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A Special Moment

September 11, 2010

Oh my goodness! Does it feel like forever since I’ve updated this thing? I’m only ten pages from finishing The Sorrow of War — look for my review tomorrow. It’s a very powerful book, but even at 230 pages, I haven’t found myself flying through its pages. I’m sure that has more to do with my week than anything else.

I’m so tired. I slept in until ten today (because Elliott cooperated and went back to bed after a 5:30am wake-up) and took a two-hour nap. But I feel like I could just sleep straight through until Monday. I won’t, of course. I’m not about to miss football and some season finales on Sunday. I could though. I really think so.

I’m not the only teacher enduring a first week of school — it’s really quite amazing how that first week can be so much busier and more draining than other times in the year. Learning names, settling-in to a routine, dealing with the posturing and the testing, the endless time spent at the copy-machine. (A full hour on Wednesday — followed by thirty minutes of my prep time each day. 70 page packets for 120 students. No easy task. Yes, yes — the Junior team is a killer of forests.)

Yesterday was particularly hard for me — some students in my first class of the day were showing themselves to be true jerks: Admitting to bullying without remorse, implying that some students deserve to be treated poorly. Among other ridiculous comments that I think I’ve already blocked from memory. I’m not a teacher that lets those things go without a lecture.

I told them their behavior disgusted me. I told them that they are the future for my children…and if this indicates what kinds of people my children will have to look up to…then I’m scared. A girl raised her hand and said, “Excuse me. Are you talking to all of us?” To which I replied, “Well, I didn’t hear you raise a voice of dissent when your classmates were implying it’s okay to throw freshmen in garbage cans.”

Anyway…all of that…was to tell you this: This whole conversation had been prompted by me talking about a freshmen I knew about who was really struggling this first week. His story was breaking my heart.

At the end of class, a student walked up to me and said, “Hey. At lunch today, can I meet you and can you point out that kid for me? I’d like to help him out.”

It was touching and amazing. A bright spot. A chance to remind me that while there will always be pockets of true teenage assholes, those who want to do good and help others will prevail. I told my colleagues about this student at lunch — we decided as a department to start something where if we hear about a student who is doing a good thing, we’ll reward them! Don’t know how yet, but after such a long week, it was a story we all  needed to hear.

After school, I decided this boy’s mom needed to hear the story too. I called her up and told her that her son was the lone voice who wanted to do the right thing. I personally was fighting back tears, because I could totally tell that this was the first time anyone had ever called to tell her something truly positive about her kid. Look, I’ll admit to failing in this area. We call home to tell a parent their child swore at us, threw a chair, skipped class. Do we call to say, “Your kid stood up for the little guy. Your child showed maturity and wisdom. Good job!” No, we don’t. But we should.

I don’t know what happened after my call. I don’t know what home life this student has. All I know is that his decision to help someone else made the day better for me, other members of the English department, and a freshman boy who needed a friend.

These are the true teachable moments that count. I’m proud of my occupation — I don’t choose to leave behind my adorable son every morning just because I have bills to pay. I believe in what I do…beyond spelling, grammar, punctuation, and literary devices…I know that I can make a difference. Of course, I make mistakes too — I’m not perfect. But with each year that I do this job, as a I get a little bit better, a little bit stronger, I can marry those academic goals with the goal of growing up these kids into amazing adults. And I know they learn something along the way too. My students exhaust me and challenge me. Every day is different, every year a new adventure.

Not a bad way to spend my time.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. jillsherman permalink
    September 11, 2010 6:31 pm

    This is such a truly great story, especially as you told it last night as we were both puddling up! You are a great teacher and don’t miss those special moments because you are looking for them. Keep up the sterling work, my very dear Shelbi.

  2. Marisa permalink
    September 13, 2010 9:36 pm

    You go Shelbi! You are a teacher to admire.

  3. Jessica permalink
    September 14, 2010 6:12 pm

    Cheers, Shelbi! You’re a rockstar!

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