At 6:23 a.m. I left my apartment and reached the metro at 6:30 a.m. When I exited the metro in Iztapalapa I hopped in a “bicitaxi” and continued to school. The ride was a cool one, as it’s only about 40º F, or maybe even lower, in the mornings.
When I entered school it was a bit eerie, I had never heard it so quiet. The patio was dotted with groups of students huddled in circles, sharing some gossip and talking before the school day began. The bell rang three times at 7:30 a.m. - and no one flinched.
I settled into the teacher’s room in the office and gathered my belongings for a 7:30 “citatorio” (disciplinary meeting) set with the principal, three students who had caused problems the day before and throughout most of the year, and their parents or guardians. I made a great effort to arrive at school before 7:30, only hitting snooze two times today. In Mexico, time is not so rigid (clearly as students are still gathered in the courtyard at 7:38) – so a 7:30 meeting could begin anytime before 8:30. The earliest I ever have to arrive to school is on Mondays at 8:00 a.m. “Citatorio” is always arranged according to what time the teacher enters school, which for me would be at 10:00 a.m. on Fridays. When the time was set Richi became quite frustrated, saying that his mother was at work then. I did have a hard time doing a favor for Richi, as he hasn’t made this experience easy for me, but I would have a harder time living with his mom having problems at work just because I wouldn’t come in before 10:00 a.m.
So, just after 7:40, Richi appeared with his mom. I showed her his card that is covered in negative points for standing without permission, talking out of turn, making noises and bothering and distracting classmates. During our meeting, Richi sat in his chair solemn and contemplative the whole time. His mother lifted his chin with her finger more than once, guiding him to look at the principal or at me while we spoke. We talked about his great opportunities, aided by the fact that he has U.S. citizenship, as he was born in San Diego and lived there until he was four years old. To take full advantage of his opportunities, he needs to learn English and most importantly, become disciplined and respectful. We’ll see on Monday if this conversation made the slightest impact.
When the meeting ended, the principal asked me to have the “prefecto” see if the other two boys were in school. Since Group 1A was just down the hall in P.E. I took a look myself. It was about 8:00 and the teacher hadn’t arrived yet and those boys were not present either. The group was alone, bouncing balls inside the classroom that smelled of body odor. I visited with the students for a bit and completed a survey for Sharon that asked about reading preferences and frequency. I sent those who were bouncing the basketballs outside of the classroom and engaged the few remaining students in conversation about what they want to do when they grow up. As they told me of their desired professions, I had them come up with a question that they could use if an English-speaker came to their workplace. Susan, the future lawyer, said, “¿Qué hiciste?” and I wrote that on the board with its translation, “What did you do?” Denisse and Karla, who plan to become flight attendants, said “¿Le ofrece algo?” and in addition to that question, I wrote in English, “Would you like something?” Dayami, who wants to be a chef, said “¿Qué le ofrece?” and I also wrote, “What would you like?” Sharon, the future pediatrician came up with the question, “¿Qué tienes?” and “¿Qué te duele?” so I wrote, “What’s wrong?” and “What hurts you?” Mari would like to be a veterinarian and said, “¿Qué tiene tu animal?” and I wrote, “What’s wrong with your pet?” When the bell rang at 8:20 Group 1A took off for their next class and I returned to the office.
Later, one of the maintenance men came to let me know that a mother was here for “citatorio.” I walked with Miguel’s mom to the principal’s office; she said that Miguel was home sick. When I explained that yesterday Miguel had imitated me, my mannerisms and instructions, his mother was not taken aback at all since she said that he often does that to her. I continued that in the past month Miguel had started talking a lot during class, and across the room to a girl, who was probably the negative influence. Again, his mom wasn’t surprised since she said that he never stops talking and has been that way since kindergarten. The principal and mother discussed the importance of associating with the “right people,” especially given the area in which Miguel lives. The mom described their neighborhood with drug dealers and users living all around them. Then they talked about a sixteen-year-old who had just been killed there by drug dealers on Monday. The session abruptly concluded as the principal asked the mom to speak with Miguel about being respectful.
The bell rang at 10:30, twenty minutes before “descanso” begins, so the teachers could have a meeting about Wednesday’s schedule, the last day of school before winter break begins. After more than an hour, it was decided: 7:30-8:30 Pastorela (acting out the Christmas story), then soccer tournament finals and finally a rock band will play.
My first of two classes began at 12:00 where we met in the computer lab to continue working on a PowerPoint project. Thalia asked to work with Ana, after already having worked with Luis for two days. About ten minutes later, she asked to work with Grecia, her THIRD partner in two days. When at the end of class I announced the Stars of the Week, Luis came at me to show me his card and ask why with eight points he hadn’t won. I told the class that these Stars of the Week had at least fourteen points. While the Stars rummaged through the prize bag, I had to ask Luis four times to stay in his seat.
After school I returned home, quickly changed into workout clothes and proceeded to Café Spacio that serves “comida corrida” – a four course, main meal of the day for $40 pesos – and has Internet. Then I walked a couple of minutes to my gym where I used an Elliptical Trainer while watching Scrubs on the TV.
My day was still in full swing when I hopped aboard a “pesero” just after 7:30 p.m. to make my way to Ada and Jane’s houses for Shabbat Dinner. It takes almost an hour to get to their houses (not because of distance, but because of traffic), which makes it hard to get motivated for the journey, but the effort is always worth it - I still can’t get over how much I feel a part of their family. I love playing with Ariela and Daniela, Ada and Enrique’s four-year-old twin girls, who are at the “silly stage” now. I always leave Shabbat much more knowledgeable than when I arrived since they all, especially Moishe and Enrique, love teaching me new vocabulary, expressions and jokes. They are all extremely thoughtful and patient, taking the time to explain their jokes since the meaning often gets lost in the translation. This Friday was truly a Mexican Jewish experience as we sang the blessings with traditional Mexican music blasting in the background, coming from the houses next door. Later, in true Mexico City fashion, as the traffic had already dissipated when I left at 10:50 p.m. I zipped on home in less than fifteen minutes.