Under ten

 

Mostar’s Coat of Arms

It’s Sunday morning and it’s quiet, very quiet. I have an hour, that’s all I have this morning before I need to spring into action and be a part of the family for church and then activities. The weekend has been booked, booked solid with conformation, sports, scouts, and home tasks screaming to be completed. And, to top it all off – I am ‘under ten.’

Being ‘under ten’ is good, it means there are less than ten days of school remaining for me. That’s good. Every year when I get to this spot, I am excited about summer, about vacation, and time off to rest and relax. Much like the kids, I look forward to summer – all teachers do. Teaching is a great profession, rather an avocation and it takes a lot of energy to teach. Seriously. There is this idea that teachers have it all, days off, summer vacation, an easy schedule. But, when we were on – we are on. Constantly shifting, answering questions, working hard to engage the kid who doesn’t understand why it is not okay to turn around and talk, or the kid who makes quacking noises in class – just to get your attention, or the kid who is silently being bullied. I wish I had a magic wand to make it easy, but it isn’t. Nevertheless, despite the quacking noises, I love to teach.

We are finishing the year in geography in Europe and our last stop was southeastern Europe. When I was in seventh grade, the region was under Soviet\communist bloc domination and it was a small handful of countries. Now, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the region is very confusing with Yugoslavia broken into seven new countries after a brutal and tragic civil war.

Our textbook mentions the civil war and shows a picture of the Stari Most Bridge in Mostar before and after the civil war when it was destroyed. I always ask my students to interpret the pictures – to tell me what it means. The can articulate that there was a war, and the bridge was destroyed so this year, I went further and explained. I used video clips, current events. Ratko Mladić is on trial at The Hague for war crimes and atrocities committed during the war.

Mostar is in Bosnia and Herzegovina and is split ethnically between Croats, Bosnians, and Serbs and the town takes its name from the bridge meaning bridge keepers. The bridge was originally built by the Ottoman Turks in the sixteenth century and connected the Christian west with the Ottoman Muslim and Orthodox) east. It was a beautiful bridge and has since been rebuilt. Below is video I shared Friday and it sparked a lively discussion and I hope – an awareness and desire to learn more about the world. Perhaps to better understand that bridges are metaphors for understanding, compassion, and empathy. Who knows, that’s why I teach. There is a second video showing the re-construction of the bridge and ironically, the maker of the video I believe lives in the Chicago area!

In Language Arts, we are exploring folktales and learning how they have changed over centuries and yet, the message remains the same. We learn through stories, sometimes we have to learn the hard way through experience, but morals and ethics are taught through stories. My students are adapting a folktale and will be performing it for their peers – it is always a fun way to end the year. The kids who can step up, step up and the ‘quackers’ continue to quack, and I continue to try to tell stories and build bridges.

I am under ten – I have nine days left. I have nine days to tell stories, build bridges, cement relationships, and prepare for summer. It’s gonna be a great nine days and an greater day – Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one story, one bridge at a time.

Do you remember a story a teacher told, what it meant, and what it taught you?

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