Wednesday, October 06, 2004

a poem is called for here

I have to address the plight of the teachers at our school. I have to. I know school is about the children, and is supposed to be, but the teachers at my school are under siege, and we're humans, and our spirits are being grievously injured. In one form or another we're being attacked all day. The better parts of ourselves know not to engage in the crude, hostile, violent behavior and language our students lay on each other and on us all day long, and we know not to reciprocate in kind. And we all appreciate the desperate lives they live (there isn't a word hard enough to describe how they live. Desperate is too weak. Only a poem could express this.) But I don't know how many times I can hear the same boy every single day look at me with hate and menace while I'm blocking the doorway, trying to keep kids from circling, say to me, "Open the fucking door," then get right in my face and push his way through, and not attack back. The principal asks us to keep them out of halls where there aren't any classes fourth hour, and it's right to do this, but how can I keep this brute out without getting loud and mean and stupid? No one can. It's unconscionable. Every day we teachers are subjected to this kind of shit. It's more than foolish or unfortunate or difficult. It hurts our hearts. Because I'm new the hurt is fresh on me, and I'm conscious of it. The teachers who have been there for a while have had to soak it up and bear it, and I think they're in worse shape than I am. Talk about the silent killer.
Today the fire alarm went off twice. Once was a true fire drill and the other was a true fire. A little fire, a bullshit fire, a kid-created fire, but fire enough to cause us to leave the building nevertheless. That was during second period. My students asked me if we could write with a word (we haven't done that this week yet) and I agreed, and I'd just set the timer and that beautiful silence of people thinking to themselves was deep, and the fire alarm went off. Obviously, it ruined the moment, the class, and the whole day. Later in the afternoon someone set a poster on the wall on fire, but the French teacher tore it down off the wall and stomped it out before the alarm could go off. The fire department came and took pictures, gathered evidence, etc., but.
The kids are being cheated of their right to an education. And I know that I began this blog by addressing the teachers' plight, but, of course, it does all truly boil down to them. Teachers seem to be willing to put up with almost anything to help kids get something in this world.
I'm so angry.



Blogger TamiM said...

How does someone help another who can't, or doesn't want to, help themselves? To help the students at Douglass, it will take someone who can get to their level, speak their language, talk to their hearts to show them that there is a path out of the ugliness of hate and the desperation of the conditions of their lives. Can a rescue be made by someone who has never been there? Is a survivor of the jungle the only one who can speak the language and understand the pain? You may not have lived this life, but I know you can find a path out of the twisted vines of the jungle because you know the path to everyone's hearts. But are there any survivors to strengthen your fight? Do any of them teach, or have they run away as fast as they can to save themselves from the world they came from?

The kids you describe are exercising the only power they understand: destructiveness. There must be so much desperation and negativity in these kids' lives that they can't recognize the power of positive actions that seem weak next to the immediate and physical results of destructive behavior. It must be satisfying to some degree to say, "Open the fucking door," because it releases the frustration and anger - now. That boy was somehow reaching out for someone to hear his plight, showing his colors for anyone to recognize his pain, perhaps a pain he doesn't even know he has. The expression of this pain happens in such a flash, though, and it's impossible to "make it right" at the moment it happens. I can't imagine that even a survivor of the jungle could salve the wounds in the course of one school year.

What will you do with your anger, Melanie?

9:00 PM  
Blogger KarenM said...

In one room in one house
lives a poem
and it lives in the seed
of the man
and of the woman
It lives in the breath
of the baby

Outside, silent, it lives
in the acorn warmed
in the squirrel's jaw
and in the winged seeds
borne through air
to the river and the ocean

washed over continents
a world of poems
a universe of poems

in one room in one house

3:33 AM  

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