“You Shouldn’t Be Here…You Should Be Somewhere Better.”

Another end to another grading period. It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that I’m halfway through my second year of my corps commitment already. Sometimes it feels like just the other day I was struggling through those first lesson plans. And now my time in the corps is closing in on its final stretch. (Although, I’ll be in this education race for a long time)

This past grading period was another nine weeks of hard lessons taught and hard lessons learned. From personal topics such as absent black fathers to working on writing and speaking skills, it was a nine weeks that I saw pay off big time in how much work students knew they had to put in to earn the grades they wanted, and how much less they complained about it or tried to find shortcuts. I always tell my students that my mother always told me that any place worth going, didn’t have shortcuts. Sure they still have their comebacks to that, but slowly they are understanding that saying more and more. I remember one afternoon after school when all my basketball player boys came to talk about their grade. The majority of them were in danger of failing my class for the nine weeks, and were begging for me to ‘just give them a C’ so they could play. I laid it into them. I made them all sit down and I talked to them for a long time about working hard for something, just like they worked hard to be good at basketball, and how important it was for them to know how to read and make meaning of words within text. And I ended by telling them that I would never just ‘give’ them a grade, and I wouldn’t be giving them alternate assignments, and if they wanted a specific grade, they would just have to work for it. So they did. And I’ve never been more proud of them. And they feel more accomplished when they work hard for something and it pays off. It’s amazing to hear real conversations forming about their independent reading level books. Students arguing over what chapter they had read a specific passage in, another student helping a peer with comprehension, reading out loud together, etc. It’s any reading teacher’s dream.

There are no perfect days. So I take the good days because there are very good days when I can lean back and feel that what I’m doing in my class is making a difference. And those days help when the days get really tough. It gets hard to constantly defend classroom decisions to those who would rather fill the days with minutes of test preparation and mindless answer bubbles, and I sometimes think that it would be easier to just go do something else.

A few days ago one of my students was commenting on the fact that she liked my class because she’s proud that I went to Harvard. I tend not to make where I went to school a big talking point because of the assumptions that are made no matter how many times I correct those assumptions. Another student who was listening stared at me intently with questioning eyes. She piped up that having gone to Harvard that I shouldn’t be at their high school, and that I should be somewhere better, making more money. I smiled a little at her comment, as it was not the first time my students had expressed confusion over my existence as their teacher in their particularly community. I asked her wouldn’t she want a teacher who could be elsewhere, but chose instead to be there with them?

I can’t promise that I’ll be in Miami forever, but for right here and right now, there is no place better. Nowhere else I am meant to be for this moment.

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