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Guest Blog Post – Reflecting on Dia de Los Muertos

Throughout this school year, we will feature guest bloggers to share different perspectives on or experiences with boys education on our Head of School blog. Our next guest blogger is Francy Mitchell, Regis' 5th & 6th Grade English Language Arts Teacher. As Nov. 2 recently passed, Francy reflects on Dia de Los Muertos and the memory of those who have gone before us.

Regis Instructor, Francy Mitchell' Parents with her younger brother

Francy's parents with her
younger brother

We value joy, but during his ministry, Christ also taught His disciples and followers to value suffering during a time when Christians were relentlessly persecuted in ancient Rome.  In Romans 5: 3-4, Christ tells us to rejoice in suffering, “… because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” 

Dia de Los Muertos is a joyful time for me because I no longer view suffering as painful. I view suffering as a part of life that happens in God’s timing, as a growth opportunity to become spiritually aware, and as a reminder to live and love fully. For those in our community who have lost a loved one, the poignant memories that seem so jarring now can transform into something unexpectedly beautiful. Let me share with you how this has worked in my life.

Growing up, the dearest and most spirited soul near me was my father, and out of my immediate family, he was the first to pass. As a little girl, my happiest moments included waking up to his homemade bread or taking trips together to the farmers market where he would discuss the importance of fresh produce. When I view the soft bread offering on the Dia de Los Muertos altar, I remember how my father’s passion for cooking and baking has now been passed on to my two daughters, Ireland and Ava. From time to time, I discuss healthy eating with my students for learning cannot take place without eating nutritious foods. It is true that my mortal father was not there to witness my daughters’ births or read to them when they were little, but his spirit and love for food lives in me and through me.

I am drawn to the green objects on the altar because they remind me of my father’s long legs running on the fresh-cut grass in our neighborhood park. My father could dribble a soccer ball so quickly and effortlessly down a field that he often left my three older brothers and me in the dust. Physical exercise was something my father stressed in daily life and to this day, I still use my “tomboy energy” to rally my girls to go on a hike or a long walk. I want my girls to see their mother healthy and engaged in life which is why I used to help assist my daughters’ soccer practices and games with warm-ups or conditioning exercises on the Duchesne field. The very first time I stepped onto the Regis campus, I watched the boys play, and I immediately fell in love with the place. It is the same reason, from time to time at 7:30AM, you will find me in the gym playing basketball alongside the boys. My father’s ageless love for sports and play allows me to engage in valuable ways with the Regis community.

The altar brings to mind so many sounds, such as the crunching of snow underneath my little feet. I can still hear my father’s wild laughter as I would hurl my pint-size body behind a rock in the woods so I could dodge his snowballs. My father’s sense of adventure came alive during family road trips which is why I enjoy traveling and spontaneously taking the girls out of town. I try to bring the same sense of adventure into the classroom, so the boys know that success and failure go hand-in-hand and that one cannot know success until one experiences some kind of failure. It is important for students to try new activities and to step out of their comfort zone. My father taught me that it is the ability to step out and explore that leads to self-discovery and clarity which is something I try to emphasize with my students.
When I touch the colored, perforated paper on the altar, it reminds me of the books my father would bring home after work. I remember hating school because reading was not easy. I grew up surrounded by many languages, so my father decided I should read to him every night. When I stumbled upon a difficult word, he would point to the big, fat dictionary on the coffee table without saying a word. This was his way of teaching me the importance of self-advocacy and resilience. Each time I reached for that dictionary; I chose to continue to learn. I chose not to give up on myself. I chose to get better. It worked. This is the passion that I bring to my girls and to a community like Regis. It is the same passion that has helped me excel at teaching. I want my students to know the value of learning and resilience when something doesn’t come easily to them.

Of course, like waves, suffering continues in all of our lives, but Christ teaches us that there is sweetness, hope, light, and more love to be had with each and every step.

Bio: Francy Mitchell teaches 5th and 6th grade English Language Arts at Regis. This is Francy’s first year at the school. Francy attended U.C. Berkeley and earned a bachelor’s in English Literature, then went on to receive her Master’s Degree in English Litearture at Houston Baptist University. Prior to becoming a Regis Knight, Francy taught Social Studies with a focus on writing and reading, Study Skills, and Core Movement & Breathing at River Oaks Baptist School. Francy is also a certified fitness instructor, yoga trainer, flexibility coach, behavioral specialist and Neuhaus literacy tutor. She is originally from Tucson, Arizona but grew up in Phoenix, AZ and Sausalito, CA.