Wednesday, March 09, 2005

it was a great day

First period moved me today. I wish I could have recorded it in every way. There were eleven children strewn around the room, most of them using two desks, so intensely into their writing that when a popular clown came in they didn't even lift their heads. I even felt a little bit sorry for the clown. They were serious. It was a beautiful thing. We started this essay, that one based on some inspiration we got from National Geographic, on Monday. One of the students, MR, wasn't there on Monday. Then yesterday he didn't do a thing on the essay. He read the paper, talked his jive, played cd's. I said to him that he was two days behind and shouldn't he get on with the writing? He said, "You know I'm gonna do it Ms Plesh." And I did. And he did. Today he spent the first half of class reading the sports page and I totally left him alone. But when he got down with the essay the boy was absolutely inspired and engrossed. We all have our ways, our processes, child writers as much as adult writers. We respect adults' ways. Why can't we let children have their ways too? I would have been spoken to probably for letting MR read the paper and play cd's. But had I not done that, he would not have done what he did. I'm sure of that. He has his ways and they're valid. As valid as mine.
I wish I had words to say how profound the energy (it wasn't silent) was in that room today. It's like I always suspect, all children need is an invitation to be thinkers and they will think. And I'll just say straight up, I take those children seriously. I mean it when I say they have as much ability as I do to have a profound thought.
Oh yeah, that's why I named this blog what I did.
And then there was second period. That's English III. We've spent the last several weeks reading the literature of the people who lived in this country before the American Revolution, then the speeches during the Revolution, and today, the Declaration of Independence. We got halfway through the first page. The discussion was riveting and broad, and intelligent and interesting. I'm not kidding, when the bell rang kids said "damn!" and stayed. They loved it. They said it out loud. Kids who never talk talked. Somebody thanked me! What got me was how respectful they were of each other's ideas and of each other's right to have the floor. (I took notes on the board thinking about the essay tomorrow.)
There's a girl in that class, DC, who is a natural teacher, and I told her so today. I told her to educate herself and go to school and become a teacher because she has the gift. It makes tears come to my eyes just writing those words. She took over the handling of the discussion and people listened to her. She admonished people if they talked over someone and they apologized to her. She was amazing! She's what the world needs.
Tomorrow we're reading Martin Luther King, Jr's, speech from jail, and an excerpt from Frederick Douglass's story.
I feel so privileged to do what I do.
After school I went to a softball game. It was an exciting game. A lot of passion. It was played at a corner baseball field near Douglass. There were no stands. The audience just stood around the edges. I was ashamed of New Orleans for that. Men stood around drinking beer and smoking. Kids were vile with each other. The language was foul. I'm no prude, but I was really uncomfortable there, and I was embarrassed for the human race that there is so little respect for children, and so little respect for their teachers. I don't think I'll be going to another softball game.
But it didn't ruin my day. In fact, in honor of the day I'm going to order a pizza from Bywater Barbecue and have it delivered and give the deliverer, who is usually on a bicycle, an exorbitant tip. Bon Apetit! (and thank you to the Universe)



Anonymous dhickman said...

Melanie, I just read your entire blog, a first for me. I'm an English teacher in Texas. I was doing a search for...wait, I forgot... Oh yeah, Yousef Kononyakaa to get some help for a student of mine who insisted she could handle the challenge of such a difficult poet for a project. She's struggling, but she's getting something. Your site came up in the search, although you only have a small reference to him.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. In the last few years since I returned to teaching, I have meant to keep a journal, and I start every year, but I just can't keep it going.
I started my working career as a teacher, and a few years ago decided that it would be appropriate and rewarding to finish it out with my first love. It's harder now than I remember, there's just so much more stuff, mostly pointless, to do, and all of the other problems you talk about. I felt like I could have written much of what I read. I'll be reading regularly from now on.

7:09 AM  

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