Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Why I Can't Hate My Job.

At this point I feel like I’ve told last Thursday’s assault story to everyone but my mother (she’d flip out and worry herself to death) and I’m right in the crunch-time of grading for tomorrow’s report card deadline, my classroom’s sink is clogged with gum, and half the phone calls I tried to make to parents this afternoon were dialed to disconnected phones.

After I met with my Department of Education assigned mentor today I took a moment to ask myself: Why? Why on earth am I doing this? It wasn’t a crisis of doubt, but wonder at how I’ve survived almost two months as a teacher in a Brooklyn school full of emotionally disturbed high school students. There has to be some reason I haven’t run screaming, and here I am wondering how hard it would be to set up a field trip for my kids…just to go anywhere except staying in that claustrophobic classroom all day.

I realized, today, as Lavinia and Marvin stayed after to make up some missing work before the marking period ends that I love these kids. It broadsided me, and I don’t know what to do about it.

Marvin, who drinks Vault energy drinks and literally bounces around my room, but nonetheless does the best he can on assignment. His mother cried when I called to tell her Melvin made “Student of the Month” in September.

Lavinia “the Diva,” who can change from a gutter-language trull in public, to a thoughtful, hardworking young lady when it’s one-on-one. This afternoon she changed her Biology grade from failing to passing by really buckling down and getting some work done. And even though she’s failing her other classes, I’ve learned (and she has learned) that she is completely able to get the work done.

David, even though he can turn on a dime. He has the highest grades in the class, and is never modest, but earns the ire of other students with his bragging. It’s like he can’t stop from pointing out his “highest grade on the test” even though he knows it will most likely end with a book thrown at him. As a teacher, I feel like my sole job is to validate his worth with grades.

Pamela, who shouldn’t even be in my class…the social hermit and, I speculate, learning disabled. She gets the brunt of class harassment, and I feel like I do more harm than good when I admonish those picking on her. But she has a wonderful smile, when she smiles. Only, I get a little freaked out when she mimes blowing people away with an invisible shotgun. Pamela also loves to dance (when she thinks no one is looking) and go “Meep beep” like road runner. I love her, because I could not make this stuff up.

Derek, who has the neatest handwriting I’ve seen from any student, and only comes to class once a week. I’ll never know why he screams out loud, wordless roars in class, but it certainly expresses how I feel sometimes.

And Ron, who is the smartass of my classroom. And also the most frightened of the school he’s in. And also the most brilliant writer. And also the most terrible bully to Pamela. And also the most “normal” of my group, if it weren’t for his anxieties about school, he could be in any normal high school…harassing less-fortunates elsewhere.

I work in a blissful chaos, and I next-to-never get through a whole lesson. People pouring through my doors is a constant distraction, as are the students standing on/laying on/throwing desks and fighting. But, I come back. Everyday, I return to the scene of the crime and to familiar faces: “Good morning, Miss,” on the lips of my early students. I go back, even on the bad days, and even after bad days.

Today, was a good day. Tomorrow, who knows?


Anonymous nyc educator said...

I give you a lot of credit for teaching special ed. I did it one year, and was awful at it.

I couldn't do what you do.

Thursday, October 26, 2006 4:59:00 PM  

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