Adventures in Room 347

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 30 2012

What They’re Up Against

Today was the 3rd day of teaching here at PPSD. Until now, I think I’ve been running on adrenaline, planning and performing, trying my hardest not to screw things up too badly.

First of all, I love my kids. They’re amazing. Example: I sent home family and student information surveys, and at the bottom, I added a catch-all question: “Is there anything else I should know about you?” My favorite answer: “I really want to learn this year, and I’m willing to work hard to do well.” !!!!!!!

How could anyone question the potential of someone with that kind of drive and motivation simply because of where they live or the color of their skin? It happens frequently; believe me. It makes my blood boil. This particular student craves success, and by god, I want to help him achieve it. I will not be the one to hold him back. That drive is inspiring, especially considering the environment of an urban area.

This morning, I called the nurse to ask about one of my students, who had discoloration on the back of his neck, which usually indicates a sugar overload, and can be a symptom of diabetes. I just wanted to check and make sure, since kids with diabetes have special classroom privileges. She said no, but he had other health concerns, particularly with his vision. I asked her to explain. This is what I heard. “He’s blind in one eye, because a couple of years ago, he and his cousin were playing in the front yard, and a stranger doped up on drugs came and stabbed him in the eye. He was lucky though; his cousin was killed on the spot, and he’s been struggling ever since.”

WHAT. I couldn’t even believe what I was hearing. This is the stuff of fiction for me, and it’s a reality for my students. I don’t know that I could even make it to school if that were my reality, much less care about the dry concepts of density and atomic theory (which I’m teaching this week and next). Here, drug and gang violence are real. Therefore, it is all the more important that they have a safe space, and that they shall have. In my classroom, there is zero tolerance for violence, racism, sexism, homophobia, verbal abuse, etc. I want my classroom to be a negativity-free zone. Beyond science, my young scholars will learn how to be educated citizens and humanitarian advocates. I want this for them, as desperately as my body wants sleep right about now.

They’re up against mountains, but hopefully, I’ve brought enough hiking gear. At the very least, I’ve brought ample amounts of spirit and compassion, so I believe the rest will come.

About this Blog

The classroom is a jungle, and my scholars are explorers. We dream big and work hard!

Rhode Island
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