Wednesday, May 21, 2008

sapster emergent

The days are waning. I keep changing the countdown on the whiteboard. I am dreading that last day, I'm dreading the last time I'll ever see them again. Every June is going to be emotional for me, as I say "I won't forget you" and mean it, but do they hear it? On Monday, Rick was talking about how I'll just forget them as soon as I touch down in New York. Can I blame myself for his callousness? For his unwillingness to believe that people do care about his well-being? I go out of my way to express my concern for them on the daily, but how long does it take to unlearn a life where care is not a par for the course?

This has been a really difficult week. The community is so upset by the loss of a student in a horrible accident over last weekend. I have been oscillating between just carrying on, hoping that the focus on work might take their mind off of loss for just a moment, and wanting to talk about how they feel, where they're at. I'm baffled and amazed when they connect their feelings to a book we read in February ("remember, in Bang, how each family member deals with the loss of Jason in a different way? that's kind of how it is. some people are crying, some people are silent, some don't know how to react, so they don't. some lash out." says Lakendra).

In my homeroom, two of the usual suspects chose a very immature way to respond to Eberardo's death. But as we just wrote about last week, when responding to Persepolis, sometimes people also use humor to get themselves through times of crisis. A student pointed out this connection to the class, as well. When it feels like their reaction may be inappropriate to some people, I was pleading with them to have compassion for their classmates, to help them to become better people. I watched the tears form in Destinee's eyes when I said it.

I know that every class of students that I have is going to be special and unique. I know, too, that I will find patterns of behaviors as I meet new students. "I have another Angus in my class", I'll write to Mrs. K and say. But this is my first class of kids. My heart isn't being worn on my sleeve, I've fully taken it out of my body and put it in their hands this year. This is a dangerous way to teach, for my own personal well-being. It takes so much energy, I find myself exhausted and needing to be taking 3 hour naps every afternoon. I need to dig deeper into myself to find the energy for next year, because it will be even more challenging.

There is no other way for me to approach my students, though. I did not want to go to the memorial service, but I need to support them. I need to show them how much I care, even if they continue to question my intentions. I can never aim to "fix" them, but to show them respect and support in their endeavors. I have learned so much from them this year and have been blessed that they have let me into their lives, both in and out of school.

They have made contact with me, and if they thought it was going to be a brief encounter, they are mistaken. I will miss them so much, but hope that they'll come back to update me on their growth.



Sunday, May 18, 2008

10 days left...

If I happened to be Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I would start writing the book "One Hundred Years of Solitude" on a day like today. It's one of those days when the wind just breathes change into your life. The weather can only be described as brewing; it's Michigan so you have no idea what to expect. Bring a sweatshirt, an umbrella and a tanktop, just in case. Suddenly, you wake up from ridiculous dreams and feel that you have become a new person. You rise ready for the work you are to undertake. Obstacles that seemed to threaten your well-being yesterday seem to be miniscule and obsolete. Each thing you do seems well-timed, appropriate and urgent.

I only have 10 days of school left with my kids. It makes me want to cry, and I already have. During 6th hour, after they've left the room and she is off on an errand, running off photocopies. I think about how much we've done together this year, and how I am probably the only one romanticizing it this way. The personal successes that so many of my students have had, whether it's jumping two or three grade levels in reading comprehension, more organized and fluid writing, or beginning to discover their voice in their writing. They are getting sad about the end of the year, but they are thinking more of the social aspects of 8th grade than romanticizing all of the work we did in class. Still, under the restrictions that I've dealt with, I believe that I have brought something to the table this year. I didn't get to do nearly enough poetry, I didn't get to run my zine unit. I'm hoping to test run that unit this summer, and boy do I have a lot of planning to do for the fall.

But somehow, after a night of celebration and karaoke, I woke up this morning completely lucid. Got breakfast with Brandon and Audry. Returned home to clean and plan. I'm teaching a poem about Ellis Island, so I'm trying to figure out how to structure an environment in the classroom where the students understand what happened there. I keep tossing around all sorts of ideas. Have yet to nail something down, but I'm feeling crafty and creative. The assistant superintendent of DPS will be stopping by to watch me teach tomorrow, so it's gotta be good.

Hope all is well in your world. I'm curious what's brewing in the clouds over you.