Tuesday, October 31, 2006

dont' let the bed bugs bite

one of my students told me yesterday that her father hit her with a belt and that she lives with her mother, father, brother, and sister in a studio. her brother and sister share a bed in the kitchen. she sleeps on the floor with her parents. i asked if she sleeps on a mattress on the floor and she explained that they had bedbugs last summer and had to throw out the mattresses so she sleeps on blankets on the floor with her parents.
of course i feel for her and i told her how sorry i was and i referred this situation to the proper counsellors at school but i can empathize with the parents. all my students are immigrants ( i teach esl). they can't afford more than a studio because the neighborhood is becoming pricey. 5 people in a studio and they can't afford new beds - beds are really expensive. i can see how mom and dad would get really freaked out and angry a lot.
i think of the abuse i experienced as a child (although my financial situation growning up was better than this girl's, i still went through hell as a child) and how i've been working through that in my adulthood. those events are in the past for me. this girl is living it right now and can't change it or get out.
i was thinking of asking for money for new mattresses at my church but then i thought, what if those get bed bugs? there's a major infestation in queens and all over nyc right now. even if their apt. is fumigated, what about the neighbors? that problem is not so easy to solve.
it's not just about fixing one little, manageable thing. it's a whole system. my students have to take a state-wide, standardized english language test every spring and it is so hard that kids their age who are native english speakers could not pass this thing. i believe it's set up that way to keep the kids in esl (which goes at a slower pace than mainstream classes but also carries with it a stigma) because someone's got to be the gas station attendant and it sure isn't going to be the native english speaker.
living in the school's neighborhood is expensive and parents make sacrifices like this because the schools are good. i mean, i won't compare them to the public schools in my neighborhood. but, for example, at my school we got 30 laptops for the 2nd grade to share. i use those things whenever i can with the kids. that makes a big difference in their lives and their futures.
i'm not sure where to go with this but i think the spirit is leading me somewhere. i'll talk to the peace and restorative justice committee at my church and see what comes of that.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

help! i've become sr. francis!

i haven't written for so long because i had nothing much good to report. i last wrote that i wanted to be nicer this school year, loosen up a bit because behavior management is not an issue for me. well, be careful what you wish for. i have been the meanest teacher on the 2nd grade so far this year. i am my own worst nightmare, sr. francis, the meanest 5th grade math teacher (i'm assuming she had no vocation to the religious life or to teaching and that's what made her such a flaming bitch - honestly, if i could get my hands on her today ...).
i realize that this year, out of 18 students, 8 of them are total space cases. they just stare into space with their mouths open, not doing anything, totally zoned out. usually i have one or two kids like that, this year it's literally half the class. i teach esl but it's not a language issue, these kids understand english just fine, they've been at school in nyc since kindergarten. they understand me, they just aren't paying any attention. as a result i spend the most part of my day keeping these kids on task. simple acts like opening their notebooks and writing their headings take a great deal of time and focus. for some of them i have an idea of what is going on, for the majority of them i don't know why they are so tuned out.
i told one girl the other day that she had better start paying attention in class and showing me that she is a serious student because when she grows up a prince is not going to marry her and give her all the money she wants for doing nothing. instead, she will have to get a job, everybody has to work, and she will never go to college and get a good job if she doesn't know that 5 + 3= 8 because she has not been paying one bit of attention in math class. i told her that being cute does not get you that far in life, you have to know things, things that you learn in school.
oy vey.
i am noticing that when i get annoyed and yell at the kids that i am saying to them things that the nuns said to me when i was a girl. i honestly think that there are some depths of emotion for me to plummet here. maybe this third year of teaching for me is going to be about learning about my own childhood and becoming more compassionate towards my students. i certainly feel like i'm not being compassionate right now.
i'm focusing my prayer life and recovery work around my issues with certain children and my own childhood issues. i need to remember that god is in charge of my classroom and that i am but a trusted servant. it's easy to cross the line from organizing the class and creating structure to becoming a bossy, controll freak!
please pray for me - and my poor students - as i embark on this journey.