Scratches and scribbles on purple paper, rocks and beads, “we found these for you teacher Lexi”.
For years now, I have been indefinitely concerned with the idea of perfection. This lingering, strangling feeling of it doesn’t matter what I create, it will never be perfect, and it will never be how I want it to be.
Even as a kid I was plagued with this idea. When playing, I would pick the car that was unscratched. My lego houses would be made with one solid color or not at all. My journals would disappear from the ripped pages I tossed into the trash after spending hours writing.
At Buen Dia, the first rule I learned was to never draw for a child. The children would look at your drawing, and see that it is unflawed. They would see all the colors are in the lines, and that the shapes are perfectly drawn, therefore, the children wouldn’t want to try to draw, but instead they would ask you to draw for them. The children would compare their drawings to yours and insecurity would flood their tiny minds. The insecurities would take over and they would think that their drawings would never be as good as yours.
The kids at Buen Dia are taught that nothing in this world is perfect, so to strive for perfection is frivolous. Rather than striving for perfection, they strive for purpose, and for creation. They are taught that the act of creating something is always more important than the result.
The kids walk around the school with their hair half down and half in a tight pony or braid, the leftover remaining touch from their parents love in the morning. Their pants are ripped and their shirts are stained, and of course, they always have a little bit of dirt in their shoes. But in their tiny heads, there are big, ginormous, brilliant ideas flourishing. Buen Dia is a place where curiosity and wonder take precedence over anything else (except for safety of course!).
While here in San Francisco, the Buen Dia Family School has inspired me to exist without trying to please everyone, and thus I shaved my head. Just kidding, but no, I really did shave my head though.
The kids at Buen Dia inspired me to exist unapologetically. Watching them fall down after climbing the monkey bars, and hit the ground hard, only to soon get back up, and try again taught me that searching for perfection leaves me empty. I am no longer searching for perfection. Now, I am searching for curiosity, wonder, and creation.
The Buen Dia Family School
The Buen Dia Family School is a preschool in the Mission District of San Francisco. Buen Dia focuses on art and has a bilingual Spanish component. Some students speak both English and Spanish, and some just speak one or the other. Family at Buen Dia is important. It is a requirement for guardians to input work at Buen Dia to help make the school function well. Some parents prefer to do office work while others go on field trips with the students. The Buen Dia mission is to empower children to meet their potential, encourage individual expression, and enhance self confidence.
Buen Dia is a small building located on the corner of 18th and Guerrero Street. I walk up the steps to the front door and enter in the building code. Here, I am always greeted with tiny hugs and smiles.
I start my day off at Buen Dia working in the upstairs office. I spend the first hour of my day drinking coffee from my travel mug and organizing files. I also input data into the computer, help with auction work, and my personal favorite- shred a lot of paper (who would have thought shredding paper would be so fun).
At the end of my office shift, I take a small ten minute break, then head downstairs where I assist the teachers. From here, we lead sixteen tiny humans to the lower level of the building where they lay down on mats with their stuffies in hand.
In Cave (what we call the older kids’ nap time), we relax our bodies and minds by practicing mindfulness. We only use our whisper voices, we raise our hands, and we stay on our own mats. The teacher reads a few stories, and then the kids lay down for fifteen minutes. The lay down is accompanied by a soft peaceful music, or a white noise.
At 2:00 p.m, Cave’s ending approaches and the kids scramble upstairs to play.
At one table there is always arts and crafts where the teacher leads an activity like making paper birds or collaging, but rules are never enforced here. At the arts and crafts table creativity is encouraged.
The kids are also invited to play outside on the play structure, the monkey bars, the slide, or even just in the sand! There are always activities placed outside on the tables too! Tiny dinosaurs and legos are the favorites that I have noticed.
The kids also have the option to help with afternoon snack. Today for snack we had bread with almond butter, oranges, and rainbow carrots! The kids assisted me and cut the carrots into bite-size sticks.
I take a thirty minute lunch break at 3:30. The next few hours I spend with the teachers and staff at Buen Dia playing with the kids.
We play everything from dress-up, to kitchen, to… THE TICKLE MONSTER IS COMING EVERYONE HIDE.
At Buen Dia, there are many options for the children’s play, after all, that is how children learn. I end my day with tiny hugs and smiles and “goodbye teacher Lexi, I see you tomorrow”.
Thank you Buen Dia.
I have always described myself as a living paradox. I like my room to be clean, very clean. In fact, I start everyday by making my bed, and I vacuum my floor before the night ends. However, I am an absurdly messy eater. I eat with my hands, I never use napkins, and I usually end up with food on my forehead.
I am insecure and aloof in one moment, and then narcissistic the next. I enjoy solitude, but I’m afraid of being alone.
I have never been a fan of chaos, but my passion in life is teaching kids.
The Truth About Teaching
The students cobbled together, sprinting into the building, screaming and fighting with each other.
We were in for a treat: the day after spring-break treat. A treat that would lead to our ultimate demise.
I thought to myself, why did break have to end? The sleeping in until noon and then taking the T to downtown to explore and read in Boston Common. Maybe stop for a coffee but definitely stop for lunch and then get back to Paraclete to FaceTime my friends back home, and write in my journal. This had been my previous week, a week of break, a week of sweet freedom, a week without screaming kids.
Is this how the rest of my life is going to be like? Am I going to be waiting for Fridays, for weekends, for breaks?
As the night went on I made slime with a student Raiandy, a short and spunky fourth grader who laughs at absolutely everything. He made a plan to create a stress ball with his newly acquired slime and a rubber glove.
I began to embrace the chaos that was around me, and I could feel myself find joy in tiny things.
“Sounds like a plan, Stan,” I said to him.
”My name isn’t Stan,” he giggled.
“Oh yeah… That’s right. Your name is Raiandy, right? Not Stan.”
“DUH. But what if my name was Stan? Oh my god, I should name my little guy Stan. Stan the man!”
And so it was, his rubber glove son was born and his name was Stan the man. Sadly, Stan the man’s life was short lived. Another kid who squeezed him too tight popped the rubber glove. Raiandy rushed to me.
“Lexi!! Help!! Stan the man is in trouble! He needs surgery!!” Raiandy bellowed.
We spent the rest of the afternoon doing surgery, transferring Stan’s blood into another “body”. A different type of blood transfusion I suppose. Raiandy and I are breaking surgical history with our method.
“What would I have done without you here? What if you hadn’t have came to Paraclete and you stayed in Ohio?” Raiandy asked, his big brown eyes peering behind his over-sized glasses.
“Stan the man, would be no more, Raiandy.”
“Exactly! It’s a good thing you are here.”
I was no longer reminiscing, I was living.
Although silly, this is an example as to why every day matters as a teacher. My goal within this life is to cultivate a career where I am not wishing away every day of the week. This job is difficult, no doubt. It often times leaves you feeling exhausted and sometimes even defeated at the end of the day. But each day is a day that could change a student’s life, or maybe save a student’s rubber-glove-man’s life.
I can’t wait for Fridays, for weekends, for breaks. Every day is a day I need to be here, and be present, and indulge in the chaos. Each day matters.
Paraclete (The Academy, After School Program, Center)
This must be it, I insisted as I pulled up to Paraclete on April 6, 2019. The building itself (a massive brick cube with a thousand windows) was incredibly distinguishable from the rest of the street. Here, buildings that all look the same sit on top of each other. But Paraclete was its own building and it declared its own space. The building screams it’s character. It’s quirky and old, but it has a beautiful story to tell.
This repurposed convent is surrounded by a black gate that’s wrapped in ivy. On the left, there is a large patch of grass and a blooming magnolia tree. On the right, there is a smaller patch of grass and the driveway, leading to the back of the building where kids play basketball, hopscotch, four-square, football, and endless creative variations of these activities.
Monday through Friday each week, around thirty students (ranging from fourth grade to eighth) from local South Boston schools come to Paraclete for homework help and enrichment classes such as cooking and creative arts.
Although, the building is alluring, the building itself is not what gives Paraclete its character. The people inside Paraclete are what makes Paraclete the gleamingly stunning establishment it is. The teachers and staff here at Paraclete are inherently caring individuals, always positive and always looking to help. The students here at Paraclete are loud and chaotic, but they are good, smart, and kind.
Paraclete holds a space for these students of South Boston to flourish and learn. But it is not only an encouraging space for educational growth, but personal growth as well. I have seen individual growth from almost all of the students here, whether it be a shift in language and tone or a change of energy, from negative to positive, the kids here are learning to be better people everyday.
In the short amount of time I have been here, I can also report that Paraclete has inspired growth within my own personal life. I have not only learned from the teachers here, but the students as well, who teach me that every single day is important.
I think I love the contradiction. I think I love the paradoxical life.