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March On

February 29, 2012
Teaching New Orleans

I keep a window open in my room during good weather to let the crazy breathe.

Every day of teaching in New Orleans brings a new discovery. I discovered today that one of my 8th grade girls didn’t know what a contraction was. She couldn’t identify the contraction in the sentence on the board, and sure didn’t know that it was 2 words squeezed together, the apostrophe (aka comma thingy) replacing the missing letters. This girl is new, I’ve only had her for a couple weeks. She’s a doll, hard working, but missing so many rungs on the ladder to climb up. She also didn’t know that -ed typically indicates past tense of a verb. And how am I supposed to teach her in the next 2 weeks to write a 250 word expository essay so she can be the child not left behind?

I’m not complaining (I am) but it’s hard to discover these things in the middle of class and just blindly move forward to review reflexive and intensive pronouns.

As that class was starting, I had squatted down to whisper to another 17-year-old, asking if she’s ok. She looked a little tired, wore no make up, seemed dazed. She’s not ok, she says. Not since Thursday. Her mom’s boyfriend was killed. Shot 8 times in the chest. He lived with them, brought her to school some days. She had to repeat herself 4 times because I didn’t understand her. She was mumbling, and my ears didn’t want to hear it. I said I was sorry at least 4 times back, but that doesn’t even touch how I feel for her. They don’t know who killed him. You can see confusion and sadness in her, unlike others who bury their shock for this culture of killing by shouting, fighting and disrespect.

She struggles in writing class. She wants to be model but her mom won’t let her ride the bus to Metairie by herself to the little local agency who wanted to sign her. She’s struggled with getting enough sleep before because her sister and her sister’s baby share her bed.

And we march on.

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