Saturday, November 05, 2005

One Coin; Two Sides

I left school Friday after throwing things in my classroom with the door closed. Ms. S. came in, the most empathetic, honest person I know and sat quietly through it all, said "sorry," and left. Which was pretty much the perfect thing to do, even if it didn't really help, even if I still felt that sick unsettledness eight hours later, buying another round. Seventy-five percent of my basketball team, fresh off the we-work-for-excellence-we-must-be-winners speech decide to skip practice.

Okay, small event. But there's a tipping point to jobs like this, where surrounding yourself with the self-limiting, the self-defeatism, the constant way of least opposition, the confused response to the concept of hard work, the acceptance of failure and mediocrity, there are points where you need to throw things to make it better. This is what makes it all so hard for me. Not the work; I am my father's son in that regard moreso that I ever thought I'd be. Not the money; I'm doing fine. Not the lack of societal respect; I get enough. It's the constant creeping exposure to the settling for less. It literally hurts, lemon juice in the paper cut. This refusal to even see how the world unfolds for someone who will not accept so little for themselves. Do it, see what happens. But so few will, and my winless (and yet massively improving) basketball team embodies it more than I'd like.

Then Saturday Academy this morning. Nine a.m., seven of my lowest ten kids lined up in the cold, coming back for more. KIPP robots are screaming "good morning" like good little soldiers, and Mr. G. at the end of the hall is simultaneously holding detention and "binder intervention." I'm putting into practice the idea that Saturday Academy should flip the script -- instead of constantly reviewing what they did not learn, pre-teach what's coming. Give those low performers that much more time with the material, a chance to learn in an intimate setting, as well as the opportunity to be high status I-know-I-know when the rest of the class sees the material coming down the road.

These kids are five years behind, and I'm working my hands off to keep that number constant right now, never mind close the gap. Why should they come to school on a Saturday? What past success speaks of it as anything other than torture? But they came and worked and it was great.
"Do I hafta leave?" F. asks.

"This was fun," says J.

"See you tomorrow," says L., because he's coming to the college field trip on Sunday -- Demystifying Higher Education for Latino Youth -- and the unbalance is corrected, and now I can't wait to come back Monday and pull these crabs out of the bucket with both arms.


Blogger Johanna said...

You're inspirational. Keep on truckin'

9:26 PM  

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