Yesterday marked the end of my first 9 weeks of teaching, which means I am now 25% finished with the school year! The next 9 weeks should be a bit easier with Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays breaking it up. It has gone by so quickly, yet as I reflect on it, I have come so far.
The first thing that I have realized is that I really need to give myself a break. I am still very green. However, I have had reasonable success with these kids, both academically and personally. I was just speaking with my mom (who, along with my sister are the most devoted members of the MizNilknarf Fan Club) about how sometimes I wonder what it would be like to work with a different population. What would it be like to assign elaborate projects and know they would actually do them? What would it be like to have a group of eager young minds who all want to get into the best colleges? Then I realized that I went into teaching for reasons beyond my love of English. There was a human component that I wanted to have an impact on. I am not just interested in helping my kids to be successful readers and writers. I want to help them understand their potential, recognize their self-worth, help them survive. No one is a social worker for ten years who doesn't have a little bit of the "save the world" mentality.
Something happened to me this week that gets to the heart of why I teach and why I believe the Universe put me at this school, with these students. I have a group of girls who come see me regularly for study hall. These girls are not my best behaved, nor are they my best students, but for some reason, they have really connected with me. One of them had surgery last weekend and I called to check up on her. Her mother told me, "I am so happy you called! She has been waiting to hear from you! I have never heard her talk about a teacher the way she talks about you!" WOW! Ok, so that was encouraging.
What happened next, however, reached me in a totally different way. A different girl from that group was in my study hall on Wednesday when I noticed an injury. Out of respect for her privacy, I will not go into detail, however it was made clear that this injury was inflicted by a parent in retaliation for the girl's "disrespectful behavior". I had to explain to this poor child that no matter what she did, it is not acceptable for her parents to hurt her. This was apparently a foreign concept to her. I am what is called a "Mandatory Reporter"--meaning, if someone tells me something like that I am legally bound to report it immediately. I went to an administrator, then to guidance. The girl was furious and attempted to recant her story. I knew she was just scared. I was worried of the repercussions for this girl at home, and on a smaller scale, what this would do to our relationship. I did not want her to feel betrayed. I saw her the next day and it was business as usual. We both knew what happened, but beyond that, she now knows that I care and I see her as a person of value. She's not a great student and I have to fuss at her in class. I've even had to remove her from class. Yet, she still comes to see me. She still wants to be around me. What is that all about?
Its why I am there. Because for every ungrateful little monster, who makes my life miserable, who doesn't seem to care, who is going to fight me every step of the way, there is a child inside who wants to feel loved and valued and is trying to figure it all out. Far beyond the lesson plans I spend hours on that may or may not have any impact, I am there to teach life lessons. In some cases, I may be the only one--and that is why I can't see myself working with a different population.