Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Valentine

I know it is not Valentine's day, but this Valentine can not wait.

I have a new job. Since September I have been working with Oakland Unified School District as a reading intervention teacher and a 7th grade math and science teacher. While I am doing two part-time jobs, my heart is with my middle schoolers. I have postponed writing about my experience due to exhaustion from being a new teacher and feeling inadequate to capture my new adventure with words. The words have finally come to me and I am no longer feeling like I am drowning in work.

The other day I opened the door to my class and a slow smile spread across my face. I wasn't expecting it, it just appeared on my face. "I love my classroom. I love my job" flitted through my mind. This was explained the spontaneous expression of joy and contentment displayed across my face. 

Currently, I am in a training for Restorative Justice. I hope to write more about this in the future, but if you are curious now, here is an overview from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. In schools RJ is used when harm is done or as a way to build community in order to decrease detention and referral rates. Our training time is a blend of  cerebral learning about how to lead Circles and also experiencing a Circle time for ourselves. My training group consists of some parents, fellow teachers, after school teachers, and school aids. I still don't know everyone's name, but I feel closer to these people than most people in my life. I feel heard, understood, and valued. This is what I want for my students more than anything. I love the training I am receiving. 

This school is a perfect fit for me. Teachers understand the systemic injustices facing black and brown children and are actively discussing ways to challenge these injustices. My colleagues love to laugh and have a good time. They are learners and are constantly striving to improve their practice. The principal observes me and offers me honest feedback. She serves me by giving me a ride to BART and opens her personal life to me when she shares about her family. I love my school. 

My mentor for BTSA is at my school....and there is no other way to it express my relationship with her except to say "she gets me." She is the kind of teacher who gives her heart to her students. She is the kind of person you for a best friend. I have never had someone build such a deep trust with me so quickly. By watching her and allowing her honestly speak into my craft, she is helping form me into the teacher I have always wanted to be.

My partner teacher has taught in the past, but this is her first year back in about 5 years and she is new to middle school as well as our school. She offers a balance of being a veteran teacher who can share in the mind boggling experience of being a middle school teacher. These pre-teens are very different than children. Oh, and she just completed her PhD at Standford in Language accusation and has two kids. She is humble, funny, and one of the most efficient people I have met and yet is a self proclaimed "messy person." I want to be her when I grow up. I love my mentors.

And lastly I love my students. The more I hear their stories the more I admire them. The more I hear their insecurities the more I want to impress upon them their significance. The more I hear their hearts the more I am ok with storming out of class or yelling at me. They are starting to trust me and I realize what an honor and responsibility it is to hold their fragile trust in my hands. They challenge me to be the person that I want to be. They challenge me to be more like Jesus. They also will challenge my agenda, math skills, and every statement that comes out of my mouth everyday, but man I love them.

While this all sounds nice and fluffy, there is a rough side of love. I have cried for my own mistakes and hurt ego. I have been exhausted and lost my temper in class and resorted to (gasp) copying answers from a book. I have cried after a debrief with my principal. I have wondered if I am in the right profession. I have had kids flip me off,  punch each other, and throw things. I am still planning lessons on a day to day basis and am a couple of unit behind the district outline in math.....and science. Most days I feel like a failure.

But when I sit and eat my lunch and hear a group of my girls openly gossiping in front of me I feel right. When these girls feel they can openly share what is in their not quite child, not quit adult hearts - the pain, the questions, the joy - I simply love my job. And not just because I love to gossip. I love the relationship that is forming between us. We are falling in love.