Friday, June 29, 2007

A lesson in indifference

Summer school is officially over. My 20 days are up and I am sad to say it is a little bitter sweet. I feel like this month was a lesson in the tragedy of indifference.

To recap, through a series of unfortunate events I did not get to work at McReynolds this summer and did not get to work with TFA. My next best option was going on board at Ryan Middle School which is about five minutes from my house. If McReynolds was in turmoil this year then I would say Ryan is the new McReynolds.

These were some of the hardest days of my teaching career yet and much of it was caused not by the children, but by those teaching them. Ryan is a sad example of frustration gone bad. My co-workers this summer were wonderful, smart and funny people, unfortunately they were also quite indifferent to the culture of the school. Like anything negative, indifference spreads like a rash. Before I knew it I was frustrated, tired, bewildered and not willing to day in and day out challenge my students for every little thing. As one teacher told me "honey, some times it just ain't worth the battle." I think I actually started to believe that — or at least tried to believe it to make myself feel better.

The thing is, is that it is always worth the battle. It is always worth the fight. The way the kids at Ryan behave is inexcusable, unfortunate and downright depressing. What's worse, is that it's not their fault. When you grow up without structure, without positive goals and in some cases without love, you can't be blamed for being a product of your environment. I'm not saying that they are without fault for their behavior. Yes, Demarquis is the biggest baby I have encountered in my 23 years of life. I wanted to buy him a rattle. And yes, Tenevoleesha has a tone in her voice that would cause my mother to smack me across the room, but what happens to them when they behave like this? Nothing. Absolutely nothing at best and a back handed insult or jeer at worst. How do you learn when you're not being taught?

Beyond being frustrated by the school, I'm frustrated with myself. I let myself fall prey to the idea that things can't change. Things can always change. That's why I do what I do. What I have discovered is that things change faster (and it's easier for the changer) if there are others around open to creating that change as well. Of all the faults I saw in McReynolds this year, it took going to Ryan to see that what I need for change I have in the people around me. They are much like the people I worked with at Ryan, wonderful, smart and funny, but they haven't given up hope. They believe (some in misguided ways) that the children can be different, that they can achieve, that there is a different way for our school to be.

I only wish I had seen then about my school what I see now. I suppose indifference can spread before you really realize what you've lost, but that's why holding on to hope — holding on to the belief that the way it is now isn't the only way it can be — is so vitally important. Without hope you simply have a summer like mine: 20 days with not much taught and even less learned.

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