15 April 2008

School's Out!

I am rapidly approaching the end of my student teaching. For fourteen weeks I’ve worked with kids and seen the whole range of adolescence expressed in my kiddy-boos. Yes, it’s been a lot of fun working with them, even Bucky and his crew of idiot misfits that have stayed behind after his transfer.

I’ll miss the students whose grades have improved over 30% from last semester. I’ll miss seventh period and it’s collection of characters. I’ll miss the mouthy little girl in the back row who gave me grief because that’s how she shows she cares. I’ll miss the little fucker who called me a dickhead: the only time he was right in class, not that I’ll tell him that. I’ll miss the kid who didn’t have a response after I asked him just how EXACTLY he was going to make something of himself other than to start buckling down and doing his work. I’ll miss Li’l Bubbly telling the newest troublemaker, “Don’t come in here with your hot mess; we got rid of Bucky, we’ll get rid of you, too!” I’ll miss teaching inner-city black kids about ice hockey, and giving them extra credit for giving me an interesting fact about the ‘Hawks whenever I wore a jersey.

I’ll really miss reading their papers and seeing them reach for something outside their experience, like when Star Shine talked about putting someone on a “pedal stool;” that effort got her an A.

I’ll miss them teaching me about learning.

Some things I’ll take away:
• There is always time to listen to a kid, no matter what;
• A white man calling his girlfriend “my boo” is ALWAYS funny to black folks;
• It’s all about effort;
• It’s really easy to overestimate your students and to underestimate your effect on them;
• Students will dam the Chicago River if you tell them it’s extra credit, but wouldn’t add a thimbleful of water if it’s an assignment;
• As much as I wish it weren’t true, motivation comes from within;
• It might not be a bad idea to rethink the high school set-up so that everybody, from student to janitor to administration, can see the relevance and importance of what is being taught.

For everything that has happened in the last fourteen weeks, I will never be able to thank my students, the best teachers I ever had, enough for what I learned.