Linda Goes To School & So Do WeFriday, September 28, 2007
Shortly before my mother died in 1973 (she was 62), I remember her telling me, "Alex I have been in school all my life." This is because she had been a teacher until 1970 when her Meniere's Disease completely took away her sense of balance and she became deaf. Her mother Lolita had been a teacher and so was I until I came to Canada in 1975.
Rosemary and I met teaching and we taught in Mexico until we left. In our present family our eldest daughter Ale is now keeping with the family tradition. She has always wanted to teach native children. She has her wish as half her 10 student kindergarten class, in her new job in a school in Lillooet is native. She moved there in July. I bequeathed to her my hardcover copy of Teaching As A Subversive Activity by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner.
On Monday, since both of Lauren and Rebecca's parents were at work, Rosemary and I went to parents-meet-teachers day at L’École Bilingue. We sat on tiny little chairs in Lauren's kindergarten class and both of us experienced a special little thrill to see Lauren's name taped on the floor which marked where she sat. We were amazed at the amount of paper work her teacher has to go through. But we also found out that all the paper stuff that Lauren and Rebecca have to take home is now available by email. In Rebecca's split 5/6 class (Rebecca is in grade 5) we were barely able to comprehend how one teacher went twice a week, another three times a week and that a third taught the class mathematics. I was amazed to find out that these teachers welcomed email communication with parents. I am not sure that as a teacher I would want a meddling parent communicating with me daily (were she that meddling of a parent).
Being in Lauren's class shot me with nostalgia. I remember just about everything I did not only in kindergarten but in pre-kinder in Buenos Aires. In kinder, the famous Diligenti quintuplets (three girls, two boys) were all in my class. I may have been precocious before my time as I distinctly remember lifting the girls' skirts up on a few occasions. I remember fighting to be able to play the sandpaper blocks and being humiliated in having to play the triangle. It was the sissy instrument par exellence. It was in segundo superior (a sort of second grade for somewhat super achievers) were a photographer took our class picture and used a metal pan with phosphorus or magnesium powder. We would line up in lines before entering class and we had to extend our right arm and touch the person in front on the right shoulder and maintain that distance. It was called making distancia. In kidergarten we were given a little bottle of milk and cookies. I do not recall anybody ever having an allergy attack. After our meal we would rest our head on our desk for descanso. Very special to Argentines is the almost universal uniform which is a white smock (much like a nurse's or a doctor's) and it is called a guardapolvo (it literally means, it keeps the dust away). I wore one.
But what I remember the most is the smell of my classrooms. It was combination of the scent of real chalk dust (when blackboards were black and made of slate and not the easy-on-the-eyes green) and the pungent smell of the ink from the inkwells in our desks. And, yes we used papel secante (blotting paper) which had a particular smell of its one. I have some Kodak blotting paper still with which I sometimes dry my photographs. I remember the fear of having the yearly dyptheria vaccine. It was an injection that was on one's spinal column. To this day I will take a pill when given the choice over an injection.
A few years ago my Argentine friends and artists Juan Manuel Sanchez, Nora Patrich and I decided to have a show called Nostalgia. In this show with one model, the lovely Argentine Linda Lorenzo, we dressed her (and undressed her) and modified her looks to suit our fancy. We made her fit our rosy ideas of our past in Buenos Aires and Argentina. It was Nora who suggested the school girl. She found her old school girl guardapolvo (Nora never threw out anything) and we dressed up Linda. We didn't do this in the spirit of that Japanese fetish for schoolgirl uniforms. We genuinely tried to evoke our days in school.
Somehow the extremely curvaceous Linda understood our purpose and managed to look all proper in the uniform and I was delighted to take the shot. I am including a couple more of Linda to show that her talents surpassed our skills.