Mississippi...

Monday, November 28, 2005

Losing Melanie

Today, one of my best students left Clarksdale. I have no idea why. She peeked her head in politely during my last period and said she was transferring and her mom was waiting in the car. I hugged her twice and told her how brilliant she is, and not to let anything or anyone stand in her way. Man, I almost cried.
She is such a good student and from day one-- she was an inspiration to me. My roughest class period--- the lunch crowd--thirty some odd students-- when they all showed up. She made me realize how much students lose when the class isn't going well. She would wait patiently and scowl at those who were making so much noise. In fact, if I needed to know whom it was that was talking I could just look at her face. As that class got better (little by the little), she emerged as a leader. It was a sight to see-- since she is a small, timid girl of barely eleven surrounded by thirteen and fourteen year olds. She was my line leader on the way to lunch every day. Her journal entries were always so candid and insightful. For her how to essay, she wrote my steps to using context clues and determining the meaning of an unknown word-- it was sweet. She really listened in class-- I mean really listened and it was great to see her improve her writing skills so much over the course of the last three months. She is going places....
I had so many individual goals for her-- and now I have to let those go. What is even odder is that I can't help feeling she might be leaving the Delta-- and that is a great comfort. I hope against hope that she will go to a school that she can really thrive in. Hmm, geography and privilege. I live right across the street from the private catholic school and I can't help feeling jealous. Their facilities are nice, and their teachers clearly have keys to the building. Everyday, their parents pick them up from school and it isn't as chaotic looking as my school.
God, it isn't fair. The history, the present, and sometimes the future are ugly. The level of white privilege in this country has got to fucking stop. Everyday, as all of my students enter the tired halls of Higgins-- they are told they aren't worth anything-- they aren't worth the cost of books-- they aren't worth the cost of nice computers or qualified teachers. Everyday...that is the message my brilliant, bursting (I mean bursting) with potential students are sent. Racial and socio-economic oppression are huge monsters to fight-- but in other places there are so many more opportunities (and of course different battles) than the Delta. I can't believe segregation is so alive and well. I can't believe institutional racism exists at this high of level-- it isn't even hidden. It is out in the open complete and total bullshit. I am glad I am here-- so very glad I am here....

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I am Ms. Lee!

Looking back over my summer blogs I can sense my enthusiasm for teaching and doing well—that has not changed. What has changed is my ability to have enough time to accomplish my goals. The only sad thing about teaching is time—I NEVER have enough. Never. Throughout the last three months I have felt like I have let every one down—my family, my students, my friends, myself. It is a pretty lousy feeling. I didn’t realize how little time I would have to go the library, pay bills, do laundry, etc.

I give my best everyday, but then at the end of the day something has to give. I spend most of my nights grading essays and lesson planning—and that doesn’t leave much time for much of a personal life or really anything else. I can’t wait for Christmas break—so I can for once be truly ahead in lesson planning and really assess what my students need to work on most. Also, I just want to read more about reading. My students present such diverse problems with reading. I feel that I have not adequately addressed their needs. I go to bed worrying every night that they will leave my class not experiencing what reading really is—that little narrator in your head. I mean if I can help my students become better readers—to me—I will be helping them for life. No joke. In the summer, I didn’t know where to start gathering material and resources—now I know exactly what I need.
I was very nervous about teaching in the summer—now it is like second nature to talk to students. That nervousness faded around the second day of school! I remember being frustrated by making mistakes—now I make them all the time and they turn into learning experiences that I easily laugh about with my students. Esp. one day when I accidentally started writing in French! I can’t start a lesson unless the objectives are on the board—before it was easy to forget. I can grab a stack of papers and roughly estimate how many sheets there are. I can look over thirty desks and tell who doesn’t have their book open to right page. Now, it is easier to tell who “gets it” and who needs a little one on one. Over the summer, I had no idea what a sixth grader was like—now I can write a book about them!
It isn’t that I have changed—my life has changed. I really love teaching, even if it makes me forget to pay bills or do laundry. I never imagined how good it would feel to really have students learn and become “smarter.” I am always telling them, I love hearing their brains get bigger when they have really caught on. I remember my first blog about how weird it was that students called me “Ms. Lee” – now I feel like that is who I am. Teaching really isn’t a job—it is just what you are. I am teacher. I am Ms. Lee!