Walking in Freedom

Miscellaneous musings along the way

My Semester in Review December 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — songofjoy88 @ 6:53 pm

OTR may only be fifty minutes away from MU, but it seems like it is worlds away.  Living just across the way from W Park, I see homeless people everyday.  On my way to school every morning, I see people lined up at the soup kitchen to warm up inside and sip a cup of coffee.  I pass my students walking to school, some of them in coats three sizes too small, others not wearing coats at all on a cold winter day.

Once I get to school, I never know what to expect.  No two days are the same; that’s one of the reasons why I love teaching, especially here.  RPA, a K-8 school, has been one of the lowest achieving schools in the state for a number of years.  This year RPA is undergoing its first year of academic redesign, which means that the entire staff is new.  From what the students have told us, the teachers who were here in the past spent their day on the computer, instead of teaching.  Because of the challenges here, the teachers would rarely stay for an entire year, so the students had no consistency.

As a result of these outrageous circumstances, five out of our sixty five 7th and 8th grade students are non-readers.  Yes, we have students who are 12 and 13 years old who cannot read!  Many of our other students are significantly below grade level in reading and math.  It is truly a disgrace the disservice this school has provided for these young people, up until this year.  These students are now receiving intensive reading intervention.

During the first eight weeks of my student teaching, a lot of our efforts were focused on getting the students’ behavior under control.  They had become accustomed to doing whatever they wanted to do at school, which did not include listening to the teacher and learning.

Despite all these setbacks, the students really are eager to learn and to work.  They just need a lot of “hand-holding” and affirmation.  It also helps when you pique their interest in some way.  I created a Christmas tree graphing dot-to-dot assignment that the students colored and I hung them all in the classroom.  Students who had been absent and saw forty colorful Christmas trees on the bulletin board eagerly asked me if they could make one too.  It’s dozens of these little moments everyday that make me smile and at least for a moment I forget about all of the obstacles these students face.

Living in the intern house in OTR while I was student teaching completed this experience for me.  A couple times a week, I would see one of my students on the street or at the public library.  One time, a student called out to me across L Street, “Hi, Ms. S!”  The next day at school, he came up to me and said with a smile, “I saw you yesterday, Ms. S” as if I didn’t know. 🙂

Although there were plenty of challenges during my student teaching experience, I would not trade my time in OTR for anything.  The lessons I have learned, and will continue to learn as I process my semester, will stay with me the rest of my life.  The reality of poverty.  The injustices in our public education system.  The value of stepping way out of your comfort zone.  The joy of friendships.  The satisfaction of a job well done.  The importance of laughter.  The difference that one adult can make in a child’s life.

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Bananas and Brokenness December 10, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — songofjoy88 @ 7:37 pm

Last week when I went to my students’ first basketball game of the season, a few of them had some problems with muscle cramping.  So, I brought bananas for the girls and guys team as a pre-game snack for their game on Tuesday.  I sat on the bleachers grading papers as I waited for the game to start.  There were some younger students sitting around me, some from the school where I teach, others just from the neighborhood.  One of the little girls, Shayna, who I know from my school “helped” me grade papers. 🙂  It was fun to be around elementary aged students- a nice change from my middle schoolers.

There were a few extra bananas, so I ate one and gave out the rest to some of the children sitting around me.  A boy about 7 years old, Timmy, was very eager to have a banana.  He was so thin!   just skin and bones!  After the girls team won 31-11 and the boys lost by 3 in a very close game, Timmy came up to me and asked for a dollar to get something to eat.  I walked with him to the vending machine and I stood there for a moment, hoping he wouldn’t just get flaming hots!  I smiled as he chose the cherry/cheese danish and wondered what else he had had to eat that day.  I come face to face with brokenness like this everyday!

Speaking of brokenness, words cannot begin to express the frustration and sadness I feel about some things I’ve found out recently about my students.  One day last week after school, Kayla was telling one of the other teachers and I which of the 7th and 8th grade students are drug runners.  I had known that some of my students were already using drugs, but it just tears me up that they’re falling into this trap at such a young age- 12 and 13 years old!  This morning some of my students got caught smoking in a bathroom.  Apparently, they get high before school everyday and today it was just too cold to do  it outside.  And of course, one of the students who got caught is one of my brightest students!! :-/

It’s stuff like this that leaves me with nothing to say.  Yet, it is in the midst of all this brokenness, I see the beauty of my Savior, who’s body was broken for me, and you, and every one of my students!  Because of Jesus, brokenness can be redeemed and He can bring beauty.  It is by His wounds, His brokenness, that we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).  Praise God that he has the final say and that he has plans to create a new heaven and a new earth (check out Isaiah 65:17-25)!!  He does not want to leave the brokenness of our world as it is.  I particularly love verse 23: “They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them.” 🙂  We have so much to look forward to and I’m excited to be a part of God’s redemption mission!