Friday, June 20, 2008

Photostory Friday and Blog Blast for Education: Inspire Me


Today I am participating in a very worthy project to bring much needed attention to the topic of education, April's Blog Blast for Education. I am also participating in PhotoStory Friday, a wonderful initiative that gives each of us a chance to really showcase not only photos we take, but to tell the story behind them. Yes, I'm doubling up, but I'll be darned if it just didn't work out perfectly . . .

PhotoStory is hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

*Click HERE for OhMommy's CCC #1.
* * * * * * * * * * * *

This was my classroom.


There are no windows. There is no air conditioning unit. That big monstrosity above the podium didn't produce anything but noise. And, fear as I was constantly concerned that at any moment it might drop on my head (Worker's Comp. anyone?).

My desks were hand-me-downs. Which were previous hand-me-downs. So, they were old. Broken. Cracked. Rusted. Scratched. And, quite interesting if you really took the time to read what was etched into the desk tops.

At night (yes, I often stayed late to finish grading--which never really happened--or to work on lesson plans) while sitting at my computer, I would hear things. Strange things. Things moving above my head--in the rafters. Scratchy sounds. A low growly hum. Skittering. Scattering. I one time took an old broom and tapped at one of the ceiling tiles (clearly, I haven't watched enough horror movies). More skittering and scattering. It would send me hopping out of the room as if I had caught fire. The night custodian would just stare and nod. Stare and nod.

One early morning during the weekend I came in to grade some projects. As I opened the door, there they were. At least two dozen "water bugs." Now, where I'm from (Detroit and then Chicago) we call them COCKROACHES. But here, with a slight southern drawl I'm told, "Oh, they ain't cock-a-roaches. Them there, they're only water bugs. Harmless. We just leave 'em alone." Um. OK. Me and my can of RAID left 'em alone alright.

And then, the mouse-capades. My students loved it. I had a concession stand right next to my room (YES, my room was in near the gymnasium, locker rooms, concessions, and band room. Makes perfect sense that an English classroom would be there, right?). Need I say more. Anyway, right in the middle of analyzing symbolism in Macbeth one comes racing across the floor. Girls jump up on OLD desks, boys start to holler. Who the heck is Macbeth? Clearly, nothing will be accomplished, so, I offer 2 bonus points to the person that can collect the rouge mouse nad deposit him out into the parking lot. Let me just say that it is amazing what a kid will do for 2 measly bonus points.

I was fast approaching my sixth month of pregnancy and school was nearly over. It was a comfy 98 degrees in my room. I had three fans. One student actually brought in a misting fan for me. Apparently seeing a sweaty pregnant woman wobbling around was a little too much. One afternoon during my planning period I put my head on my desk and just tried to relax and cool off. It was really hot. So, off came my little t-shirt. I had a tank underneath. Granted it was a SMALL and I was now clearly an XL. Let's just say that when I stood up to greet my students as they came in, well, full on sweaty belly shot. So attractive. I may have scarred some for life.

Why do I mention this? Well. The conditions in my classroom were horrendous. I can only imagine the asbestos, the lead paint, the mold. And, we won't even discuss the locker rooms. I taught in a district with very little money (though it is deemed fairly well off compared to some). Budgets are being slashed. People are being let go. Projects are being abandoned. The district can't pass a bond. No one wants to pay for books much less a fresh coat of paint.

This is where we send our children. Tattered books or, NO books. Desks falling a part. Classrooms with dust/mold/rodents/bugs/no air. Exhausted brilliant teachers. Horrendous indifferent teachers who are tenured.

But still . . .

They thrive.

I was honored by one of my students at a banquet this past May at a banquet. This student believed she would never go to college. Her parents didn't. She had NO money. She was the Salutatorian. She thought she would never be recognized for her talents. She expressed at times she wasn't even sure she had any. She was accepted into a prestigious writing program the summer before her senior year and will begin college there this year. But there she was. Up at that podium. This young woman who didn't believe she could handle speaking in front of a crowd was so eloquent. Intelligent. Filled with charisma. There was a light in her eyes. A passion in each word that fell from her lips. She learned. She grew. She had arrived. There were tears in my eyes as she described how I had inspired her. With a little quiver in her voice, she asked me to come up to the podium. She hugged me. She told me she would never forget me. I was her inspiration.

Me. An inspiration.

Bugs. No air. Mice. Lead paint. A monstrosity that might fall on my head at any moment.

For that moment . . . it was all worth it.

55 comments:

Kami said...

Oh wow, I love this post Laski, I welled up at the end....how inspiring.

Yay you!

MamaGeek said...

Well it's so no suprise you inspired her (and countless others). How cool is THAT.

I'm also impressed you had a concession stand NEXT DOOR. :) Thanks for playing PSF Laski, this was awesome.

Erin said...

o u poor thing. but how cool is that? those awful conditions and u were still able to inspire someone?! go u!!

Kathryn said...

Oh, Laski, this is just an awesome post. Thank you for sharing this story with us. Truly a fabulous story! :)

zoeyjane said...

i knew there was a reason that more and more teachers-to-be are in school. you just showed it to me.

jakelliesmom said...

L - what a great post. I'd love to see this developed more and published in a magazine. Wonderful story, wonderful writing.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Exactly why I'm going into teaching. Do you realize you have already done more with your life than many other people will ever accomplish? I wanna be just like you when I grow up!

Elaine A. said...

Maybe that "belly shot" was good birth control for those teenagers, you think?

Love this post and your dedication.

krissy said...

This was a true eye opener. Strive for your dreams and dreams will come true.

I would have loved to see a picture of you in the tank, sweaty and scarring the kids. You may have single handedly saved a girl from teen pregnancy. But at that heat and being pregnant, I possibly would have stripped to the skimmies. That sucks that you cannot pass a bond for new schools let along books. What a bunch of cheap asses.

Kellan said...

What a great post - it brought tears to my eyes! Thanks for sharing this great story and picture!

Have a good Friday - see you - Kellan

Crazymamaof6 said...

tears! so great! you are an inspiration. love this. well sad conditions. but love that story.

Crazymamaof6 said...

ok and i especially loved it since i come from a family of teachers, every aunt and uncle. on my mom's side. 2 sisters. and my own mom. 0h and a brother. Teachers touch lives!

Working mum said...

See, even amongst the inadequate resources, the best teachers teach! I think a classroom without windows should be illegal. I'm lucky, I have a view of the Pennines from my classroom.

April said...

Wow, I almost started to cry! This is a great, great post and what you do is SO important and appreciated!!

Tara R. said...

Now that is what teaching should be all about. I'm so glad that you had a student recognize what you were able to inspire in her.... great job!

Head Gaggler said...

Wow, that's an amazing story. Thanks for all you do. It must be a tough and rewarding job all wrapped up in one.

Chris Osborne said...

Here's what I don't get.

A lot of parents see school as a daycare where their kids happen to learn. But they put up with conditions that they wouldn't accept at all if it really was a daycare.

Does that make any sense to you? Me either.

That picture does a great job showing the room you're in.

And for what it's worth, if I was teaching there and had a room with working air conditioning I would have offered to trade with you.

April said...

Thank you. On behalf of all mothers and daughters seeking an inspiration, thank you!!

And thanks for participating!

Killlashandra said...

Nice to see you here! We met over at cre8buzz. :)

That's an awesome story. What a wonderful tribute and to see her become motivated to go to college in spite of the heat, the bugs, the lead, and the scantily clad pregnant lady is great!

Keep on teaching!

Kori said...

This made me cry; I firmly believe that we ALL have the power to inspire one another, and this is proof positive to me that we can really make a difference, one person at a time. What a blessing!

Tiaras & Tantrums said...

WOW - This was my school growing up (rural Iowa). same girl at the end as well (although I wasn't salt.) but I had one teacher who inspired me and I graduate magna cum laude from college, which I paid for by myself. I will never forget that teacher and told him so about 10 years ago!

The Girl Next Door said...

Oh My Goodness what an amazing story. I must show this to my daughter who is contemplating teaching as a career - she would be wonderful, but sometimes at 15 I'm sure she doesn't see what a difference she truly could make. And she has the love and the personality for it. Thank you for sharing and for being such a wonderful teacher!

And for adding humor so that I don't totally cry my eyes out here at work...

Kimmylyn said...

What an inspiring heart warming post.. You have me with big fat tears in my eyes..

Karen said...

How wonderful! I admire teachers like you that do more than teach from a textbook.

Lindsey said...

This post brought tears to my eyes. From one teacher to another, I feel your pain....though in my building we didn't have mice, because, well, we had a snake that would eat them. Yes, that's right. A SNAKE!!!!

Now on to you being such an amazing inspiration....you really are. Think about all the lives you have touched through those hard circumstances. Yes teachers are paid very little, but true teachers teach for future rewards such are seeing unlikely students reach and succeed. Kuddos to you, my sweet friend. Great work!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

You're the kind of teacher we need and need and need.

You want really scary teaching conditions? Check out the Hawaii "schools".

carrie & troy keiser said...

What a great story, brought tears to my eyes!

Elizabeth said...

LOVE IT! being an inspiration to someone is just about one of the best gifts ever!

Lori said...

What a great description...I could really feel like I was there! (that mouse would have done me in! ha!) AND, that was A LOT of desks in your room!

Kudo's on inspiring your students. We need more teachers like that...and less of the old, grouchy ones just there for the paycheck! urgh!

CableGirl said...

Brilliant. Nothing in the world compares the the feeling of having inspired a student to greatness. My favorite part about teaching has always been and will always be seeing that light bulb go on.

I'm horrified by your classroom conditions, but not at all surprised. If you're interested, ask me some time about the year I spent teaching in a trailer out in a parking lot.... ugh. one of the worst years ever.

Cecily R said...

I am all goosebumpy and oddly misty after reading this post. Maybe it's the English student in me or the mom in me who wonders about the state of the education system for my own kids...either way, this was a FANTASTIC post. Wonderfully written and expressed.

Perfect entry for both of your post endeavors.

So glad you are playing PSF with us. Truly.

AnGlOpHiLe FoOtBaLl FaNaTiC said...

Do you know in my district we were forbidden to give extra credit? Some lawsuit over valedictorian vs saluditorian. Sad, no?

And, your room? Classy!

Motherhood for Dummies said...

thanks for sharing, this was a great post and some great writting

Stacie said...

i have a knot in my throat...great post!!!

LunaNik said...

Awesome post girlfriend! Inspiring, heartwarming, and funny. I love that a student actually brought you a misting fan!

Dingo said...

As an aficianado of horror films, let me offer this bit of advice: Never, NEVER! tap on the ceiling tiles.

It's amazing the lip-service that is given to education, isn't it? How are children to learn in such an environment? Yet somehow, they do. Maybe we should start having corporations sponsor schools like they do for athletic stadiums. That would improve things a bit, huh?

ya ya's mom said...

That's great for you, sorry you work in such dire straights conditions. I've been reading these blog blast education posts and feel saddened and beat up as an educator. Part of me feels like our schools are in dire places they are because no one is willing to help out or vote to pass bonds. No one wants taxes to go up, but really want "quality" schools...seems ironic to me.

hotmamabeads said...

Well, it sounds like my teaching conditions were better, but I can just about guarantee that my pay was lower: we're 48th in the Nation for teacher pay! Our district just canned all their Librarians. Aides will be doing their job.

Rachel H. said...

You are so funny! I can picture that slightly embarassing sweaty belly moment! :)

But what a touching story as well...thanks so much for sharing.

beth said...

Amazing story. Thank you for sharing.

Family Adventure said...

There is nothing better than knowing you've made a difference in someone's life, and clearly you have. Despite all the odds and under appalling circumstances.

My hat's off to you!

Heidi

Tranny Head said...

Good for you! Isn't it sad where children are sent to learn? I mean - places that are falling apart, trailers, mold, etc? Good for you for doing your part to help our future . . . it gives us all hope!

Colleen said...

sounds like the schools I grew up in before moving to my 2nd high school.
this is a wonderful story...thanks so much for sharing (and dude! for 2 bonus points, I think I would've caught that mouse!)

Robyn said...

That is an awesome post. Yay for you for being such an inspiring teacher in crap conditions.

OHmommy said...

You. Inspire.

No suprise there!

Flea said...

Wow. Congratulations. To both of you. I'll bet it was tempting to punch a hole in the wall some days to let in a breeze, eh?

Pregnantly Plump said...

It's so great the impact that teachers make, and I'm sure most of them don't even realize it at times. I'm sorry about your district. They had to close several schools where we used to live because of funding problems, and some kids had to ride the bus for more than an hour to get there. It's so sad.

Jules said...

The conditions of some schools are so very scary aren't they? I teach at the other end of the spectrum - the little guys. Often they can't even remember me when they get to high school. LOL
But a while ago I saw a young man who looked familiar to me. It was one of my old students, all grown up and looking ever so elegant, and he sort of remembered me. What a thrill that was. And he told me that I hadn't changed a bit. Gotta love a guy with charm!

Sue said...

That was awesome!

DysFUNctional Mom said...

What a great story! I still remember some of my favorite teachers very well.

Amy said...

I must stay, you were certainly challenged in that classroom - way to go!

painted maypole said...

it is APPALLING the conditions we ask teachers to teach in, and students to learn in. But by golly, we'll all get up in arms about paying "too much" for gas. Disgusting.

hooray for you, by the way.

Beth said...

How sweet of her to honor you that way!!

just jamie said...

Laski, I'm all teary right now. You'll see those words in comments from time to time, but you can't see that accompanying those little salty drops are goosebumps on my arms and neck. I'm teary for you and the accomplishments you earned as a teacher, and for the amazing student who did, in fact, arrive and will continue to go forward. Good for you. Good for you both. As a teacher myself, you gave me a gentle reminder that the infrastructure of our schools do not define us and should not confine our abilities, or our students'.

Love this. Thanks Laski.

Caroline's Mom said...

that is the most amazing part of teaching! there is nothing better than actually making a difference in a child's life! now, you are making a huge difference in J's life and he doesn't even know it yet. One day, he'll realize...

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