Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Day of Backhanded Compliments

Sometimes, in my world, there are days where I struggle to figure out why I am still in education.  I am working to bring the subtle nuances of the 95 Theses to life.  The fact that Luther was trying to reach out and make his Church a better place and instead he found himself a  heretic and an outlaw (and a jerkface), surrounded by princes ready to throw off the suppression of the Church that apparently surrounded them.  My kids can't read at a level to understand this information, much less pick up those subtleties, so I must bring it to life through the shenanigans of my direct instruction. From there, they can build upon it for the project for that unit.  I am focusing on the past and trying to bring the world of the written word to their present.  And some days I realize that there is so much more than writing a proper essay, learning to annotate the articles that I am giving them each class to allow them to practice this reading thing.  Some days, I realize that I have to change my expectations for success.  

And today, I think I saw that success.  I think I saw the reasons why I am still here.  

It was a day of very back handed compliments.  In this day and age of John Q. Public telling me that I am lazy because I only work 10 months out of the year or until 3:45pm...nevermind that I left closer to 6pm as did many of my coworkers (but that is a detail that the Publics seem to miss out on). 

Anyway,  the first in this list of weird praise, was from a student known as Chicken. 

I have never heard of him, noticed him or truly realized how funny my kids are about their "government names".  And there he was. All of the sudden he was in my class o' repeater freshmen in my sophomore history class.  Chicken was in shock that my class was so quiet AND full of kids.  He walked, spilled some surprised terms of shock because my kids were in my class and working into out sanctuary of learning.  "You must be da best teacher in dis building.  I ain't never seen such a good class in this whole ____building.  You da bomb diggity b---- of all dese teachers. Carry on." And just like that this phantom student was gone.  I have no idea who he is. He prompted quite a bit of conversation after he left and back we went to the burning of Wycliffe and the Council of Constance.  

Makes for a good story.

A boy in that same class came to me in tears- while I am trying to make it through this lesson.  He probably won't be back.  His PO was upset with him, and like usual in these discussions, he had no idea why.  His original arrest was nothing to be sneezed at, strong armed robbery.  But here, in front of me was the kid, no longer a hard nose thug wanna be, scared to death, coming to me.  That goes beyond my academics and brings me into their world.  We'll see if he is there tomorrow. This is the world they live in. I need to remember that.

However, the best conversation of that class did not involve Chicken or his government name or a kid's need for support while he was scared to death. It was from one of the few non-repeaters in that class,  who has decided that I am now her mom.  Clearly, I have four kids, I truly have no need for more.  But, when a student looks at you and informs you that you handle things like a TV mom...and by the way, is it okay if one more kid calls me makes your heart melt.  Take that Phylicia Rashad!  I am the real TV mom here.

Norman Rockwell has nothing on my classroom.

From there you get to lunch, working with one of my moms-to-be.  Collaborative Planning where you never know what might happen when you have a group of social studies teachers together and finally, you arrive at my Psych class.  We are just talking about the brain.  Not necessarily the most exciting.  But, you have to make it happen, you make it creative.  You should see me - my song and dance.  Out of now where, one of my sleepy heads was wide awake and involved.  Weird! There are med issues that make it impossible for him to stay awake through the last class of the day.  Today, there he was.  It made my day.  

I think we were talking about epinephrine and nor epinephrine and how they differ...he raised his hand.  "H____, do you practice this stuff at home?"  I looked and him and snickered a bit under my breath (Shah, with all that laundry sitting in my living room...clearly I have enough time to rehearse), before I asked what in the world he was referring to.  "You are a fun teacher to listen to. I thought that teachers like that were only in the movies."  It made us all enjoy the afternoon.  Bad Teacher (which I have yet to see) references were flung around, thanks to my husband's last name and jokes went from there. I am a clown.  I put on a show,  and apparently it is worth it.

My afternoon was wrapped up with my boys at Chess practice, my girls watching Frozen on my whiteboard, while my hubby and I quietly discussed where to send our oldest next year...with more of my kids working on their tests.  And the conversations in that room, reminded me that I am so much more than a teacher.

Today reminded me that we are here for than Common Core and improved MAP scores and increased attendance and decreased tardies.  

We are here to be the bringers of change - even when people are shocked.  We are here to be confidants for kids who feel they have no one to turn one who will judge them and just BE there, even when everyone else is judging them.  We are here to be parents, even when the kids have some at home - or don't.  We are here to be entertainers, some of them will never see live vaudevillian type action. 

We are so much more than what the world realizes.  I need to embrace that.  We as educators, especially urban educators, need to embrace that.  You as the community need to embrace that as well.  It takes a village to raise a child, sometimes we just wear 15 hats at once.  And that is what you do.  

We are more than those test scores.  We are more than the data shows.  If we were teaching robots, that would be different.  We are teaching kids - and we start where they are and we build up from there.  Judge us, blame us for what you will.  However, might I suggest you walk a mile in our shoes.  Volunteer in your local high school.  Get to know us as teachers.  Get to know our kids.  They are broken and bruised.  They are also beautiful and inspiring.  We cannot control where they have been, only take them by the hand a lead them from there.

Please realize we come in early and we stay late. We work through lunch and on our time after school and after we put our muppets to bed.

I will take these backhanded compliments that I got today.  It helps to get through the days where nothing goes right and no one can see that you are busting your arse to make the world better simply because you are in it.

Enjoy your Friday.  Check on those FFs.  Be comfortable with where you fit in this puzzle we call life.  Someone will always think they fit better in your spot, but know that no one can take that from you. 
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