Sunday, March 9, 2008

This is Why I'm Here

Okay, so I'm here to teach and to form impressionable young minds. We all know that. But sometimes it's hard to remember or understand exactly why I was called here, because I do believe I was called. So, I just quickly wanted share something that I heard at church last week because I think it's something we can all employ in our lives with many different people.

I think I have a different approach than TFA a lot of times. My job is to teach and to "close the achievement gap," but, as corny as it sounds, I believe in educating both the heart and the mind. My job is to teach the letters and patterns and basic literacy and math. My job is also to teach these kids that someone loves them and, therefore, they should love themselves enough to work hard and learn to follow their dreams in life. School is a place that is safe where people love them and will take care of them.

For several of my students, I think that this approach is what will (hopefully) "save" them from being the 13-year-old fifth grader. They won't be so disruptive and angry (i.e. T) that they don't learn anything and are held back year after year, ultimately dropping out or incarcerated. As much as I hate to admit it, there are certain students of mine for whom I fear this future and I'm trying to teach them enough love that they can make something of their lives. It's so corny, I know, but it seems to be working for some of them. The saga of T will probably be a near-future post (I could have a blog just on him).

The results make me believe that this approach works for me and my students, but more importantly this is what I heard in church last Sunday. A couple from Emmaus Ministries (not the Emmaus of the Emmaus walk) work in Chicago and in Houston with men who are homeless hustlers (male prostitutes) and drug abusers. Of their work (which can be applied to anyone), they said, "You can't tell somebody about love. You have to love them. They have to know what it is to be loved so that they can experience love at the table of God." How incredible is that? It is our job to love one another, especially those who don't know love, so that we can all experience the indescribable love of God. That's why I'm here, to love these four and five-year-olds, some of whom have no concept of what love is. These little babies who, when I say, "Just come and talk to me, I'm not going to yell and I'm not going to hit you" when I'm upset with them, respond, "That's right, only mommies hit."

"'A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.'" John 13:34-35

It's a Quick One

Alright, I know that I keep saying that I will do more updates soon...and I will. Things have been crazy, good and bad. I'm going to give you a real quick update on me, personally, then a short funny story from my room.

So, I bought a new car in January, a 2007 Saturn Ion. So, for those of you who knew me in college, my awesome wagon with the billion bumper stickers, Fred to those of you who knew me well, is gone. I was really excited because I've never bought a car on my own before and it really felt like my car. My parents were amazing and got me the old car in high school to replace an awful deathtrap that my grandfather gave me (I feel like that car was sort of symbolic of our relationship, but I digress). So this car was really mine. I knew that I was going to get a new car in two years after TFA because Fred was 10 years old and was not going to make it back to the east coast (which presently is where I'd like to go back to, even though I have no idea what I want to do with my life anymore!).

So, I went in to the dealership just to look around because there was a possibility I could get some money from the state to replace my car with a car with better emissions. It turned out that I didn't qualify, but I could get 0% interest on the Ion and Saturn had just discontinued the Ion, so there were really great deals. I couldn't afford a brand new car before, but I could afford this one with all these deals. I kept thinking about it and my financial situation isn't going to change a whole lot over the next two years. So I decided that this was the perfect opportunity and took it. So, for one month I had this brand new car and I really liked it and made one payment on it.

Then, after driving home from church, I was rear-ended on the highway. Traffic stopped, I stopped and the car behind me didn't. It hit me and pushed me into the SUV in front of me. It was very scary, but I called On-Star (because my car came with it) and they called the police, my mom and finally EMS (because I hit my head and kept telling them it hurt- I didn't go to the hospital, though). My friend, Keena, was amazing and came to get me and took me to the doctor. I just thank God that the Nissan Sentra hit me and not the SUV. Fortunately, Saturns are really super-safe cars because they have great crumple zones and the car takes more of the impact than you do. Unfortunately, that also makes Saturns much more likely to total out. So, my new car is dead. They showed me the bottom of the car and it was a wreck. I'm really fortunate that I really didn't have anything wrong with me- my back is still sore sometimes and things pop and crack that I didn't know existed, but truly I'm blessed.

The problem is that once you drive off the lot with a new car, your car devalues. So, even though the insurance company of the guy who hit me is paying for the value of my car, it doesn't cover the whole car and they can't get me 0% interest and amazing deals back. Fortunately, I had gap insurance, so that's taking care of the value of the loan that the insurance doesn't cover. Unfortunately, that means I couldn't get a brand new car. Truly, it's not a huge deal considering everything that could have been and comparing my "misfortunes" to those of my students. However, I must confess that I was initially very disappointed. I have a "new-to-me" 2005 Saturn L300 with 55,000 miles (instead of 2,000). It's a very nice, well-cared for car and I do really like it. The thing that really gets me though is that my payments for my used car are higher than those for my new car. Oh well, this is life.

So, now that you're caught up on the crazy bit of my personal life over the last two weeks, let me share a funny story from this past week.

Now this story is funny and a little bit sad to an extent. When I was a kid, I had a really stable environment and awesome parents and didn't even know half the things my kids know and do. Like, I played house and I've caught them playing "Getting arrested." So, from what I remember from preschool, this conversation would never have occurred in my class as a four-year-old, but did occur in my four-year-olds' classroom.

So, theoretically I am supposed to teach all subjects, including social studies and science and I just can't seem to get them all in. Also, I can't use some of the resources my school has, like only the fifth grade is allowed to use the science lab because they're the ones who take the science standardized test and our school fails it every year (correlation possibly?). So, I teach some science, but not a whole lot of social studies.

Thus, I was supposed to teach about Texas for the last two weeks (do I even know anything about Texas other than their pride is ridiculous and often completely unfounded?). I think I read them one book about Texas. But I had to make this stick horse craft project with them as my team has caught on to the fact that I write my own lesson plans and don't follow theirs, so they were checking up on me to make sure I did it (I don't believe in giving Pre-K worksheets all day!). To add some academics to it, I made my kids "write" a story about their horse and give an oral presentation (tell us your horse's name and what you like to do) on it because their language skills are really severely lacking.

The presentations are reasonably predictable. Everyone's horse likes to eat Happy Meals at McDonalds and play on the slide at the playground. The names run the gamut, from "Fluffy" to "Princess" to "Soulja Boy" complete with song and dance. (If you're not familiar with Soulja Boy, you clearly don't listen to hip hop or teach in the inner city. It's not exactly an appropriate all, but it's catchy and has a cool dance so the whole school is obsessed. You can watch it on YouTube here ---> This is the slightly edited version, the word "ho" has been replaced with "oh".)

They're a little wound up and I've got J (the Chucky baby kid) pinned down in my lap because he's particularly fired up that day. I'm absolutely convinced that this child has ADHD (not joking) and I've been to some trainings with some checklists of probable indicators and I can check every one off on him. He truly can't control his body and he was running around, screaming. So, I've got J and little M is about to give her presentation. Oh M, I love that baby, but she needs so much help in so many ways. She's the only one that can't write any part of her name. At least To is To and J is Jo. But M is absolutely convinced that any random string of letters is her name, so if I get a paper with QXRPWY, I know that's M. She's babbling in front of the class, so I ask her what the horse's name is and she says "Sexy" (oh heavens).

**Pause real quick to get some background in case you haven't read the Chucky Baby incident or don't remember. At home, J's family ONLY calls him Sexy. I refused to call him this at the beginning of the year and had to teach him that his name was J (he didn't know). All his school supplies came in with "Sexy" written on them and I was truly confused for about a month until I heard his mom calling him Sexy.**

After M announces that her horse's name is Sexy, J becomes incensed. Absolutely upset and starts yelling, "That's not Sexy! I'm Sexy! He's not Sexy! I'm Sexy! I'm Sexy!" I couldn't help it, I just laughed at them, while the rest of the class just looked at me and couldn't figure out what was so funny.

I live and work in Crazy Land.