Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Kids Are Alright. (Well, at least the speech kids are)

As many of you know, in addition to being an English teacher and drama director, I'm also coach of my school's speech team. I love my extracurricular duties because it allows me to really connect with my kids in an entirely different way and really feel the difference I'm making in a more immediate way. My speech and drama kids are a terrific group of kids -- very funny and loyal. I jokingly call them my minions, but it's sort of sadly true. I have kids who just come into my room after school to hang out. They're pretty devoted to me -- and I'm pretty devoted to them.

The nice thing about my kids is, while they're a very tight group, they're also very open to newcomers. They're excited when new kids join the team and are so kind about helping them out, even if that new kid is technically their "competition" in a particular event. I'm really lucky that they're so supportive, and I've never felt luckier than I did today.

Backtrack about 2 weeks. I was in my classroom before school when a young woman walked in. Jodi was dressed in that sort of punk/emo/goth look that kids sport nowadays with the Nightmare Before Christmas t-shirt over a short skirt and striped tights and Chucks. She had been a student at our school before but had moved this year, only to come back. She told me that she wanted to join speech team, so I gave her a list of events and asked her what she thought she might like. She picked an event where I had an opening (and even already had a script cut and ready to go), took the script I gave her, signed up for practice times, and went on her merry way. Jodi came in for her practice today. A couple other kids were in the room waiting for their times to practice and so they sat and waited and listened while Jodi practiced her rather tough monologue, a cutting from Blackbird by David Harrower.

After her practice, Jodi asked me about this weekend's tournament -- what time we'd be leaving, when we'd be getting back, and what to bring. I said, "You're responsible for your own meals, so you'll need to bring some money for lunch or just pack a lunch."

Jodi's face fell as she said, "Oh. That might be a problem. You see, I'm homeless. I live at Starting Point." (Starting Point is the local homeless shelter)

Before I could even say a word, Rachel (whom you may remember as my super AD from The Matchmaker) jumped in and said, "Oh, don't worry. I always bring a TON of food*. We've got you covered. You won't need a thing!"

It was all I could do to stop myself from hugging Rachel, who can sometimes me a little blunt and a little lacking in tact and doesn't always think before she speaks. Had those words come from Katrina, who was also standing right there and whose father is a minister, I wouldn't have thought a thing about it since Katrina is probably one of the nicest people in the school. But for Rachel to show that kind of generosity . . . that kid's going to be all right. They're all going to be all right.

* Note: Rachel's statement BARELY qualifies as hyperbole. She packs for a speech tournament like she's going on a yearlong cruise around the world -- backpacks with multiple changes of clothes, food, blankets, games, etc. I had to give her the talk about how since we were taking a smaller bus this weekend, she was going to have to pack a little less thoroughly.


NICKI said...

wonderful...and yet so sad...

Danielle Mari said...

Makes me miss serving as an adjudicator for you!

Congrats on shepherding your students in a way that allows them to be the best people they can. Wonderful story! Take that all you people who dismiss today's teens as selfish and apathetic.

Jen said...

Wow. It's so great that those kids are stepping up and taking care of each other. They clearly understand what's important in life.

Mike said...

This so wonderful but almost made me cry. Granted, I'm a soft touch, but still... talk about giving me hope for the future.