Teaching in an urban school has many challenges. The frustrations are often large while the successes are often small. Sometimes its hard for educators to remain positive with so much negative attention around them. Its easy to get frustrated when you feel you don’t have the support of the administration, you don’t have the support of parents, and there is no one you can talk to who really understands your situation. And, if you talk about your frustrations with peers you run the risk of moral quickly dropping.
So I self-reflect and try to always remember positive aspects of the day, no matter how small or hard to find they may be. As I do this, day after day, I find myself more positive in the classroom and I am finding it easier to plan my lessons.
An example of this is my unit on heroes. In the unit I start with Cesar Chavez, then I go to Miep Gies, and I end the unit with Jackie Robinson. Students discuss how Cesar protested, fasted, and marched for equal wages for farm workers in California. Then we study how Miep Gies risked her life to help the Frank family and others hide from the Nazis for almost two years. Finally I teach about Jackie Robinson who endured personal abuse for the advancement of equality in sports.
The inner-city kids I work with will steal, fight, argue, curse at other students and at their teachers, however; they will also protect one another, take the blame for a friend, and help other students with answers to difficult questions. On Monday morning students are often arguing back and forth with one another and I would have no control of the class.
When the students came back from Winter vacation they were in a heated argument and they were totally ignoring anything I had to say. I eventually got them to quiet down a bit and I decided to listen to what they were talking about because they weren’t going to stop arguing with each other no matter what I did.
There was a party over the break and everybody was there, well almost everybody. One girl didn’t go to the party because her friends weren’t invited and couldn’t go. Her boyfriend was yelling at her and told her she should have left her friends behind for him. She shouted back, “If my friends aren’t good enough for those a-holes then I don’t need to be there either.”
You know I had to be there, the boyfriend shot back. He had to protect his little sister and her friends and make sure they didn’t get into any trouble. “I wanted to be with you, but I couldn’t leave them alone.” he said quietly.
As the class quieted down I started discussing with them how small things we do every day define us. Things started to get out of control again and a boy in the back of the room said, “Y’all can say what ever you want about me. I’m not gonna get suspended. I’m gonna get my education and be somebody.” I smiled.
I know these are small meaningless victories, but I’ll take them.