Wednesday, August 24, 2005

five days in

Today was the fifth day. I've already covered one class and they asked me to cover another one yesterday but I had a meeting to go to. One teacher broke her collarbone the day before school started and another had some kind of diabetic attack that mimicked a stroke the first day the kids came to school. I'm just saying that to say the absences are legitimate and there's no tomfoolery.
The first couple of days it looked like it was going to be a different year, but things have pretty much gone back to normal, with rivers of students circling the floor, a few students who don't respond to me when I say hello in the hall (they look at me and walk past me), bellowing during classes, etc. I haven't had a problem with people walking into my room because I put up blue paper on the panes before school even started and I'm locking my door. I tried leaving it unlocked the first day but a kid came in and did his little dance, so I'm locking it again.
The strategic reading program comes with a facilitator who is there full time, working with the three of us strategic reading teachers. She put up a "word wall" with colorful borders in my room and I now, for the first time, have POSTERS in my room. I prefer the walls stark so that the children will look inside themselves for the colors and such. But I'm following the program. Trying to. Today I had a tiny argument with the facilitator about the length of time children are given to read in the group setting. I'm going to try. And dammit but the poem I used for the reading showcase (included below) was too hard (my fault) and it didn't really work with the kids, which is not a problem for me because I have no problem saying my bad when I choose something that doesn't work. But the facilitator was in there, watching me. Now I'm thinking out loud here. I think the powers that be believe it's the teachers that need help teaching, not that other things have to change. I feel like I'm being scrutinized, and by a very young woman with I think five years of teaching under her belt. I think she has assumed that I'm not a good teacher and that that's why she's there and that that's why I'm at Douglass. It's a weird feeling. I guess I'll just have to see what's up.
Monday a student of mine from last year, Shonda, told me she had a nightmare Saturday night in which she was riding in a car with two boys and someone shot the boys and she went running out of the car and into Douglass screaming, "Ms Plesh! Help me!" over and over. She screamed it out loud and her mother came into her room and asked her who Ms Plesh is.
A lot of my students from last year have been coming to see me. It doesn't hurt my street cred or my reputation for the children in my classes to see this.

Here's William Stafford's poem, "For All My Young Friends Who Are Afraid":

There is a country to cross you will
find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot--air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing
voice that finds its way by being
afraid. That country is there, for us,
carried as it is crossed. What you fear
will not go away: it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That's the world, and we all live there.



Blogger Clay said...

"I think she has assumed that I'm not a good teacher and that that's why she's there and that that's why I'm at Douglass. It's a weird feeling"

Hmm... I seem to remember that the incumbent teachers at Douglass felt the same way about the new teachers last year, right? -grin-

This is a very delicate situation. If you can both agree on some desired outcomes for the students then "leave your egos at the door", it would be a lot easier. (I say "your", although I have little doubt the you'll do that. I just know, from my own teaching, that as soon as I lose that zen attitude and start being self-aware (and worried about my own ego : "did I screw that up", "what will they think of me") I didn't make much progress with teaching.

The question may be: how do you get her to not be invested in her ideas so heavily that she wants them to "succeed" even if they're bad ideas.

Perhaps, if you disagree about something, you can give her a day to teach.

It's always so much easier to criticize from the sidelines. Also easier to have a good idea when you're not in the thick of things.

I'll stop rambling now.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

Ms. Plesh,

I'm not sure if you have internet access where you are, but know that people are praying for you right now and that you are on our minds. Hopefully you were able to evacuate and are safe. Please update and let us know you are okay. The news is frightening and I can't get you out of my mind --- I tried calling you, but hopefully you were out of town before I made the calls because no one picked up.

Much hugs and prayers...

8:05 PM  
Blogger Marsha said...

Wherever you are, Melanie, we love you and are praying for you...and for all your kids...

11:08 PM  
Anonymous Julie said...

Melanie, I've been reading, lurking, thinking about you. You and other SLWP people are very much on mind during this crisis.

I'll keep you present with me, and hope to hear that you and yours are all safe and well. I'm sending you love and strength to get through this ordeal...

7:03 AM  
Anonymous Emily said...

I too am thinking about you, and hoping that you are safe. Wherever you are, take good care of yourself!

8:29 AM  
Blogger HH said...

Hi Melanie -

It's hard to belive that about 6 weeks ago we were at the NO Writing Marathon. My heart breaks for all of you in NO. I never thought that the NWP teacher exchange would make an extended connection by having my school collect money for Katrina victims. I hope this email finds you safe and well.

Please let me know if there is a specific place you know of to send money that will go directly to school kids.

Take care,
Heather Harlen

11:54 AM  
Blogger leslieg said...

I spoke to Melanie at about 8:00 AM and then around 11:12 AM the morning of the evacuation. The last time I spoke to her she was getting some things together and was going to evacuate. She didn't know where she was going, but she took the phone number where I was heading--a landline, so I hope to hear from her soon. I will post a message if I hear from her before she can post herself.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

Thank you for posting that information leslieg! Just knowing that she was going to evacuate is good news. I tried calling her on Sunday afternoon and didn't get through --- it just ran and rang and rang and her answering machine didn't even pick up, so hopefully this means she had already left.

Ms. Plesh is a strong and amazing woman. Where ever she is, she is blessing someone - even if she is blessing the people in the superdome or astrodome or cajandome. Where ever she went, she went with purpose and desire. That is one very unique thing about her.. everything has reason. She doesn't waste a second of being alive.

Please do post and email me at if you hear anything. If you hear from her, find a way to get back in touch with her --- tell her Cassandra (trust me, she will know the name) would love to call her. If you can get any contact information on her, let me know. You can also pass on that there is a school district here that would take her in an instant ;)

Glad to know you, leslieg, made it out safe though and hopefully things won't be bad as everyone is expecting.

8:26 PM  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

SHE IS SAFE!!! I searched and FOUND HER on the MSNBC site, but have not been able to reach her at the phone number provided. Bottom line is that she made it out and that is she safe --- PRAISE GOD!!! If you don't believe me and need to see for yourself, search and search for Melanie Plesh. I think I want to print that page out and put it on the fridge or something :) This is great news!

8:01 AM  
Anonymous Tracy Amond said...

Just talked to David Rowe at that number on the MSNBC site who said Tim confirmed that Melanie made it to Hammond. If anyone else hears anything at all, please post it. I'm Tracy Amond,

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

I heard the same, but didn't get a chance to post the info --- thanks so much for doing it! My name is Cassandra Ratcliff and my email is I'm one of her former students from Mandeville who has kept in close touch with her since I graduated. I'll keep you posted and post to this entry if I hear anything else.

Tim did good! Tim did good!!

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone for the information about Melanie. I glad she is safe.

Melanie, you are a strong and special woman...a great teacher. Love and prayers to all of you in the southland from Elko, Nevada. kmoon

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Tracy Amond said...

Melanie is safe in Hammond! I heard from our Writing Project friend David, and they are fine. Melanie made contact with someone who weathered the storm in her neighborhood and said her house is unflooded and (so far) unlooted.

Tracy Amond (

5:18 PM  
Blogger Melanie Plesh said...

I only have a moment to say how grateful I am to you and to say that when I get actual access to a computer I'm going to try to remember my password at the blog place.
My son, Tim, said this story of Katrina and the 9th ward and Douglass is the beginning of the book and that suddenly the story has a serious amount of relevance and I think that's true. There was talk about closing Douglass next year. I may have taught at Douglass's last year. That blows my mind.
I haven't been able to let myself feel too much.
Thank you.
Love, Melanie

6:17 PM  

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