Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The In-Betweens

There are moments when I think my students are too old for their age -- that they know too much about drugs and sex and the hatred of this world. Those are the moments I feel hopeless and empty. The moments when I wonder where I misplaced my idealism.

And then, I put on a Disney movie after an ass-whip day of standardized testing. And my most challenging students pull their desks close and stare wide-eyed at the screen, mesmerized by the colors and music and story. They boo the villains and take up for the victims. They talk to no one but themselves about what they'd do if they were that character. Sometimes they cry or get very quiet during the sad parts. Sometimes they sing and dance through the happy moments. And a few have even shadow-boxed the fight scenes right alongside the hero.

But my favorite moments of all time are when they smile at all the parts meant for kids but laugh at all of the jokes meant for grown-ups. That's when I remember that I am blessed with these babies at The In-Betweens. We exist at the intersection of Being a Kid and Growing Up, where some days you just want to be big and tall while on others you still want to curl up and be small. Where innocence isn't entirely eclipsed by cynicism.

And where sometimes you still get a movie and orange slices at the end of a long day of work.

Monday, May 2, 2016

I Am a Teacher

Every year about this time, my students create an "I Am" poem. It's a skeleton poem with a defined structure, so everyone's looks basically the same in the beginning. In the end, however, each student typically finds a way to take control of something that seems so basic, and they make it sing only their song somehow. I keep several each year to remember special kids, unique voices, and efforts I did not expect. It's one of my favorite activities.

Also, it keeps them from asking me one million questions and whining about no end-of-year parties for at least 25 or 30 minutes. I'm not saying this is the main reason I do it, but it sure doesn't hurt.

Today happens to mark the first day of Teacher Appreciation Week. Therefore, I have chosen to create a bookend "I Am" poem to celebrate. If you know a teacher somewhere, give them a hug this week. They probably need it.

Or buy them a drink at Happy Hour. They probably need that even more.


I am a teacher who'll never stop trying.
I wonder what the day shall bring.
I hear the wheels beginning to turn.
I see wonder in their eyes.
I want them all to know their true worth. 
I am a teacher who'll never stop trying. 

I pretend that nothing will go wrong.
I feel their energy streaming down the hall.
I touch their imaginations, their hearts, their spirits. 
I worry I'm just not enough.
I cry when I cannot help them.
I am a teacher who'll never stop trying. 

I understand that they'll soon be gone. 
I say I will always remember, and 
I dream that I actually will.
I try to be enough for everyone.
I hope they know that I care.
I am a teacher who'll never stop trying.


I am a teacher, and it's finally May.
I wonder if my deodorant is working,
I hear their chaos and flash.
I see stacks of ungraded papers.
I want to throw them all in the trash.
I am a teacher, and it's finally May.

I pretend to listen to announcements, but
I feel it's a waste of my time.
I touch my last nerve for its toughness, and 
I worry it's the end of the line.
I cried when the copy machine jammed, for 
I haven't got much of a plan.
I am a teacher, and it's finally May.

I understand that they all will be gone soon.
I say I won't miss them a bit.
I dream of bashing alarm clocks, 
Smashing them all straight to shit.
I try to remember all of the good things 
That each student has brought my way.
I hope they know that I really do love them, but
I am a teacher, and it's finally May.

For all my teacher friends, if I had any money whatsoever, the first round would totally be on me.
Thanks for running this race with me.