"I'm going to take this home to show it to my mom," L said with genuine excitement in her eyes. She was practically hugging the book. My plan to take this recently purchased book back home to my own children vanished.
I discovered this book yesterday at the book fair at my children's preschool. It is that classic song, "Sing!" from Sesame Street, now beautifully illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. The lyrics were written by Joe Raposo, when he was asked to create a bilingual song for Sesame Street. The book contains a note from the songwriter's son, talking about his father felt isolated and stigmatized growing up in the United States in the 1940's. The song was an anthem for self-acceptance and courage and has been translated into 35 languages and sung by many different famous singers through the years. I remembered it well from my own childhood and from my Sesame Street watching years with Alex.
But back to L. When I shared the book with my third graders earlier this morning, I had the song ready to play as I showed the pictures. We spoke about how the song was also written in Spanish and the lyrics were printed in English and Spanish at the back of the book. She couldn't stop looking at the page of Spanish words, proudly telling me she knew all the words and reading it quickly, her voice sounding different as she recited the lyrics.
The song only played in English and she asked me if I could play the Spanish version later. As we got ready for home, I searched Youtube and found Sesame Street in the 70's with Luis playing the guitar and singing "Canta". I noticed several students mouthing the words in Spanish as it played.
I had to admit, finding ways to weave in other students' cultures sometimes feels like an impossible and unrealistic expectation in the "highly effective" slot in the Danielson rubric. When I already need to cover all subject areas, differentiate for diverse abilities, purposefully integrate technology, communicate with parents, how can I add multicultural influences into my lessons too?
Today, I got it. Why it's so important to find ways to weave in students' cultural backgrounds into the classroom. Seeing L. absolutely delight in reading and listening to a song in Spanish, knowing she had to hold that book and bring it home to show her parents, I finally, really, understood.