Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 08 2008

Day of Days

Everyone has bad days here at Institute.  You don’t sleep the night before, they’re all out of ice packs for your lunch box by the time you get down there, your kids organize a malicious mutiny, and you get tracked for dozing off in your CS session.  Well kids, I think I have you beat.

I woke up at my usual 5:27am feeling so sick I could hardly move.  My only motivation was to get out of bed in time to make it to the bathroom to throw up.  It might have been nerves.  I knew this morning was going to be tough.  My collaborative worked hard this weekend to organize our classroom “talk” about racism and respect in hopes to educate them an prevent more incidences like last Thursdays.  I was nervous, sure.  But I didn’t think I’d react like that.  I forced a bagel down and felt OK, then drove my collaborative to Jackson.

Yeah, oops, I lost my kids’ rough drafts.  What the hell?  I had them at the bar on Thursday during my collab meeting, but I hadn’t seen them since.  They weren’t in my room (I drove BACK to Moody to look), they weren’t in Pearland, and they weren’t at the bar.  So basically they were gone.  My lesson today?  Peer editing.  Sans rough drafts.  Yeah, this is where I get REALLY good at winging it.  I had a kickass Revision Checklist for them to use and they ended up writing some really strong new RD’s.  All was well.

But before that even happened, we had to have “The Talk.”  It was quite organized.  We sat in a circle, and we passed around the notebook so they could all see why we were there.  We then had them all stand up and do a gallery walk around the classroom to look at pictures representing discrimination and civil rights.  We then had them reflect on what they saw.  Two students I spied on wrote nothing more than,  “These pictures mean nothing to me.”  Cute.  We went on to explain to them how powerful our words can be and how we have to make a choice every day whether we are going to use them to build people up or knock people down.  We talked about the Mexican American movement and the ever-growing anti-immigration sentiment in our country.  We flashed words like “Spick” and “Wetback” across a power point and asked them how it made them feel when people called them that.  We were really starting to get somewhere.


And then the student whose notebook was vandalized had a seizure.  At first none of us knew what was going on, but then we remembered her telling us that she suffers from chronic seizures.  In a flash we had the rest of the class in the cafeteria and the paramedics on the scene.  It all happened very fast, but it was horrible.  My first thought was that we had stressed her out so much that we caused it.  All of the students thought that their words had caused it.  Turns out she hadn’t taken her medication since Saturday, but there’s still a part of me that wonders if maybe we contributed something to her fit.  It took her forever to regain consciousness, and even when she was finally responding she seemed out of it.  Her head was killing her and she wouldn’t look anyone in the eye.  I am so glad that all 5 teachers AND Aisha were in the room at the time.  It could have been a lot worse, but I’ll never get that image out of my head.  Fortunately she is doing just fine and will be back in school tomorrow.  I have a stack of letters from her classmates to give her.  Hopefully things will be different for her from now on.  I hope those kids treat her like a human from now on, and I hope that she can finally feel safe and equal among her classmates.

So what do you do after a day like today?  You go out with 15 of your best friends and eat large quantities of Tapas and drink bottomless Sangria. That’s what you do.  And that’s what I did.  I love my CMA group more than anything.  I can’t imagine what Institute would have been like without them.  We made a pact tonight to stay in touch no matter what after we all part ways on Friday.  Some of us are going all the way to Hawaii, others to The Valley, Denver, or St. Louis, and a few of us are lucky enough to stay right here in Houston.  I am so, so blessed.

Also, I LOVE Jackson Staff.  I love all of the CMAs who were so incredibly supportive of my collaborative today, I love our CS Sam and LS Nella for letting us miss their sessions so we could be with our kids, I love Eric for being on the scene in RECORD time (seriously, I don’t know how he does it), and I absolutely love Aisha more than anything for being as strong as she is.  The 5 of us can go in there and say what we want to say, but the second she opens her mouth, everyone within earshot shuts up and listens.  She has a real presence in the classroom.  I know I won’t get that in 4 weeks, but I can only hope that I’m half the teacher she is some day.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jackson MS.  XOX.

P.S.  Shout out to The Lukes for sending me a care package of healthy goodies!!!!!!  It’s like the little box from Heaven!  Everyone on my floor is SO jealous.  I promise a phone call ASAP to deliver a more appropriate thank you.  Somehow the time between 4pm and 12:30am just slips away from me and I forget about the real life stuff.  Calling parents, making appointments, paying bills, wedding stuff…there’s always tomorrow.

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