A Vulnerable Time in School

teach

From five years ago, during the first week back to school, when I taught high school English:

This is a vulnerable time in school. Just getting to know the kids. Some are openly sad. Some are tense and silent. Some are exuberant and happy teens– some with confidence and lots of humor.

Many are vulnerable. They are testing. They are revealing bits. Dropping hints.

I’ve tried to remember not to judge a kid by outward appearances. Arms folded. Lack of eye contact. An angry look. A large young male student. Wait. Wait. He’s older. Three years older. He needs only this class to graduate. He’s embarrassed to be older. A smile today. I get it. I get it I told him. They are kids and you are legally an adult. Be their big brother. Just do the work. Let’s get you graduated.

A smile today.

A vulnerable time. Tender sensibilities. Oh I hope I don’t blow it, kids. You are precious.

And now, five years later, I realize that all the weeks, all the days are vulnerable ones in school.  May we educators always remember that, and treat our students as the precious persons they are. 

Flowers and Failures/ Roses and Graffiti… This is Teaching

From three years ago, when I returned from sick leave at the end of the year. Please excuse the typos– I had hand surgery.

And today was a day of grace in teaching; we dared to say, we missed each other, the students and I. I said it first…but…heads popped in, SHE’S BACK~! I am doing SO WELL I almost felt like a fraud…being gone 2 1/2 weeks and coming back WITHOUT the brace I’ve been wearing all year and without the stitches.

I’m under no illusion that peers are paramount to sophomores; however, I am under no illusion that truly this was a day of love.

We missed you. I missed you guys. Whose birthdays did I miss? How was the test you just took?

And these flowers and the balloon. NO NOTE.. Just sitting on my desk, from two young ladies…not the best students. In fact, one very BELLIGERENT young lady who cost me “check marks” on my evaluation. My boss asked, do you now who those are from? No, I said. And then she told me and we both wondered, since this young lady had a dean in all her classes last year. She has lots of zeros and is currently failing the class, but usually manages to JUST PASS. I support her Latina leadership activities–the car washes, the dances, the study groups. Keep the ticket, I always tell her. I cannot make it. Go ahead and sell it again. And she does. I see her do it.

A few of the truly rowdiest kids from last year’s CRAZY 8’S stopped by. They thought I had retired without saying good bye. They asked if they were the reason I was retiring and I told them… I wrote a blog about you all. Remember the day _____ was crying and you all helped him? You all made sure no one made fun of him, you protected him, you were kind and funny and good? Yes, they said, we remember. Well, I told these two lads, I wrote a blog and I borrowed the quote I STAND UP FOR YOU.

Can we see it, they asked? No, I said. My creative writing is personal, but I want you to know that I got it. I knew that last period of the day was not a good time for 30+ boys in a hot classroom reading LOTF or Les MIs or… Macbeth.

And then I am under no illusion that they are part kids. A young lady pointed out that the sub didn’t notice THERE IS A BOOK OR A PART OF THE BOOK ON THE PROJECTOR FOR THE SMART BOARD AND THERE IS A FUNNY BANANA BACK THERE! BACK THERE!!!

Indeed. Some sophomore had ripped Les Miserable in quarter and tagged it up with..um..um… um… male… parts…. in pencil…. showing his / her utter contempt for the novel. I have a feeling I know who did this, but I simply took it down and said I’d be dusting for fingerprints. After one class a young man asked if he would be is super trouble???? Whoever did it?

I don’t know what you are talking about, I said. I don’t see any book up there, do you? Besides, I heard whoever owned that book was going to read most of the parts of Macbeth this week, right? It’s not me, he said, but I’ll read anyway. The girls in the class just winked at me and pointed at the boy….

Roses and graffiti. Flowers and failures.

And most of all, it’s about us, about being a human being during this time of high stakes testing and pressure and CCSS and…yes, dare I use that word?

It’s about loving your students enough to miss them, teach them, honor them, and…dust for fingerprints. 🙂

Day 1 Adult Literacy Training Completed

Fantastic job by Literacy DuPage, part of Pro Literacy America. Professional. Cordial. Encouraging.

One interesting fact that came out is that several of the future tutors wish to tutor to WELCOME immigrants to America. To combat the negativeness of the tone toward immigrants. To let them know we welcome them.

We get matched with a student next week. Then two more training sessions until we are official literacy tutors.

We even get an official tote bag and card to identify ourselves at libraries where we will tutor.

Oh. These are all volunteers.

Well done. Well done. Seeing a positive side of this beloved America. I know there’s greatness there in her people.

More to follow. I’m exhausted!

Thanks for reading.

Cry, Beloved America

img_1024     Many educators become pensive at the end of the summer; as we get ready to return to the classroom, we cannot help but think about how we won’t have much time to actually *think* for months at a time as we enter a whirlwind of teaching activity.  Think now! Think!

This summer I have been thinking about a novel I read long ago, Cry the Beloved Country, a novel published in 1948 and written by Alan Paton. (See more here: Cry the Beloved Country.)

While this novel is a renowned novel about South Africa, the urgency, sadness, and beauty of the country strikes me to this day and the title–Cry, the Beloved Country.  This is how I felt after seeing Spike Lee’s latest movie, The Blackkklansman.  Cry, beloved America. Is there hope for us? Is there? Can we reach across the years and miles and truly love and respect all Americans?

The news from Washington? Cry, cry, beloved America.

And then I think of returning to the classroom next week and I could weep again for other reasons.

I so strongly believe in the power of literacy to improve lives, and I am so very proud to always have been a teacher of literacy in a nation that educates all students. All students.  I am no longer teaching high school, but when I see my class rosters and check into the background of my students I feel very proud, happy, a bit scared, but mostly so very excited to be a reading instructor at the community college level.

My students, as they usually are, will be those for whom English is not a first language, or those whom struggle with reading and writing.

That’s why I am there, to help them. To create lessons that will invite them to the literacy table, a great strong table.

I so desperately believe in the great promise of educating all students and I so strongly feel pride in our community college system.

So come to class students; I am waiting eagerly to meet you and start our literacy journey together.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Teachers: Back to School– Do you know where your students are?

empty desks back to school    I love teaching.  Educators, are you too getting ready for back to school, whether it is back to teaching pre-K or at the university?

I love to see these desks fill up. It’s a great yearly rhythm, a great chance to start over each term, each class.  Who else gets that?

Now, I wish my students would register! We will have a great class together, I promise you. There’s magic in the classroom–let’s find it together.

Thanks for reading.

Link to article about text v. screen reading

                           open-book-library-education-read-159621  As a reading specialist, teacher, and avid reader myself, I am interested     in reading research.   This study shows that students often learn better when they read print v. screen reading materials : Study: text v. screen

For everyday leisure reading, I am fine with a kindle or screen reading. In fact, it’s more convenient so I read MORE. But when I need DEPTH? Then I need paper. Might be true for many others, according to this study.

I am not, in any way, denigrating the power of e-texts to engage us to read. I read so much more now that I can quickly and easily access texts on my Kindle. I am, and my colleagues have been concerned, about the pushing of e-texts in formal education, textbooks on iPads, etc.

What about you?  Do you prefer to read using paper texts or e-texts?