Sunday, September 7, 2014

I'm in a glass case of emotion...

Okay. So it may be more like a roller coaster of emotion, but this makes me laugh
and I need to laugh. 
Starting a new school year is a trip. 
There is a lot of anticipation, fear, hope, optimism, worry, and exhaustion. 
Between getting to know the names of 130 kids--many of them with the same name but different spellings--Kaylee, Kaleigh, Kalie, Cailey, for example or Maddie, Maddy, Madi, Madison, and figuring out ways to get to know them, I am swimming in the deep end those first few days. I told a co-worker that looking at the kids during passing period on those first few days is like looking at a "magic eye" image.
 It is a blurry mess of awkward teenagers until about the third day when all of the sudden, like magic, I start recognizing kids and knowing their names 
and things begin to get clearer.  
Sort of.
"Clearer" is a bit of a stretch, but learning names definitely has me saying
This year's class of 8th graders has a reputation--
and it's not really the good kind of reputation.
 They're true blue, no question about it, middle schoolers. We were warned by the 7th grade teachers that we were in for some doozies and boy, howdy. 
They did not lie. 
There are some lively personalities in this bunch and they are giving me 
a run for my money. 

For example, I dealt with this the first week of school:
Yes. That is the Mockingjay from The Hunger Games book series, shot dead. 
Blood and all. 
The kids had to make a movie poster about a book they read and this kid chose Mockingjay. Unfortunately, the first time he drew it, it was the exact emblem from the book {and the movie} and I had to call him on it. This is a kid that we had been specifically warned about as someone that is prone to not making the best choices. I knew I had to nip this sort of behavior in the bud--or at least try to. 
So, I showed him the assignment instructions {again} where it clearly said that the illustration for the poster had to be original. 
He said he understood and brought in a new poster the next day.
 I didn't see it until his presentation. 
In front of the class he explained that he drew the Mockingjay like this because
 everyone dies in the book anyway, so why not just kill the bird for his picture? 
Great logic.  
The whole class laughed, including me. After class, in an attempt to build rapport and to thank him for redoing the assignment, I went on and on about how funny and creative it was. I told him I was proud of him for "thinking outside the box" and for doing the correct work. I then asked him how he thought of it.
 I said that it looked like it could be
--and he finished my sentence and said,
 "A parody!"
 "Yes!" I said, "A parody!"
 "Wait..." I say, "Is it from a parody?"  
"No." He says. "No, I thought of it..."
"Oh, okay..."
But then I got to it from a parody? 
One Google image search later and there it was.
 The exact same image--yellow and all.
{He added the blood, awesome. 
And no, that doesn't make it original artwork...} 
I was so disappointed and mad that I had given him 
the benefit of the doubt and it backfired. 
To shorten this long story, the next day I showed him the image, he owned up to it, I called home, I spoke to Admin, he redid the assignment
 and I was left feeling like the dead Mockingjay. 
Teaching feels like this image. 
It is meant to be an important and respected profession but often
 it is shot down and left to die.
After I dealt with all of this I felt defeated and worn out. 
I felt like my optimism and enthusiasm for the new year 
was killed by a deadly arrow.
 And then, the very next day, I got this from a former student:
At the end of last year I started using hashtags on my students' reading
 responses--because it was fun. 
{#iknow #callmecrazy #jumpedonthebandwagon #iblamejimmyfallonandjt}
One of the girls really loved it and would hashtag me back--within her responses, at the end of other papers and on sticky notes left on my desk. 
She emailed me this year to ask if she could come and visit. Of course I said yes and she arrived with a card filled with hashtag sentiments and this gift. 
I cried.  
This is what I want the symbol of teaching to be.
This is what I strive to do.
This is why I am in this job. 
This same week, the district I teach in fell deeper into a spin 
of not caring about teachers and what we do. 
I was tempted to feel like the dead Mockingjay
--all of our hard work being overlooked and misunderstood.  
I felt tempted to feel like the dead Mockingjay when I called a dozen parents over a 24 hour period because of poor choices being made in my classroom.
I felt tempted to feel like the dead Mockingjay when I was thrown under the bus at a meeting over the semantics of task we are being
 asked to do to "prove" our ability as a teacher. 

It is very easy to feel like the dead Mockingjay
 and it is very difficult to feel that I ever #inspire anyone. 
But I do. 
{At least I try to.}

When I had my epiphany moment last spring at graduation, I knew, 
deep in my bones, that I am meant to be a teacher. 
I have to be the one who helps a kid recognize that maybe plagiarism isn't the best choice and I have to be the one who gets cards and gifts of thanks for 
helping them be a better person. 

This dual reality is teaching. 

Maybe my paycheck won't reflect the latter, and maybe I won't see fruit from some of my labors, but I will get up every day and try my damnedest to #inspire because
 that is my story. 
That is my hope. 
That is enough. 
I'm still going to cry all the way home like I did on Friday because a kid
 {a different one...}was super rotten in my class and I had to write a referral, but I am going to try and remember that even when that happens, there are kids out there who will be grateful for what I do. To #inspire even one of the kids this year will be worth it all--
even if I am left a bit wounded in the meantime.

1 comment:

  1. I miss teaching in the same building as you. I love your hope, sweetness and ability to inspire us all!