Another Life Lesson for an “Experienced” Teacher

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I have a student. He is Hispanic. That is important not because of racial negativity–I have taught every nationality in the greater Houston area and can tell you good and bad about them all–but because many, many Hispanic males in urban areas show up to school each day with a set of issues and mores (read “morays”) that I as a caucasian female will never fully understand. Despite my lack of understanding, it is my job to teach them, to discipline them, to move them along the road to high school and beyond.

This particular student is one of a handful I have kicked out of my class this year. As in, “Get out.”

My exact words.

I don’t say it often. I like to handle issues in my room, because if a student is in the office rather than my room, that student isn’t learning. When their disruptive behavior becomes such that NO ONE is learning, I kick them out. He’s been out at least five times this year. I do not find this pleasant. It makes me cranky.

That being said, he is the ONLY person in my 8th period class–including the “smart girl”–who knew exactly what the word “propaganda” meant today. Lots of people were throwing out various and sundry things that were close, when, under his breath with his face turned to the wall he said, “political.” I had him repeat it, “It has to do with politics and governments, miss.” Then I explained how everyone else’s statements were also true, but HIS statement was the most exact.

This all happened after I had to haul him into the hallway because he didn’t bring paper to class. When I told him he had a phone call home for not bringing supplies and tried to GIVE him a piece of paper, he ignored me and let the paper fall to the floor. Then he refused to answer my question about whether or not he was refusing to follow directions. You see? This is not fun.

We had a little conference out there in the hallway. Most days he says, “I don’t care,” and we proceed from there. He also knew–from experience–that the next step was getting kicked out and, for some reason, he didn’t want that to happen today. I’m not sure why.
But it’s a good thing since he was the only one who knew what propaganda meant.

He is also the one who got REALLY angry about how people treated Charlie when we read “Flowers for Algernon.” He felt sorry for the orphaned boy in “A Mother in Manville.” He was the one to whom I referred when I talked about big, bad kids playing in the snow. He asked permission to call his mom on his cell phone. Kids aren’t supposed to use their cell phones during the day, but when it snows in Houston and you want to call your mom, I will let you.

So I made his “didn’t have supplies” phone call a little bit ago, at which time I ALSO got to tell him that he made commended on the state’s TAKS test. This is a big deal for anyone–but it is especially a big deal for him. It means he missed three or fewer questions on a 52 question 5 passage test that took about three hours. He asked me twice if I was serious. I had to talk to him because his mom doesn’t speak English. He’s a pain, but he doesn’t lie, so I knew he’d tell her about the fact that he didn’t bring his supplies to class today. And I also promised to have a note written in Spanish for his mom tomorrow, because she didn’t believe at first that he had made commended.

Then, I got to do what most teachers dream of. I got to say, “R____o? What have I been telling you ALL YEAR LONG?” And he replied, “That I am capable and need to do my best.” “Yes. That is what I have been telling you. And I was right.” “Yes ma’am.”

Yes ma’am, indeed. He is capable. In fact, he is SO capable, that after I got off the phone with him and dug a little deeper into his scores, I found out that not only did he get commended, but he made a PERFECT score. That’s right. He didn’t even miss one. So I called back, but he was outside helping his dad, and his brother had to deliver the good news rather than me. I hope he’s not suspended tomorrow. I can’t wait to see the look on his face.

I also hope it makes a difference that I have kicked him out of my class. I hope it makes a difference that I let him call his mom when it was snowing. I hope it makes a difference that I am proud of him now and may be mad at him tomorrow but will always care about what happens to him–even when I don’t really want to–even when it makes me tired–even when I want to quit–to give up on him. And I HAVE wanted to give up on him. More than once. There have even been days when I have done just that.

Yet somehow I keep on learning as much as I am trying to teach my students. You don’t give up. Ever. I sometimes forget that I am still in God’s classroom. But since God hasn’t given up on me, He just keeps the reminders coming.

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15 thoughts on “Another Life Lesson for an “Experienced” Teacher

  1. As a retired teacher, I can really understand those shoes you’re walking in. Bless you and others like you; people have no idea what a difficult job it is.

  2. How lucky we are that there are teachers in this country like you! I hope you’ll keep us posted on this boy. This may be a turning point that he’ll look back on as the day that made a difference.

  3. You made me cry as I was reading my “100th” or 1 millionth” Science journal and am so tired. We must remember to keep on “truckin” for Him because we make a difference in so many ways 🙂

    Love you friend!
    Amy

  4. Roxanne, Sarah led me to your blog – Just one thing – I am so proud of you – What a blessing you are to your students – You were and always will be one of the truly special ones I have known – love you
    David Mathews

  5. Hey Roxanne, i was cleaning up my favorites today and remembered i bookmarked your blog. what a wonderful day to come across it!

    i think i know exactly who you are talking about and challenging personality (although i didn’t have him in my classes). wow what an accomplishment for him! only a truely special teacher would care enough to write about this in what i know is a busy life! thanks for sharing this and allowing people to see how teachers do connect and care! and your snow day post made me all warm and fuzzy! <>

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