Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Even during weeks like this one, where I only work 4 days (11 hours a day, mind you), and my kids are big fights or disasters to speak bed calls me the minute I walk in the door.
By 7:30, I have to constantly remind myself that I am 24 years old. It is not normal for me to go to bed yet, even though, every day, I am physically and mentally exhausted by 3:40.
I wonder what it's like to have a job where you leave with energy...
Something tells me I'd miss the moments that exhausted me.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Today they were excited to learn.
To have me back.
To be back in their routine.
They gave me hugs and pictures they drew while I was gone. They didn't stop smiling for the first 45 minutes. They also didn't stop asking questions and telling me stories. Reader's Workshop today was a waste...I think we all needed some time to re-connect. They comforted me in a way I didn't know I needed but in a way that was very natural to them. We're a family, with a culture all our own.
"If you ever leave for that long again, take me with you," said Iran.
I smiled. He didn't. He was serious.
Today they reminded me how much I loved my job.
I didn't even realize I had forgotten.
But I had.
I couldn't help but look at them and think of our September and October...when fights happened multiple times every day, when I cried at the end of every day and fought back tears as I stood in front of them because I felt so hopeless.
Today I stood in front of them and wanted to cry because I felt home.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Jose has a brochure.
He carries it in his back pocket.
It was given to him by his priest. I've never seen the brochure in detail, just when he pulls it out briefly and waves it around, making some claim like, "This brochure makes me not lie!" (after he's just told a lie) or "This brochure makes me not hit people!" (after I just caught him hitting someone).
His 10 year old, emotionally disturbed mind either does not want to or cannot understand what the priest said to him when he gave him the brochure, but he carries it around everyday with the best of intentions, and it was his answer to the worst news I'd given them all year.
My grandpa had died and I would be leaving for four days.
I'm not sure which part of that sentence was worse for them - I'm pretty sure it was the last part.
Some said very grown up, mature things like, "He's in a better place," or "I'm sorry for your loss."
Others said things like, "If you're leaving I'm coming with you," "Don't leave us here," or "We're not going to learn anything when you're gone because we're going to be bad because we're always bad when you're gone because we want you to come back."
Jose was the first person to blurt out a response. He whipped out his brochure and, without raising his hand, yelled, "If I pray real hard this brochure will bring your grandpa back to life. Can I do that? Can I pray really hard and he'll come back?"
I knew right away the 10 minutes I had allotted for the be good while I'm gone conversation was not going to be nearly enough.
We had a 30 minute conversation about death and my grandpa and the memories I had of him and what I would be doing for the next four days when I wasn't with them.
"Will there be candles on the casket?" asked Joshua?
"I'm not sure," I replied.
"You're going to have a fun vacation with your grandpa," said Adrielis.
"It's not a vacation," I said.
"Yeah, he died. Duh," said Mario.
I gave him the that wasn't appropriate look.
He apologized, more to me than to her, which wasn't what I wanted, but is what usually happens.
I had the most open and vulnerable conversation I would have for the next week that day, the day he died, with a group of 8-13 year olds. I didn't cry or get angry at the amount of questions or attempts to make small talk. It wasn't until I left that I realized what an accomplishment that was.
I missed them...worried about afraid lessons weren't taught and if they were that they weren't taught the way I wanted them taught in spite of the fact that I left super detailed plans.
Tomorrow I go back to normal life. My kids. Only a week ago I got a call at 4 in the morning. It feels like it's been forever...

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Our first fieldtrip was a chance for me to learn what happens when you put faith in your kids.
They come through. All of them.
It went as well as it possibly could have.
My emotionally disturbed, lack of impulse control, self contained even during lunch babies were much better behaved than the 'gen ed' kids.
They skated the WHOLE time. They helped each other up, held hands if someone needed help balancing, supported each other in ways I had never seen before without me asking them to.
I took pictures and smiled and laughed and skated with them (for the first time in my whole life).
My plan was to not skate, but by 11 Joshua and Amanda were on their hands and knees begging me to be on the ice so I rented skates, said a little prayer (or 100) for myself, and braved this new experience with my kids. They surrounded me.
"We'll catch you, don't be scared," Elvis kept saying.
"You're doing great! Just let go of the wall," encouraged Iran as he skated circles around me.
"Go faster, you're never going to learn if you don't go faster," said Mario.
My kids....pushing me just like I push them.
Eventually I let go of the wall, then picked up speed, then helped other kids as they learned to skate. They boys couldn't resist the urge to teach me to skate faster and before I knew it I had Iran on one side and Mario on the other, holding my hands, skating around the rink, all of us with smiles on our faces, me praying I did not wipe out in front of my 13 year old students.
We were vulnerable together.
There was no making fun of each other, no put downs, no fighting.
Joshua bounced as he walked in to the park. "I'm so excited, I'm so excited, I think I'm going to explode," he said. I've never had someone squeeze my hand so hard...
Later, as he skated between another teacher and I, he put his head on my arm and said, "Ms. G, I love you."
"I love you, too Joshua," I replied.
"No, Ms. G. I really really love you."
I smiled and looked over at him. By now it had begun to snow. Joshua, my little 10 year old who spent the first 2 months of school sleeping on the rug because it was the only way I could teach the rest of my kids, had now earned a field trip. He went from refusing to write his name to writing entire pages in his kindergarten handwriting...from screaming when I asked him to subtract to begging for double digit subtraction to ''exercise his brain.'' He's changed. I've changed.
He skated and stuck his tounge out to catch snow flakes and hugged my arm. "This is the best day of my entire life," he said.
I didn't know what to say, so we just kept skating.
It could very possibly be mine, too.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Tomorrow will be our first field trip tomorrow - ice skating in Central Park.
11 out of 13 of my kids are going.
1 isn't allowed to go because of his behavior, the other kept home by his grandma who is afraid for his safety given the fact that we will be ice skating. I'm not sure if she's more afraid of him falling or the fact that his 10 classmates will have blades on their feet.
It was a huge decision...leap...for me to decide to take nearly all of them. Most of them have never been on a field trip before. It went from a reward to a culture building opportunity. A chance to show them I trust them to behave in public and that I believe they all deserve this experience.
Let's hope we all make it through it with our sanity and body parts in tact. :)

Saturday, January 13, 2007


By day three we had all lost focus. They wiggled in their seats and my heart raced as I walked around and observed them. They all had numerous stretch breaks. Julius dropped his pencils at least 30 times. Iran wore his glasses on the back of his head. Mario spent more time coloring in the letters in the text than he did answering the questions.
"Focus." I said.
"Sorry," they replied.
They didn't want to disappoint me. I had already disappointed them. It was too hard. Some of them didn't have a chance. I took the test along with them in my head as I walked around. Some of them chose wrong answer after wrong answer. Some of them used the strategies I taught and did well. Others were in between and I won't know how they did until we get the test results back next fall.
All of them looked for my approval constantly. In pats on the back, high fives, lottery tickets, thumbs up....I couldn't give them anything. When they didn't get it they second guessed themselves and changed answers over and over. Christopher erased one answer so much it made a hole in his paper.
"What's going on?" I asked.
"I NEED YOU TO HELP ME!" he said in the most intense whisper I'd ever heard.
"I can't, but you know this. Just do your best," I said, putting my hand on his back.
Just then the region monitor walked by and gave me a dirty look.
I walked away.
Christopher broke his pencil, threw it at the board and looked at his test as tears began to fall.
He did well - probably passed. Even so, he spent the next 3 days glaring at me. He felt betrayed.
I've allowed them to become overly dependent on me without even realizing it.
We take the state math test in March. Before then I must teach them to be confident in their own abilities. To not look to me for every little not say my name 100 times a not need me there to feel successful.
I failed them by being there too much. By not allowing them to handle their own situations. By protecting them too much...advocating for them too much.
We've all failed them by teaching them test prep instead of content.
On Friday test prep for the math test started. We take it in March. After the math test, Science test prep starts. We take the state Science test in April.
I can't handle any more countdowns.
On Friday during reader's workshop Julius wouldn't quit smiling.
"What are you so happy about?" I asked.
"We can finally learn something again!" he said.
And then I smiled...for the rest of the day.

Monday, January 08, 2007

0 Days

“Last day, be good” Yahkemp wrote on our test prep count down.
My little enforcer…he’s not so little, actually. He wears his pants below his hips and has an attitude so big I actually rejoiced the day he earned a suspension (which he never had to serve…welcome to special ed), but after 2 months he’s finally mine, just like the rest of them, and that alone makes me smile when he writes things like ‘be good’ on the board.
We left it for the day.
Tomorrow is day 1 of the ELA.
“Will it be hard?” Christopher asked today.
“It will be challenging,” I said. “But we’ve been working hard and if you use the strategies we’ve been working on you’ll be just fine.”
“She means it will be hard,” Joshua said.
I smiled. We know each other too well. They read, but not well enough. They write, but not well enough. They comprehend, but not well enough. It’s going to be hard.
“I expect you to do your best. I expect you to try and not give up. You are as prepared as you can be and you’ve worked very hard. No matter what, I’m really proud of every single person in here.”
It was probably the quietest I had ever spoken in my classroom. They all heard me. You could have heard a mouse run across the floor. Thank God one didn’t.
“What if we fail?” Malik asked.
“Then you work hard on your portfolio and we take it to (the Assistant Principal) and I fight for you.” I said.
“Okay,” he said, looking down at his desk.
“You’re going to be fine,” I said.
I’m not sure if they believed me because I’m not sure if I believed myself.
Ready or not, the test begins tomorrow.

Monday, January 01, 2007


I took a break from being Miss G.
I was a daugher, an aunt, a girlfriend, a friend, a sister, a grandaughter, a cousin, a niece, and a roomate.
I got used to answering to my first name.
I ate when I was hungry and didn't talk so loud I gave myself a headache.
My feet didn't hurt at the end of every day and I slept without dreams of kids and their lives and what they should have or could have learned the day before but didn't because I'm still a first year teacher trying to survive.
I played and slept and laughed and remembered what it was like to
I didn't think about the ELA.
But now, with school 13 hours away, I'm refocused (and am thinking about the ELA).
I need to figure out how to refocus my kiddos. I'm really excited to see them tomorrow :)
Something I wrote before Christmas but never posted...

Tomorrow is the end of the semester.
Time to celebrate! Reading successes and math advances and the simple fact that we’ve made it.
There will be certificates and posters and a test prep pep talk by me and food and little cups filled with goodies from my mom (thanks mom!) and brownies from me.
We made it, babies. You’ve learned things, too. Maybe not as much as I wanted you to learn, but more than some people thought you would, which is something, right? Today I told you I was looping with you. You saw it as a reward and a reason to work hard J
I have so many stories to share about this week, my spirit is just too tired to share them.
I’m tired and focused on next week…on my family and the holiday and the togetherness I haven’t felt in far too long….on singing Silent Night in a candle lit church and how, ever since my niece was born I haven’t sung because I’m too busy holding back tears because somehow I always forget how good if feels to be home.