Thursday, October 24, 2013
Who knew I would have such a passion for teaching? I suppose deep inside, I knew I always would. And this week, I got to finally take a chance at it.
Through a great program at Chapman partnered with the wonderful non-profit organization Think Together (http://www.thinktogether.org), some fellow grad students and I are teaching a six week writing workshop for students at Century High School. We were supposed to start last week but the kids had to take their PSAT’s so our actual teaching was postponed until yesterday.
Truth be told, I was pretty nervous about being in the classroom because other than volunteering at my kids’ school, I have not been on the other side of the desk with the chalk board (now dry erase) or with the overhead (now smart boards with ELMO machines) unless you count the times I was called up to the front to attempt to solve an abstract algebra equation that would NEVER serve me any purpose in life save for solving other equations in the math classes I dreaded in high school and undergrad studies. But I digress…
Because of the delay, we had an opportunity to meet with the teacher and get a feel for the class and the students. What an eye opening conversation. I tell you, for the teachers out there who really care, who really want to change lives and make a difference, kudos and more to you. I deal with one teenager every day and that’s plenty, can’t imagine how difficult it would be to take on 200+ kids every year, each one with their own set of problems. I was so grateful to have had that conversation because I felt better prepared for the time we would come face to face with the students.
I sit here trying to come up with the words to describe how I feel about this opportunity and I realize this must be exactly how the students felt when we asked them to try a writing exercise. It’s not that I don’t have enough to say; we all know there is no lack of words from me. It’s just trying to find the right ones, the words that can actually convey how truly remarkable this experience feels that is a little difficult.
So I am going to try to put myself in their shoes and answer the prompt we gave them. It went a little something like this:
Think of an adult you know (i.e. a teacher, a parent, a coach) that has a special quality you admire and would like to have yourself (i.e. are they generous, honest, loyal, trustworthy, cheerful, brave) and write whatever you want, a few sentences, a paragraph, whatever, about that person.
I have plenty of adults I admire who have unique qualities, but I really want to focus on the kids I worked with yesterday. I don’t know them yet but I already feel a connection partly because we came from the same place, the city of Santa Ana. These kids are growing up in a tough neighborhood, their lives are filled with challenges that make it difficult to go to high school, let alone look to a future in college.
One quality I saw in ALL of the kids I met yesterday was courage. They are brave young men and women trying to make a difference in their own lives and the odds are stacked against them. Financial constraints, lack of familial support, cultural differences, expectations within a community, all of these things barely scratch the surface aside from ordinary problems that come along with being a teenager like having sex and avoiding drugs.
A couple students shared what they wrote and it was enough to move the three of us co-teachers to tears, the words were real, they were heartfelt and sincere and the fact that we were able to get these kids to write from their hearts and indeed go beyond and SHARE their work, well that was amazing. I felt like we had made a connection and started to build trust, a bond even, that might help these students realize their potential, their worth, even just a little bit.
Though I only worked with them for an hour yesterday, that single hour meant so much. I left that classroom filled with hope. I was inspired to find my own courage to continue to teach in any capacity or opportunity I find as well as the courage to keep writing when some days I think I should throw it all out the window and say screw it.
So I ask you this, take a minute to think about someone YOU admire, the quality or qualities they have that you want to see in yourself. What the hell, pick up a pen and paper or hit the keyboard and write about it. We told the kids that part of writing, part of growing, is getting to a place where you feel comfortable being uncomfortable.
Challenge yourself and get uncomfortable, get to a place that your own creative juices begin to flow. If writing is not your thing, pick up a paintbrush, whatever you like. Whatever it is, quit making excuses and have the courage to express yourself.
Today, I had the courage to write in my poor little sad neglected blog and I hope that my faithful readers will understand and forgive me, perhaps even be a little inspired to have the courage to try something new.
And, I PROMISE to keep you posted on the adventures in teaching!