Wednesday, January 13, 2010


If someone had asked me at 10:00 this morning whether I would be teaching at the same school--even in the same district, or maybe even teaching at all--at this point next year, my answer would have been a resounding hell no. Somehow the combination of bureaucratic morning meetings, stupid gossip, and rumors about things to (possibly) come put me in a pretty foul grump. Not helped at all, of course, by the idea of trying to muster up the patience and general good cheer necessary to redirect, prod, and excite a classroom full of hooligans. Lovable hooligans, of course, but certainly hooligans that take a lot of energy.

By 6th period, though--the most hooligany of the whole lot--I was feeling much better. If you'd asked me then whether I'd be back for more next year, my answer would have been more optimistic.

What changed? A few things that I want to hold onto for future bleak moments.

First of all, my journal. When I realized that I was reading the same sentence over and over and over, I put aside the papers I was trying to grade and took out my journal which, for some reason, I'd put in my backpack this morning. I wrote down my grumpiness and got it out of my mind. I drew a line between bureaucratic bullshit and my students, and decided that I wouldn't let my feelings about the system bleed over into my feelings about my students. Just writing it down helped dispel my grump.

Second, my students. Rather than dwell on what's wrong with school, I decided to spend the day reveling in my kiddos--the fiction they're writing, the huge amounts of creativity and enthusiasm they have, their crazy immature antics...everything. Each period, I made a goal that I would talk to at least one kid who usually escapes my notice. That meant that in some classes, I singled out a shy kid--you know, one of those who always gets their work done and never causes problems so goes largely unnoticed. Sometimes, it was one of the punk kids who I usually talk to when I'm annoyed (and thus don't necessarily have the best relationship with). Some classes it was just whoever seemed to be staring off into space while everyone else wrote. No matter what, though, today I just tried to talk to kids, be excited with them about their stories, be human with them.

Third, I started reading Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes. It's a story about a bunch of kids that society has given up on, but who have a teacher who lets them shine. Not necessarily in class, but he provides the space for them to figure out who they are and be recognized for the talents they bring to the world. It was a good reminder that the impact that a teacher can have isn't necessarily found in the classroom or the curriculum. That was big for me, since I've been feeling particularly unenthused about curriculum lately.

And by the end of the day, I remembered that I love kids. It suddenly made sense what some teachers say, that they hate the system but stay in it for the kids. I don't know if that's necessarily the tack I want to take, ultimately, but for now it gives me something to hold onto. This school may be broken, but my kiddos deserve the best I can give them.

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