Tag Archives: leaving

Everybody Deserves a Party: Holiday Break

One of the pleasures of teaching in my current city is that I have students of parents who are visiting academics at the local university. I had one such student this semester. Since his dad’s fellowship ended this week, today was our last day with this student, who was headed back to Georgia.

The students organized a party, down to a homemade chocolate multi-layer cake and other homemade joys, and we said farewell to a young man who quickly established himself as one who was honest, quirky, insightful and a part of our classroom community.

When the cake was unveiled, he was overcome by emotion. We all waited for him to take a moment and then he said “No one has ever had a party for me.”

Such a simple explanation for his joy.

Doesn’t every child deserve a party? It’s those little jolts that occur during classroom interactions that I’m reminded of the things that matter: kids need their teachers to have parties for them.

I try to have parties frequently: when a student that caused me to pull out my nearly non-existent hair because I was running out of ways to explain to her how to connect analysis to quotes rather than summarize them turned in a paper in which she was ANALYZING the quote, was DOING the thing I worried we’d run out of time before she mastered, I had a party for her. I called her over, read her the paragraph, explained WHY I was pleased and told her that we’d turned the corner. She had a smile as wide as [insert apt simile here]. And it came at a moment when we were both down on each other: I was sucking as a teacher and she was worried she was doomed as a writer. Then…there it was.

Yeah, have a party.

I’ve had other smaller parties throughout the year: when silent kids speak up and have said something profound that sets us all back on our heels; when others make some comment or connection that drags us from the literary time period we inhabit into the present; when typically self-absorbed young people open up a classroom to create real community, one in which everyone matters, one in which when a young man cries, we don’t bat an eyelash but hug him even harder because we want him to take our love with him…yeah, I have a party for them.

I hope to have many more parties for my students–small and large–but we will party down in as many ways as I can find and they can create to celebrate learning when it happens.

The pleasures and necessities of joyful learning…happy holidays.

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Filed under Equity, Student Interactions

Ending My Sabbatical in the Suburbs

I resigned from my suburban job last week. Not a completely shocking decision given folks who wondered why I was going there in the first place, but enough of an unexpected rumble that it makes me sad. I worked with phenomenal colleagues who were willing to share their practice, to help me figure it out, and to remind myself that even in the suburbs, someone has to speak up for the kids of color. In the ‘burbs, too, I realized that speaking up for other kids matters, too, the ones who are a bit quirky, a lot uncertain, and majorly unhappy. It always comes down to missing the same things, ultimately: my colleagues and the kids. However, I read this great quote (accidentally, but perhaps not, as I’ve an affinity for lovely quotes): Saying goodbye doesn’t mean anything. It’s the time we spent together that matters, not how we left it. Trey Parker–of South Park and the Book of Mormon, maybe?–said that. I was moved by the quote and taken aback that Parker said it–maybe I shouldn’t have been, but that’s just the way it is.

While it’s the kids and the classroom triumphs and challenges that stay with me, it was also a deeper desire to work with kids of color again that compelled me to leave the suburbs. I realized the differences, though, between the city and the suburbs, and it’s lit a fire under me to do more. It matters. And I think MY work matters more in the city than in the ‘burbs. For now, at least.

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Filed under Suburbs