A Moment of Zen

I’m watching the Grammys and was moved to tears by Ludacris and Mary J’s performance of Runaway Love. It was about the hard life for girls in the ghetto. There was so much truth in the lyrics. I see it in my classroom. Their performance was followed immediately by James Blunt singing You’re Beautiful. Blunt’s ballad about a girl he sees once and immediately falls in love with is pure romantic fantasy. I could see nothing but two very different worlds in these songs. Placed back to back, they flooded my head with the faces of my students. These two worlds collide in my classroom everyday. We sit on a fault line where some students take a week for vacationing while others take a week for fighting. The dynamic is both exhilarating and exhausting.

This week I was found by a former student. She is 25 and thinking about a life of teaching. She wanted to know the truth, so I told her about the planning. The days where I never see the sun. The inspirational speeches. The glimmering eyes. The students failing because of their homes–not their heads. The rigged-up, shower curtain projection screen. The conversations about which foreign language to take or what it means to be a real man. The first time they laugh at my stupid jokes. The way they change when they realize I’m not going anywhere, and I deeply care about them. The parents who don’t return calls. The days where I remember why I show up each day, followed by the days where I pine for a job in retail, or fast food (usually as the “fry guy”).

I wanted her to understand that educators have to be the most forgiving people in the world, because students need someone who will give them a fresh start each day. She needed to know that we are justice workers. Our job is to help these kids realize they have value in a world that sees them as a commodity. In the end, educators walk the line between “the haves” and “the have nots,” and their ability to maintain equality in the classroom and a love of learning are their most effective tools.

She asked if she could call back from time to time, so I must not have scared her away.

Happy Monday. Keep fighting the good fight.

Comments on this post

  1. Cheryl Lykowski said on February 12, 2007 at 5:47 am

    I really understand where you are coming from and I agree. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I came across and blogged about the same topic last week. It must be the time to do so. Check out the movie at http://www.teachermovie.com.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. pete reilly said on February 12, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Jim;
    Beautiful. No need to see a teachermovie that’s fictional. Your conversation with a former student captures so much that is at the heart of teaching.
    Thanks for the inspiration.
    Pete

  3. John said on February 12, 2007 at 10:26 pm

    Great post. It’s when we have to talk about what we do to other people that we seem to understand for ourselves even better what it is we do and why. I liked especially the point about being the most forgiving of people because it is true. It’s like we can see the potential that no one else can.

    Your post gave me a nice tug back toward the real reason I keep going back into the classroom.

    Thanks,
    John

  4. jimmy said on February 14, 2007 at 9:18 am

    I wrote a song which should cheer you up a bit.

    http://www.purevolume.com/jimmyandthekeyz
    “you’re the teacher”

    jimmy.

  5. Andrew Pass said on February 17, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    I bet you didn’t tell her about the feeling that I’m sure you must have felt when a former student came back years later seeking your advice. I’m not sure that one could have such a great feeling in any other line of work. We really do make a difference!!

    Andrew Pass
    http://www.pass-ed.com/Living-Textbook.html

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