Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Becoming a Teacher, Part One

I grew up thinking I would be a teacher.  I loved kids, I seemed to be good with them, and that is what my mom did.  Then as I got older, I wanted to do MORE.  I wanted to make more money and have more prestige. While in college, I didn't enjoy my first year of classes.  I was discouraged because I wasn't doing well in the classes that prepared me for these other careers.  Then, my second year, I was asked a simple question.  "What brings you joy?"  Immediately I said,  "working with children".  I went and changed my major and never looked back!

I did my student teaching in an upper-middle class neighborhood school.  It was unique because it was an open-concept school.  I guess that is when my interest in finding "other" ways to educate was sparked.

Then we moved to Ft Worth and I applied all over the city.  I don't think then I even knew what "inner-city" meant.  I was hired, and started at a school that was on the edge of an established neighborhood and the projects.  I walked into that first classroom and had no idea what I was doing.  Luckily Cheryl Wisch was right next door.  She shaped me more than any professor I ever had.  I learned more from her that first year than all the years after!  The very first day I had completed the whole day's lesson plan by 10:00 a.m.!  Yes, I had a lot to learn!

 I was a naive white girl from an upper-middle class home walking into a classroom where the 7 year olds were smarter than me, street-wise.  I was overwhelmed and distraught. But, somewhere within me, I found a way to connect to those kids.  They responded to me in a miraculous way.  I mean, we had NOTHING in common.  Absolutely nothing.  I couldn't imagine their lives any more than they could imagine mine.  How does that happen?  Over time, I gradually had to admit, it was a gift.  God gave me a gift to relate to those little ones no matter the differences.  I was given the gift to see inside those kids, past the walls around their hearts to their real selves.  They inspired me to work harder, try more, and to never give up on them.

My second year of teaching, I saw the neighborhood deserted and my classroom become a revolving door.  I started the year with 22 children and I ended the year with 22 children.  But only 4 children had been with me the entire year.  FOUR!  I watched as children held up their shirts and showed me the blood from being whipped by extension cords.   I cried as I called social services time and time again.  I watched as children were taken from their homes.  I waited for children who never showed up again because their families had skipped out in the night.  I endured being cussed out by parents because I had taken their child's dinner money, two quarters.  I sat with children left out in the cold on the last day before Thanksgiving, being forgotten by a mother who was working a double shift at the strip club.  I accepted the gift of cat's collar still warm from the body of the cat.  "Hear that beautiful sound, Ms. Mckenzie?"  I listened and cried as that huge smile beamed while the hand shook the bell attached to the collar.  Okay, and I chuckled cause they never did get my name right!!  :-)   I watched, I changed, I wept.

So, I opened my heart and was forever changed....and that was just the first two years.
to be continued

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