Sunday, July 11, 2010

"Nice..." he said.

So I was lying in bed this morning thinking about Bernard's comment to my previous blog post about my school dream.  I don't think I know him, so it's hard to know what inflection to put on his comment of 'nice'.  I suspect it's sarcasm.

It made me think back to the 19 years and three weeks I put in as an IPS teacher.  Were there ever good moments?  Of course there were.  There had to have been, right?  Otherwise, I wouldn't have kept at it for said 19 years and three weeks.  I have people in my life that I collected along the way--Julie, Scrib, Beth, and a good number of students:  Harrison, Holly, Corey, Rose.  They are still in my life.  But it was that last couple of years that just beat it out of me.  I always thought I was an amazingly strong person, but I found that I wasn't.   

One of the real horrors was the way the kids treated each other--name-calling, put-downs, horrifically scarring verbal abuse, baiting comments, hitting, pushing, shoving, laughing when someone was hurt.  I couldn't understand why such meanness was considered so funny.  I couldn't imagine what it must be like to be an urban child, to leave a possibly abusive homelife, to get on the bus to jeers and put-downs, and be faced with such insults to the soul ALL day.  
Eventually, I couldn't stand up against their hatred of me, the teacher, the white teacher, who just wanted them to learn, to achieve, to succeed, to find joy in learning and joy in life.  I mean, I knew I wasn't there for them to like me, but how much can one person take?  I could no longer find purpose in teaching children who so adamantly opposed to learning.  They clearly despised me and all I stood for.  I began to crumble.  
I began to think that I could never understand those kids.  My values--decency and kindness towards another human being, culture, education, lifelong learning, literacy--seemed to be so diametrically opposite of theirs.  How could we ever find common ground, connect in an atmosphere of mutual respect and knowledge?  And gradually, I wore away, like sandstone.  

My six years at Marshall fractured me and that last year at #69 shattered the fractures.  Inner city teaching broke me.  I won't go back to the classroom again.

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