Friday, August 27, 2010

I'm Still Here

Friends, the 2010-2011 school year is officially underway. It's been a long week as I've struggled to get back into the swing of things. There have been a lot of changes in room 207 this year. I have more sections of my English Fundamentals class than ever before. We've completely revamped our English I curriculum. There were a lot of things that I was really a bit concerned about as I walked back into my classroom.

So far, though, so good. Despite the fact that Fundamentals students tend to be on the lower end of the academic scale (in other words, juniors and seniors who are not particularly stellar students), my classes have been responding well to the first week of lessons. My freshmen are crazy about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The biggest challenge I've faced this week is time management. After a summer of a pretty lax schedule, it takes a little time to get used to balancing prepping for three different courses, particularly when I've added more work for myself through the introduction of journals into all my classes except Speech.

I am also hosting a student teacher for the first time ever. She's a terrific young woman from my alma mater -- eager, enthusiastic, and full of incredible ideas. I'm almost jealous of her getting to stand on the threshold of this career path and that optimism and hope that envelopes you at that stage in your career. I'm still passionate about my career, but there are definitely some bruises on that passion after having been battered about by apathy and hostility during the ten years of my career. There are days when I have to work harder to see the good in some kids and when my patience appears to have taken the first coach outta Dodge.

But I'm still here.

This week has been full of reminders of why that passion still burns inside me, though, despite the bruises. There is the exhilaration of having your students remember even the most trivial details from a presentation. Or having a student come running in to class to tell you how much he loves the book we're reading in class. Or getting emails and phone calls from former students to tell you how wonderfully they're doing in college.

And then there was my day's end today. Yesterday, we had our first Drama Club meeting. Forty-two kids packed themselves into my classroom to get audition information for the fall play, cheer loudly when I announced the spring musical (Grease), and elect their officers. After school today, a young man (let's call him Antonio) came into my room to get audition information. I'd seen Antonio at the meeting last night, and I have to admit I kind of thought he was maybe there with a friend.

A little background.... when he was a freshman, Antonio was in my English I class. In the entire year I had Antonio, I don't think I heard him say even one word. He was so quiet and shy, very insecure. A lot of that stemmed from the fact that English was not Antonio's first language, and he was struggling mightily with school because he lacked the basic vocabulary teachers took for granted he would have. Many teachers worked to help Antonio, providing alternate versions of tests with an easier vocabulary, after school tutoring, et cetera. Antonio managed to work hard and pass English I, and I only saw him in passing last year as he headed down the hall to his English II class. I heard through the grapevine that he was working hard and doing well.

And now, here was Antonio asking for audition information. He looked at me with these amazing big brown eyes of his (he's kind of a little guy but cute as a button) and said so earnestly, "I want to be an actor!" He went on to ask me questions about the play -- would he have to sing? Did any of the characters have accents? His enthusiasm and earnestness floored me. If I hadn't known better, I would never have believed this was the same Antonio who was a virtual mute his freshman year. I nearly wept after he left and I explained to my student teacher why Antonio's presence was such a total shocker.

Now, I'm not claiming any responsibility for Antonio's transformation. I haven't been his teacher for over a year, and clearly the people he worked with last year guided him through some pretty amazing stuff. But I love the fact that Antonio sees art as a pathway for him, a way for him to become more engaged in life at our school, and I love that I get to maybe help him take those first steps, even if it's just getting him up onstage for an audition next week.

Because of Antonio and the dozens of other kids like him who walk into my room every single day, I am most definitely still here.


Keyda-chan said...

You can blame me for the cheering at the announcement of Grease. Haha...XD
And great story. It's nice to see new people taking an interest in the arts :)

Mel said...

You weren't the only one, kiddo! I'm glad you guys are all so psyched. :)