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21 02 2011

These past few weeks, I have been consumed with the steps I must take in the application process with Teach for America. There have been essays to write, references to contact and even a phone interview. Tomorrow I will be doing an online writing activity, and if I have done well, sometime within the next few weeks there will be an in-person final interview to be held either in State College, Philadelphia or Baltimore. Only after all of this is done will I know if I will be offered a place in the Teach for America ranks.

Teach for America is a wonderful program that takes people from all walks of life, trains them and places these new teachers in schools with the greatest need. These are schools that consider themselves lucky if each student has a textbook. The students are from homes that are most assuredly low-income, and most probably poverty-stricken. In the days after I submitted my application, I began receiving e-mails from Teach for America asking if I wouldn’t consider requesting a placement in the Mississippi Delta area, because they had the greatest need. If you’re like me, the first thoughts that comes to mind, knowing that this is the area that has the greatest need, are the oil spill in the Gulf and Katrina. I can’t even begin to imagine what life must be like there. If I were a stronger person, or at least someone who has the constitution of one who actually likes hot weather, I might consider it. But I am not one of those people. My sister Margie lived in Pascagoula, Mississippi for a few years after she was married, and when I told her that this was the area that the were pushing people to go, she laughed hysterically at the thought of me living there. I still vividly remember visiting her when she lived there and receiving a sunburn through my clothes. So no, this pale, Winter-loving Irish/German will not be living in the South.

It is an exciting process that I am going through. Thinking about what location I’d like to teach in, the students I may have and the opportunities the experience will place in my path has been quite the adrenaline rush. It is exciting too because teaching where I am most needed has been my goal from the moment I decided to go back to college. Schools that have resources and involved parents have more teachers applying for jobs with them than they will ever need, but the schools that lack do not. Sadder still is that they cannot afford to hire the teachers they desperately need. I remember what it was like to live in the low-income housing projects, and to know, without having to ask, that college was out of the question.

Through all of the excitement, I haven’t really allowed myself to think about the fact that if I do get accepted into Teach for America, I will be moving away from everything and everyone I know. It’s funny really. From the time I was seventeen, all I could think about was moving away from home. When my sister got married, her husband was in the Navy and they moved every couple of years. So I got to travel and see the country, at least the Eastern Seaboard portion of the country, through my visits to see her. Later, when my dear friend Maureen moved to Washington State, I got to see the West Coast and fell in love with a new ocean and a  part of the country that was so green that it hurt your eyes. Now, more than twenty-five years later, I am finally being given the opportunity to indulge my wanderlust, and I am a little sad at the thought of leaving. There is a feeling of safe comfort in having memories of your childhood within walking distance. Yet, I suppose things happen as they should. Maybe it’s time to begin making new memories because my heart will always remember the way home.





Help for the Ages

2 02 2011

“Old age is no place for sissies.” – Bette Davis

I saw a post today that my friend Robin had written about her dread of turning 40 in a few years and I had to laugh at the memory it triggered. In 1971, a few days before my birthday, I found myself pondering the concept of age. I was about to turn 10 years old, and I was feeling terribly sad at the realization that I would never have a single-digit age again. Oh, how depressed I was! I sat at my desk and figured out what year it would be when I turned 30 – 1991, 40-2001, and so on. I wondered what my life would be like at age 30. Would I be married with kids? Would I have a career or be a rock star? I was 10, of course I wanted to be a rock star! What about turning 40? What would I be like then? At the time, I just couldn’t get my mind around the concept of turning 40. I hadn’t even hit puberty yet, so imagining myself at 40 was mind-warping and impossible. As I sit at my desk today, once again pondering age, I am about to reach an age that the 10-year-old me never even considered; 50. Huh? When did that happen?

Being smarter than anyone else on the planet, as all 10-year-olds are, there were a few things I knew for certain. I would always hate brussel sprouts, I was never going to get married to a yucky boy, and I was never going to be 40. Well … 2 out of 3 isn’t bad. I wonder what that 10-year-old would think about turning 50. There was a time in my life when I seemed to be working very hard to make sure that I was right on all three counts. I indulged in risky behaviors with questionable companions, I put substances in my body that would bring Hercules to his knees, and I honestly earned the nickname “grace.”

So how is it then, that this summer marks the beginning of my 5th decade of life? The only answer I have is that I’ve had a lot of help. For as long as I can remember, I have always been “the youngest.” I was the youngest in the family, the youngest in my class and the youngest of my friends. I enjoyed the recognition and carried the title proudly. Then somewhere around the age of 29, I began meeting people who were younger than me and I was a little put off by it. I had no idea how to be “older.” Older people were supposed to be smarter and wiser and I felt that I was neither. The Universe, however, is very wise. Why else would my life be filled with so many wise women?

Being the youngest is actually a pretty cool gig. Especially when you have a sister and friends like mine. They have all taught me much of what was important for me to know. They loved me when I needed to be loved, hugged me when I needed to be hugged, and kicked my ass, often, when it needed to be kicked. They have taught me to remember that I am worthy of love, but more importantly, to love myself first and they showed me how humor can cushion the blow of any heartbreak, no matter how painful. They also taught me  to remember not to hide in the humor for too long. When I had my heart broken for the first time, my sister was there to hold me and tell me that I would survive the pain and that I deserved more love than he (yes, I said “he.” I still had much to learn!) could give. When life at home was too painful to bear, it was Maureen, who (though younger but smarter than me) was there to show me that all pain is temporary as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other. When my behavior became too out of control, it was Paula who loved me enough to walk away and in doing so, taught me that all things have consequences. Thankfully, she wasn’t gone for long, which taught me that forgiveness is always possible, even forgiveness of self.

There are many other wise women in my life as well; Jane (a few Jane’s actually) , Janie, Diane, Marybeth, Marilyn, Rose and Annie, and so many more. They have all shown me how to face life a day at a time and to remember that age is really just a number that chronicles how long you have been learning the lessons you need. These women have all cleared the path that I now walk and they each point out the pitfalls along the way in the hopes of making my journey a bit easier than theirs. Now that I am a teacher, I have the chance to honor these sage women by passing on their wisdom to the next generation so that, in time, they will do the same.  Emerson  said “The best tunes are played on the oldest fiddles.” I think that’s pretty wise … for a guy.

My big sister, Margie, and I at age 23 and 19. Two wise women in the making.





Doing Time

23 01 2011

This week I had a 4 day assignment at the same middle school. Unfortunately, thanks to a snow day and a dead battery, I only got to work 2 of those days. Because the teacher that I was substituting for was a reading specialist, the exact thing I want to go to grad school for but am not certified in yet, I was not allowed to sub in her reading classes. What that meant was that I taught the 1 language arts class that was on her schedule, and filled in for other teachers during the other 10 class periods of the day. Crazy schedule! Many of the class periods were for hall duty, lunch duty or for ISS – In School Suspension. Now when I was in school, suspension always meant 3 days at home. But that was a different, gentler time where a kid could climb on their bike at 10 am and not have to be home until dark. A time when there were no Amber Alerts or pictures of missing kids on milk cartons. ISS is also a great way to make sure the kids don’t fall behind in their classes because their teachers send their work to the ISS room.

When I showed up at the ISS room, there was a teacher waiting for me to relieve her and two students in the room. What was disheartening to me was how she was treating them. She spoke to them, actually it was closer to a yell, as if they were the worst kids on the planet. After she left, the kids went right to work, and the room, which was more of a storage closet, became deathly quiet. It finally got the best of me and I walked over to one of the students, a tiny 6th grade girl, grinned at her and asked, so what are you in for? She giggled and said I was late too many times. I looked at the 7th grade boy in the other desk and asked, what about you? He said he’d been late for class too. Suspended for being late? Talk about the punishment not fitting the crime. We then talked a bit about why they were late and what they might be able to do to keep it from happening again. They were good kids who did their work, they just didn’t have great time management skills. Normal middle schoolers.

Maybe it’s me but it just seemed awfully harsh for them to be suspended for being late. Whatever happened to detention? Maybe I feel that way because of my time student-teaching in an inner-city school where the kids who got suspended were the ones who were fighting, disrespecting the teachers or bringing weapons to school. If those kids were late to class, the teachers were just happy they made the effort to show up. I suppose what bothered me most was how harsh the teachers were with these two kids. I’ve been substituting in a lot of schools and every so often I meet a teacher who makes me feel that they have been teaching for far too long. They seem to have forgotten why they became a teacher in the first place. It doesn’t have to be about having power over the kids. Sometimes, the best way to teach is to listen.





Aftermath

9 01 2011

I slept violently last night. When I woke this morning, I found a sundry of blankets and pillows strewn across the room, and I was more exhausted that I had been when I climbed into bed. It happens every time. Whenever there is another tragic, senseless act of violence, such as what occurred in Arizona yesterday, I know that I will not sleep well in the coming days because I will be struggling in my dreams with a monster named hate.

I have struggled with this monster before, beginning several years ago when I first embraced the truth of who I am. When I came out I felt so free and happy. I bought bumper stickers and flags and displayed them in an announcement to the world … “This is who I am and I am proud!” It occurred to me that I might not be accepted, but I never imagined that anything bad could happen, but it did. Someone that I did not know, saw my flags and stickers and decided that I deserved his hate. I don’t know what he hit me with, but I had a shiner and a headache for days. Bruises, however, are temporary. What remained was fear and the loss of trust in my fellow human beings.

After many years of therapy and healing, I do not consider myself a victim. You see, a victim remains in the place of fear. A survivor works to end the hate. In many ways, we are all victimized when these acts of violence occur. We are initially filled with fear and we wonder if it could happen to each of us. It is then that we are faced with a choice. Do we remain victims of violence or do we become survivors? Victims remain in the fear and embrace the very hatred that victimized them. Survivors end the cycle of violence by placing hate in the light of day for all to see the senselessness of it.

While I do my best to find the humanity in everyone, I will never understand the hate that lives in the hearts of so many. We are a nation built on the strength in our differences, so how did we become so judgmental of those who look different or whose beliefs are different than our own? When did we become so full of ourselves that we live, and die, by the belief that anyone who disagrees with our beliefs is wrong. Is it so hard to believe that maybe, just maybe, we could be wrong?  In the past few years, it seems that we have lost the ability to listen and respect the opinions of others. Ronald Regan and Tip O’Neill – two men who built their careers at opposite ends of the political spectrum – could spend the day in heated debates, yet were friends at the end of the day. When did we lose the ability to do the same? It is hard to respect the right of others to believe as they choose. It is so much easier to give in to hate by creating hit lists or websites with crosshairs over the names of those who don’t believe as we do. It would be easy to hate the young man accused of the shooting in Arizona because his actions were horrific, yet I do not. I feel immense sadness for the waste of the lives he took and destroyed, including his own.

Earlier this year, we were forced to face  the consequences of bullying when several young victims of bullying began taking their own lives. Yesterday, we witnessed the consequences first hand when this young man chose to bully a nation. When we allow the bullies of this world to go unchallenged when they spew their hateful rhetoric or create hit lists of potential victims,  then we have become accomplices to their hate. In the days following 9/11 I witnessed many instances of hate, and involved myself in a few confrontations personally. Being hated has made the hatred of others intolerable for me.  Ask any teacher and they will tell you that it is never easy to challenge those who bully and hate, but it must be done every time we see it. It is the only way we can survive.





Reflections

3 01 2011

2010 is over and gone, and what a year it was. It was a year filled with hope, excitement, fear, joy, and grief, but most importantly, it was a year filled with love. It is important to look back sometimes, in order to see how far we have come. Sometimes, it is the looking back that gives us the strength and the courage to continue on our journey.

January

The year began with the beginning of my student-teaching placement. I taught 8th grade at an inner-city middle school from January until April. If ever there was a trial by fire, this was it. In general, kids are pretty smart. They have the ability to see right through any façade you might try to put on and can tell within the first five minutes if you belong at the front of a classroom or not. Add street smarts, cynicism and complacency to the mix and you begin to get a feel for the kids that I was tying to teach. It was terrifying. It was also very hard because these kids did not want to give me an inch simply because they knew I was going to leave in three months. You see that’s the common thread that each one of them share … they have all been left, abandoned, in some form or another and their trust is gone. I’d love to say that I won them all over and that it was a dream teaching placement, but I cannot say that. There were several kids who hated me from day 1 and their opinion of me never wavered. But there were many who eventually warmed up to me, especially after they learned that I grew up in the same neighborhoods where they lived in now – “Ms. G’s from the south side!”

More importantly, I experienced teaching moments that will stay with me forever. While I was there, I was teaching a unit on the Holocaust and was flabbergasted to learn that nearly half of my students had never heard of the Holocaust or did not believe it had actually happened. We had a survivor of the concentration camps come speak to the kids and show them a documentary she had put together. Afterward, I gave the students an assignment to write a thank you letter to the speaker. Many of them struggled with what to say, so in order to jump-start their writing by reviewing what they had learned,  I asked them to tell me what they thought of the film. What I learned was that we adults sometimes assume everyone will perceive things exactly as we do and we forget to give basic information. The film showed the victims, both alive and dead, who were nothing more than skeletons. But the kids did not understand how they had gotten that way. They couldn’t understand the basics such as why these people didn’t brush their teeth or take a shower. So I spoke to them for nearly a half an hour, explaining to them (without being too graphic) what had happened to the victims. I let them ask questions, and I answered in the best way that I could. When they began writing their letters, one girl who, up until this point didn’t care at all about writing or school in general, gave me her letter to read and it was so poignant that it brought me to tears. From that moment on this girl tried her best for me. Try as I might, I did not reach all of my students during my student teaching, but I reached some of them. I know I reached one, and that makes all the difference to me.

Summer

Graduation Day! What a surreal day it was. I began going to college part-time in August of 2001. I couldn’t allow myself to think about how long it would take me to finish because that would have been too overwhelming, but I knew the day would come. Finally, after so much sacrifice and so much time, it was here. It was a beautiful day filled with joy, sadness and even a surprise or two. One of the greatest joys for me was that my dear friend Maureen, who lives nearly 3000 miles away, came to see me graduate. We have been friends since our first day of school in the 1st grade and over the years she has been one of my greatest supporters. Sharing the joy of this day with her was one of life’s greatest gifts. A few moments after Maureen went to find her seat and I went to get ready for the ceremony, she called me and asked if I had seen the program for the ceremony. I hadn’t so she told me to look. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I opened it and saw that I would be graduating with distinction – Penn State’s version of Cum Laude. Oh how I had worked for that and had wanted it! However, I had thought that I had just missed making it even though I was graduating with a 3.9 GPA. My day had just gotten even more surreal and I was over the moon! It is a wonderfully strange feeling when you finally achieve a goal that you have worked towards for such a long time. The world seems to tilt a bit and it’s hard to take it all in. That is why it is so very important to surround yourself with people who have become family, who love and support you. So that when these life-changing moments come, these beautiful people are there to keep you grounded.  There were a few empty chairs in that auditorium that day, chairs that hurt my heart with their emptiness, but  to be able to march into a ceremony and see those who love you lined up in the front row, beaming with pride and joy at your achievement and perseverance  – well, it just doesn’t get much better than that.

And so summer began. It was so very strange to go from having a place to be every day of the week, to … well … nothing. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I had a job, and that job was to find a teaching job. Over the course of the summer, I sent out over 45 application packets (resume, cover letter, clearances, teaching certification, etc.), made dozens of phone calls, and spent thousands of hours in front of my computer getting on every website of every school district within a 100 mile radius. After all of that work, I managed to land 7 interviews, 3 of which, were for substitute teaching positions. 4 interviews. Rejection is like having your heart, politely, ripped out with a spoon, over and over again. In order to lighten the blow, I began rating the letters. Those that sent no letters at all (and there were many of those) got 0 points, those that began with “Dear Applicant …” only got 1 point because they didn’t even try. Those that addressed me by name got 3 points, and the winner was the one that addressed me by name and said they hoped I would apply again in the future. Nothing like a little hope!  What I’ve gained  from my summer of “No” is that I am more determined than ever to not re-live the experience. As I write this, I am filling out my application for Teach for America, and once the application season opens again, my plan is to begin applying for jobs whether they are in Pennsylvania or not. I don’t know where I’m going to end up, but I do know I’m going to be teaching!

Sacrifice

Going back to college is a huge endeavor. Much bigger than I knew when I started the process 9 years ago. It was inevitable that I was going to have to make sacrifices, but I didn’t really absorb how very big those sacrifices were until late summer. Some sacrifices were small, such as studying instead of television or writing papers instead of sleeping. Others were much bigger, such as having very little time to spend with friends and family or even maybe going out on a date once in a while! But some sacrifices take a piece of your heart and irretrievably break it. In August, my dear friend Paula lost her beautiful daughter to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Jessie was the first baby for any of my friends, and next to the birth of my two fantastic nephews, her birth was the most emotional for me. There is nothing more awe-inspiring that witnessing those you love give birth to love itself – a child. Jessie was a beautiful girl with special needs, but when you were in her pure presence you couldn’t help but wonder if it wasn’t really us “normal’ folks who had the special needs. She loved completely, laughed from her toes and loved life in a way that the rest of us can only dream about. Because I was working and going to school, I missed the last half of this beautiful soul’s time with us. I do not regret going to school, nor would I change it if I could, but sometimes the price we pay in life is very dear indeed.

Fall

I began substitute teaching in September. I had it all worked out in my head that I would be able to make  a certain amount of money every week and things would begin to look up. What I didn’t think about was that there were going to be days when I didn’t get called for a job. The time off has been a blessing and a curse. For the better part of 9 years I had been working  or going to school full-time, and for one very long period of time I did both at the same time. By the time graduation came around, I was thoroughly exhausted. So this time off have been a blessed time of rest. It has been a curse because making ends meet has not always been easy.

I began writing this blog in the fall in order to chronicle the first year of my teaching experiences, and all the changes that would inevitably occur within me.  A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to refinish a table for a couple of friends, something I used to do for a living. While it was enjoyable to do, it also reminded me why I went back to college in the first place. Yes, I want to be a teacher because it will help me to make a better living than I have ever had in my life, but it will also give me the ability to do something that I have never had the opportunity to do. To make a difference in the lives of others.

And so my friends we move on and we grow up and we grow old, and along the way we will laugh and love and cry and get angry and feel sad, but all is as it should be. Life goes on.





Birthdays and such

13 12 2010

Today I am 5 years old. I know I am a little taller (ok, not much taller) and a little more weathered than most 5 year olds, but it is true. You see, today is the 5th anniversary of the car accident to end all car accidents. There are moments in each of our lives that serve as touchstones. Some can remember where they were when JFK was shot, when the Challenger exploded, and more recently, when they first heard about that first plane in New York on 9/11. Moments like these are seared into our memories because they were life-changing. December 13, 2005 is one of those days for me.

It was a day like any other, a normal work day. At the time, I worked  in Mechanicsburg, and had worked overtime that day. It had sleeted the day before, so there were still a few patches of ice on the roads and I found one of them.  Blessedly, I do not remember the impact, but the rest of the evening was surreal. I was in and out of consciousness for those few minutes before help arrived and the first strange occurrence was that I came to with my cell phone in hand and I was calling someone. Apparently, even a life-threatening head wound will not stand in the way of my gadget addiction! I called two people … a dear friend who lived near-by, and my sponsor. I guess all those years spent sitting in church basements filling my life-skills toolbox was worth it, because not only did I make good choices in who I called for help, but I did it while unconscious!

It is the next few moments of that evening that were life-changing for me. Until that evening, like many folks I was a skeptic when it came to other-worldly, out-of-body experiences. But, skeptic or not, there I was, behind the front seat looking at my bleeding, unconscious body. It was only for a few moments and I don’t recall having any earth-shattering revelations. There was no bright light or tunnel, and thankfully, no hellfire either (whew)! But when I came to, I was overwhelmed with such a feeling of love and being loved completely that it is impossible to describe other than to say that I was not alone in that car. The friend I had called earlier arrived at the scene, and she told me later that she saw me standing across the street and that I smiled and waved at her. The only explanation I have is that I thought my out-of-body experience was so cool that I wanted to share it with her! I’m sure she would have preferred it if I had kept that one to myself. The next thing I remember was being back in my body and unable to move because a policeman had materialized beside me and, because I had basically been scalped, he was trying valiantly to hold my head together. I believe that the reason I am still around is because of his quick actions, and I wish I could have thanked him.

The doctors in the ER told me that I shouldn’t have survived that head injury because of it’s severity and blood loss. But it wasn’t until two of my friends came into the room and I saw the fear and worry in their eyes that I realized just how close I came. It didn’t help matters that  my two worried friends had been sent to the wrong hospital and when I wasn’t on the patient list there, they thought I had died. So when they finally found me alive and kicking, their relief was palpable. Given the severity of the accident, I think I got off pretty lucky. 40 stitches, a broken sternum, horrendous bruising from the seatbelt (yes I had it on) and a wrenched back and hip. Five years later and there are a few residual effects; I have scar tissue in my back that causes just enough pain to be annoying  and a hip that causes me to limp at times, especially if I’m over-tired or in wet weather. Because the nerves in the top of my head were severed, I no longer have any feeling there, and because of my broken sternum, if I stretch the wrong way, my chest cracks. Given the alternative, I’ll take it!

So why did I survive? If you asked my sister she’d tell you that I have the hardest head known to mankind. I don’t think she’s far from wrong. I’ve come to believe that things happen for a reason, and this accident was no different. I think it was the granddaddy of all wake-up calls. Change is a scary thing. Unless I am forced, kicking and screaming, towards change, I tend to dig in my heels and wallow in my complacency.  Until the day of my accident, I had been working at the same job for 13 years. It was a pretty good job, but it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing with my life. It was a very physical job and I was beginning to feel it’s effects on my body. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it for much longer so I had already been going to school for a few years. However, I was only going part time, and at that rate, I would have graduated from college and reached retirement age at the same time! I believe I was being told that I needed to get my butt in gear! I am a teacher today because the Universe gave me the kick in the pants that I needed in order to make that happen. I just wish my wake-up calls didn’t always have to include some form of blood-letting!

When I look back at that day, I think of it as a birthday because it was the beginning of a new life for me. Ten years ago I would have never thought I would, or could, go to college. Today I have two college degrees and am a certified English teacher. Five years ago, the idea of death frightened me, but the memory of those few moments of all-encompassing love have taught me that it is not something to be feared. I still over-worry about things (like getting that teaching job I’ve worked so hard for) and am fearful of the unknown, but it is different because I am different. There is a reason and a time for everything, even though we may not understand it just yet. If we can trust, believe and allow it all to unfold, we will be amazed.

Oh, and wear your seatbelts my friends. Sometimes the unfolding is a little bumpy.





Fall back and trust

10 11 2010

After suffering through one of the hottest summers I can remember, we have finally made it to autumn. This is my favorite time of year. The colors have begun to change, the air is deliciously crisp, and daylight saving time has officially ended. A few weeks ago I went with a few friends to one of my most favorite places in Pennsylvania  – Hawk Mountain Wild Bird Sanctuary. The colors were breathtaking, the weather was lovely (although a bit warm for my liking, about 70 degrees) and the company was, as always, comforting.

There is nothing that can recharge my inner “batteries” like getting out and connecting with things greater than myself.

I haven’t posted anything in a couple of weeks simply because I haven’t worked much. I am (I hope) at the tail end of the epic car repair, which has put a huge dent in my wallet, so I am hoping to make up for lost time in the classroom over the next few weeks. I have also been trying to improve my trust in the Universe and it’s ability to put what I need on my path (my problem, not the Universe’s), so I did manage to have a little fun with the mechanics who have been working on the car. I cajoled the fellow who was fixing my odometer – helpful hint my friends, never reset your trip odometer while the car is moving – into giving me a ride home so that I could wait out the repair in comfort. During the ride we chatted about the car and he asked me how I knew when it was time for an oil change. Now, as soon as I heard the question, I knew what he was thinking … helpless female who doesn’t know an oil cap from a gas cap. So I decided to have a little fun. I said oh it’s easy to tell since the dash warning light still works! Oh, the look on his face! He was speechless until I started laughing at him. He then began teasing me about my being directionally challenged, a label that I admit, fits me to a tee. He told me that he wouldn’t be able to pick me up when the car was finished, but when the time came, he called and said he’d be right over to get me. I guess it’s good to know that I haven’t forgotten how to flirt with guys when the need arises.

I have managed to work a few days a week between repair appointments, and it was a lovely surprise to get to substitute at the middle school where I student taught last spring. It’s interesting how easy it was for me to forget how difficult it was to be at that school. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a bad school nor are the students “bad,” (I don’t think a child can be labeled bad. Challenging. yes. Bad, never.) it was just a bit of a culture shock to go from suburban schools back to inner city. Inner city students are savvy and smart so the teacher really has to be on his or her toes. Regardless of what may or may not be in the news or the rumor mill, the biggest problem in these schools is talking! It’s as if they are physically incapable of keeping quiet or not saying every single thing that comes into their minds to say. The lesson I was teaching on this day was actually a fun one … we were playing a game of science bingo. The problem was, they were all talking so loud that no one could hear the clues I was trying to read to them. I finally told them that if I had to ask them to be quiet one more time, we were going to put the game away and I was going to give them writing prompts. Of course they didn’t think I’d follow through with the threat. So, I had them put the game away and gave them their first prompt. “Write a sentence about gravy using all the vowels (A,E,I,O,U).”  They thought I was nuts and many said they weren’t going to do it. I gave those students a choice of either doing the assignment or going to the discipline office. They did the assignment. Once they were done, I said now, let’s try the game again. Once again, it was too noisy so we put it away and they now had to write a paragraph using the words cantaloupe, toothpaste, guitar, flashlight and flip-flops. Every time I made them write, it was a longer assignment. We got up to a page and a half until they figured out that it was just going to get worse. They even began to self-monitor so that they didn’t get too noisy. It worked!!! I’d have to say, it was one of my better days of teaching thus far. There were even a few girls in the class who asked if I could give them another writing prompt because they thought they were fun. Now that was enough to melt any English teacher’s heart!

The best part of the day was when the principal asked me to leave my phone number and contact information with her because she thinks she’s about to lose an English teacher. So, Universe, if you’re listening? You know what I’m hoping for here, but I’m trusting you know what I need.