Sunday, January 27, 2008

Keepin' Focused

Kiddo's midlines, as promised :)

Adony's - Titled 'My Best Friend'
My best friend Elvis who I met the first time I came to this school. He was in my class. He paid for a school trip one time. On January 8, 2008, Yahkemp told me that Elvis's mother died in her sleep and Elvis was crying because he only had his mother. The one he loved. Ms. G told me to go to the bathroom and I cried and he did not get to say goodbye. She was a nice lady who cared about her son and we all loved her. She was like family and now my best friend is in the Dominican Republic looking at his mother's tombstone. I wish the best to his family. Rest in Peace Ms. America. We all miss you.

Malik's - Titled 'Should Kids Get Paid for Going to School - Yes or No?'
Should kids get paid yes because when kids go to school on the bus or they walk they risk their life going to school. And when we are in school in the cafeteria eating lunch it could be a fier and the firetrucks take too long. And a robber could act like he is somebodys dad or uncle. This is why kids should get paid.
If kids got paid we could by our own clothes, and a phone for emergency. So if we were to get kidnapped we will have a phone to call the cops. And our mothers would not have to take out of her money that she work hard for to buy us stuff. And the government know that they have th emoney and thats why I think kids should get paid.

Ken's - Titled 'Bruce Lee vs. Jackie Chan'
Bruce Lee is a very good fighter. He just as strong as Jackie Chan. Jackie Chan has good moves and is a good athlete. Bruce Lee is also a good athlete. Bruce Lee usually use numchucks to fight. Jackie Chan sometimes uses broomsticks to hit bad guys hard. Jackie Chan is like a tiger and is fast like a cheetah. Bruce Lee moves quick like a dragon.
One day Jackie Chan came up to Bruce Lee and said "Do you think you can beat me?" Bruce Lee said "Ha ha uh I am sure of that." Jack Chan said "Well well lets fight tomorrow at 10:00 o'clock in the morning." The next morning Bruce Lee was waiting in the park for Jackie Chan. He was dressed in black pants with a bandana. He had a pair of numchucks. Jackie Chan had got there at 9:58. He was dressed as a ninja with a sword.
The battle began at 10 o'clock. People were cheering for Bruce Lee because he was quick as a dragon. Bruce Lee hit Jackie Chan with the pair of numchucks 20 times in the face. Cops had to come even the ambulance. Bruce Lee won the fight. Jackie Chan been in the hospital for 3 years.

Friday, January 25, 2008

He greeted me with a smile. "Today is a new day," he declared.
"Yes, it is," I responded. My own words, the philosophies I've taught them, come back to haunt me when I'm so burnt out that I can't forgive them.
For their words, actions...can't forget the broken desk in the back of the room and posters that have been made numerous times because they chose to tear them down and all of the things that have been stolen since the new one arrived.
But I must. I must shake their hand and truly believe that today is a new day. For me, and for them....
But I'm human, and sometimes forgiveness is hard.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Today Malik threw a desk 7 feet across the room. It broke. His books went flying everywhere.
Chris continued singing Spider Pig, and Yahkemp freaked out because I didn't believe that someone spit on him (his justification for punching them, although there was no spit anywhere on him and none of his friends saw it...hhmm...) His stepfather came, took my side of the argument, and then he yelled that he didn't love his stepfather anymore.
If these kids have taught me anything it's that forgiveness is necessary.
He was back in my room 30 minutes later.

But two other kids at my school were taken to the psych ward and one was arrested, so maybe we're not doing so bad.
Oh how the expectations have changed....

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's that time of year, when the 'important people' come in and review our school and give us our grade.
My principal is ALL ABOUT this. Most are, but mine, this is all he cares about - this and test scores, mostly because the 'important people' care about test scores too.
I wonder if they care that one of my kids' mom's died or that Yahkemp had a fire at his house or that another one of my kids hasn't had his meds since November and is slowly deteriorating before our eyes but there's really nothing we can do.
Actually, they don't care.
As long as my bulletin boards and portfolios and charts are perfect.
So that's what I spend time doing. Bulletin boards and portfolios and charts.
But I also spend time consoling and teaching and coaxing him to just stop singing the Spider Pig song.
In the midst of all of this we're doing an AMAZING fairy tales unit. I'll post some of their work here soon, when the craziness is over.
But for now....Miss G is exhausted, for all the wrong reasons.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Yesterday was my birthday and my kids made a HUGE deal of it. They told just about everyone in the school and threw me a big surprise birthday party during lunch. I still can't get over the fact that none of them accidentally told me in the days leading up to the party...and that they were actually able to organize something like this. Mind you, these are kids that need help remembering to turn in homework and that lose their pencils numerous times per hour.

We had pizzas, 15 bags of chips, and an ice cream, and lots of stories about days past. I told them it was one of the best birthday parties I'd ever had, and I meant it.

And then I spent the bus ride home wondering how I could ever just walk away from them...

Friday, January 11, 2008

This week was the week where true colors were exposed.
Tuesday there was a fatal drive by in front of our school. A 14 year old (not from our school) was killed. This is the third school on the same block as my school in 2 months. This kind of violence is abnormal for this neighborhood and I sense in myself and my kids a hesitation that wasn't there before....things that were automatic before now require thought.
We had incredible conversations about bullying, racism, gangs, and death. My kids have grown so much in the last year and a half, and so have I.
As I continue to interview for jobs for next year I become increasingly okay with the thought of leaving them. They will always be mine - the bond we made can not be broken with physical distance. Elvis's departure showed us that.
"I was so moved by how your kids hugged him," remarked another teacher.
"They're tight," I said. "You have to remember, these kids have been together for a long time. They don't shuffle classes every year like most kids."
"And they hung on every word you said. They didn't want a counselor or (my principal)...they wanted to know what you had to say. That's so different from most kids." she added.
They fight with each other, but when push comes to shove, the bond that we have as a class is pretty hard to break. Our true colors showed this week and I have to admit - I was proud to call myself their teacher.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Adony never came back after the break, which meant 4 straight absences in a row. While he's definitely not my perfect attendance student, 4 in a row is rediculous even for him, so I asked a couple of the aides to go check on him. (It's city policy in NYC that if you miss 3 in a row someone from the school goes to your house - this doesn't usually happen. You have to make friends with people that live in the neighborhood if you want to keep track of kids...)
They went to his house and who walked in this morning but a bruised, swollen, black eyed Adony. Upon his return from winter break, he was jumped by 6 gang members on the way to school. What we saw today were the wounds time hadn't healed. The gang member part is important here because I've always been suspicious of Adony himself (but never been able to prove anything, nor have I wanted to.) Luckily he was not badly hurt.
The scary thing is it happened only a block from our school, about 15 minutes before school starts, and no one stopped to help. He is also not scared, but angry. My kids responded with a spirit of retaliation, even though the students who jumped him were much larger and older than any of my students. It is a constant effort to change this mindset - this cycle of violence that seems to be all my students understand as right.
I'm so frustrated. With the setbacks. With not knowing that my kids are safe when they leave school. With the fact that I can't put them in a little bubble and protect them because right now I really really want to.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Yesterday Elvis's mom died of a sudden stroke. 39 years old.
He returned from a visit to his father's house to find her dead. Upon finding out, his step father, who has lived with them since Elvis was 2, had a massive heart attack and is currently in ICU.
He was discharged at the end the day today. We had made him cards and wrote letters.
"Can I take the test with you?" he asked. "I don't want to take it in a new school."
That's what he was concerned about - the test.
But he will not take it with me. I will probably never see him again.
In a day a child I've spent the last year and a half bonding with, teaching, at times agonizing over, is now gone. For good.
My kids cried today when he left. So did I....out of sadness, but more out of fear for what his life was going to be like.
This is why the work we do is so important. When he came to me he could not read or write his name. He now reads on a 3rd grade level, is on grade level in math, and is a very creative writer.
Everyday that we have with our kids might be the last. Tomorrow I teach with a new sense of urgency.