Thursday, August 26, 2004

# 9

It's interesting that something like a blog, which ostensibly is about the blogger, turns out not to really about the blogger after all. There's now dialogue occurring. Marsha in her comment reminded me why I took this work on. Tami wonders if one has to be brought up hard to be real. If you're brought up soft are you less real?
This morning when I made the right on Pauline Street off St Claude Avenue and saw the horde of students I wondered if that girl, that 5'10" STRONG rapping girl, was watching for me. But nothing happened. I parked and was a little nervous crossing the street, through the crowd, into the school. But nothing happened. Finally, I saw her circling between classes and we exchanged a completely passionless look, and she circled on. Later, two boys from yesterday who were particularly difficult came to make it up with me. One actually said he was sorry. The other, while circling the second time, looked at me and waved. That was a guy (not my student, someone I'd never seen before) who came in my room yesterday and wouldn't leave (and this in a very threatening way). Incredibly, in a pretty hard to believe series of "coincidences," his mother, he, the disciplinarian, and I were in the hallway at the same moment after school and when I saw him I said, "You!" and his mother asked me what that was about and I told her and she took care of business right then and there. That's the guy who waved to me in his second circling. A guy who brought out drumsticks yesterday came to hang around in my room today. (I had to raise my voice to make him leave.) It's crazy, but I learned something, or was reminded of something. Group mentality may currently trump individual mentality. But not when you're a writer.
I love the faculty for a lot of reasons. But one precious thing is that we all call each other by our last names.
One more thing about yesterday. I told a girl (a different girl, but one no less STRONG) that I'm not the enemy. And though she kept her radio plugged into her ear and kept her back to me, she got off my case.
This is a long blog.
When it was time today to stop the circlers and shut the doors after third period, a boy got in my face when I told him to go to class. (I mean it literally when I say he got in my face.) He said, "You're trippin', I'm chillin'. And I, in a brilliant retort, said, "No. You're trippin'. I'm chillin." However puny white and old I am, he did go away.
Today I asked my students to answer ten questions for me (in writing). Question #9 was me asking them to tell me about their lives. One guy told me he wears the shoes his uncle (his best friend, closer to him than his mother, he said) was shot to death in last year. 50% of the students left #9 blank.
One more thing. When I say I dispose of things, I'm not throwing them away. I'm moving them here and there. Upon Shirley's suggestion, I'm bringing most of them to school. Except the brassieres, of course.
Three people came into class today and asked me what we were going to write about.

Recycled: a cactus and a cassette of Appalachian Waltzes

Melanie Plesh


Blogger leslieg said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:45 PM  
Blogger TamiM said...

leslieg, Thank you for your observation about my softness. I never thought of it from the perspective of it being my strength. Well, not really, I guess. I know kids want an adult who is compassionate, and that I am, but my softness also allows those who need the compassion the most to take advantage of me. Ultimately, I pay the cost. There are a lot of thirsty kids in this world, and I'd like to think I have a kind of "mother's milk" to nurture their psyches as well as their intellect. Their thirst is so great, however, that I can feel (even from the "soft" kids I teach) them drain the sustenance right from me. Sometimes I don't know when I need to pull them from the "teat" (Melanie...notice the cow reference here...) just to save some for myself or the next kid I can't refuse.

I admire Melanie for her incredible strength. I feel like one of those thirsty children now wanting to take of her energy. Melanie, thank you for keeping this blog. Please don't miss a single day. You teach more than hardened children. You give sustenance to soft teachers, too. Thank you! Arrrgh! Me needs to make a kid walk the plank! (He'd land on a pillow...)

7:34 PM  
Blogger leslieg said...

Sorry I deleted my earlier comment, Tami. I wanted to say something to you about feeling drained by your students, though. I know just what you're talking about, and I love the breastfeeding metaphor.

I have struggled with the same feelings. Students can absolutely suck you dry. I made the mistake of thinking that teaching older students would solve the problem, but I learned that it doesn't. I have come to the realization that it was never about the students; this is all about what I allow people to take from me. You too?

I agree that it's cool to have Melanie out there so we can all think about ourselves while she makes her way with these kids. I see a book in her future.

Hello to Makenzi, if she's reading. (From your seventh grade English teacher.)

11:09 AM  
Blogger Makenzi said...

Wow. Hello Mrs. Gilliland! Want to know something strange? Our little collection of student writings, "People, Places, and Things" is sitting next to me. I had been reading through it last night, and just left it on my desk. Crazy the way things happen... Where did you go teach after Clearwood?

2:32 PM  

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