Thursday, November 18, 2010

Simply Teaching


I mentioned yesterday that I was back in the classroom. On Monday and Tuesday afternoons, I teach remedial reading to small groups of children in an unventilated bookroom at a nearby school.

I teach feral children.

OK, maybe they’re not technically feral. They haven’t been raised by wolves or anything. For the most part, though, the children who come to my little room at the end of the hall are raising themselves.  There’s absolutely nothing going on in their homes to engage them in the educational process.

No one ever reads to them
or asks about homework.
Conferences are a nuisance.
Discipline is a joke.

They aren’t houseless, but they are homeless in the truest sense of the word. They aren’t hungry,  but they are malnourished. They exist on fast food, junk food, fried food, and processed food. In case you didn’t know, sugar is the new basic food group.

They stay up as late as they want,
 staring at some tripped out electronic screen
 that steals their intellect and their innocence.

And nobody seems to care.

For the most part, that’s why they come to me.
My challenge is to reach into their heads
 and try to fix what ails them.

In fifty minutes a day…
Two days a week…
For eight weeks.

To be honest, I rarely feel as if I’m making a difference at all. 
Now, that might not bother every teacher.

You’re doing the best you can,
 they say.
 Don’t be so hard on yourself.
You’re fighting against society,
 and their families,
and the whole nature of the beast…

But, It bothers me. My top reasons for being a teacher never did include June, July, and August. I became a teacher because I really and truly love to teach.  And teaching demands by definition that somebody in the room is learning, doesn’t it?

Most days, I pack up my frustrations in my trusty old teacher bag and head home discouraged, wondering if any of my efforts have made so much as a dent.

But some days…some days,
 I get the flicker.

Tuesday was such a day.  We had been working for two days on a reading skill, the topic of which is unimportant to this post, and folks, they just weren’t getting it. I had tried three different methods of creative teachery to get that light to switch on,  but there just didn’t seem to be any juice.  

And then, crouching down beside one little boy, I said something. I can’t even remember exactly what it was that I said, but he turned and looked at me with with the big “Ohhh!”

And he said, “I get it!”
And he repeated back to me exactly what I had wanted him to “get”.

And then…

Almost as if in slow motion, I saw the lights go on in the other little attics around the table. They “got it” too, and they all whipped out their erasers and made royal messes out of their papers to prove to me that they did.  We shared high fives all the way around that table, and I'm not positive, but I think I might have done a victory dance.  

Of course,  I'm not foolish enough to assume that the skill will survive the Thanksgiving break.  It's quite possible that I'll have to flip that switch all over again when we return, but a teacher can hope...

Regardless, I had a small victory.  

And that, my friends, is this week's simple pleasure.

*****
Sharing with Dayle at
Please visit to see more simple pleasures.

38 comments:

Jennie said...

Teaching is a calling, Mrs. Debbie. And I so admire anyone who is brave enough to venture into a classroom. You are heroes in every sense of the word. I hear the stories from my mother-in-law of the children in her room, and I don't think I could handle seeing it day in and day out. The neglect and "feral-ness" of it all. It's a sad, sad place, but the teachers who do it because they are called - like you - who don't work with the upper echelons of academia, but spend their days in the "trenches", I wholeheartedly believe, are the ones who make the biggest difference. Because sometimes all it takes is one spark, one glimmer to ignite that fire. And I know it might be squelched when they get home, and I'm sure it is frustrating and disheartening to know that, but they've been primed - finally - by *someone*. And I have every bit of confidence that's sometimes all it takes. And if you can help just one, you've more than succeeded.

You rock. Seriously. I'm proud of you!

Jennie said...

P.S. - Shel Silverstein is one of my all-time favorites (of course).

Evelyn S. said...

Blessings on you, Ms. Debbie! I completed 34 years of teaching high school English/Language Arts almost 10 years ago. I suffered frustrations, but there's something about the hopelessness at those earlier grades that's more disheartening. Our small district instituted a "Read to Succeed" program a few years ago that is reaping great rewards. They start with parents of infants, teaching them to read to their children (20 minutes a day) and the primary classes have about 2 1/2 hours of reading each day. Most of our kindergarten children are reading when they enter first grade. (We are a low-income community, too, with children much like yours.) Bless you for got giving up.

Karen said...

Thank you for making a difference in these children's lives. You will never know how far reaching this can be!!! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Christine said...

Bless you!
I work in a high school and see these children everyday. To have someone with such a big heart is special. Thank you for doing what you do.

Dayle said...

Sweet Debbie, this made my heart sing really loud. What a gift you are to these kids. I'm a firm believer in mentoring. As you say, some days it's really a struggle, but on the days when they "get it," it couldn't be sweeter. This simple pleasure made my day. Seriously.

Denise said...

You, my dear sweet sister, were BORN to teach. Daddy always said you might as well teach because you would eventually anyway. I'm so grateful that I am the recipient of your teaching as well. Your students are blessed to have you as are my sisters in Christ.

PS Glad this is a pleasure for you because you know what teaching would be for me...painful!!

Sue said...

Wow - you have the gift to say what I always wish I could say! I spent the first 8 years of my empty nest tutoring and running the tutoring program for homeless and the "might as well be homeless children". The absolute best 8 years of my life. The frustrations were many, but those light bulb moments are what keeps us going.
Thank you for sharing!

sarah said...

wow. first....wow b/c your heart is in all the right places...next wow...for that little boy who got it...and even wanted to get it. You shine....you really shine.

laura :) said...

So I was reading this at work and I almost started crying--AT WORK.

I'm so glad you are having moments like this, I wish I were home to share them with you. I hope everything keeps going well for you, and I can't wait to hear more stories about your teaching adventures.

Love you!

Love,
Best daughter ever

Debbie said...

Love you back, Miss Whimsy...

Ginger~~Enchanting Cottage said...

We need more teachers like you,thank-you. I have the book A light in the Attic too. It's been years since I opened it, I may have to do that soon.
Blessings,
Ginger

Sonja said...

I immediately sent this on to my dil who is a teacher. She is going to be shouting a big AMEN with you on this one.

What a treat for the little boy to 'get it', and then the others. Sometimes we have to live on those perks for a long time, in teaching and in life.

Good post Debbie!!

Entertaining Women said...

Years ago I taught a diagnostic and remediation class in Helena, Montana Sr. High. No one read on even a 3rd grade level. I had a breakthrough when I started journaling with the kids...at first, they would dictate and I would write their words into their journal....then I would work with each child to help them read...their own words! I don't know why, but it worked! They would say, "I don't know how I'm doing this, but I'm reading!" It was a breakthrough that I'll never forget. Totally understand what they lose when they go away (I won't say home for your kids) over a weekend or holiday...victories definitely come in tiny doses. Bless you for your perseverance and your dedication. Thanks for stopping by my post. Cherry Kay

Southern Gal said...

Wow. That is more than a simple pleasure. That truly is a victory for you and for them.

Francie...The Scented Cottage Studio said...

Ohhh TRUST me...you are making a BIG difference and these children will remember you for the rest of their lives.
A tiny little seed is all it takes.
(())

Sue said...

Debbie, How touched I am by this, I can only imagine the joy you receive when you hear "Oh i get it".
I am so glad that God has called women like you to mentor and teach his beloved children who have been neglected by parents who think of no one but themselves first.

What you are giving them, besides learning to read, is a part of you whether a smile, a kind word, or even a hug, will last them through out their lives, through the good times as well as the bad times.

May the Lord continue to bless you as you minister to others.
Hugs,
Sue

Kathleen said...

Oh, Debbie! I got shivers reading this. My teacher heart wants to cry for those abandoned little souls. Thank you for bridging the gap.

"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something..."

Glad our paths have crossed!
Kathleen

Denise @ http://www.somanytables.com/ said...

You have a gift - not only for teaching, but also for writing. I have become one of your followers. I know I'll travel here often with happy anticipation.

One Heart said...

Not many true teachers left in this world. I often wonder why some even pursue that career if they don't have a true passion or calling for it? The passion, the commitment, the love for her students and the gift is hard to find even in Christian schools. My children attended school for a few years, including a Christian one and a public charter. I worked in the Christian one as a teacher assistant and it was the year the Lord called us to home school. I would come home from work crying each day at what I saw those "teachers" doing.

You do make a difference although it may not seem so and the greatest opportunity is beyond the lesson you are teaching. It is the opportunity you are given to pray over these beautiful souls that you are encountering. You are also given the opportunity to be the only encouragement they get, depositing eternal seeds in their lives. I used to do that and it made a world of difference to me. It was purposeful, a special ministry of love.

Hope this helps a bit. Thanks for stopping by. Blessings!

Kelli said...

Breaks your hearts for these precious children. PRAISE GOD for teachers such as yourself who DO care and will pour their heart into them!! I absolutely love the "AHA" moments!! Keep up the challenging yet rewarding work!

Sarah said...

Debbie, with 30 years in the classroom and now as a private tutor I feel this post to the bone. I know all too well how one wants to savor those "light bulb" moments. You are the kind of teacher that all children need and deserve. I hope you fell appreciated! I'm cheering you one.
Happy Thanksgiving ! ~ Sarah

Jen said...

From one teacher to another, I totally get your every word!

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

Thanks for the outloud laugh.

Postcard placecard. :)

Joan said...

This is so touching. Your simple pleasure is providing a need. Wonderful!

I would have loved to see those little faces light up.

Blessings,
Joan

sewingseedscraftylife said...

What a blessing you are to those children who would have otherwise given up. I am so glad you got the simple pleasure of that light bulb moment. God bless you for following your calling and for hanging in for the small victories.

FrouFrouBritches said...

What a wonderful feeling of satisfaction and joy you must have felt with the "Oh!". I'm only a substitute and that little word makes me feel like I've actually done something worthwhile. What a wonderful blessing that little two little word must've been. Never forget what an inspiration you must be to those sweet babies. Those are the babies my heart breaks for.

Sharon Kirby said...

What a wonderful story!

Small victories like this are well-needed sips of water in the wilderness, aren't they?

I just know that you're a terrific teacher, and if anyone can shine a light into those cob-webby little attics - it's YOU!

I'm thinking that that moment for you must have been like a thousand others with God. When our finite, puny little minds finally look at Him and go, "Oh....I GET IT!!"

Miss you -

GOD BLESS!

La Vie Quotidienne said...

Hi,

As a former teacher I can completely relate to what you are talking about. Sometimes it is all so sad and then at others so up lifting.
Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog and leave such a nice message.

Lynn Richards said...

What a joy to see the lights go on, Debbie. I'm willing to bet that sweet child will never forget that moment.
Just finished reading to Brenna. I read Clifford and Arthur. Even though she can't read them herself, it is one of life's greatest pleasures to read to your children, so I get to do it for a long, long time!! Wish I had those little ones to read to...
xo
lynn

gnee @ Singing With Birds said...

I'm glad the children you speak of have the good fortune of having you there to flip their switch. Thank you for caring so much. There are few people I admire more than a dedicated teacher, just one more star on the chart I'm keeping about you!

Ms.Daisy said...

WOW! Debbie, just Wow! That had to be a very special moment for you as a teacher (and a victory dance would have been the order of the day!). An excellent Simple Pleasure if I do say so!
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, too!

~Jean

CAL said...

Bless you dear Debbie for the difference you are making in those lives. May you have many more A-ha! Moments.

SALTBOX TREASURES said...

Debbie, it is a great thing you are doing with these kids. I'm sure all of your efforts will have a lasting affect on their futures. Thank you for being a teacher.
~Julie

Carol said...

Debbie,
You are planting seeds in these lives that you may never see grow. But they are being planted and you are answering God's calling, and He will use these seeds.
Not only have these children lacked for so much in their lives, it is also highly unlikely that anyone has ever prayed for them. What a wonderful thing for them to have your prayers on their behalf.

Kathleen said...

Sadly life just is not a bed of roses for some people is it? But thank goodness that we have teachers like you in the world to bring in a ray of sunshine just where it's needed most. Thank you for loving your job and caring about those you teach.

Chatty Crone said...

I bet you are a great teacher and they may remember it - who knows? What kind of students do you teach?

sandie

Linda W said...

God bless you, Debbie! You've truly touched my heart again!

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