Working in the coal mines...

Ok, I'll be honest, I don't actually work in coal mines.  I think coal mines would be safer  :)

On Friday, I went back to work after a month of recovery - actually about 2 weeks of recovery and two weeks of hanging out bored silly.  Now, I've been working for three days and it almost feels like three months.  I'm so tired!

My day consists of teaching seven classes, five different titles to approximately 120 total students.  Other teachers reading this are thinking "well, 120 students in one day isn't that many, I have 250!"  This is true, I used to be in a "regular" school with hundreds of students under my wing.  Two years ago, I switched gears and now teach at a specialized school.  Normally, specialized implies gifted students, or those focused on arts, culinary programs, etc.  I WISH that was the case.  I work at a specialized school for students that haven't figured out that the rules of civilized society also apply to them.  My students have been expelled from at least one, if not multiple, other schools.  Some have been expelled for being dumb - coming to school high, forgetting that their weed pipe was in their backpack.  Others have been expelled for being criminals - fighting, stealing, you name it.  These are the toughest of the tough kids.  Their behavior leaves a lot to be desired and academics aren't typically high on the list of things that are important.

To say the least, these students are exhausting.  While it's not what I want to do, I spent quite a bit of time fighting with them to follow the rules.  But, hey, that's why they are there in the first place - they don't want to follow rules.  My rules are not hard:  No cursing, don't talk when someone else is talking or you should be working, don't ask me for passes - you're not going anywhere, do your work.  That's pretty much it.  If a student can manage to follow those four simple rules they will likely do well in my class. 

Despite the exhaustion - once  a while, there is a bright spot.  Yesterday a student returned to give me a status update.  Last year, he started off on the wrong foot and butted heads with me over everything.  After about a month of his horrid behavior, we had a "come to Jesus" talk in the office in the presence of the principal (I essentially told the student that he was smart and much better than his behavior and needed to get his ass in line) and he made a drastic turn-around, almost instantly. He went from failing grades and horrid behavior to As and leading the class in participation and discussion.  I made sure that he knew I recognized this and that he was recognized to the principal.  I'd never seen a 17 year old kid glow like that before.

Yesterday, he came back to tell me that he'd graduated a month early and was enlisted in the US Air Force.  He told me that our talk (or, my yelling, depending on how you want to look at it), was the first time that anyone had ever told him that he was smart and being that he knew he'd been a jerk to me, he believed I was being honest.  He wanted me to know that he'd been inspired to do more with his life.

In that moment, it was all worthwhile. 

Comments

  1. That's awesome!! I taught...some of those kids mixed in with the rest...for a few years & then my school closed & I never had another teaching job, but when they come back (I had a few in my few short years) and tell you that you made a difference...that's pretty darned awesome & makes the hassles & exhaustion seem worthwhile!

    KUDOS to you & stay that hard line...it's what more kids need these days.

    (I was pretty strict in my classroom, too & expected a lot...one of the things a couple students thanked me for later...even if it was only because when they had to go to a different school they breezed through their math class because they'd already learned it with me!) :)

    Enjoy those successes & even more so the time this young man spent to come back and tell you. You will have an impact on more...not all will come back to tell you.

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  2. Your story brought tears to my eyes. I hope that this one child is the inspiration to keep you going to help others! I applaud you and congratulate you, I am sure it is a very tough job. I have 3 nieces and a nephew who teach.

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  3. Touching, very touching! I just want to thank you! Thank you for going off the beaten path and making a new path for these kids. Having a teacher who went that extra mile (and that's not saying that teachers don't, they do, they really do) but you went further. I hear stories from my own boys, and it's hard being a kid these days,and it's even harder to be a teacher too. Thank you. Please keep up the good work.Don't lose that 'thing' that you have!

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  4. Wow ! What an awesome story. I wish every kid coould have a teacher that cares as much as you do. Thank you. : )

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  5. Thank you all for the kind responses. It did feel so good. What I failed to mention, and maybe even more importantly, this student was expelled from school for assault with bodily injury. He was angry and had no other outlet but drugs and fighting. I never knew what he was angry about and in the end it wasn't important. But, he could have gone so far in the other direction... as some of my students have. I was so proud to see that his life had been turned around. He even hugged me.

    Even better, I only returned to work 2 days prior from my kidney donation! I was supposed to return next week but had cabin fever and went back early. I'm so glad I did.

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  6. Good for you! How awesome that he came back to let you know :) Keep it up!

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