Rana’s New School

It’s back-to-school time everywhere for kids of all ages and even for a certain frog puppet I know and love named Rana.

My puppet Rana, excited about entering a new school this week

For several years Rana attended — well, entertained the youngest Mexican children at — a little after-school English-language school program in the Guadalupe neighborhood here in San Miguel de Allende. Sadly, that school has since closed.

So this week Rana entered a new (for her) school, where she was welcomed by a lively and receptive group of eight-to-ten-year-olds whose English-language skills were already impressive.

Rana and I with some of the kids in her class
Rana and I at the white board

From a worksheet handed out to all, Rana introduced herself and shared with the children her purpose, asking them to repeat each of her lines:

Frogs are FUN!

I am one.

I am a Frog Queen.

I have a kingdom!

I am a GOOD queen.

I love children.

I am a teacher, too.

And today I will teach you:


From this point, she asked the kids to each hold up an item and ask her in English, “What is this?” as if this were an exercise in “stump the frog.”

One boy held up his pencil. “I know what that is!” Rana enthused. “That is a PENCIL. Everybody repeat after me: ‘That is a pencil.’” And so on, around the room, with the kids holding up pictures of things or pointing to their clothing or shoes.

When Rana got tired and had to rest (teaching takes a lot out of a frog), I answered the children’s questions about my own life and my love of puppets.

I explained, in slow English, that I’d lived in Africa for almost nine years. (I drew a map of the continent of Africa on the white board and indicated the three African countries where I’d lived for several years.) I told them that while in the Peace Corps (I explained what the Peace Corps is) in French-speaking Gabon, Central Africa, I taught health and nutrition to mothers and children.

“I used handmade puppets to teach the Gabonese children health lessons through songs. Would you like to learn one of the songs I taught them?”

These attentive Mexican children nodded, wide-eyed.

“Okay! Sing along with me:

Pour avoir la bonne santé [to have good health],

Lavez les mains [wash your hands]

A l’eau et au savon! [with water and soap].”

(And they thought they were there to learn English!)

With my puppet Chantal Chanson in the Peace Corps in Gabon (circa 1997). Chantal taught the children the “Lavez les mains” song.

Then one of the Mexican children asked what I had liked about living in Africa.

“Many things,” I said, “but mostly the people. The Africans I came to know were not at all rich in dinero but they were immensely rich in their hearts and in their spirits. Very kind and generous people.” So much like Mexicans, I wanted to add, and so unlike too many financially well-off Americans I’ve known.

The kids continued asking me questions while Rana snoozed. My heart danced. This is the purpose of education, I thought to myself: to inspire curiosity, to foster questioning, to reward our students’ quest for answers — or at least to try.

14 thoughts on “Rana’s New School”

    1. Thanks, Toni. Yes, hold on to a few dramatic items when you see them. But I’m not desperate for material at the moment. I have buckets of puppet-making stuff already.

  1. Well, isn’t that a lovely story! You are a born teacher. I wish I had had you and your puppets in the first grade. Loved the Gabon picture.

    1. Thanks, Helaine! I have dim memories of grammar school assemblies when they showcased puppets and puppeteers. I think that’s when I first fell under the spell of puppets — and that was about a hundred years ago! 🙂

  2. Dear Bon,

    That is so beautiful. It makes me so proud that you are doing such wonderful work and showing others that Americans are not all mean-spirited. The frog is adorable!
    And so are you!


  3. Oh Bonnie, you always continue to inspire. You are a model WOW woman, always growing, learning and giving. The children are so lucky to have you in the lives- as are all of your readers.

    Barbara Allen

    1. Dear Barbara — I feel I should embroider your sweet words, frame them, and look at them whenever I feel discouraged (which is frequently)! 🙂 Thank you so much. Abrazos, BB

  4. So much better than Rana’s visit with the 1st and 2nd graders last winter. Beautifully described. I felt like I was there!

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