Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 22 2012

for the overwhelming good of my children


If you get a puppy and it chews something up, and then looks at you with sad eyes and puts its tail between its legs, for how long do you yell before you hug it and tell it you love it? If you don’t discipline it, does it do it again? If you discipline it to harshly, does it…still do it? Does it eventually stop chewing things when it grows up and realizes it’s being childish?

My students are like puppies in that they need consistent guidance in terms of how to be good human beings (or puppies). They are unlike puppies in that they do not seem to grow out of some of this destructive behavior. So if you’re anything like my father, who counts furniture as members of his family, pretty soon your patience with furniture-wrecking puppies (and kids doing heartless things to each other and myself) runs THE HELL OUT.

I had a greeting card on my desk today that I got for one of my students who was in a drama performance on Friday. A day which, by the way, was awesome. So was the day before that. And the day before that. AWESOME. Focusing on the positive. Loving on my kids like crazy. SPIRIT FINGERS. CULTURE-BUILDING MADNESS. TEAM & FAMILY.

And then today I had this card on my desk clearly marked JONATHAN. I also had a beautiful sign that I taped to my desk yesterday that said this: PLEASE RESPECT MS. Y’S SPACE BY NOT TOUCHING ANYTHING ON THIS DESK WITHOUT HER PERMISSION. THANKS, MS. Y. Please keep in mind that this phrase was surrounded by hearts.

After fifth period today I happened to glance over at my desk and see that my card to Jonathan had been opened. SOMEONE HAD SHREDDED OPEN MY ENVELOPE. Sometimes puppies AREN’T CUTE ANYMORE. Like WHEN THEY DESTROY SOMETHING AND IT PUTS YOU OVER THE EDGE.


I just about lost it. No more mister nice Y (see what I did there? but seriously).

I was just…so….hurt…by…this…act…of…malice.



We are fourteen- and fifteen-year-old members of society contributing in a positive way by 1.) obtaining an 80% on the 10th grade End of Instruction English exam and 2.) proving the haters who thought we were remedial wrong. WE DO NOT DOOOOOOO THINGSSSSSSSS LIKEEEEEEEEE THISSSSSSSSSSSS.

You know, I could stop here and reflect on the fact that I am slowly but DEFINITELY surely losing my mind. I could sit back and think…Hmm…WHY AM I SO FLUSTERED OVER AN OPEN ENVELOPE????? Chill out, Jess. He (I have my suspicions) didn’t mean it. He probably has never gotten a greeting card in his life. I could talk about how I’m an emotional wreck, how when I saw D take out his lazer pointer AFTER I HAD ASKED HIM TO PUT IT AWAY I almost cried, how when A pushed her paper aside and said “I CAN’T DO THIS” I choked, I flailed, I flopped harder than the entire Duke starting 5 put together, I sighed, I behaved like a general menace to society because I was so frustrated. I could note how unprofessional or unnecessary my behavior was, I could think about what I could do better tomorrow, I could consider how much they struggle at home, I could splinter apart and analyze every minute aspect of their behavior, link it back to hunger, anger, exhaustion, loneliness, how they can’t sleep at night, how the breakfast the school gives them isn’t enough, how they’ve been screwed by society so they still don’t know that C makes a hard sound, I could plan a restorative conference for tomorrow where I tell them how much OPENING A STUPID ENVELOPE HURT MY ALREADY FRAGILE, HANGING-ON-THE-EDGE FEELINGS–



I’m tired.

I am so, so, so, so tired. I’m tired of making excuses for them. I’m tired of mindless misbehavior. I’m tired of them saying “That’s not a team and family thing to say,” to each other when one calls the other something horrible BUT THEN NOT INTERNALIZING WHAT A TEAM AND FAMILY IS. I’m tired of not being able to bring in boxes of tissues, hand sanitizer, dry erase markers, bags of pencils, I-Pod speakers, Clorox, or any other random thing you can think of that I buy with my own money without it being completely depleted within the hour. I’m tired of my desk being rummaged through, my floor being spit on, stray hairs in the cabinets (I hate hair), random sweatshirts in the corner, A COMB FLOATING IN MY WATER CUP (this happened), activity clothespins dismantled and chewed on, SUNFLOWER SEEDS SHELLS IN THE DESKS, SUNFLOWER SEED SHELLS IN MY BOARD TRAY, SUNFLOWER SEED SHELLS IN GENERAL, I am SO TIREDDDDDDD.


Okay, was that dramatic? Because now I want you to think about this:

If my day had been slightly less horrific, I could have definitely laughed at the fact that one of my kids ran into my room this morning with a tribal hat on, insisted we refer to him as “Adrian X” (a la Malcolm), and started preaching about the Devil. Because…well, it was funny. It was actually really funny. Later, the math teachers and I had him do slam poetry on camera. His poem was called “Don’t Touch My Stuff,” and mentioned sweet potato pie.

These glimmers of genius (I prefer “genius” over psychosis”) keep me coming back every day.






One Response

  1. els

    ohmygosh I love this so much. It’s the “mindless misbehavior” that makes me nutty — I really take it personally. It’s hard not to pull the martyr card and be like “Do you know how much I GAVE UP to come here and teach you?”. I usually talk myself down from that point, but I love the raw honesty here. We only have 3 1/2 weeks till spring break, so I hope yours comes quickly too!

Post a comment

About this Blog

lassos, longhorns and literacy

High School

Subscribe to this blog (feed)