I know you have a lot on your mind. Like, what the heck is going on in the 4th grade? I was wondering that myself, so I went and found out for you.
Fast Times in Portable E with the Cool Kids
What do we have to thank for giving us Susan Killebrew, one of Peralta’s top-notch 4th grade teaching team? A stint in the Peace Corps in Niger. On her path to medical school, Ms. Killebrew was both working in a nutritional recuperation clinic and contributing to a health education program that took her into the schools.
That’s where it hit her — she absolutely needed to be a teacher. The idea wasn’t foreign — she had always wanted to teach, for the possibilities the profession offered for forming relationships with students — much more so than medicine.
“I was known as one of the “smart girls,” she explained, “so it was expected that I would go into medicine or law.” When she shared her new vocational plans with family and friends, reactions ranged from mixed to tepid. “My dad was OK with it. My grandma was not. My well-meaning friends said, ‘Oh, it’s just a temporary thing,’ certain I’d go on to choose a more prestigious career.”
Twenty five years as a public school teacher later, we can all see where that went.
Now in her 5th year as a full-time classroom teacher and her 13th year at Peralta, Ms. Killebrew has settled happily in to 4th grade. “4th graders are the coolest people in the world,” she informed me. “They’re the perfect cocktail of optimism plus critical thinking. They get your jokes, but they’re not too jaded to laugh at them.”
Ms. Killebrew has big plans for the coolest people in the world. In the spring, they’re going to be developing museums of native California. They will then invite other classes to take field trips to tour these museums. “It’s California history, a subject I love teaching, infused with a ‘maker’ spirit. A lot of art, plus writing.”
She’s also hoping to put on another class play, this time taking the Peralta family, one of the original colonial families in California, as the subject. In 1820, the Spanish Governor gave what we now know as the East Bay to Luís María Peralta, who in turn divided it between his four sons. The impact of that colonial gesture radically altered life in the East Bay for many groups of people.
“Plays give my students a sense of agency and ownership over the topic. Kids can see the multiple stories in any situation.” Ms. Killebrew will be asking her students to do just that — to critically consider the Peralta family from different points of view, including those of:
• the native Californians, whose lives were destroyed, and whose labor made the Peralta family's economic success possible
• the Californios — the California-born sons and daughters of the first generation of Spanish and Mexican colonial settlers
• the 49ers, who grew impatient with the Californios, viewing them as impediments to progress
As I left Ms. Killebrew in Portable E, she returned to supervising the raucous “fish crew” —students who volunteered to stay after school to clean the five fish tanks her class is using to test variables in aquatic ammonia levels. In Ms. Killebrew’s class, it’s not just the students who benefit from her impassioned approach — even the goldfish will live better lives.
- Nov 28-Dec 2: Minimum days EVERY DANG DAY this week, due to parent-teacher conferences.
- Dec. 2: Unicycle to school day. JK. Get to school any way you can, but there will be goodies for those who come in a human-powered way.
- Dec 7: Dinner + a PPTG Meeting. Dinner @ 6pm, Meeting at 6:30pm, Childcare provided. I was tempted to add exclamation points here but I didn't want to use up my lifetime allotment. I'm saving them for when it really counts.
- Dec 10: Garden Workday, 9am-1pm The holidays are upon us, with their relentless demands to party. Don't be a stick in the mud. Instead, come stick your hands in the mud. Come for whatever part of that you can/want to. Open to all, hosted by our friends, the 1st grade families. That's me.
- Dec 19-Jan 2: Forewarned is forearmed. Winter break.
“The Lupine Lady lives in a small house overlooking the sea.”
Which classic children's story opens with this line? First person to send the correct answer to this address wins a personal reply — from me — and... a Peralta mug. Because I just can't find the bumperstickers.
Previous answer: Happy to be Nappy, by bell hooks
Winner: No one.
Editorial Comment: Wow. Maybe Read Me is losing its luster? Or we all have some catch up reading to do. We'll see how it goes this week.
Next issue should come out Dec 13th.
(which also happens to be the 7th anniversary of my kid's birth). Around 2pm (Broadcast, not birth). That will be the last issue before Winter Break. Then you're on your own until next year. Stay strong. Be a force for good.
If you've got school or class announcements, or interesting community events you'd like to share with your fellow Peralta-ites, or if you just need to distract yourself from current events in our country, please do contact me. I publish every two weeks or so. Kudos, complaints and scintillating ideas for future posts can go to the same. I devour and respond to all my email.