Ian Caballero Rubio, 9, colors a name card for his locker on the first day of school at Green Central Elementary School in Minneapolis. Credit: Becky Z. Dernbach | Sahan Journal

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At Green Central Elementary School, in Minneapolis, Braulio Carrasco introduces a book to his fourth-graders. “As you listen to the book, think of what it reminds you of,” he instructs them in Spanish, then rephrases his direction in English.

It’s Green Central’s second year as a Spanish dual-immersion magnet school, a change implemented by the district’s Comprehensive District Design. Because of the redistricting plan, many students transferred to Green Central last year from other schools—and some of them still don’t know each other. For some kids, that adds to first-day nerves.

Carrasco, at the front of the room, readies a YouTube video to show a read-aloud of the book First Day Critter Jittersin which animals share their back-to-school fearsA sloth worries he moves so slowly he won’t get to school on time. A snake can’t figure out how to attach a backpack to his slithery body. A baby kangaroo suffers separation anxiety and doesn’t want to leave the pouch.

The book First Day Critter Jitters sparked giggles and self-reflection among the fourth-graders at Green Central Elementary School in Minneapolis.

The kids giggle along with the book. Carrasco, at the front of the room, laughs along with them. In the end, the snake helps the sloth get to school, and the sloth helps the snake with his backpack.

Carrasco asks the class to share reflections with a partner, then the rest of the class. He models the exercise: “This book made me think about the different animals and their different attributes,” he says. “And it was kind of funny.”

“Kind of?” interjects a child.

One fourth-grader shares that she saw a sloth at the Como Zoo. Another says he feels like a combination of the energetic bunny and the bear who didn’t want to get out of bed.

“I wanted to stay home,” he explains. “But I was also really excited.”

Another child says she appreciates how the sloth and snake helped each other at the end.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of you help one another today,” Carrasco says. “The book reminds me of that, too.”

The fourth-graders return to their desks for an important art project: They must draw the name card that will mark their lockers all year. Carrasco tells them, in English and Spanish, to draw something that represents them: a cat, say, or a soccer ball. One girl draws purple donuts. Fruity Pebbles Donuts are her favorites, she explains.

Ian Caballero Rubio, 9, colors spirals with a chain of markers stacked on top of each other. He was nervous to come back, he says. “Half of the people that are in this class, I don’t know,” he explains.

Ian Caballero Rubio, 9, colors spirals with a chain of markers stacked on top of each other. He was nervous to come back, he says. “Half of the people that are in this class, I don’t know,” he explains.

That’s because of last year’s redistricting changes. He’s attended Green Central since before the redistricting switchup. But last year, some of his classmates left, while others came in from different schools.

“I was kind of like the kangaroo,” he explains. “Because he didn’t want to leave from his pouch.”

But Ian is glad he left the pouch, he says. His teacher, Carrasco, is nice. He’s looking forward to learning division. And even though it can be intimidating not to know everyone, he’s looking forward to making new friends.

In fact, he says, he’s done it before. One of last year’s transfer students became his best friend.

🟥 BACK TO SCHOOL

Becky Z. Dernbach is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.