As the beginning of April quickly ascends over the chilly March cold-front I find myself hopeful. With April brings the nearing end of undergraduate work, the last days in room 321 teaching small children, and the final Chicago hurrah with my closest friends.
Naturally, I relate this thought to what I have been teaching in my classroom. Over the past month my second grade students and I have been exploring verbs and adjectives, what they mean, what they can mean, and how they can transform a snoring boring sentence into a vivid playground of imagery. “Great writers use strong verbs and adjectives” I can hear myself saying, “and great readers read strong verbs and adjectives with confidence, giving themselves time to see the picture that the writer is painting”. So in the spirit of my students I use the adjective hopeful to cover a whole range of emotions, that in another writers voice may have been deemed fearful. Second graders fear change, have a hard time adapting to change, and often times when presented with change they lose control and are unable to focus their brains for any type of learning. I fear change too. But to accurately paint the picture I am trying to describe, I choose hopeful over fearful, a lesson to both my students and to myself. Change an adjective here and there and you never know what you might find yourself looking at, change a verb here and there and you might finally see what kind of difference you have made.
April is national poetry month, and with that I lend some inspiration to all my fellow teachers, soon-to-be teachers, and lifetime educators. Stay hopeful.
What Teachers Make, or
Objection Overruled, or
If things don’t work out, you can always go to law school
By Taylor Mali
He says the problem with teachers is, “What’s a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”
He reminds the other dinner guests that it’s true what they say about
Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.
I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
and resist the temptation to remind the other dinner guests
that it’s also true what they say about lawyers.
Because we’re eating, after all, and this is polite company.
“I mean, you¹re a teacher, Taylor,” he says.
“Be honest. What do you make?”
And I wish he hadn’t done that
(asked me to be honest)
because, you see, I have a policy
about honesty and ass-kicking:
if you ask for it, I have to let you have it.
You want to know what I make?
I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor
and an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.
I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won’t I let you get a drink of water?
Because you’re not thirsty, you’re bored, that’s why.
I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something Billy said today.
Billy said, “Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?”
And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.
I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be.
You want to know what I make?
I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write, write, write.
And then I make them read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely
over and over and over again until they will never misspell
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math.
And hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them understand that if you got this (brains)
then you follow this (heart) and if someone ever tries to judge you
by what you make, you give them this (the finger).
Let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
I make a goddamn difference! What about you?