Orleans Parish Prison - Johnny Cash
We are getting down to the wire....so close, and yet.....
This morning, the day started off rough. Lots of my students suffer from anger management problems, and I suffer from a lot of stress and a lack of ability to separate my emotions from their actions. This leads to me having my feelings hurt by a sense of failure, inadequacy or just plainly feeling attacked. Sometimes, the pain I feel very early in the morning means that I am more on edge, and therefore, the situation just gets worse. Other times, I am able to not take it personally and laugh about all the horribly mean things that are said to me, overtly or under breath.
This morning it was rainy and grey and humid and the sounds of the train and cars and the smell of concrete was so pervasive I had a hard time stepping out of the moment. So, at one point, when I was upset and overwhelmed, I took a moment and stared out the old windows of my classroom, through the foggy panes, out into the scraggly trees that grow out of the community garden plot across the street. The garden is fenced in and locked: no one really gardens there. It is overgrown, weedy, and populated with old, plastic playground furniture. There is a vigilant stand of Swiss Chard that grows in a neat row along the front of the fence. The windows are covered with steel grates, the panes are thin and the casements are cracking and worn from age. I wonder what colour they used to be? Now they look like the surface of the Moon.
I stood there for a second, tears in my eyes, wondering if I could really do this, even for 22 more days. And I realized that I can do anything for 22 days, especially if I have already done it for about 180 days. But there are moments when it is really hard, and I want to walk out, or better yet, have them see me, and change. But in that place, in my heart, lies arrogance. They should not do anything that I want them to, the only hope is if they want to, in themselves.
One of my favorite students was suspended today. She and I battled tooth and nail at the beginning of the school year: I probably wrote about her many months ago. She told me she didn't like me and didn't have to respect me or listen to me because I was new. Now, we get along really well and she helps me every day in class. She was suspended for being rude to a teacher several times. Downstairs, near the front door, at the top of the basement stairs, she stood with her back against the wall, sobbing her eyes out at being suspended. I talked to her for a bit, told her that she was a good person, and that this was all learning and that when she learns this, she won't have to repeat it, she won't be suspended again. I made her look me in the eyes so that I could tell her that it will get better. I held her hand and told her I would see her on Thursday.
Earlier today, a group of boys in one of the classes asked if they could come to my room at lunch. I told them no at least three times, but eventually, I was convinced. Only two or three asked me, I am sure, but when I looked up as they came in, I realized that all the boys from that class had come up. There were about ten of them, and they all sat down and ate lunch and we talked and they made jokes and we had a really good time. One sat and read his book, another asked me about space, another told me stories about going to parties, and the majority of them just talked to each other. At the end of lunch, they moved the tables around to create some space so that they could play a ballgame, and spent about fifteen minutes tossing a tiny basketball back and forth to each other while hopping as far as they could in the air.
1. Design projects that challenge children to use their imaginations. Most of these students do not trust their imaginations and it is a beautiful thing to watch that trust in themselves begin to build by designing space stations.
2. Rainy days with all the windows open.
3. Lunch with students --- seeing them in a different light is a good thing.
4. Remembering, in many instances throughout the day, why I really love working with students.
5. Teaching about the Milky Way Galaxy and having every class answer, "YES!" when I asked if they wanted to watch the BrainPOP! about "Black Holes". That, and playing around on Galaxy Zoo, and classifying galaxies with them.