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Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 10 2012

Victory from Day 1

[Yes, I am aware that is it like... Week 7? 8? Who knows... this is, as always, after the fact...]

My One True Victory from Day 1

So I realized that I have failed to mention on this blog perhaps my absolute greatest triumph from Day 1 of teaching. This one small act has probably done more to preserve my sanity and my love of life in general more than anything else I have done all year.

I’ll set the scene for you. It’s Monday- Day 1. Classes have ended. I’ve realized that in a somewhat surprising twist, I don’t actually have anything to do at school. The room is as set-up as it’s going to be (as I was so clueless I didn’t really know what else I should be putting up on the walls), I didn’t have anything to grade or parent info to put in, and as I had spent the day getting rid of syllabuses and forms, my desk was surprisingly clear. So, pushing away thoughts of “shouldn’t I be staying here until 8pm at night?” I decided to peace out at 3:30.

On my way out of the side door, there was a group of students hanging out on the stairs. Probably like 5 or 6. I had to kind of weave through them to get down. And then right here was the best decision of my young life: I said something like: “Shouldn’t you kids be home or something? It’s way too hot to sit out here.” And they laughed and a very brief conversation was had. One of the boys was reading a book so I asked which book and told him to come to my room if he ever needed another (my classroom library is my pride and joy). Told him my room number. We chatted for a few more minutes. Yes, this was my first year at Central. Teach 10th grade English, blah, blah. Then I made my exit around the time one of the boys started asking me if I was single and rolled his eyes when he insisted it was for his brother. Waved without looking back, walked to my car and promptly forgot all about this exchange.

Then comes Friday and a boy I don’t recognize is kind of lurking around my room before classes start. At this point, I at least vaguely recognize most of my students and I think he is not one of mine though… maybe I recognize him? So I kinda look at him and he’s like “Hi. You said you had books…?” And then I remember where the small flash of recognition came from- one of the stairwell kids. I tell him to come back in the afternoon as classes are just about to start and I want to have time to show him around.

Friday afternoon around 3pm, I am again left with an oddly small amount to do and am just thinking that my book boy has forgotten when he knocks on the door. I tell him to come on in. He turns his head and yells down the hallway, “Guys! She’s here!” And then my room is invaded by about 15 kids. A few look at books, a few actually grab some books, most just sit around talking. One girl is crying about boy trouble. I pull her aside and we have a girl-to-girl talk. Basically, the afternoon is awesome. Most of the kids are in 11th grade, so I don’t have to worry about teaching them. I don’t know if any other teacher has this problem, but sometimes I think life would be so much better if I could just hang out with my kids instead of having to teach them anything. This afternoon was living that dream. Especially because I did not have the energy to keep being Teacher-Bottlecap any longer and I just flat out told them that.

Finally at 4:30pm, I kicked them out to head home with the assurance that they could come hang out afterschool most days so I’d see them next week. And I did. Probably only once that next week and I don’t think ever the exact same group of kids. But the next week they were there two days, and the next three and now I usually see at least 4 or 5 of them almost every day. I don’t think I’ve ever had all 15 in again and some have dropped off and new ones have been added. We’re still sticking to mostly juniors, though every once and a while a few of my students come too. It’s basically just a big chill hangout.

But! Here’s where my 5 minute conversation has saved my life. One day, probably the third week, I was grading something. And jokingly was like “Kids! Do my grading for me!” and they were like: “Okay.” And it was a multiple choice Exit Ticket. And they did it. And saved me from doing hours of work on my own. And then the ETO was coming and we were required to have student work folders with everything filed and I was like “Kids! Do my filing for me!” and they were like “Okay.” And they did. They set up the folders and filed the huge stack of papers on my desk. And if you can have six kids filing (one for every period) and two kids grading tests so all you have to do is input grades into the gradebook… it takes like 25 minutes for them, they just talk and we put on music and eat cookies and you have saved literally hours and hours of work.

Before I get accused of kid labor laws, you should know that this is completely optional. And there are a few who opt out to play computer games on my computers. And I keep telling them to bring Community Service forms for me to fill out and try to keep my food stash stocked up. Because sometimes the guilt does take over. They are doing so much for me and I really don’t have that much to offer. Especially because they won’t bring the Community Service forms! And the one day I brought banana bread for them, was the one day they all had to go home right after school! (I yelled at them the next day. Especially because I ended up eating an obscene amount).

But, back to the point- honest to goodness, I think these kids have saved my life. Not only because they help me out so much with my classroom but because it is just a chance to chill and talk. And about nonteacher things! I mean, I know an odd amount of 11th grade gossip and unfortunately the backstories on some fights and what people can do if they get your social security number, but we have also touched on the election, the school culture, gay issues, religion, ect. Usually, I just sit back and listen and then throw in a controversial question every now and then. And pressure them into taking books and reading them. It is just very relaxing. It’s awesome. Talking to them was one of the best little decisions I made thus far.

Thank goodness almost all of them are Juniors and will be here next year too. I do not know what I would do without them.

2 Responses

  1. hb

    I love this! I’m sure they are happy to help, and to have a safe haven to hang out and relax in at the end of the day. Keep up the good work!

  2. TN

    I hope that you still have your group of kids, I plan on joining TFA & dream of a chill session with some high schoolers. They need that extra help in regards to education but they also need a role model and mentor to just talk to and get advice from. I think you are doing a great job. keep it up!

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