Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Saving Baby Pandas

The kids are reading a book in which an English teacher reads kids' journals out loud to the class.  My students were appalled.  One of them wrote:
I think Mr. Birkway is a horrible teacher because some people use their journals as a diary and write private stuff in them.  I know my teacher would never do any stuff like that because she cares about the students and knows our personalities.  I think she knows every one of us and what we do by heart.  Mr. Birkway did have a point about what the students write about.  he says this person is expressing their feelings and getting it off their chest.  But I still don't like the fact that Mr. Birkway read those journals.

On another note, many of my students need extra credit.  I told them that they could get partial credit if they wrote me a letter about why they weren't doing homework.  One kid, "Francisco," said that his reasons were boring - could he make up a fictional reason?  This is his letter:
Instead of doing my homework, I've been too busy saving the little baby pandas in China.  I was saving them from being killed and turned into clothes and furniture.  Another reason why I couldn't do my homework because I had to give surgery to a woman who had heart problems, and she was 7 months pregnant also.  The operation went really well.  the baby came out weighing 4 pounds 3 ounces.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Overly Protective

I didn't work at a school with a lot of overprotective parents.  Mostly they told their kids to kick the asses of anyone who messed with them.  We did have a few rules at recess, like no tackle football.  Although I wouldn't say that these parents are the models for good parenting, it might be even more disturbing to hear about this kind of thing.   No games at recess?  Kids need games.  And by the way, kids need to skin their knees.  It builds character.  And makes for good scars and stories later in life.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Problem with Mother's Day

Most people I've talked to about my experience teaching are aware that fathers, especially nurturing, consistent fathers, are rare in the inner city.  Not as many people are aware of how many children lack mothers.  For some of them, I mean that metaphorically -- that their mothers were 13 or 14 when they had kids and just didn't know how to be mothers.  However, for many of them, this lack of a mother was literal.

I had student after student being raised by an aunt, a grandmother, a great-aunt, an older sister, or even a great-grandmother.  This could be because their mother had a drug problem, was in jail, was with a boyfriend or new husband who didn't want their children around, or had left them for an unknown reason.  Now, I'm not saying that the lack of a father is something that's easy to get over.  I think it is extremely damaging and that children need fathers or father figures.  But, in my experience, the kids whose mothers left them were in the worst shape.  It seems like there's nothing that can mess you up like your mother walking out when you are two months old.

Because of this, Mother's Day was always an issue.  The first year, I didn't do much for Mother's Day - mostly because I forgot about it.  The second year, it quickly became apparent that there was going to be a problem.  One of the kids had a mother in prison and was really upset about it.  (And really, that is the appropriate reaction to being eight years old and having your mom in jail!)  So, in a moment of panic, I made it "Women's Day."  The rule was that they could make cards for any woman who had been important for them and helped take care of them.  This seemed to be a big relief for them -- instead of the anxiety they had before, they started chattering about who they were going to make cards for.  It was one of the greatest honors of my year when one of the little boys made me a card.  It said "To my teacher who is a woman Happy Woman's Day. Thank you for taking care of me."

As for Father's Day - well, let's just say, it was a good thing that school was always out by Father's Day.  I would have needed trauma counselors.