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Things That Grow

May 9, 2013
This was growing out of the floor inside. New Orleans. It's humid.

This was growing out of the floor inside. New Orleans. It’s humid.

A kid had a wadded up piece of newsprint in his pocket today that he was showing other students. It was a photo of his brother that was printed in the Times Picayune with “Second Degree Murder” under it. Brother is being tried for murder. The kid who was showing the photo has been in jail recently for 5 months. Two days before he got out, brother was arrested. And yes, it’s constantly on his mind.

A girl told me today her family lived in 6 places after Katrina before coming back to New Orleans. When they lived in Texas, her little brother burned down an apartment complex they lived in. He was flicking a lighter under the bed and poof, the mattress caught fire. Her mom grabbed the baby “by the Pamper” off the burning bed and they fled.

Another kid shared the line, “Money is a pacifier,” from his journal. He also wrote down the words pacifist, tenacious, tremendous and trepidation during class. He’s a brilliant writer, rapper, free styler.

Another writerly student revealed that his girlfriend is pregnant and her family is moving her to Georgia next week. He’s distraught. Never going to see his baby. He’s 18, in 10th grade, and excited to be a dad.

Same class, a kid told me that freedom in America is having the right to bear hands. He also drew an automatic weapon on his white board in class today.

White boards are essential for any classroom. Today this one was used for creating new words from stems by using prefixes and suffixes, and to draw his collection. OF MACHINE GUNS.

White boards are essential for any classroom. Today this one was used for creating new words from stems by using prefixes and suffixes, and to draw his collection. OF MACHINE GUNS.

Another girl wrote a letter to her brother during my class. He’s in jail, and will be for life. She gives money to her mom to put on his account at Angola so they can talk on the phone, but mom spends it on other stuff. So she writes letters all the time. She had her own envelopes and stamps in her purse.

Students often have letters from family members or boyfriends from jail they pass around for others to read. One kid recently came back from youth study (a.k.a juvey) and held court in advisory telling everyone what it’s like, what not to do, and how much house arrest sucks. Attempted car jacking. Out on $1500 bond. Another kid freely shared how much it sucks to take showers with other dudes. Reason enough to stay out of jail, according to him.

Another kid I had last year who I also have this year told me he’d rather be in jail than school. At least in jail, he told me, they’d just leave him alone. At school, they make him do things. He’s mad at a guy at the convenience store down the street from school for not giving him the right change, so he’s going to steal his car. I asked him if he knew what happened to people who steal cars. Yeah. He does.

The vocabulary word premeditated¬†prompted a discussion about manslaughter through 1st degree murder, and other things judicial. I’ve never seen such a captive audience.

Since last year, 6 of my 8th grade girls have had babies or are pregnant. One girl is having her second child. Since last year.

My favorite student of all time has been talking to his father for the first time. Dad will never get out of jail, but lately he’s been calling. They have man-talk. Their relationship is growing. Dad was 14 when son was born and may never see him face to face.

Today was the start of our end of course exams. Two boys gave me goosebumps when they told me they knew they passed algebra because of me. (I should have been an algebra teacher!) Scores come out early next week. Fingers and toes crossed!

There is a charcoal grey kitten who lives on the street who meows in the most heart wrenching way. Every mew kills me. I want to bring him in but Harry the Cat would not be happy to have a little brother who won’t shut up. Harry is living his senior years in peace. I must remember that this new street kitten is learning the ways of the world, and that I cannot save them all. And then I think of my 11+ hour days and realize that I’m dying trying.

I found a mushroom growing out of the kitchen threshold today. INSIDE the apartment I’m staying in until my partner arrives next week. The mushroom wasn’t there this morning.

Things grow even when we’re not watching. In the damnest of places. This is what keeps me going.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2013 8:35 pm

    Reblogged this on oliviaobryon and commented:
    A beautiful post from a teacher brave enough to share her students’ stories. Someday I hope to have the courage to follow in her footsteps.

  2. deirdre Lewis permalink
    May 9, 2013 8:35 pm

    So glad you’re there!

  3. May 9, 2013 11:20 pm

    Good work, Teach! The 11hours are worth it!

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