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I read Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire by Rafe Esquith (which is a fantastic book but not very practical for first-year teachers, in my opinion). When I read the epilogue, I wished I could soak in every word and memorize it. It’s real. It encourages. Is challenges and inspires. Enjoy!
It’s a thankless job. It’s hard to find a reason to believe.
It’s thankless and it doesn’t get easier. When you glance at your mental ledger, the red ink completely dominates the black. For every reason to believe, for every child you may help, there are dozens who make you want to give up. Most of the kids who walk into our classrooms do not even begin to comprehend how education can help them improve their lives. They often come from families so poor or scared or mean that you cannot even go to them for help.
Many of your administrators have sold their souls years before. Do you have a dangerous child in your class? Will you get any backup to deal with the problem? Most often you won’t. The lawyers have seen to that, frightening school districts so that no one takes a stand anymore. In fact, when the child threatens someone’s life, you may be blamed for running the sort of classroom where that sort of thing could happen.
The “Ministry of Truth” continues to spread its lies. The publishing companies and testing services conspire with the administrators to wrest away any creativity, passion, or freedom you once may have had as a classroom teacher. From now on we will all teach the same things in the same ways at the same times for the same reasons. Orwell the Prophet was right.
So you continue to look for a reason to believe, and your search brings you to your students. At least they might be able to give you comfort. But so many do not. For every child who is ready and willing to make the effort, far more have given up because of the same forces that make us want to surrender.
Maybe the realists are right. Maybe it is quixotic to want an excellent education for our students. There are days (and nights) when I come dangerously close to surrender. When I toss and turn thinking of all my failures, I open Janet’s essay. It is an essay she wrote at Notre Dame. I took her there when she was thirteen years old. I told her it was possible. She is a top student there today. My search for a reason to believe ends here.
My heart begins to beat as the lights start to dim and the chattering of students slowly dies down from scattered mumblings to silence. They tiny room is flooded with lights, and I look out into the audience. An eleven-year-old boy walks out onto the stage, or classroom, I should say, to speak the opening lines of his character, Benedict.
My heart starts to beat again quite rapidly as my turn approaches. The crowd laughs and I take it as my cue to step onto the stage. “I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedict: nobody marks you.” It is 6:00 P.M. on June 15, 1998, and I have just started my twelfth and final performance of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
I was first introduced to Shakespeare when I was nine years old by a teacher, Rafe Esquith, who was famously known at my elementary school for directing a Shakespeare play every year. Not wanting to turn down an opportunity to be in one of his “famous” plays, I immediately said yes when he asked me.
Now I put “famous” in quotes because, at my elementary school, being asked to participate in a Shakespeare play was like being asked to join the cool and exclusive group in school.
The following year I was given the opportunity to be in The Winter’s Tale. All the plays were performed in our tiny classroom, Room 56, and on that night of the final performance I could only think to wish that I could stop time.
I wish I could put all the feelings from that evening into a jar and carry it around with me wherever I go, because the emotions in Room 56 that night were full of delight, passion, and energy. Putting together those plays every year not only taught me about Shakespeare, but about teamwork, and humility, and that when one of my fellow classmates was on stage, it was his turn to be in the spotlight, not mine.
I learned how to play many instruments because we incorporated pop songs into many of the scenes. I learned the value of responsibility and hard work, that if I did not have my lines memorized by a specific date, it not only hurt myself, but slowed down the rest of the production.
Who would have thought that one could learn so much just by being in a play? I learned my most valuable lessons during those two years in Room 56, and I treasure all of my experiences that I had in that tiny little classroom.
Hobart Elementary School is located in the heart of downtown L.A., and as I look back at my elementary school years, I think about the horrible environment I grew up in.
There were kids who didn’t know how to speak English, even teachers who did not know how to speak English. A rape or abuse case occurred at least once a week at school, and policemen were frequently seen on campus.
Yet during the fifth grade, when I walked into Room 56, everything changed. The world outside disappeared. Instead of gang fights and beggars, my life turned into guitar lessons, road trips, and Shakespearean characters.
My fears and horrors were replaces by happiness and laughter. It became my second home, and my classmates became my second family. I did most of my growing up in Room 56, and it molded me into the person I have become.
No matter what else was happening anywhere in the world, all my troubles could be fixed in this safe haven, and I constantly retreated to it when I had family troubles. And even today, when I am looking for a place where there is only love and joy, where anger and hatred do not exist, I still retreat to Room 56.
As usual, it is a student who proves to be my best teacher. There is a reason to believe. Let us all work hard to build these safe havens. Janet’s essay eases my sleep. Tomorrow, as always, I, too, will retreat to Room 56. There’s no place like home.
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I’m talking to my friend on kik but her profile picture disappeared and the message I sent her is stuck on ‘S’. I do know ‘S’ means the message was sent, but why did the profile picture disappear all of a sudden? It was there a few minutes ago but as soon as I sent the message it disappeared and the message has been on S. Why is this happening? I don’t think I was blocked because you can still see people’s picture when blocked.