Sunday, February 8, 2015

Everyone Has a Purpose

My kids are awesome.

They amaze me, teach me, and frequently inspire me. 

Most of the greatness they bring to Room #216 is already inside them. I just try and find a way to bring it out. Sometimes I get to see it during our time together, often just glimpses or little insights to what they'll become. Most times, I don't get to see their greatness until they leave Room 216, if ever.

A few of my kids have been coming up at recess this quarter to keep their friend, recently burdened by crutches, company while the rest of the sixth grade ran around blowing off steam somewhere.

The group has helped me do some minor chores and run some errands, but mostly they just talk and judge my lunchtime music.

The other day after I had left the trio in the room, ran some copies, and then picked up the rest of the class, we started math class like always and I noticed a change in the room. In the middle of explaining mean absolute deviation to a bunch of 12 yr-olds, while trying to make it meaningful and relevant to them, I noticed a mass of angled writing at the rear of the room in our maker space. My kids had written something on the board while I was away.

I wasn't surprised by the presence of the writing, I write on the whiteboard, why can't they? One of the things other students or guest teachers comment on is the lack of posted rules in our room. There are none. If you need a drink, get a drink. If your pencil is dull, get up and sharpen it. We have goals not rules, that guide our actions, and we don't need a list of don'ts to remind us what we are trying to become.

I couldn't quite make out the words, but their presence and volume was enough to make me wonder what message they formed until we started our in-class lesson practice. So as soon as I turned the class loose on their work, I headed for the back of the room.

It read (no edits):

Everyone has a purpose

Don't let someone down your day.
Only let them make all of your days happy.
And if they don't, maybe someone else was meant to.
But maybe that someone was only destined to be met if your not held backbit someone tainting your days, or memories.

That person will only hold you back.
We all have that person who will fill your days and memories with hope, dream, and happiness.

If you can't find the person who make all of your days, and memories happy, then be that person for someone else. 
-Here's that person

Wow! What were you doing when you were twelve?

The simple freedom of letting kids write on a whiteboard created an opportunity for this student to express themselves. I'm glad they felt comfortable enough to express something that was inside them and they had a medium to get it out.

No list of rules can do that for a kid.

Thanks for reading.

I'm on Twitter @YourKidsTeacher

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Rain or Shine, Sleet or Snow

I get up early and I get to work even earlier. I know that's not really possible, but it sure feels like it sometimes. Despite the fact that I'm a morning person, my pre-dawn routine is a necessity and not entirely by choice. If I didn't beat my wife and high-school junior into and out of the shower every morning, my arrival time at school would be less than ideal. So my alarm goes off about 40 minutes before my good dog pup gets his first crack at breakfast at 6am.

My routine is efficient, if not automatic. The timeframe from covers thrown-off to car key turn is about the same every morning. Bleary-eyed, but not stressful. The drive to work is pretty uneventful. There's the first major stoplight where I pour my second cup of coffee, then after the second stoplight, I can hit cruise for about 3 minutes before I need stow my iPod and headphones for the short walk into school.

Shortly after I take my last left handed turn and travel down a stop sign-less boulevard, I pass by a fellow morning warrior and her small contingent of followers. The smallest, a baby, sometimes being carried, but is usually in a stroller pushed by Mom at what can only be called 'mach' walking speed. Following behind, or at least trying to keep the pace, a girl (about 6 or 7) and a boy (maybe 8 or 9).

I've never seen them in the daylight, but every morning they're there. Walking with haste to somewhere. Every morning pretty much the same, rain or shine, sleet or snow.

The boy is usually carrying something that hinders his pace, plastic shopping bags, diaper bags, and almost always his backpack, surely containing homework that his Mom made him complete the night before.

The girl, an energetic little thing, is usually burden free, except for the unauthorized sticks and other contraband that she has picked up along the way. She twirls, skips, and sprints spontaneously along the darkened sidewalk. Seemingly care-free. Like a child should.

Somedays the clan holds fast to a shared umbrella or they have their bare hands stuffed inside a pocket to shield the cold. Somedays the walk is more casual, but never without purpose.

I find my boulevard companions at different points in the mile long stretch, but the variances are due to when I leave the house, not this family's departure time. They do not have the luxury of sleeping in.

It is clear that they leave the house at the same time everyday. The mother, has to get her children to their morning daycare, friend or professional,  so that she can catch the bus to whatever job and its no doubt meager income that helps her to hold her family together. A first task of a demanding schedule.

If she doesn't get her children, my future students, to where they need to be, it could very easily start a downward spiral of events that could bring down this family. Loss of work, loss of housing, loss of security, loss of childhood. The stakes are high.

Many people don't understand the people of my school's neighborhood, where 80% of my students qualify for free or reduced lunch. They have a razor thin margin of error. Life on the edge.

I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the poor in our country. That somehow people have chosen to be poor. That they have chosen to live within a hair width away from catastrophe that even a random circumstance can inflict. That has not been my experience.

There are plenty of stories of folks that have made bad choices. However my classroom is filled with kids who need some help. Kids who need a safe, stable place for 7 hours of the day. A place where they can dream beyond their circumstances and see the possibilities within themselves. A place where they can learn that despite where their families are, they are capable of more. So much more.

I'm there to help them understand that.

Rain or shine, sleet or snow.

Thanks for reading.

Follow me on Twitter @YourKidsTeacher

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