Thursday, November 04, 2004

forward, march

I keep sitting at this blank screen, trying to understand where my momentum has gone. Perhaps it is because these last several weeks have been essentially lost. Three weeks ago was a full week of leap testing. Last week second quarter grades were due, so there was the frenzy of people trying to make things up at the last minute. Last week was also homecoming week and spirit week, during which time kids could dress in various costumes for the day, like as twins, or they could wear their clothes backward, or they could dress up. In reality it was just a chance for them to wear street clothes. On Thursday we had a pep rally and on Friday we had the "coronation" of the homecoming queen. And, yes, crowns were worn. Also on Friday we had a fire, then we were put into first period for three hours, skipped second period, had one lunch, and had a gang fight. This week we didn't have school election day, Tuesday.
So what's the point? I guess this is starting to look normal to me. I seem to have recovered from my doubt and weakness of a few weeks ago. I'm definitely more bold and less stung by, and I mean you'd have to see it to understand, the absolutely meanest looks from students with attitude you've ever seen. I even stepped between a boy and a girl, the boy "playfully" pushing her around, like a cat with a half-dead mouse, and I could see she didn't like it. Me stepping between them gave her the moment to escape him. The tall mean girl is back in school and has been hanging around with the tall mean boy who ordered me to open the fucking door.
There's not anymore, it seems, one eye-popping event after another. I'm getting used to the kids and they're getting used to me. And now things are about the business of writing and reading. As it should be. EXCEPT they're back to asking me when we're going to do English. I'm thinking about giving them worksheets for a couple of days and then asking them if this is really what they want, but I think they'd probably say yes. I am seeing this as a challenge, even though it's frustrating. Somehow I have to let them see for themselves that they are becoming more literate, that their writing is getting good, that they're getting closer and closer to being people who can manage college. I know some of them see it. One girl, J, has gone from writing absolute gobbeldy gook to writing almost profusely, and with no more grammatical/mechanical mistakes than everybody else. She's amazing. She used to keep her head down, never show her face, and complained about hating to write every time we did. I had the feeling then that she felt stupid. I don't have that feeling anymore. She's hopeful. And she never complains anymore about writing. She just sets to it.
I've been privately and quietly correcting some of the kids' language "mistakes" verbally. I only do this with those who won't feel insulted by it. I mean, they really do call the fathers of their children "my baby daddy." When I correct them I have to really exaggerate the "s" after baby. I don't think they hear it. I guess because they're not accustomed to hearing it. It really is like a different language.
On another note, we have added a new security guard and they're sweeping the halls of students after the bells ring, so things are getting much better. I've even taken to leaving my door OPEN sometimes. I mean, wide open. That boy I physically kept out of my class the other day meandered into my open class yesterday and I just let him in. He sat down. We were reading little articles from the newspaper and writing our thoughts, and I gave him one to read, and he read it. He stayed until the bell rang.



Blogger Nancy McKeand said...

I really believe that the only changes that can be made are made one student, one individual, one heart at a time. If that one student came in, read and stayed for the class, he has been changed. It's a small change and won't, probably, be without backsliding, but it is positive change.

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one thing I have learned with the little kids that will end up at school just like Douglass - they might not have all the phonemes to pronounce certain words, for example the word STRAIGHT is pronounced SKRATE. Omiting the last sound/ syllable is a cultural thing that I see with my kids up here in North Louisiana too.

Why don't you give them a journal prompt like: What is English? What does it mean to study English? Find out in through ENGLISH what they are thinking about ENGLISH.

You keep on amazing me, Ms. Plesh. If I am ever 1/100000000th as good of a teacher as you were to me and you are to your kids now -- I would be forever fortunate and so would my kids...
- Cassandra

7:04 PM  

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