Changes are totally unavoidable this year2

Author : denidodo2
Publish Date : 2021-04-09 17:33:33
Changes are totally unavoidable this year2

I met Clinton in my first year of teaching. He was a fourth grader, and small for a fourth grader, and also the only fourth grader that showed up on the first day of Chess Club. I really didn’t know that much about chess, but I knew even less about how to say no to doing stuff when asked by my principal, and so I was the Chess Club supervisor. Most of kids came in, dumped their stuff by the sink, and started pairing themselves off to play games against their friends. But then there was this little fourth grade kid sitting by himself messing with a Rubik’s cube.
So, I walked on over and offered to teach him to play. He smiled at me for the first time, a smile with eyes that shouted of joy and innocence and a grin that hinted of trouble.
He kicked my ass in under five minutes. During my turns, he solved the Rubik’s cube twice, barely looking at it as his eyes searched the room for stimulus, as he joined conversations in the tables around us, as he buzzed in his seat with an energy that suggested he was plugged into the wall.
These are the kinds of stories people have about Clinton. These are the kinds of stories I told about him today at his funeral. Just a few months into being 24, we lost Clinton, and so today we told stories.

There are other stories about Clinton, the kind you don’t tell at funerals. There’s so many stories about how a kid like him that was white would have been given room to explore his brightness rather than being asked to perform his intelligence on command. There’s stories about how we tried to control Clinton, to quiet Clinton, to make Clinton conform.
I was part of this problem. I had Clinton every year 4th-8th grade in my advisory, and then taught him all of his 8th grade year. I taught him some years in high school too, but honestly can’t remember which years he was in my room because he was supposed to be there and which ones he was just hanging out or hiding among the students pretending he was supposed to be there. I’d eventually catch him, call him out. He’d flash that same smile, that exact same one, give me a “k see ya” on his way to some other place he was probably not supposed to be.
Clinton was kind of always in trouble, wore it comfortably as he walked around, but usually just the harmless kind of trouble. His instinct to not get in trouble seemed to always kick in just after he did the something wrong. When students got their own laptops in 8th grade, it took Clinton less than a day to break through the school internet firewall and create his own admin log-in for his machine. In high school, he was accessing and changing his grades for lord knows how long, only getting caught when he started doing it for his friends and anyone else who asked nice.

There were months there after that, maybe more, when Clinton wasn’t allowed to use technology at school, and then only under direct supervision with limits.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot today, about how we took this thing that he was so, so good at and took it away. After years of proving to us that punishments did not alter his behavior, we removed his ability to get into the kind of trouble we wanted to punish and left it at that.
I think any teacher would tell you that when we lose a student, for any reason, that punch of loss is followed immediately by another of regret. There are all the things we did or didn’t do or could or should have done. There are moments we cared too much about little things or missed some of the big ones.

Today, I am remembering Clinton; his smile and his smarts and his beautiful heart. And I’m thinking about how often in schools we push kids away from their strengths, taking time or attention from what they are best at to fail hard at what they struggle with.
Today, I’m sad about Clinton, I’m holding his memory and his family and all the faces from those school days I saw grown up at the service today. Today, I am overwhelmed by the amount of love and the amount of loss that comes with being a teacher of young people.
Tomorrow I’ll walk into my classroom remembering Clinton; knowing every one of my students has strengths and it’s my job to give them room to explore.

[1] I’m doing all the self-care I know how, taking walks, reading books, journaling, drinking water, eating fiber. These things are ok, but I’m not doing great and I need help. I need other-people care as well. This is a challenge because we’re all drowning in this year and are very low on capacity for taking care of each other. So, caring is sometimes reduced to care gestures, to performances of care, which really help some people, but make others (me) only more frustrated.
This isn’t a bad time to mention how incredibly grateful I am to be a teacher right now. To have a job right now is quite lucky, and one that even resembles the work we used to do, that puts us in contact with students and meaningful work sure ain’t nothing. And, also, you couldn’t pay me enough to be any kind of administrator or school leader this year.
So, like a lot of times this year, I am recognizing that it’s a lot lot worse elsewhere, but also acknowledging that I’m not having, like, a great time.
[2] Treats are fine, but they don’t make anything that is bad any better (unless the specific thing troubling me is that I would like a snack).

[3] Meditation, Yoga, Tea, Calming music… all are things that are great for relaxing when I choose them. All are things that only give me anxiety when I am made to do them. What do I need instead? I need time to recover, reflect, and adapt. I have lots of work to do, sure, but I’ve never used (or needed) more time in a teacher year just staring off into space and thinking.
[4] “Thank you for all that you do” reads too often to me as “I have no idea what you do.” Alternately, being recognized for specific work I’ve put in, cool things I was a part of, or impacts I’ve made is really energizing and good.
[5] <shudder>
[6] I’m ok with positivity when there are things worth celebrating (but, like, honestly, just barely and only as an act of supreme generosity on my part). I loathe positivity that serves to cover up things that suck. Give me honesty, give me transparency. Recognizing that this year sucks and is full of wrong answers will not break that specific bad news to anyone, but we may as well acknowledge where we are so we can address it.
[7] Changes are totally unavoidable this year. We’re moving in and out of different modes as reality (and available information) changes. I get it. But wherever possible, we need to focus on necessary change and not incessant tinkering. For students and for teachers, every change in schedule, routine, groupings, expectations, and models is work, is mental and emotional effort that we aren’t giving to other stuff (like maybe teaching and learning stuff, you know, or whatever).

There are other stories about Clinton, the kind you don’t tell at funerals. There’s so many stories about how a kid like him that was white would have been given room to explore his brightness rather than being asked to perform his intelligence on command. There’s stories about how we tried to control Clinton, to quiet Clinton, to make Clinton conform.
I was part of this problem. I had Clinton every year 4th-8th grade in my advisory, and then taught him all of his 8th grade year. I taught him some years in high school too, but honestly can’t remember which years he was in my room because he was supposed to be there and which ones he was just hanging out or hiding among the students pretending he was supposed to be there. I’d eventually catch him, call him out. He’d flash that same smile, that exact same one, give me a “k see ya” on his way to some other place he was probably not supposed to be.
Clinton was kind of always in trouble, wore it comfortably as he walked around, but usually just the harmless kind of trouble. His instinct to not get in trouble seemed to always kick in just after he did the something wrong. When students got their own laptops in 8th grade, it took Clinton less than a day to break through the school internet firewall and create his own admin log-in for his machine. In high school, he was accessing and changing his grades for lord knows how long, only getting caught when he started doing it for his friends and anyone else who asked nice.

There were months there after that, maybe more, when Clinton wasn’t allowed to use technology at school, and then only under direct supervision with limits.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot today, about how we took this thing that he was so, so good at and took it away. After years of proving to us that punishments did not alter his behavior, we removed his ability to get into the kind of trouble we wanted to punish and left it at that.
I think any teacher would tell you that when we lose a student, for any reason, that punch of loss is followed immediately by another of regret. There are all the things we did or didn’t do or could or should have done. There are moments we cared too much about little things or missed some of the big ones.

Today, I am remembering Clinton; his smile and his smarts and his beautiful heart. And I’m thinking about how often in schools we push kids away from their strengths, taking time or attention from what they are best at to fail hard at what they struggle with.
Today, I’m sad about Clinton, I’m holding his memory and his family and all the faces from those school days I saw grown up at the service today. Today, I am overwhelmed by the amount of love and the amount of loss that comes with being a teacher of young people.
Tomorrow I’ll walk into my classroom remembering Clinton; knowing every one of my students has strengths and it’s my job to give them room to explore.

There were months there after that, maybe more, when Clinton wasn’t allowed to use technology at school, and then only under direct supervision with limits.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot today, about how we took this thing that he was so, so good at and took it away. After years of proving to us that punishments did not alter his behavior, we removed his ability to get into the kind of trouble we wanted to punish and left it at that.
I think any teacher would tell you that when we lose a student, for any reason, that punch of loss is followed immediately by another of regret. There are all the things we did or didn’t do or could or should have done. There are moments we cared too much about little things or missed some of the big ones.

Today, I am remembering Clinton; his smile and his smarts and his beautiful heart. And I’m thinking about how often in schools we push kids away from their strengths, taking time or attention from what they are best at to fail hard at what they struggle with.
Today, I’m sad about Clinton, I’m holding his memory and his family and all the faces from those school days I saw grown up at the service today. Today, I am overwhelmed by the amount of love and the amount of loss that comes with being a teacher of young people.
Tomorrow I’ll walk into my classroom remembering Clinton; knowing every one of my students has strengths and it’s my job to give them room to explore.

There were months there after that, maybe more, when Clinton wasn’t allowed to use technology at school, and then only under direct supervision with limits.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot today, about how we took this thing that he was so, so good at and took it away. After years of proving to us that punishments did not alter his behavior, we removed his ability to get into the kind of trouble we wanted to punish and left it at that.
I think any teacher would tell you that when we lose a student, for any reason, that punch of loss is followed immediately by another of regret. There are all the things we did or didn’t do or could or should have done. There are moments we cared too much about little things or missed some of the big ones.

Today, I am remembering Clinton; his smile and his smarts and his beautiful heart. And I’m thinking about how often in schools we push kids away from their strengths, taking time or attention from what they are best at to fail hard at what they struggle with.
Today, I’m sad about Clinton, I’m holding his memory and his family and all the faces from those school days I saw grown up at the service today. Today, I am overwhelmed by the amount of love and the amount of loss that comes with being a teacher of young people.
Tomorrow I’ll walk into my classroom remembering Clinton; knowing every one of my students has strengths and it’s my job to give them room to explore.

[8] Actual safety > Saying “safety” a lot.
[9] We have proven, without doubt, that pandemics suck. So much suck. There is not one person I know in education that isn’t, in some part of themselves, just waiting for this year to be over. But we still need schools to transform into anti-racist institutions, we still need schools, every school, to be a safe space for our queer and transgender kids. Back to normal won’t be good enough, and we cannot wait, should not pause, one bit of the big work we need to do fulfilling the promise of education.
[10] There. I said it. I understand tests aren’t just for me as a teacher. I get that the data we get can be important. I also think the data from this year will be a lot less important (than, say, taking the data from NEXT year and comparing it to last year, and seeing how things have or haven’t changed). I don’t need a single number to tell me that this year is abormal.
What I most need, what I most treasure, and what has been depressingly hard to find this year is time that I get to spend with a student. With one. Doing the sort of guiding and challenging and questioning and discovery that many in the industry call, umm, “actual teaching.”

What I need, through class sizes or scheduling or spaces, is more time that I get to spend with each student I have. My school has just started its first week back in the building. The idea of spending a handful of the few weeks we have left sitting in silent rooms taking tests breaks me in half.
Please, my god, let us teach, let us reclaim what moments of human interaction we can. Help me to pick every bit of good meat left from the moldy-ass carcass of this school year.
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Category : business

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