SOL 2016 Day 21: Kendama

Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge 2016
This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even students), visit:

Today I had back-to-back classroom observations. Traveling through the halls of a middle school during passing period is always challenging. Since I became an instructional coach last year, I've lost my chops. I'm surprised at how much the noise and craziness bothers me now.

Then after making my way through the mass of adolescent wildness, I walked into a language arts class in the midst of their mid-block break. Kids chattering and playing their middle school games, finally set free from adult talk for a few minutes. And as always this year, the kendamas were out.

I work in Daly City, California, a suburb just south of San Francisco.  About 30% of Daly City's population is Filipino, so it is affectionately known by some as "Manila by the Bay".  This means that Filipino culture figures very large in our classrooms. No school event is complete without lumpia and a few years ago students performed tinikling, a Filipino folk dance with sticks. (What I find humorous  is that when I was a student way way back in the old-time days in Illinois, that dance was part of our gym class, even though I had no idea where it came from.)

The latest student craze is Kendama. Although Wikipedia says that this game comes from Japan, in Daly City it's the Filipino students who have brought it to our schools. Every free moment students have, they start playing.

Today I saw the best incarnation yet: a kendama made from a highlighter, string and a roll of cellophane tape! Unfortunately by the time I could get my phone out to take a photo of the creative contraption, the bell had rung and it was time for writing workshop to start. Maybe I'll catch the same young man in action next time I visit.

Daly City? Where's That?

The other day I went to the Apple Store in Burlingame, CA. There at the Genius Bar were a group of school children along with their teachers (or camp counselors) all wearing blue tee shirts working on laptops.  I couldn't quite see what they were working on - maybe iMovies.  That doesn't really matter. What matters is that they all had the opportunity to work together using modern technology.  I'm happy for those students; what a wonderful experience for them.  But it made me think of my own students in Daly City (Check your map - this is a suburb just south of San Francisco).  


When our after school program, Citizen Schools begged for funding from several Silicon Valley companies, no one would give them the money they needed.  The result?  The program was forced to leave our school to go work with other students somewhere else.  What is it about Daly City?  Our community seems to be forgotten.  Our school district isn't like the large San Francisco district to the north of us or the more affluent districts to the south of us in Silicon Valley.  We aren't the richest or the poorest, but rather basically a working class community.  I guess that means we aren't glamorous enough to get the kind of funding other districts get.  The result: my students lose out.

Teachers Can Never Tell...

Today I learned that a young man I taught about ten years ago is the current reigning heart throb on a Philippine television show titled "My Bonondo Girl"  This exciting news tidbit came to my attention when a news crew from a local Bay Area Filipino television station showed up to film at Ben Franklin Intermediate, our little Daly City, California middle school.

When I was his 7th grade teacher, I knew him as Alex Lim.   My memory could be faulty (after all, I've taught 10 more years since Alex was in my class!) but I think of him as being rather artistic.  He was a sweet boy with a good sense of humor. Nowadays he goes by the name of Xian Lim, and he is quite the good looking young man!  Check out the photos on his website to see how dreamy he is now.  No wonder he's a heart throb.

All this just goes to show that teachers can never tell where their students will end up.  We spend our days together for nine months in a very intense relationship which ends abruptly when they fly away in June. Sometimes my students stay in touch with me, but more often than not, I never hear from them again.  What a pleasure to find about a former student who has made a success of his life.  Of course, I'd like to take some credit for that success; after all, teaching him English must have had some effect on his ability to act!