Saturday, September 25, 2004

civil disobedience

Yesterday I met a teacher who retired in May after teaching at our school for 25 years. She tried to be a retired person but couldn't stand it, and so she returned to teaching full time here. We conversed in the parking lot. She asked me what school I'd come from and I told her and she got that uneasy look (I'm beginning to recognize it) which said to me she thought I was really in for it. But before she could say it, I told her that I chose this school specifically, that I quit my job and came to work here deliberately, because I wanted to. She said "God bless you." She said what another woman said to me once before, something I figured out immediately about FD myself, that while there are some bad kids (but she didn't mean bad in the pejorative sense, she meant bad as in dangerous), there are also some really great kids. That is so true. And she loves teaching here. So do I. That must sound insane coming on the heels of the events of this week.
The girl who got hit by the ceiling fan has a fractured shoulder, had a concussion, and is very sore, but she'll be alright. Strangely, the principal came on the intercom yesterday morning and asked us to take a moment of reflection for the girl, and the kids in my class thought she'd died. Something else had happened that day apparently, which I'd not heard about. What I gather is that there's a teacher who is in chemotherapy and wears a wig, and a student, a GIRL, pulled her wig off in front of the class and everyone laughed hysterically. The teacher wasn't there yesterday and the principal asked that we have a moment of silence for her too. One of my students who was in the class where that happened was so disgusted. This girl, a short little twin with a baby and an unconscionably toxic family (both parents and a younger sister in jail), has lately taken to sitting in a chair at my desk, close to me. She breaks my heart. Yesterday she was trying to get some paperwork taken care of at the school and kept getting the run around and she came to me, looking so serious (but not crying. I don't think she cries much.) and worried. I wrote her a pass (though she was in another class at the time, her teacher wasn't there) to go see the assistant principal to get her business taken care of. And I told her she could tell the assistant principal I'd sent her. No more bullshit. Anyway, she did it and I saw her afterward in the hall (we kept bumping into each other, like the meeting between us was meant to be), and she got everything taken care of and was on her way to her teacher-less class.
One other thing about Thursday, I knew one girl in the class where the fan fell down and she was so agitated by everything -- the fan, the chaos, the boy throwing the bottle at me, the hostility, the violence in the room -- and she said, "I'm about to leave this place," or something like that, and I told her to go somewhere quiet and peaceful, but not to leave school, and she followed my suggestion. I don't know why that little detail stands out so much with me. Maybe because she's not dead inside yet.
Yesterday in class we wrote on "the woods," then read from Thoreau's Civil Disobedience and Martin Luther King, Jr's, speech from jail, and I asked them if they could think of a cause worth going to jail for, and right then and there they started developing a theoretical plan for going on strike until changes are made at our school. They didn't know the word "marrow," but a lot of them know there's something deep and rich somewhere, and that they want it.
I went to the woods to live deliberately.

Disposed of: yesterday's journal.

Melanie Anne Plesh


Blogger TamiM said...

I'm looking at your "woods", Melanie, and I see a veil of darkness and twisted, choking vines blocking my entrance. Somehow, you have found a path into what you recognize as only "woods", but to me, there is no path in, nor is there a path out because I recognize what you're in as a jungle.

Were you ever once as starry-eyed and naive as I am? Did you once enter the field of education believing you'd make a difference only to find that once you were in the classroom that the "nature of the beast" may be too much for you? If so, I want to know how you perservered. How did you encourage yourself to keep the faith? Was your entry in the "woods" gradual? Did you build callouses against the thorns? What is your secret?

I know the ultimate answers to these questions are simply: "no", "yes", "I kept at it", "yes", "yes", and "I am Melanie Anne Plesh." I am envious.

3:00 PM  

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