Susan's Blog

Friday, March 20, 2009

Multicultural Night

When you’re a teacher you don’t always get to see the effect you’ve had on people. I am not saying it’s a thankless job, because I know what those are like (School Committee comes to mind). It’s more that you get so lost in the hectic classes, keeping track and trying to reach every single student. The noise, the questions; your lesson plan screaming in your head, not to be forgotten yet again; apportioning enough time for this and that.

I guess I had gotten a little burned out on the Baby Bellies. I teach at my lowpoint of energy, 3, because it’s an After-School Activity (offered by the PTO, 8 weeks at a time). I had decided to drop the youngest class, the kindergartners, for next time.

Last night our PTO had its annual Multicultural Night, which is an evening to celebrate diversity, with food and entertainment from all over the world. Our town is very progressive politically and focused on welcoming all; Brookline has around 50 different nationalities represented; being attached to Boston (but no no no not a part of Boston!) we are extremely close to all the medical schools and universities and so we attract many internationals. The liberal vibe, excellent schools, and ethnic neighborhoods also bring in families from all over the world. So the school populations are very interesting and multicultural.

This year I offered to get the entertainment. Last year we had African drumming; another year there were Korean dancers, I believe. I, of course, opted to get a first-rate Arabic bellydancer: my teacher and a terrific performer, Najmat. I knew that Michelle (her other name) would be engaging, warm, fun, and delightful.

I was right. She arrived on time, she had a berry pink gorgeous costume, and the minute she saw what it was like at our school, she just lit up. One little boy came up to her and asked for her autograph; I’m not sure that’s ever happened to her before.

Many of my Baby Bellies, past and present, were in the audience. It was an almost-full house. I had created a stage set the day before, with the help of Matt Keenan, an amazing artist and teacher at the school. Matt cut out large foam onion domes, which I then painted them in purple, gold, and rich green to look like Moroccan architecture. One of my Baby Bellies helped me finish the painting, and really did a surprisingly nice job. Matt attached the minarets to some free-standing props he found backstage, and then we had two 8-foot Moorish towers. I strung tiny Christmas lights on them, and lay colored veils to cover the risers in the back of the stage. Everyone who came in gasped. It truly was beautiful.

Ned started the music and I opened the curtain. Naj came out with her veil and just swept us away. Ned, who was in the audience with the iPod, heard my youngest students pipe up every now and then: “That’s snake arms! That’s a camel!” (naming the moves I had shown them, the camel, FYI is a body wave/stomach roll that also involves lifting the foot and stepping forward.) During the very last number, Naj asked “who wants to dance?” and the little girls (and some boys) mobbed the stage. Eventally some of the older girls came up there as well! Najmat, consummate teacher and professional, got them to spin and do other dance moves. She signaled to me to come join her, but I did not, out of respect for Ben, who was in the audience.

Later, Najmat worked on pulling a splinter out of her foot and gave the starstruck little boy the autograph. The parents were smiling — one father asked me, “So you do that?” I went and gathered up my veils — it seems I am always doing that at that school — feeling very energized, though tired, and also tremendously proud, of my teacher and my girls, and the fun and beauty I have brought to our little school.

1 comment

This post put a big smile on my face. Najmat is so amazing and what a way to introduce people to Middle Eastern dance! And your baby bellies getting so excited to see a bellydancer perform and recognizing what they learned – just warms my heart.

— added by Nepenthe on Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 11:40 am

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