Sunday, May 27, 2012

...and love

Testing day was Tuesday, so I can officially NOT teach to the test for the nine days left in the school year before grades are due. Hooray!

Last week and Monday, I spent a little bit of time each day working on teaching test-taking skills. I told my students we were doing this because people in the suburbs pay thousands of dollars for extra test prep classes for their children, against whom my kids compete. One day when I mentioned this, one of my students opined that I should try to get a job in the suburbs. Others chimed in, agreeing. And no, it's not that they want to get rid of me. The thing is, teachers in the wealthier suburbs around my city get paid more than I do. My students were pointing out that it's in my self-interest to get a job out there. And, in doing so, they were displaying their utter commitment to a system that puts them and their educations at the bottom of an unequal, unfair system. It was upsetting.

But I'm here to talk about love. My students use an expression that I may have mentioned here before: "doin' too much" or "overdoing it." This expression means exactly what it sounds like, except that doin' too much can entail anything that resembles trying at all. This week, I was doin' too much and doin' too much again. A couple of students I have adopted as mentees expressed frustration with me because my communications with their parents had caused arguments between them and their parents, and between their parents. This is always a touchy issue--often you call a parent all ready to explain everything that the child needs to work on, only to discover that the parent agrees with you SO MUCH that you begin emphasizing everything the child is doing right. It's a fun dance.

Of course, when I do too much, I do it out of love. For the last two weeks, my heart has been bursting with love for my students. They are so adorable! This past week, they performed short Shakespeare scenes, and I had them vote on award winners. I gave out the awards in a fancy ceremony, and the winners got up to give acceptance speeches. In every speech, even though they were acting goofy, they thanked the people who had voted for them. This is, by the way, the class that gave me hell for the first half of the year. Now they're my favorite class--not that I have a favorite. ;)

I also love my colleagues, because I'm lucky to work at a school where all of the teachers do too much. (Most teachers, by the way, do too much--the "lazy teacher" is an overblown myth propagated by corporate reformers.) My colleagues are all so dedicated to the profession and to doing the best job they possibly can. They all love children and want what they believe is best for the children. And that's what people get so very wrong when they bash teachers unions. First of all, as this blogger argues, you can't love teachers and hate their unions. Teachers, by and large, support and believe in their unions. Secondly, almost all teachers love children, and they know what is good for children. In fact, they know far more about it than most of the people who make decisions about schools. It's funny that Doug Lemov's book is called "Teach Like a Champion." It sounds sappy, but most teachers don't need to try to be like champions; they are champions.