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With Heart: An Interview with Mom

I felt helpless. Miles away. And not for the usual geographical reasons. I live in Alaska. My mom’s a teacher in Los Angeles, CA. This was her first job since graduating with her degree and teacher’s certificate in 2019.

Illustration of four square frames filled with a dark, starry background, and a lone figure's white silhouette at the bottom right. When lockdowns began, I couldn’t stop doomscrolling. I would call my mom frantic, asking, “Do you have a mask? Gloves? Hand sanitizer? You’re staying six feet away from everyone, right?” I lived in fear for her and my dad, but my parents would make jokes, “Yes, yes, AND EVEN toilet paper!”

Illustration of four squares frames. Top two squares show a roll of toilet paper. Bottom left frame shows two persons pointing up at the toilet paper. Bottom right frame shows a confused person. The early childhood education center didn’t close in 2020. So, my mom continued teaching in-person. I don’t know how, but my mom always seemed to be okay. I’d be breaking down on the phone, but her voice was steady. Maybe she was keeping it together for the both of us? 

***

Last week, I called my mom to find out, and she told me stories from her classroom and about her toddler-aged students.

Translated from Spanish (all translation errors are my own), she told me the following:

One girl made a cat out of construction paper. She’s very artistic, always making little creatures from paper. When she was distracted, another girl took the cat and hid it behind a tree. Nobody noticed what had happened! When the girl returned to paste on the cat’s legs and saw the rest of the cat missing, she started crying, “Where’s my cat? Where’s my cat?” We asked everyone to help look. Two girls walked up to me with the paper cat, one of them saying, “Sorry.” The girl who was making the cat accepted her apology, and then said, “I’m still angry, but tomorrow I’ll show you how to make a cat.”

Illustration of four square frames. In the frames are a close up illustration of a tree and a white cat with no legs, laying against the tree root. There was another girl who was having problems in class. She would start confrontations with the other kids. She’d lay on the floor crying. It turns out her sister had died and she missed her a lot. How do you console a child six feet apart?

How do you say desesperación? Frustration, despair. I struggle. And that weighs on me.

Illustration of four square frames. From top left, clockwise, there is a sign that says 6 FEET with arrows, a doodle of a circle with ends sticking out, a person with glasses and black hair looking up, and a mask.

***

I told my mom I would be sharing our conversation with the EE community. I asked her, "What do you want people to know?"

She answered, "Despite the pandemic and all the uncertainty, being with the kids and trying to help them as much as I can helps me. We help plant the root. We do this work with heart, for love of our students."

Illustration of four square frames. On the bottom right, is a yellow circle and radiating from it are waves of orange, pink, and purple colors. At the top left uppermost corner is some shadowy black color.

Comments

The problem with little children is that they are fearless, which is also one of their strengths, we older people just have to find their balance.