Thursday, April 21, 2011

teacher joy

The past couple weeks have been very full and very up and down at work.
Last week, the day before I left for Seattle, one of my favorite kids freaked-out, which happens from time to time. During the restraint (during which he tried to bite [gotten pretty good at avoiding bites] and managed to dig his fingernails in my arms [just a little blood, not much]) he was able to slam me back into a cabinet. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing typically, except this is one of those open concept cabinets, without any doors, so I hit the edge of one of the shelves with both of our full weight on my tailbone. It’s bruised and hurts to sit. I can restrain just about anyone, so this tells you how strong my little fifth grader is. Flash forward, outside, a block away from the school, (no, he didn’t get out the restraint, the decision was made to end it) on the ground, knees bloody from the side-walk, arms in handcuff’s behind his back, as he fought with the police. The entire thing went on for about an hour. He’s still in the hospital (not the physical injury kind). Let me tell you, Seattle came at the right time for many, many reasons.
Yesterday, my all-time-favorite kid (one of two [losing both to seventh grade next year… gonna be rough]) made my year. He came to me in fourth grade, not able to say the alphabet consistently, not even knowing all his sounds. After three years of fights, arguments, and so much hard work, so much (on my part and his!) he tested out on grade-level! At sixth grade! From kindergarten level in fourth to sixth grade in sixth! Pretty unheard of! None of it is due to my teaching ability, although a lot it due to my behavior (old-fashioned strictness) ability. And, he’s worked his ass off, in this year alone, he made three year’s progress! If I never accomplish anything else in teaching, this alone was worth everything. Outside of managing behavior and anger and emotions in away that allow you to function in everyday life and build genuine relationships, the most important thing you can learn in school is to read. You can do nothing in life (at least easily) without the ability to read. Even if he never progresses past sixth grade level (which he will), you can function pretty easily in the world at that level. Most things aren’t written higher than that anyway. I can not express how proud I am of my little man (who’s bigger than me now, crazy), and even how proud I am of myself. He came to me with every teacher saying that he couldn’t be controlled, that he wasn’t capable of reading. It was so clear to me that it wasn’t about his ability to read (he’s very smart, and no academic disabilities directly related to his capacity to learn), but about his stubbornness and the fact that every other teacher had allowed him to intimidate/charm them into not forcing him to work or learn. Though there were many days both of us were in tears, and days when both of us were so angry at the other we could hardly see straight, we made it through. He was instantly one of those kids, even in fourth grade, that you could see past the bully, see past the refusal to do anything, see past the mean, snake-sly charm and see a beautiful, intelligent, and compassionate human just below the surface. The only thing wrong with him was the laziness and fear of others. Not sure how I’m going to manage without him next year, or his female counter-part, who has the exact opposite demeanor and who truly maybe the most angelic person I’ve ever met—an angel with learning disabilities, she’s a prettier version of Daryl Hannah). So excited for them to go out into this world and discover the joys (and, sadly, the pain) that it offers. So thankful that I’ve had the supreme blessing of having a small part in preparing them for what they have to face.


Avenjer said...

Hey B. You're a fantastic teacher. I wish they were all like you. And I'm glad you're not afraid to tell the truth that there are a lot of uncaring, lazy teachers out there, who just don't care about ALL of the kids. I had to deal with my share of bad teachers in school (I'd say about 75% were horrible and going through the motions until they retire) with only a few teachers who inspired me or made a difference by reaching me. Those I'll never forget. I also have dated a few bad teachers (surprise we broke up) and known a few bad ones. One former friend (who's mother was a teacher) got his degree, got his job as a 7th grade earth science teacher---he went into the first week with an attitude of "I'm going to get the kids to love earth science"----he couldn't even hold that attitude for the full week. By Friday he was ranting to me that he had "had enough! I don't care about those bastards! I only care about the smart ones in the class and the rest can all FAIL!" Needless to say, I was pissed and told him if that was his plan he should quit now and find another career because he was worthless as a teacher. Unfortch, he is still in education but now in charge of regulating testing--Lord help the poor kids in that school. So I salute you for doing all you do every day for the kids who have (up until you) been thrown away. They may not understand now how much you've done for them but, they will someday :)

Cheeseburgers and Pajamas said...

I hope you have a happy Easter!