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Never Give Up

January 20, 2012
education new orleans

One of my cats died this year, and all my students know about it. Her name was Lloyd, but that's tough for my literal thinkers to grasp. One student always calls her Sally, and drew this picture for me (using the possessive form correctly!). RIP Lloyd, aka Sally.

One of my girls has been begging me for 2 weeks to take her out to eat. She wants to go to Golden Corral or Ryan’s Cafeteria. She promised me she even had coupons so she could eat for free. I just had to take her.

She also asked if she could live with me this summer. Wouldn’t that be a treat?

This particular girl has screamed, cursed, thrown a fit, slept, fought, and been a general mess since school started in August. She punched another teacher in the stomach. She never participated, never worked. Our interventions tanked. I’ve personally called her mother over 20 times according to our parent call log.

But after she came back from Christmas break, everything was different. She was a changed person, a criminal who found God. I thought it might just last a day. Maybe 2. It’s been 3 weeks, and today she passed a unit exam with flying colors!

So after school we walked 2 blocks to Subway (an insult to New Orleans cuisine). I bought her a pepperoni pizza and sat with her while she ate. She ate 3 pieces and had 2 refills of Dr. Pepper. We talked about birthdays, parties, clothes, hair. Then I asked her what happened to turn her from the devil incarnate to a tolerable human. No, not in those words.

“I’m just too old to be messin’ around no more. I don’t wanna play no more. I changed my attitude.”

“Do you like school more now that you’re a changed person?”

“Oh, yeah,” almost surprising herself that she actually likes coming to school now. You can see it on her face. It’s a real smile. She has started to like herself. She sees success.

She looks at me and sheepishly says, “I can take the last piece home? I’m stuffed.”

“Of course.”

She wraps the last slice of a personal pizza in 6 napkins, and stuffs it in her purse. As we walk out of the door, she slips in, “Thank you, Ms. Summers. That was real nice of you.”

I offer to take her home. I know she lives in the Iberville projects. It’s not far. The ‘Ville as they call it, was built on the former site of Storyville, the red-light district that helped New Orleans earns it’s seedy reputation, and is adjacent to the French Quarter. It’s prime real estate and city planners are chomping at the bit to bulldoze it and build mixed use buildings there, just like they’ve done to the other projects after Katrina. The ‘Ville is rough, and I’m sure she sees and hears things we don’t believe exist in real life.

I drop her at the corner of Treme and Iberville and watch her walk between the brick buildings and disappear. I head back to the school building to grade journals, quizzes, and plan for next week. As I walk into the building, I count backwards. January, December, November, October, September, August. Six months. Honestly? I had pretty much given up on this child. I know I shouldn’t have, but it seemed so worthless to keep pouring my energy into her to get NOTHING in return. I forced myself to smile at her every single day. I hated it. But I did it. And 6 months later, there is light!

Lesson learned. Never. Ever. Ever give up.

Interesting reads:

Iberville Projects article from L.A. Times (2006) and Iberville Projects article from New York Times (2011)

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 21, 2012 4:37 pm

    sorry to hear about Lloyd 😦
    Subway (an insult to New Orleans cuisine) – TOTALLY!
    good call girl. i admire you!

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