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