A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, November 08, 2010

Cue Gloria Estefan.

If you are any kind of secondary teacher eventually the kids will confide in you. This is by far the most anxiety-producing part of the job for me. I seriously pray that I will not screw up when these confidences are shared and I have to decide what my response will be, but respond I will, and I let the kids know it. I will listen, I will offer advice if asked, but I do not promise to keep secrets if something I hear worries me about a student's welfare and safety. I tend to be of the no-nonsense, problem-solving practical breed of advice-giver: "What can you control? What CAN'T you control? Let go of it, control what you can, and have a plan for your life to overcome this obstacle in measurable steps."

There must be a full moon or something, because, today was a banner day. I carried the stories of THREE kids to the counselors today. I did this because they wouldn't go themselves. And go is exactly what they needed. And frankly they know this about me since I make no bones about it, so think they wanted me to push the point and get them there. Passivity is one of the worst signs of depression.

Despite my crusty exterior, once you are my student, you are one of "my kids." even sometimes if you haven't been my student, actually, as one of the kids from today's crises has never actually been in my classroom but is one of the kids I seem to be constantly chivvying in the hallway.

I am just saying this because, it is that time of year, friends. Five of my students are sharing with me that there is a divorce going on in the household. One has a dying grandma in a culture that especially reveres the older generation. Two are being watched for suicidal tendencies. One is being watched for an eating disorder. One is contemplating coming out, I think, even though he hasn't actually admitted it.

I would like to explain to all of the haters of public education that THIS is what we do as wll as convey information, cover objectives, assess learning, develop curriculum, grade, grade, grade, question, answer, raise ACT scores, tutor after school, support sporting events, increase vocabulary, write across the curriculum, take surveys, attend meetings, collaborate with coteachers, attempt to administer social justice, strengthen depth of knowledge and reasoning ability, teach how to take multiple choice tests, monitor the hallways, break up the occasional spat or fight, collaborate with colleagues and provide advice for new teachers, and prepare my students for career, college, and last but not least to pass the AP exam.

Because, really, kids, I would do anything for you.



At 11/9/10, 2:25 PM, Anonymous chicagoteacher said...

I can sure relate to that. It has been an insane week and it's only 2 days old. It's a wonder these kids can learn anything with all the "stuff" they are carrying around with them. It's heartbreaking many days.

At 11/9/10, 3:26 PM, Blogger Kim said...

yep, you tell me how some distance learning course is going to detect some of the problems these kids have, listen to them, and send them in the right direction, then spend the rest of the time worrying that the kids will be okay.

At 11/9/10, 5:18 PM, Anonymous Mrs. H. said...

I too was one of those teachers who seemed to attract students with problems to vent. They came to me, ALL the time, and I can't could the number of times I had to go to the guidance office and let someone know about this situation or that situation.
It's stressful, but it's one of the many ways we make a difference. :)

At 11/9/10, 7:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I pray a lot this time of year. I've been a 504 plan beast this past couple of weeks.

At 11/13/10, 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for articulating this. I have given up on the "haters" ever understanding this aspect of our jobs, but it continues to astound me when administrators turn a blind eye to the pain our students are feeling. Yes, it's a cliché, but "they won't care what you know until they know that you care" is a profound and simple truth. I say this as a teacher and a parent: if you don't like and respect kids enough to invest in them holistically, then you have no business being a teacher.

At 11/15/10, 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was sent to the counselor countless times by teachers, all through middle and high school, who remained conveniently anonymous.

I never said anything, but they all thought there was something "wrong" with me.

The counselors would sit there and bullshit. They would ask how many night a week I ate dinner with my family. Mostly, I would lie to them, as a way of preserving some sense of privacy and autonomy.

I was afraid. I saw TV specials about teenagers being committed to institutions and was afraid that if I complained, I might be sent there. So I never complained about being sent to the counselor. I just complied.

If you are a teacher, please think carefully about what you are doing. Especially if you are convinced you know what is best for your students.


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