Friday, February 27, 2009

How to teach an old dog new tricks!

I have a new camera, but I have been too overwhelmed to use it. The sole purpose of getting the camera in the first place was to add more pictures to my blog and facebook. It hasn't quite turned out that way...

I found out when I got back from my fab Big Bear trip that I had a new job. The job of my dreams. Teaching history in the inner city. The inner city I am referring to is close to downtown Long Beach CA. It definitely meets my criteria. 100% of the students come from economic disadvantage. Many of them live with someone other than their parents, and they have problems that make my worries about affording my mortgage and sending my daughter to college look like the common cold! There is a slight is middle school, 8th grade to be exact - US history.

I don't in principle have anything against 14 and 14 year olds. My adolescence was so horrible, I can't help but feel for what their bodies are putting them through! Add poverty, crime, a run down neighborhood and the temptation to do something illegal to make money to the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster.

These particular kids in my classes have been without a regular teacher since before Christmas. She left to go on maternity leave telling the kids she would be back in April. She changed her mind, and isn't coming back until the fall. I could leave my babies at 9 months so I don't blame her. I hope she is basking in the joy of new motherhood. But the kids have had substitute after substitute. Two of whom were supposed to stay until their teacher came back, and just changed their minds and left. After a week in this situation, I have had thoughts of doing the same, but I can't, and I won't. They are hurting, and their more than average ridiculous behavior is proof. They think of it as a game now. How long will it take us to run her off! Well, I have made a promise to them and myself that I will not be run off. I want them to know, if it takes until June, that they will see the same face when they walk into class. I want them to know that I respect them, and care about them enough to show up even when they make that difficult. Perhaps that will change their behavior. It has already changed me.

I realize that there are many times when teaching is about more than the curriculum, this is definitely one of those time. This position is about gaining their trust and teaching them to respect themselves enough to respect others.

I have begun a major cleaning and organizing campaign in the classroom. They deserve a clean room to work in, as do I. They complained about the smell of bleach, but I think they got the message. I will work on the room until it feels like home.

I have learned that I need to relax about somethings. I have to make sure that the kids who want to learn get what they need, and that those who already know they are going to drop out of high school will get what it is that they need. My first response to that question is to not drop out. But, as true as that is, it is much too obvious. Some of these kids realized that they were going to quit high school 2 years ago. What do I have to teach them. That will be a big part of my learning experience

They definitely need to learn manners. They need to learn to care for themselves and others. They need to figure out how they are realistically going to make it in a bad economy without a high diploma. How will I help them with these things, I have no idea. I do know that I have to think and approach them with my heart and not my head! The rest will be playing it by ear.

Wish me well dear readers - all 4 of you. The best to you all!

1 comment:

  1. Good for you for sticking to it! Those kids sure do need consistency. You have my support and my utmost respect for what you are doing. I can't even imagine how difficult it is, but I hope you find little glimmers of hope each day that encourage you to keep going. I know you have already had a positive effect on these kids, and the longer you sticker around, the greater that effect will be. Hang in there - I'm rooting for you!