What an incredible weekend.
I had told SingingGirl I would help her pack on Friday, which was also her birthday. I was kinda reluctant...to give up my day off to do physical labor...but figured it would give me some time to hang out with her -- and she is COOL. In fact, she is so cool that she was already 98% packed...and it was a full 24 hours before moving day! (I'm usually creating SEVERAL "miscellaneous" boxes even while people are showing up to help move my 'treasures'.)
We got to spend the entire day just puttering around town. We ate lunch...went to the mall (only had one 'Uberschool Kid Encounter' -- a record!) ... and then wandered around looking at some duplexes. (I was pondering moving...but have decided to stay where I am for now.)
We then met a friend for a quick lunch and a movie. We saw ATL ... it was okay...would recommend waiting to rent it though. It moved pretty slow...so it'd be helpful to be able to pause it and get up and wander around. It had a ton of those "urban" cliche's...ending with a street fight and a shooting. See? cliche'.
I was shocked to find that scene the most difficult to watch. I guess I've been able, for the majority of my time at Uberschool, to block out the fact that a lot of my kids actually live in that kind of violence. Gangs, drugs, etc....that's reality for them.
I've known that, but it's been head knowledge. I've not actually acknowledged it...until just recently. I've had a lot of honest conversations with Buggy that have really opened a window for me to see what that life looks like from the inside.
How living in that kind of reality shapes your perceptions of the world, of others, and of yourself.
And how living in that kind of world requires a set of values that other people don't understand. (Like viewing a violent fight as an acceptable means of resolving a conflict.)
I'm not saying that I approve of the gangs, the violence and all of that. Not at all. But I really do believe that, in order for me to be able to reach some of these kids, I need to be able to understand that mind-set, and that reality, and why they have those values-- or I'm only going to keep hammering at things from my perspective -- the so-called right way to do things, and will never be able to connect with that kid.
I need to meet them where they are...without judging them...and help them understand that there are other options out there. Other options that might be better.
I also need to understand that it may take some time and some patience and some persuasion, and maybe some setbacks along the way...because that student is still living in that reality and making change is hard. But I gotta keep at it.
There are times I really wish I could walk away from these kids...Buggy in particular. I wish I were content to have some job where I sit in a cubicle and do paperwork all day. Or, that I could walk into my classroom, lecture to the faces in the desks about whatever story or grammar element we need to discuss...and walk out without becoming involved.
It would be a whole lot safer.
Not safer in the physical sense -- because although the students at Uberschool are sometimes physically violent with one another, I have yet to feel physically threatened.
I'm talking about safer in the emotional sense. It's hard to get to know the souls of these kids...and want so much for them...and wonder if they're going to be able to break free. And you know that they engage in a lot of dangerous behaviors...so you hope against hope that you don't get that phone call. Because you know it will break your heart.
But even though at times I think I would like to be safe from all that...I know that's not how I'm wired. It's not that I don't maintain perspective and a certain amount of professional distance...I do. (I've seen too many teachers make mistakes by blurring that line between teacher and student..and that's a dangerous choice.)
But I don't put up a wall that keeps them from seeing how much I care about them...and their success...and that I truly want to do what I can to help them be as successful as possible.
I do make sure that they know that I expect them to put forth the full amount of effort, as well.
And they almost always do.
Even the ones who don't do it right away...the ones that take a while to "get it"...they figure it out eventually and come back to me and say "I should've listened to you about x. I was just too hardheaded at the time. Thanks."
Sitting with Bigbrother at the meet the other night brought a lot of this into focus for me. After I posted that night, I had a really long chat with a friend I've known a long time. As I talked to her about the meet, and how it was hard to watch Buggy hurting after not qualifying for state, and what it was like for me to see Bigbrother again after so long...my heart started to hurt. I felt like I had failed Bigbrother in some way. He had been in 2 of my classes that first year...9th grade English and Speech. He was fine in the Speech class..which was mostly 11th and 12th graders, so the dynamic was a little different.
After lunch, he would come back for 9th grade English. And try to run things. He thought that, since he was older (a repeater) and I gave them more independence in the class right before...that he could call the shots with the 9th graders.
Lemme tell ya, that batch of 9th graders needed no encouragement to be squirrelly....so when Bigbrother got them stirred up, my life was Hell. We went toe-to-toe on a daily basis.
Finally, his AP said, "I'm going to change his schedule. No one should have Bigbrother twice in the same career...much less twice in the same day."
And she let me pick which class to move him from. EASY CHOICE.
We got along okay after that. There were minor skirmishes, but no huge battles. Most of my problem with him was that he was so incredibly smart, and while some days he would come in and be super productive...most days, he would simply not try. That frustrated the hell outta me. We made it to the end of the class at semester, and he moved on. I was relieved that I didn't have to deal with his drama everyday. I heard about him from other teachers...the 9th grade English class he was switched to...my friend's class...he got in a big nasty fight in the classroom and had to be pepper-sprayed to stop. All things considered, it wasn't a big suprise when I heard that he dropped out.
Buggy showed up in my class in October (when my classes switched from sophomores to juniors). That first day, I was trying to call roll and learn names/faces...that was a dirty trick making me learn 2 batches of kids' names in one semester!...and I looked at Buggy's name and saw the same last name as Bigbrother.
My world screeched to a halt.
I looked at him and said, "Are you, by any chance, related to Bigbrother Samelastname?"
He grinned and said, "yes".
Oh hell. Even-up trade? Anyone? Even-up trade?
Thankfully, my fears about him have not come true. While he has some of the same value system as Bigbrother, he also has developed some maturity and some introspective qualities that allow him to truly think about things and how he wants his life to be different...which may be what sways him toward staying in school.
I'm still hoping that Bigbrother eventually "gets it".
Who knows? Crazier things have happened.