissors have all been a success. We have talked about their “hopes and dreams” (goals for what they want to learn in kindergarten) and they all came up with great answers.

In case you are curious here’s what they said:
Sumeiya wants to learn her ABC’s
Hafsa wants to learn to share
Hanad wants to learn to play with cars (really I think he just wants me to let him play with the cars as soon as possible)
Ahmed wants to learn to share with friends
Sahal wants to write his numbers
Mohamed wants to draw his mom and dad
Zuhaib wants to learn to use markers
Sahur wants to learn to use markers
Keinan wants to learn to read
Sadik wants to learn to write his name
Abdirashid wants to learn English
Sagal wants to learn to read
Abdirahman wants to learn to write his name
Mariama wants to learn to play and share
Khalid wants to learn to share

I was really surprised at their answers. I figured that there would be lots of answers that didn’t make sense or were unobtainable goals (like wanting to learn to fly or something) but the kids came up with these answers all on their own. My plan is to put their goals on paper bricks and then every time they meet a goal (or just learn something new) they can move the brick so they all start stacking up and we can see how big we can build our wall by the end of the school year.

There are still a few key rules that they need to learn. Like raising their hand and waiting to be called on, volume control – their voices have 2 levels Loud or not talking. That’s it. There is no in between. And not pushing in line, while siting next to another person, walking past someone, on the playground, on the bus…they are a pretty reactive group so if anyone even looks at them the wrong way they’re gonna get shoved.

But it’s only been one week. Overall, I think it’s going to be a pretty good year.