Paletas in the Age of a Pandemic

I refused to let April 30 pass like the rest of the days. Growing up in México many years ago, Día del Niño was a huge deal. We had festivals and shows in our honor left and right; we had fiestas, new toys, piñatas, candy, food, you name it. It has been about thirty years since I was in elementary school, but I still have memories of all those special years when I lived in Mexico.

This year, everything changed abruptly. As we know, COVID-19 is affecting everything and everyone. Our schools were force to improvise on an online platform without a heads up or proper training. Teachers around the globe are working harder than ever to transmit over a screen some type of normality to our students. As a dual language teacher, I also have the duty of teaching and sharing aspects of different cultures to my students. They are learning, processing and finding their identities. What we do in our classrooms as dual language teachers is vital to their development of their biliteracy and biculturalism regardless if we are in an actual classroom face to face or online.

After the doors of our school closed back in March, I kept brainstorming about how to celebrate Día de los Niños with my students. Many of the suggestions and ideas that I saw online were to do some type of online party with activities that I honestly did not find enriching to my role as a dual language educator. I wanted to bring some culture to it. One night, I had the idea of reaching out to one of our local paleterías. I did not want to overstep or break any social distancing rules, so I inquired about having a drive through event. I loved that the owner of the paletería immediately understood my purpose and he agreed to have my students over on April 30 to celebrate el Día de los Niños—juntos pero no revueltos. We still followed our six feet social distancing order and we had to respect the capacity of the place to no more than five people inside at a time. The hardest thing for me was not being able to hug my students, but the ones that showed up were very happy to be there. My heart was full, seeing them with their big smiles. Paletas are a huge part of our Hispanic heritage. Many of my students, myself included, grew up waiting for the paletero to pass by our house. I just loved the cultural connections that my students were able to make; I loved seeing their beautiful faces and their big and exciting smiles.

Dual language teachers, please go out, reach out and seek. We need to commit to take our teaching and learning beyond the four walls of our classrooms. Our community members are eager to share their business, their beliefs and their passion with our students. In our case, we were extremely grateful that in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, The Paleta Bar was willing to share their paletas, one student at a time. ¡Feliz Día del Niño!

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