Friday, November 7, 2008
Who are you today?
I kinda like waking up each morning and deciding who I am going to be for the day. Some days I go to a public school and teach. Substitute teaching is actually kind of fun. You get to spend the day in someone else's shoes, which, in a voyeuristic sort of way is exciting. Best of all, there's not much pressure. Most teachers and principals feel that if you make it through the day without killing one of them or yourself, it's been a pretty successful day. I can swing that. Avoid homicide? Check. Avoid suicide? Check.
And some days, you get that really jazzed up feeling that I have missed...the one where you (yes, it's cliche') make a difference.
Ever since I spent three years of my life as a special education teacher, I have had a soft spot for those kids. The ones that need a little extra. Sometimes it's extra time, extra effort, extra attention. But a lot of the time they just seem to need a little extra love. Kids can be so painfully vulnerable and it makes you wonder how any of us have managed to make it to adulthood reasonably unscathed after being raised in a world full of grown ups. Teachers can be so mean. They can remove themselves so much from their inner child that they successfully ignore the tears that spring up in a big 4th grader's eyes because he has to leave art class for reading remediation. How can they forget? How can they not remember how it felt to be a child and be called out for being different? I don't ever want to grow up to the point where I lose my ability to see the world from a couple of feet below my shoulders. And yes, Donny, one day you will see that being able to really read is more important than making clay animals. But rest assured, Mrs. Smith gets it. I get that today, it's not. Today, you just want to sit with the rest of the 4th grade, with their big hunks of greasy grey modeling clay and be no more or no less than average.
I can't help but feel like we are doing them a disservice. I don't know the answer to improving the public education of inner-city students. I care. I really do. But on the days that I substitute teach at a certain school, I leave feeling like a fraud. I leave their loud, crowded, and chaotic school and drive my SUV a few blocks down the very same street to my son's quiet, calm oasis of a private school...where the teachers have the luxury of teaching students whose parents not only care about their schoolwork, but sometimes care too much. Those same students who don't have their only hot meal at school, because they all bring their high-protein, low-sugar lunches to school with a cold pack. They have had a hot meal for breakfast, and will have another for dinner, unless dinner consists of teka maki and a california roll. They don't barrel out of under-supervised yellow school buses, but rather hop out of german engineering in the carpool lane. They don't attend the school within walking distance from home, they attend a school their parents have researched and deemed the best philosophy for the type of life they want to provide for their child. It's more than meeting an obligation when I go down the street. It's about paying more than most do for a college education for preschool that nurtures the whole child. And I'm not mocking myself or my fellow Montessori parents. Well, not much. :)
It just seems, each time I drive the 4 blocks that takes me from one world to another, that here is here, and there is there, and where is the in between?
Posted by The Gumdrop Tree at 8:19 PM