A Vulnerable Time in School

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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. 

I Won’t be Going “Back to School” in the Fall

        insprie teacher change     For the first time in 28 years, I won’t be going “back to school” in the fall. I need to take some time off to recover from an annoying injury, and I plan to return in the spring session.

To say I am disappointed is very true. This is the first time in my working life–going back to 1969!–I had to say, I cannot do this right now. Not there anyway, with the mile long parking lots and the super long walks to the classes. Not yet.

 I love teaching, and I will miss it a lot this fall term. 

So… if you hear my brains rattling or if you hear some whimpering on my part, give me a nudge and remind me there might be life outside of teaching.

Or just tell me to get to work getting better.

 

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. 🙂

Changing Seasons Type of Day

img_2303  Trying this blog entry from my cell phone–that’s risky! I am outside and just do not want to go INSIDE and log onto a computer… 

What an odd day, a day mixed with joy and sadness. 630 AM—still dark—road closed ten seconds before the intersection where I turn to get to work and a truck started pouring hot tar in two lanes. Semi ahead of me kept knocking down tree branches (too big for the small amount of the lane still open) and construction cones. I had to get out of the car in the dark to move the cones, but finally a construction worker let me through.

11 hours of work (part time !) Some middle school kids on the college campus today. So cute. So loud. Sipping their pumpkin spice sugared drinks waiting for the presentation they were here for.

Some students asked if I could teach them next term.

Drove home in the dark.

Sad loved one’s health news.

Two more poetry rejections.

Glad I’m part time. This won’t happen often. To work in the dark. Home in the dark.

Glad for modern medicine which may help family member.

And frogs! I’m sitting outside in the dark with my trusty tennis racquet (you know… in case of critters) and with a spotlight hearing LOUD FROGS. It’s that warm now!?!??!! Wind blowing off so many remaining leaves.

Love hearing those frogs. Thought I’d not hear them for months, until spring.

Truly a changing season type of day.

(Picture taken with my little camera phone while sitting in the dark, soft rain… back flashlight light on the bush. I’m such an adventurer.)

Thanks for reading; may your seasonal changing days change well, with kindness and hope.

Adult Literacy Training Completed & I Meet My Student Friday!

SMALL HEART BOOKS POETRY     There is very little dearer to my heart and mind than literacy in its many forms;  expression and communication across the miles and years is nearly miraculous, in my opinion.  I cannot say if I love reading or writing more, for I spend so much of my life reading and writing!  If I am not reading or writing, I am often thinking IN WORDS… and thinking about reading and writing. I teach reading and writing.  I practice reading and writing. My hobbies include READING AND WRITING.

I go to book discussions. I take literature classes.  I write poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.  I take creative writing classes.  I submit poetry and fiction for publication, and SOME RARE TIMES I get published.

I’m rather boring, aren’t I?  I am so much about reading and writing.

I’ve seen firsthand how literacy can improve and even save lives.  That’s how strongly I believe in the importance of literacy.

My own personal literacy story is still to come, but I will say I am one who was probably saved from a miserable life partly by the ability to read and write well.  (Then there is also the out of control work ethic and stubbornness, but those are stories for later as well.)

This Friday, after completing the second full day of training, I meet the student I will be working with for at least the next six months.    I have come full circle, since decades ago I was an adult literacy tutor through Laubach Literacy International, now merged with Literacy Volunteers to become ProLiteracy.

Here is a link to a great article, “Adult Education Helps Break the Cycle of Poverty,” published by ProLiteracy: click here.

The article points out that:

The value of adult literacy to our economy is estimated at more than $200 billion per year in additional wages and reduced costs for public support programs. Educating adults is a sound investment. Yet, public funding for adult education programs has declined over the past 15 years despite most adult education programs having long student waiting lists. Programs can only serve a fraction of the adults who need services.

Indeed, my student has been waiting nearly a year for a tutor, and some students have been waiting longer than that.  So many more trained literacy tutors are needed!

I’m excited, and I hope I can help my student reach her literacy goals; I know I will sure try hard!

Now I need to get back to preparing lessons for my college teaching job–teaching College Reading. Are you surprised?

Thank you for reading.

 

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.

Off to Start a New College Term

And off to meet the students. I love teaching. Always an exciting day! I teach developmental English at the community college, and I love it. I believe strongly in the mission of our community colleges, and view them as great institutions.

Oh– and a picture from a nature walk the other day.

Wish me luck, and thanks for reading.

From my phone.

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.

 

 

Back to School, Educators?

Wishing all educators returning to school this week all the best! 👍🍀❤️.

For those not returning? 👍🍀❤️.

For adjuncts not knowing if we will have a paycheck or not but still need to prep? 😱

🙂

I love y’all !