Bits and Pieces Educanneries

Ramona’s Dream

A short screenplay based on conversations I have had with students in the past month.  As I continue to explore the importance of reclaiming our past, connecting to our ancestors, learning our heritage, and actively participating in passing these components of identity to future generations, I am also paying deep attention to the subversive ways in which colonization, racism, and poverty continue to devastate our children.

Int. Public School Classroom (K-8) – Any given school day

A dated resource classroom with brown linoleum floor and yellowing

perforated ceiling tiles with some water stains. 

Some pseudo motivational posters with messages like: “The Difference Between Losers and Winners is Attitude” and “Learning is an Adventure.”

Classroom furnished with five round tables with four chairs at each table. The classroom serves for small group instruction for students with IEPs (Individual Education Plans).

Resource books, instructional strategies written on posters, and some computers line one side of the room.

Three students are in the classroom with their support teacher who is helping them write their history essay which is already past due. The essay topic: Segregation in the South.

Two of the students, Jesus and Alberto, 8th graders, are giggling and murmuring to each other, searching through their back-pack for their work. They don’t seem interested in doing the assignment.

Ramona, the third student, also an 8th grader, is sitting across from them, to the right of the teacher, Mrs. Malo. Her head is bent over her textbook, and she stares intently at its cover, a photograph of the Statue of Liberty with a backdrop of the flag of the United States. Her hands are grasping the chair by the side of her thighs, as she drags her feet back and forth.

Ramona wears brown lackluster eyes, brown skin of a heritage indigenous to the central coast of Mexico, and long flowing hair that fall like Raven feathers along her arms.

Jesus has more pronounced indigenous features with hair that covers his head like a thick knitted cap.

 

Mrs. Malo

(Sternly and compassionately speaking to the boys)

 

Guys, come on, get your work out. We have to get started.

 

 

Jesus and Alberto

                  (giggling as they are pulling out their work)

 

Ramona

                  (bewildered)

What are we supposed to write about?

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (matter of fact)

You’re writing your essay for history. You have to write about segregation in the South.

 

Alberto

                  (inquisitively)

What’s segregation?

 

Mrs. Malo

It’s when Blacks were not allowed to live alongside Whites. They had to use separate bathrooms, sit in different sections of a bus or restaurant, attend separate schools, and were treated as having less value than Whites.

 

Ramona

                  (appalled)

That’s racist!

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (in agreement)

Yeah. So if we work on this essay, it will help you to learn more about how segregation caused a lot of suffering for Blacks who lived in the South. And actually, there have been many different groups of people that have suffered segregation in this country.

 

Students listening intently to Mrs. Malo

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (Cont)

Mexicans also had to deal with segregation, but most of the segregation Mexicans experienced happened in places like California, Texas, and Arizona.

 

Alberto

                  (confused)

Who made segregation?

 

Mrs. Malo

Segregation laws were put in place by White people.

 

Alberto

                  (even more confused)

But why?

 

Mrs. Malo

Many reasons. Hate, fear, control, power, and also this idea called White supremacy.

 

Alberto

                  (confused)

What’s White supremacy?

 

Mrs. Malo

It’s this idea that Whites are better than the other races, and should have control of those races. But this same idea exists in many countries, not just the United States. For example, in Mexico you see that many of the people who hold power and wealth are disproportionately White.

 

Ramona

                  (enthusiastically)

My dream is to marry a white guy!

 

Mrs. Malo turns to Ramona in shock. Mrs. Malo instinctively assumes Ramona wants to marry a White guy because she has learned to see her brown skin as inferior and it would give her more accessibility into a world of more privilege, but quickly catches herself, so as to not criticize or judge what Ramona has just stated. Instead probes Ramona to understand Ramona’s perspective.

 

After Ramona’s comment, Jesus bends his head toward his textbook with his hands in the pockets of his hoodie.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (probing, trying to hide her disappointment)

Why is that your dream?

 

Ramona

                  (enthusiastically)

Because, they are so cute and they have money, so they can take care of me.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (trying desperately not to sound judgmental)

 

What about just saying, “My dream is to find a guy that is caring and understanding who will support me with my dreams?”

 

Ramona looks down on her essay, takes her thumb and rubs it on her paper, as if she is erasing something with it.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (Redirecting the conversation)

What’s your dream for your life?

 

Ramona looks at her with a blank stare.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (Cont)

What do you see yourself doing when you graduate high school? I know that’s a few years away, so you may not know exactly what you will be doing, but do you have an idea?

 

Alberto

                  (mocking Ramona)

She’s not going to graduate. She’s failing all her classes.

 

Ramona, withdrawn, begins to rub her thumb on her paper again, as if she is erasing something with it.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (sympathetically)

Ramona is having a challenging time with her assignments, but she can and will improve her grade; that’s why she is here getting extra support.   We all have times in our lives where we go through challenges, but it doesn’t mean we can’t bounce back.

 

Alberto

(becomes pensive and then jolts out)

 

She failed all her classes last year too!

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (still trying to be sympathetic, probes Ramona about her relationship with her parents)

Ramona, what do your parents say about how you are doing in school?

 

 

Ramona

                  (exhaling gently in a resigned manner)

Yeah, they always punish me. I’m used to it now. But that doesn’t really do anything for me.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (still probing)

What about all your parents have had to go through in leaving their home and sacrificing themselves in an unknown country for a better future for you? Doesn’t that push you to want to do better?

 

Ramona

                  (a bit aggravated)

This work is too boring. I don’t get it. If I could go back to Mexico, I’d rather study there.

 

Mrs. Malo

Did you do good in school there?

 

Ramona

I never went to school there. But maybe the teachers there would understand me better. I don’t know.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (probing)

Well, what do you see yourself doing once you graduate? Sometimes that helps us figure out how to get there.

 

Ramona

                  (slouching to the side a bit)

I’ll just work in a hotel like my aunts. They make good money. And since I have papers, I will get paid more. Plus it’s easy to start working there since my aunts work there already.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (disappointed at Ramona’s response)

MMmmmmhh? What would you do?

 

Ramona

                  (with a confused look)

I would do housekeeping. They make like $25 an hour if they have papers.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (disappointed at Ramona’s response)

 

Is that all you aspire to? Cleaning after people for the rest of your life.

 

Ramona

                  (counteracting)

What’s wrong with cleaning rooms. My aunt’s do it. They make good money.

 

Mrs. Malo shifts in her chair, uncomfortable with Ramona’s question. A bit embarrassed that Ramona might feel that she is degrading the work that her aunts do.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (still trying to make her point)

Are they happy?

 

Ramona

                  Yeah.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (trying not to sound judgmental)

All I’m saying is, wouldn’t you rather pick the journey of your life based on your passion instead of what is easy? Many Mexican women, including my mother, have worked as housekeepers in this country because they had very few other options. But you have more opportunities. Yes, maybe you’ll make good money as a housekeeper, but why not make money doing something that you love so much, it doesn’t even feel life work?

 

Ramona

                  ( unconvinced)

The good jobs are for the white people.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (persuasively)

That’s not true. I’m a teacher – I graduated from college. Your principal is Mexican.

 

Ramona

                  (dismayed)

He’s not even nice to Mexican people. You should see the way he treats my mom. He’s always rude to her, and tells her she needs to pay attention to us.

 

Mrs. Malo

                  (with a stronger tone a bit more animated)

 

Okay, but what about all the people I know? Many of my friends who are Mexican are professionals. I have a friend who is a cop, another friend who is a lawyer, a bank manager, a veterinarian, some own their own businesses. Just cuz you are Mexican, doesn’t mean you can’t be anything you want to be.

 

I had a baby at 18, but made a choice that I would not give up on my journey and went on to graduate from college. But it’s not about graduating from college; it’s about believing in your dream and that you deserve to have that dream.

 

Alberto

                  (animated, jumping forward on his chair)

Oh yeah! Like that guy who is running for mayor. He is Mexican. I saw in the news he would be the first one in San Diego!

 

Ramona cracks a brief cynical smile, looks down on her essay, staying quiet for a few seconds.

 

Ramona

                  (trying to sound convincing)

I’m still going to work in housekeeping. I have papers and I will get paid more than the women who are illegal.

 

Mrs. Malo gives Ramona a thwarted smile, asks the students to open their textbook, and begins to guide them on how to structure the next paragraph of their essay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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