Teaching French to disadvantaged students is a job fit for a dreamer. I had just quit that library job when, literally, out of the blue, a former friend, now the foreign language supervisor, called and asked me if I would be willing to take a French-teaching job at a local high school. It's a disadvantaged school, meaning failing school with 80% of the population fitting the poverty levels most of these schools maintain.
A couple of years ago when I was teaching gifted students at a local middle school, our principal had the faculty read this book about poverty--sorry, I don't remember the title, but I well remember the content. The average adult who grew up in poverty has the same vocabulary as a privileged child of age five from a white family. That is shocking!
The French II classes were required to have a certified teacher in situ before credit could be given to the students taking the class. What I found in these four classes were two kinds of students: those who cared about actually learning the language and those just getting that grade. Because a certified teacher had not been found for these classes, the principal scheduled students into an internet class called Duo Lingo, an elementary level French class. Their language skills were dubious.
. . . . .
I wrote the above several months ago. In between I ran the gamut of emotions: hating this job, loving this job, stressed out beyond words, tired constantly, sleepless, yet still willing to stay the course. I don't know if it is black teenagers who can be loud and obnoxious or my old age that cannot tolerate loud noises--which was the worst problem? Then again, I think of the students I have come to love and all the hugs I get from even the most belligerent ones.
What I have come to learn is how real black students are. And the awesomeness of the differences in skin color, and hair texture, and body shapes, and facial features. I stand in the doorway, between classes, watching the multitudes pass. And I marvel at their beauty and their plainness.
Then there is the humor. One day I was talking to a young man, who out of the blue, said, "Ms P, why do you have such thin lips?" Oh my goodness, that was an eye-opener! I have thin lips!!
Today another jeune homme (young man) told me he was going to start dating only white girls. Why, I asked him, He said black girls are so touchy--if you say anything to them, they will explode on you." In other words, black girls don't take stuff off of black males.
Another student asked me how I could prove I wasn't racist. I answered simply: "I teach here." (Here is a predominately black school deemed unacceptable.) This year, though, we got a new principal, a man I hold in high esteem. He has worked so hard to turn the school around. During a testing session when part of the senior class was in the auditorium, he called the seniors out into the foyer and asked them why they hadn't signed up for college testing. He is determined to make them into successful human beings.
I see that writing this down has cleared my head of the rough day I had. I can go home now, grab my fishing pole and fish awhile. Then it's back to grading papers and making out tests, and more and more. A teacher's work is never done--until the last day of school!!
Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)
- *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
- The Odd Women by George Gissing
- The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
- How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
- The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
- In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
- *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
- Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
- The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
- Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
- Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
- Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
- The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
- Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
- Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
- Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
- *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
- Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
- A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
- The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
- Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
- *Ruined by Paula Morris
- Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
- Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
- Silence by Shusaku Endo
- *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
- Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
- *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
- Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
- *The Giver by Lois Lowery
- *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski