Saturday, February 21, 2015

"It Takes a Village" Gratitude, Contribution + Reflection

GRATITUDE, Contribution and Reflection 

My heart is full. I sit at gate 10 at the Austin airport. My heart is full. Memories of my first-ever, successful week-long school residency fill me with a sense of contribution. My heart is full. A feeling of 'mission-work' fulfilled. My heart is full. 

Did I mention that my heart is full? 

What an amazing week has just transpired. I was transported into the middle of the Del Valle Independent School District. {Not to be confused with AISD.} I have just completed five days of singing and dancing and polka dots. In the process my spirit has been revived. 

The two individuals pictured above are DREAMERS. 

They are the brains, imagination and wheels behind my being able to contribute my polka-dotted enthusiasm to their day-to-day world. Half a country away. Seeds planted in an earlier decade come to fruition now. "What's it all about, Alfie?" Shazam! Bazinga! WOWZERS! 

For five days in a row Scottie and Julienne rearranged all of their regular responsibilities to integrate me into the fabric of their school district. Into the lives of the youngest children being served by the caring teachers in their schools. Children four years old, living in an officially labeled home-of-poverty, the vast majority of whom are learning the English language while living in the United States of America. 

For four days, I presented 17 programs to these children, crossing back and forth across the school district on a daily basis. I have about 27 words of Spanish, barely Sesame Street qualified for counting and a basic greeting. Fascinating. My heart is full. Polka-dots are apparently a universal language. So are jumping and clapping and smiling and hugging. My goodness what gifts these children gave to me: laughter unfiltered, complete attention and focus, unbridled joy. We played a LOT of follow the leader. We had a lot of fun. I learned a LOT!

My work is PERFECT for just such settings. My songs are simple. They repeat. Over and over and over and over. Parroting in simple phrases was our modus operendai. I would call out "clap your hands" and demonstrate doing so, they would respond in kind: in word and deed. Easy peasy. 

Music translates directly. Costumes and enthusiasm drive the fun home, regardless the language. Anticipation and surprises are fun in any tongue. So we went from program to program, building to building. Wind her up. Let 'er rip! Let the learning unfold! 

Then the funniest thing happened. We'll see if I can explain it here on a screen so that you understand both the significance and hilarity. 

Working with such YOUNG children, one of our unspoken goals was to help these littles 'connect-the-dots' as to the work of being an author, the value of writing.... that people that you meet can have the JOB of being a writer. Fairly esoteric bridges to build. GO! 

Every teacher in the preschool program received a copy of my first picture book, "You're Wonderful" for their room. They were given their copy during my Monday staff development day. Talk theory, share extension art examples, sing songs and leave with a concrete resource. A BOOK! MY BOOK! PERFECTO!

At each of my 17 author presentations, I introduced myself. "My name is Debbie Clement. Everyone say, Hi, Debbie Clement." A rousing chorus of "Hi, Debbie Clement." Then fourteen times we started with my floogle woogle bugle and "All Together Now." Perfect little three word phrases and following directions. One of my simplest of simple songs. Off to a fantastic start! 

All Together Now: A Shared Reading/Transition Song for Pri

Next. I pull out my copy of "You're Wonderful" from its zippered polka-dot hiding spot. They open their eyes from behind their shuttered fingers and VOILA! I say, this book is "You're Wonderful" written by Debbie Clement. 

Next question, just like clockwork: "Who is Debbie Clement?" 

Thirteen times the whole group gathered on the rug or linoleum would point to me and squeal, "YOU'RE DEBBIE CLEMENT!!!" Mission accomplished. I could continue, "I wrote the book! That makes ME the author!" My polka-dot ensemble resembles the book's cover and more connections are cemented between person and work. TA DA! LUV IT!

Then the fourteenth presentation. We sing, "All Together." Check. I bring out the polka-dot zippered bag, show them my copy of  "You're Wonderful" by Debbie Clement. I ask, "Who is Debbie Clement?" 

Dead silence. No connection to me what-so-ever. Complete silence. 

Startled. I pound my chest and say, "I'm Debbie Clement." 

The entire group of preschool children. In unison. Pound their chest and say, 

So there is indeed a language gap. The teachers attempt to stifle their burst of laughter. I know that if I look at them, in my delirium and exhaustion I will join them in peals of laughter and lose it completely. I am caught in a conundrum I've never faced. 

I then say, "I AM DEBBIE CLEMENT!" 

You guessed it! The whole group of children as though in a choral presentation worthy of a Grammy, thunder, 

It is our own preschool English language learning version of Abbot and Costello. In the end I point my finger at the audience of children and enthusiastically say,
"You are Debbie Clement!" 

Right on cue, they point at me and squeal,

I am relieved to 'be' Debbie Clement again. I am also completely aware of the chasm between us. They are smiling and willing and eager and enthusiastic and delighted and participating and bright eyed and truly and utterly without English. In America. My gears have been stripped. My heart is full. I am humbled several steps beyond humbled. What is below humbled?

Brain Breaks: 3 Active Songs for Movement and Dance

We carry on and I recruit captains for "Jumpin' Jamboree" and I'm so happy that jumping translates easily into following my lead. We are back on track, but the depth of the gap between us is forever cemented into my being and experience. I will reflect on this sliver of a moment every time I stand in front of another group of children. 


1. First and foremost. All praise and glory for having had this week's opportunity. All praise that, "I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me." That was my verse for a very lengthy, intense week of contribution. My energy and spirit were strong for the marathon. It was my voice that was challenged the most..... but thanks to your prayers, Throatcoat hot tea and bags of cough drops, I was able to make it to the finish line. Hallelujah!

2. Traveling across country brings so many opportunities! My sweet blogging friend, Amy of "Teaching in Blue Jeans" fame, was kind enough to drive over to Austin to spend my Sunday with me a week ago. She is an amazing example of strength in action. In the year since we have last been together, she has lost over 105 pounds. Her weight loss journey has been documented in her blog, "I Can and So Can You." She is morphing into a personal coach on the issue of wellness and weight loss. We had so much fun together and split a piece of Cheesecake Factory yumminess to celebrate! {All good things in moderation.} I am so grateful for Amy's kindness and continued support!  

3. I have received an invitation FROM KOREA to star in a podcast series that is dedicated to authors.... the genius behind the series interviews authors, for the Korean audience of parents eager to TEACH THEIR CHILDREN ENGLISH! {Do you see a theme emerging here?} I think we have the time zone thing figured out and will go 'on air' a week from today! 

4. A new school visit in MI is now being orchestrated for spring. 

5. My annual return to Westerville, OH for my kinder-LUV-fest is now on the end of the year horizon schedule. Now into our second decade of annual visits! TY TY TY

6. Hubby located a dirt cheap flight to go visit our WonderPeeps in person in just a couple of weeks. Too many emotions to even contemplate this surprise development. 

7. Packages of my books have gone out to Utah and VA. 

8. The KINDERGARTEN teachers of Del Valle, TX think that it is only 'fair' to have a return engagement where we have some serious grown up fun together. 

9. People have ordered goodies from my Younque cosmetics page. 

10. People have ordered digital downloads from my TeachersPayTeachers store! 

Your continued prayers and expressions of support and concern mean the world to us in this time of need. 

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!
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