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Aquí y Allá

Aquí y Allá

All en las montaas, There in the mountains,
para entrar no necesitas to enter you dont need
papeles, ests libre. papers, you are free.

Adrianas steady gaze accompanies her sharing of her poem duringour Aqu/All (here/there) poetry unit. Her words are met withsilence and sighs, nods and bright eyes. She gets it, I think. In thisverse of her poem, Adriana suddenly pushes beyond a contrast of thesmells of pine and the cars of the city streets. She voices her critiqueof the world through her poem, contrasting two important places inher lifethe city and the mountains.

The opportunity and space to find our voicesto see, name, analyze, question, and understand the worldis an invitation I work to create again and again in our 5th-grade dual language classroom about 30 minutes south of Portland, Ore. Labels and statistics define our school as 80 percent Latino, 70 percent English language learners, and more than 90 percent free and reduced lunch. My students spend 50 percent of their academic day in Spanish and the other half in English. Cultures, however, are not so easily equalized. The dominant cultureone in which much of my own identity was formedcan too easily shutter and silence the multifaceted, complex cultures of students lives. My daily challenge is to pull up the details and experiences of their lives so that they become the curriculum and conversation content of our classroom.

Our Aqu/All poetry unit did just that. It surfaced the layers and parts of lives often overpowered by a common classroom curriculum. It created spaces where students could analyze and name the details of their lives.

In the past few years, the bilingual poetry and stories of Salvadoran writer Jorge Argueta have been an invaluable resource in my classroom. Ive used poems from Talking with Mother Earth for homework and class analysis during a study of ecosystems, the story Xochitl and the Flowers to lead into persuasive writing, and Bean Soup to teach personification, similes, and beautiful poetic language. As I scanned books for a poem that would raise the level of vivid imagery in my students narrative writing, I returned to this trusted source. Arguetas poem Wonders of the City/Las maravillas de la ciudad, from his book A Movie in My Pillow/Una pelcula en mi almohada, has the potential to pull the everyday details of students lives into a place of power. It is a tightly packed representation of the tension of bridging cultures and places, something most of my students negotiate on a daily basis.

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