Wednesday, August 25, 2004

it makes you speak from the heart and keep it real

During first period we were trying to come up with subjects for essays and the conversation turned to the police. Suffice it to say, the upshot of the conversation wasn't flattering. In the heat of it, there was a knock on my door and it was, yes, a policeman, with an errant student of mine in tow. Silence ensued.
During third period a boy I didn't know walked into my class and started ranting and bellowing. I stood up and walked toward him and he backed out and away down the hall. Then he screamed into the hole in my other door where a dead bolt lock had been removed. It was bizarre.
At least he didn't threaten to fire me.
All the administrators and security guards and police were out in full force today trying to get students into their classes. The students circle. I'm trying to get a fix on a few faces to see how many times they do it. One kid I recognized today circled 3 times during one break between classes. But, as I said, administration was out, trying. There was a lot of yelling from both sides.
Here are the last two sentences of an essay a student, R.M., wrote today: "One thing I can say about growing up hard is that the problems make you smarter, on different aspects, than the average person. It makes you speak from the heart and keep it real."
It's a good place for me to be.

Disposed of: one painted egg.

Melanie Plesh


6 Comments:

Blogger marshathib said...

Hey, Melanie Anne Plesh,
I love your blog, and I love what I can see of your life at FDHS. So glad that you love what you do.

By the way, just wanted to let you know that I started using the one-word journal in my classes (Remedial English and Writing), and even my repeater kids are writing. When the timer goes off, over half the class is still writing. I let 'em go--kind of goofy to tell them to stop in an English class! :) We're still not that comfortable sharing, but a few brave souls are venturing out. It's a beauty to see, especially when D. (who I think has failed almost every English class he's ever taken) writes OVER TWO PAGES on how he shone at the football game. It was great, and I thought of you.

Keep posting---I can just hear your voice as you write!

8:09 AM  
Blogger TamiM said...

Wow! Melanie, yours is a very different world of teaching than mine. I can clearly understand your student's statement about growing up hard and how it makes you speak from the heart and keep it real. I've been pondering this because I grew up soft, but am I any less real or speak less from the heart than someone who grew up hard? I'm examining how my opposite upbringing could make me an effective teacher to students like yours. The types of classroom interruptions you've described would upset me to the point where I'd consider going back to selling insurance. I've never been in the situation where I need to stand up against the tough attitudes it seems some of the students at Douglass keep. Their reality has never been in my reality, so how does a softy like me strengthen her backbone to direct kids whose lives are hard? Must I become hard, too? My job is to bring kids up; not to have them pull me down. Be firm. Which parts of me do I allow to harden? What does the hazy grey line between soft and hard really feel like?

12:47 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I love the comments from Marcia and Tami. So good to start thinking of them again and to see how this blog is getting us talking together about teaching. I hope Joan Cook finds her way to this, too, because she was so interested in teachers' reflective writing. To Marcia--I'm so happy to hear she is journaling with her students. I start that process next week myself, and hope she'll tune in to my blog (louthblog) to see how it goes. To Tami M., that pirate--I suspect you'd eventually get any lowlifes walking the plank, matey. But it IS kind of nice to have some distance from it all and see how someone else like Melanie is handling it. When she talked of seeing certain students circle, it reminded me of how, in the French Quarter, I began to notice some of the same, faceless locals after a few days circling and circling the Quarter looking for something--handouts, eye contact, one guy was looking for a heart--and I kept seeing him again and again on the street, by the river, in a bar, wild-eyed, wild-haired, roaming, looking for that heart he says was ripped out of him and ripped out of a bike he retrieved from the Mississippi right before my eyes. I saw him get in an argument with Rodney S, another of the helpless/homeless/nameless, about who was worse off--a man without his heart or a man without his legs. Anyway, if you look long enough, listen long enough, you pass by indifference, curiosity, fear, and growing hardened by the con, and you feel instead something more like wonder, pity, and compassion, something actually close to identification and even love, if you can indeed have that for a stranger. Anyway, I began to feel that way with the circling strangers in the Quarter, and suspect something similar will begin to happen in Melanie's situation.

5:47 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hello, Ms. Plesh.

It's me. Laura Thain.

It's good to know we're in the same city here figuring it out.

My email is lthain@tulane.edu. Feel free to email me any time, if you have the time. I'm going to read the rest of your blog now. (I'm sure it's excellent.) I love blogging, but a good blog is a rare find.

Good luck. I'll always remember your class (not excepting you!).

Laura

9:45 PM  
Blogger Lia Zarganas said...

Beautiful...the writtings...the invionment ur in...the way ur handling it...the way i can picture every single encounter you had...and most of all, what ur doing. I love you, always have, always will. I'm 100% positive that these LUCKY students will love you just as much as the kids at MHS who were lucky enough to spend semesters, years and even lunch periods (i can say it now b/c u don't work there anymore! Can't get in trouble!)in ur class room...under that great ceiling! I love you, keep in touch and just do what u do best: inspire. Love, Lia

12:43 AM  
Blogger Makenzi said...

I miss those lunch periods! In fact. I miss a lot. But I can't even imagine any other place than where I am now, where you are now. The world's moved on and it feels right. For once. Natural progression. It's grand.

It takes guts to do what you do. To stand up to people you can't predict in the slightest. To feel like that. You're the gutsiest puny white lady I've ever had the privilege to know. That was brave, Pleshy. And I'm so very glad that you see their humanity where others would just see brutality, or nothing at all. What you see gives others a chance.

2:57 PM  

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