I think we need a new holiday. We can call it Make A Teacher A Delicious Cake Day. Or Give A Teacher A Pedicure Day. Or Hook A Teacher Up To A Wine I.V. Day. Something like that.
Teachers rule. You know it; I know it. Anyone who says differently is not allowed in my house or at my dinner table. Observe:
I just finished week #2 at Roosevelt High School, and I continue to be blown away by these kids – and even more blown away by these teachers. The two women who have graciously opened their classrooms to me are amazing. They are tough, funny, compassionate, razor-sharp, and built of stronger stuff than I am, I’ll tell you what. And they love those kids. And the students love them in return.
The student body at Roosevelt is remarkably diverse – racially, economically, religiously, as well as their educational backgrounds. What unites them is their kindness. These kids, man. They are kind.
Within each classroom there is a broad skill-level range (extreme low-performers, extreme high-performers, and everything in-between), but each child – regardless of where they’re coming from – is charged with the same thing: do your best; learn the material; don’t make excuses.
There were some kids in class today who, due to a cascade of reasons outside their control, happen to be reading way below grade-level. It happens. And yet, they still had lots to write about. Their imaginations were vigorous and intense, and when they looked inside to find the stories of their own, they realized that they had much to say. There was one kid who reads at a third-grade level, and yet when given a prompt and a little guidance, cranked out six pages of fiction in a half an hour. And it was good.
Nice work, kid.
Whenever I do these teaching gigs, I am reminded how hard – how very hard – this job is. Right now, my voice is sore, my legs ache, and I feel like my body has spent the last six hours having tennis balls chucked at it. My head hurts, my skin hurts, and I think about nine million germs are having a party in my sinuses.
I think most of us forget how physically demanding it is to just be in a high school, much less teach in one. And Roosevelt is not even that large a school – less than a thousand students. Still. The crush of kids, the cloud of hormones, the din of voices shooting this way and that. Each one of these kids is like a nuclear reactor about to blow – all their love and hurt and hope and rage and lust and confusion and questions and knowledge – it boils and churns and accretes inside them. They are nascent stars. They are supernovas. They are quasars. Steam shoots out their ears and their skin bubbles and smokes and splits. They are a fury of kinetic energy and potential energy. They are both particle and wave.
It’s fucking hard being a teenager. Each one of them deserves a goddamn medal.
I got home, after being in that radioactive, glorious, primordial stew, and collapsed in bed. I am exhausted. I am ravaged. I am spent. My eyes are raw. My bones are made of glass. I am Chernobyl. I am Love Canal. I’m the friggin’ Bikini Atoll.
Teachers go through this every day. Teachers take these burning hunks of radioactive particles, and transform them into stars.
Good work, teachers. And God bless you.
(And Ms. Sheehan, Ms. Ober: My glass. It is raised.)