Friday, October 20, 2006

How To Save A Life

Let him know that you know best
Cause after all you do know best
Try to slip past his defense
Without granting innocence
Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you've told him all along
And pray to God he hears you

As he begins to raise his voice
You lower yours and grant him one last choice
Drive until you lose the road
Or break with the ones you've followed
The Fray

We spend 2 mornings a week together, reading level A books as he eats breakfast in my classroom. 'The cat jumps over the couch...the cat jumps over the plant..." He struggles less and less each time and never complains that he's reading kindergarten level books.
He was my biggest behavior problem - now he's my biggest crier.
Where kids responded with anger they now respond with tears, my disappointment in them the worst consequence many of them could imagine.
On Tuesday, in between lines of a story about a balloon, he brought me closer to tears than I have ever been with a student.
"You know, Ms. G, I really appreciate what you're doing with us but me and M, we're gonna drop out."
"What are you talking about?" I asked. "You guys are both doing great."
"Yeah but we blew it. We're too old. We're just gonna be in here until we old enough to leave."
3 more years and they'll be old enough to leave. If they're not retained any more they'll, at best, complete the 7th grade.
At first I thought he was kidding, until the book remained on the same page for 20 minutes and I found myself pleading with him...trying to convince him that he was too good for the streets and this life. That I cared about him and would do whatever it took to get him to succeed.
"You always say that but it's too late," he said.
"It's never too late. We're going to get there together," I said in a voice that begged him to not give up.
He's the kid I restrained 2 Fridays ago.
The kid who was the biggest thug in my room until his mom, in a meeting I demaded before I would let him in my room again, admitted to me that neither she, nor any of his 4 brothers, can read.
It was at that moment, as I held him while his mom yelled, that I committed to do whatever it takes to give him everything I had.
People keep warning me not to give too much - not to try to save these kids because most of them don't want to be saved, but I don't know how not to.
How not to ask their side of the story before condeming or run outside when I hear them fighting during recess or hold them when they cry because they've finally realized the severity of their actions.
I don't know how to not fight for them or how to mentally leave them at school. I don't know how to teach them subtraction with regrouping so that it actually makes sense and I don't know how to get them to walk in 2 quiet, straight lines but I do...each and every day...know how to care about them.
Unfortuneately, that's not enough and if they're going to have the chance I want them all to have I need to step it up and figure out how to do the other things....

5 comments:

Sadie said...

To care may not be enough, but it's a start. It's a foundation. I've found that I've done much better in classes where I knew the teacher genuinely cared about the students, and was more invested rather than detatched. I'm no expert but I think you're on the right track. If the problem behind the bad behavior isn't considered, the behavior will continue. The world needs more "Miss G"s out there! Go get em Joanie! LOL!

aewilson said...

I don't know you, but I was moved to tears by this post. By the depth of your compassion. By the need, which I know all too well, to do whatever it takes and try to fill all the gaps where others have failed them, or at least not done enough. Persevere! Give them 98% but save 2% for yourself so you don't get burned out too fast. Even if some of them end up dropping out, you are still making an impact on them today that will stay with them forever. The compassion and love you are pouring out for them now may not keep them off the streets, but it might make just the difference to influence some future point in their life. NYC needs more teachers like you! Keep up the hard work!

Lsquared said...

I'm with aewilson. You're doing something really valuable with these kids. Please don't underestimate what you're doing already. Even if he doesn't stick it out, and doesn't graduate, if he is reading when he leaves your class, he has a lot more doors open to him than he did before. Your morning reading sessions are the best gift you could possibly give.

Anonymous said...

These are the kids who should be directed into volcational learning activities. However, the child advocates have convinced the politicians that every child can succeed academically. Therefore, they dumb down the Regents and hope most can pass. Unfortunantly, many special education children cannot pass even a dumbed-down Regents and dropout.

Its the child first and children last approach that cause many of our most needy to be left behind.

Anonymous said...

These are the kids who should be directed into volcational learning activities. However, the child advocates have convinced the politicians that every child can succeed academically. Therefore, they dumb down the Regents and hope most can pass. Unfortunantly, many special education children cannot pass even a dumbed-down Regents and dropout.

Its the child first and children last approach that cause many of our most needy to be left behind.