Feel the need to take a break and blog, despite the pile of stuff in my bag that is calling "grade me."
Happy Mardi Gras! I celebrated by working until 5:30, then heading to the pancake dinner at church (pancakes before lent -- apparently an old English tradition... who knew?). My adorable kiddos were so adorable and loving tonight. Tiana was giving Vinny kisses and saying, "That's my brother! I love my brother." While they were playing with all the other little kids, my two were practically inseparable. She was hanging on his sleeve most of the time. Just so darn cute. She was in a particularly affectionate mood this evening. She didn't even resist when her little two-year-old boyfriend went to give her a hug (in fact, she even gave him a kiss on the cheek and giggled -- doesn't normally go down that way).
Today was a good day overall. Busy and exhausting, and I had to threaten to keep my sixth period after school (I hate making threats, particularly because I never make a threat I won't keep my word on). In the morning, during break, a couple students came in to get cozy and read. One of them told me that my classroom is "home." :-) She pretty much made my week.
This was always my goal for my classroom, and I feel like I have achieved it. My glass menagerie is a place where students feel camaraderie, and where they feel comfortable and taken care of. They know where the leftover cereal is kept and feel comfortable helping themselves. During winter dry skin season, they know that there is usually lotion in the bathroom drawer. They stop by in between classes to order books. If it is cold outside and they just want a quiet place to read at break, they know I'm usually there, just setting up for the next class. They occasionally fight over the most comfy spots, but it's first come first serve and they know the early bird catches the worm.
When I was doing my credential, one professor put this question on the final exam:
"Describe your ideal classroom set up. Include more than just the seating layout. Describe the atmosphere you hope to create."
I answered that my ideal classroom would be warm and cozy. There would be couches and rugs and cozy chairs where my students will cuddle up with good books. The desks would be in a circular shape, so students face each other and me, on an equal level, to remind them that I am not a "sage on a stage," but that we are all partners in an educational journey. There would be crayons and markers and paint within arms reach, because art and color belong in all classrooms, not just elementary classes or art studios. It will always smell like coffee or hot chocolate, like home.
The professor commented, "Cute ideas, but not very realistic."
Really? Why not? And I thought he said "ideal" not realistically acceptable? And why can't I have my ideal classroom? His comment bothered me almost as much as the fact that he marked me down for not remembering his acronym for the signs of teens considering suicide. (Never mind the fact that I accurately described the signs and gave detailed examples of each. I mean... who cares what you know about depression if you don't have an acronym to fit it into). But I digress.... My point is -- I am a dreamer, which I say with no shame at all.
When I was 19 years old, I heard a man named Tommy Barnett preach on a tiny verse, easily scanned right over... Proverbs 29:18, which basically reminds us that (paraphrasing my own version of the modern point behind this) without dreams, life is pretty pointless. He wrote a really great book, Dream Again (which, incidentally, I have never read all of, but still want to someday - I wonder if it is sitting in Marc's office -- further digression, but it's that kind of night), about the fact that miracles happen everyday, and that God wants to give us the desires of our hearts.
Well, my heart desires to create a safe haven, where students learn, love, and grow, through literature that opens their eyes and changes their perspectives.
Speaking of perspective, that reminds me of a conversation I overheard yesterday. While the students were previewing picture books they will be analyzing tomorrow, one student said, "These have all got to have something in common, but I can't even imagine what..." Another rather insightful student, an exceptionally bright underachiever replies, "That's because she [meaning me] did an amazing job of picking books. She wants us to see different perspectives."
"Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize."
-- Chimamanda Adichie