Last Friday I gave my fourth graders a five minute recess at the end of the day. They were happily playing on the playground when one of my little girls came over to show me something her friend had given her. It was an eraser with a picture of an owl in the middle, no doubt a leftover from Halloween.
My student was troubled, though.
“I can’t keep it,” she said.
“It has an owl on it,” she said.
“What’s wrong with the owl?”
“I’m Navajo,” she responded, as if that would clear things up for me. It did not.
She went on to tell me that owls are considered bad luck in Navajo culture, but she didn’t want to just throw the eraser away. She was troubled because she wasn’t sure what to do. I held out my hand and she happily gave it to me, then skipped off to play, unburdened by the offending owl.
This morning, I noticed the owl on my counter and suddenly realized, I have owls all over the classroom. Each student has an owl with his or her name on it, and I have bulletin board borders with owls on them. There is a large owl on one board that shares messages with the students. Even the mini-posters with the class rules have owls on them. I had no idea.
If that one little eraser was troubling to her, what must that classroom feel like?
I think it may be time to redecorate the room. I wonder if she’ll notice.