Friday, November 20, 2009


From the Apple

Today we celebrated Pow Wow at my school. I've been doing Pow Wow since 1990 when Courtney and I started our first year at Alimacani Elementary School together. The school opened the year that Courtney started her school career and I returned to teaching from several years of mommy leave. I had taken several years off after Courtney was born. Finances were tight and I really needed to return to work. It was hard at first but Alimacani was the perfect place for both of us. I got reacquainted with all the reasons I had fallen in love with teaching in the first place and Courtney had a string of talented and dedicated teachers who loved her and nurtured her. Pow Wow was started as a tribute to Chief Alimacani of the Timucuan tribe - a tribe that had the roamed the land where the new school was built. The school was named for the Chief.

Back in those days we prepared our brown dyed pillowcases and our grocery bag head bands with feathers. We dyed over sized macaroni noodles to string, and war paint was added to every child's face! Back then I didn't know that this was insulting to Native Americans and trivialized their history.

Things have changed a lot. At my school now each kindergarten class represents a different tribe from a different part of the country and the clothing is so much more authentic and different depending on the tribe and part of the country. There is a real effort to respect the native ways and the native life. We learn native songs and dances and listen to native music. Our fifth graders even get involved by studying the same tribes and working on a presentation for the kinder kids. All of that is different from those early days.

What has stayed the same, however, is our goal behind the event. It's hard work teaching all those songs and dances, getting little ones ready for a performance and trying to do it in an honorable way, making costumes, and teaching facts about a people that are so foreign to many of our children. But... it's so worth it. Courtney remembers Pow Wow as one of the high points of her elementary years. She may not remember the countless worksheets she completed or the many assessments that she took or the incredible books she read, but Pow Wow always brings a smile to her face. And so, I keep a picture of Courtney on my desk throughout this season to remind me that it all really is worth it. I even wear a medallion every single year in her honor that she made from bread dough that first year. Each year I get it out I expect it to be molded, cracked or broken, but every year it looks good as new! What I know for sure is that while we are learning to respect our diversity, we are also making memories and that makes it all worth it.

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