Monday, July 30, 2007

My Other Life

In my other life I'm a teacher at an alternative school. I teach special education at a school for students who have been expelled from their home school district. They are allowed to attend our program and continue working towards their high school diploma. Lots of the kids have been expelled for real bullshit reasons. If zero tolerance had been in place when I was in high school, most of my classmates would have been kicked out. But that's another post.

When the kids were born I quit teaching to stay home and I said I'd never go back into the classroom. Last fall I was looking for a job that would fit with my kids' schedules. Of course working in a school fit perfectly, so I started working as the administrative assistant in this alternative program. I loved the kids, loved my colleagues, loved my boss.

And I started to remember all the reasons why I loved teaching. I especially remembered why I loved teaching the kids no one else wanted to teach. The special ed. job opened up and I jumped at it.

Put me in front of a classroom full of well-behaved students and I'm BORED SILLY. That's not a challenge. I love the kids who make me work for it. I love teasing out the issues that make learning and education hard for them. The payoff is amazing. When the light bulb goes on, it's awesome.

Most of the students at my school walk in the door with 3 strikes against them. They are children whose stories break my heart. They've seen and done things no child should. Their attitudes and social skills are lacking. But they are still children. Most of them are funny and smart and just need someone to give them a chance without judging them by their dress and address.

This year I'll have my hands full. And I can't wait. I heard someone say it before me and I've taken it on as my mantra -

Those who need our love the most often deserve it the least.

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