Sunday, December 26, 2004

a little retrospective

It's the day after Christmas. I copied all the blogs and pasted them in chronological order (July to December rather than the way it appears in the blog, which is December to July) into a document in my word processing program. It's 64 pages single spaced, without the comments! (I have the blogs with comments pasted into another document.) This morning I read the entire thing, from 4 July to 20 December.
I noticed a few things. For one, I say often in the blogs how honored I feel to be working with these children. It strikes me as interesting that that's the word I use. And it's true, I do feel so honored. I wonder if I'm one of those people who places a certain age group on a pedestal? I think there's a word for people like that. But I do have such awe about adolescents. They're on the cusp of being. Now is a time when they can choose to go toward being thinkers or to just roll with the crowd. Now is the time when they can become proactive or remain reactive. Now is a time when they can discover their minds. They have such power now, and such potential. It is awesome to be able to bring writing into their lives.
Another thing that strikes me is that I often say that I am not working at this school to be liked or to make friends. That's true. However, I have made friends, good friends. I think that's amazing, given the fact that this is my first year at the school, and given the racial situation. And given the fact that I'm an Orleans Parish Teaching Fellow. Teachers don't seem to like us too much. I think they think that we think we're some kind of elites, or that we think we know better than they how to teach. I can understand that they may be wary of us. But that seems not to be an issue now for me.
And then there's the two revelations I had about the "test." One is that I saw in October that the halls could be made quiet and civil and respectful because of the leap test. It's so important to our school (I love it about our principal that she wants so much for these children to pass, not because she wants to look good on paper but because she cares so much about the children). So because of the test we learned that we could create a little pocket of order. And the other revelation, that in order to be successful on the test students must be prepared to be critical thinkers, and so suddenly thinking has come to the fore. That has been sorely absent in schools, something I absolutely could never fathom. So now everyone is trying, and being forced to try, to help students become thinkers. So I have to thank the test for that.
The head maintenance man, the handsome guy I assumed was capable, I have found is nothing special. He never did find a place for my bike. After me asking him several times he never did fix the broken pane of glass in my door. He pretty much just walks around kind of like a swashbuckler, looking handsome, lilke he's all that. And he's not. I really miss Mandeville High School in this regard. The people who took care of our school were serious about it and respectful of the whole education process, and considered themselves part of it, which they were.
I looked also at the samples of writings I included in the blog and realize that what I want to do is collect all of my students writings and do some comparing and contrasting (from the writings in August to the writings in December) and see what happened, who they were, who they are, if they've grown and how (they have), and like that.

On another topic, Tuesday the 21st I went to Mandeville High School's Christmas party in the early evening, then to "the east" to Douglass's Christmas party, from 8-12. Such an interesting contrast, to say the least. Someone I know (another writer) told me it would make a good story to tell in one of the local publications, the difference between the two parties, the two schools, etc. I'd like to write that story. But it hasn't sunk in yet. It will.

Melanie Plesh


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are amazing and will forever be on a pedistal to me -- you are MY TEACHER and the more I read your blog, the more I learn from you. I would not be where I am today if it weren't for you and for your boldness. I cannot write without thinking of you --- you have left your autograph in my mind of your amazing red permed hair, bold and fearless attitude, and compassionate heart for everyone. I finished my degree this December and all I can think about is how much you have changed my life for the better. I don't know if I would have started writing again if it weren't for YOU! I was so scared to write after what happened, but you wouldn't let my fears get in the way of what I needed to say through my written words.

I left your classroom as a formal student of yours 5 years ago to this month, but I have never forgotten that semester. You floored me by your honesty and genuineness. You loved to teach and made that so clear to your students. You cared about each one of us individually and held us to individual standards. You pushed comfort zones around and made your classroom a safe haven for expression. Even when I came back to visit you after I started college, your classroom felt the same - it was filled with love and passion. You have changed my life in so many positive ways and still continue to do so...

Cassandra R.
Centenary College of Louisiana - College Graduate, Fall 2004

12:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Melanie -

All I can think of to say is "what a gal"! I feel fortunate to know you. I am so happy that one of my brood was lucky to have you. She went from a student who had never written a paper before, had no faith in herself to a college freshman with an A in English this semester & a 4.0 to boot. Thank you for posting this blog, it is not only for educators but for all of us who would like to make the world a better place. Later -


12:56 PM  

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