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,
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”.
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.
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