Teaching, Imagination, Discipline

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I'm a mother, a teacher, a playwright, a former academic. I've spent most of my life in and around schools and universities all over the world. Nowadays, among other things, I teach in a high poverty elementary school in Los Angeles.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

2 Steps Forward, 1.5 Steps Backward

Last week José smiled. On a fairly regular basis. When he wasn't frowning, that is.

And, he sat downstage right or left most of the time we were at the rug, rather than practically out the door and with his back to me.

I considered all this enormous progress and worked hard to acknowledge it. I made him office monitor. I gave him reading logs to hand back (which, for some reason, is understood by children to be a great privilege). I rubbed his furry hair and told him how much he'd improved.

Then along came Friday.

No homework. No reading log. Yakyakyaking all day long. Airplane eraser battles. Sharpening pencils on both sides (dangerous when they fly missile-like through Griselda and Kyle B.'s airspace). It was as if everything he'd learned about classroom and academic behavior had gone for a long weekend in Vegas.

And it wasn't just him. I had to call two parents on Friday. Esteban's for his hurling of an eraser at another child after two warnings to stop, and Randy's for his punching out his own brother before school. It was a Friday frenzy.

I came home this weekend discouraged. Whereas on Wednesday I had imagined for the first time staying with this class for more than one year (something I generally do), Friday I was checking out my blog countdown post-it. Two hundred and how many days?

It felt so hopeless.

I went for TWO runs.

I put it out of my mind all weekend.

And then just now it came to me. In a play, a movie, a story, you can't have the problem solved in the first ten pages! That's when you're just setting up your inciting incident. I've got to think of this class like a script. We're only on page 10. 90+ to go.

Characters have obstacles. No one grows in a straight line (in good scripts, that is). I'd never write a character like that, so why would I expect a person--and a child at that--to behave linearly?

Setbacks are a good thing. Drama. Tension. Excitement!!! Yes! Bring it on.

As I told the class on Friday: "Boys and girls, use up a lot of energy on the weekend, and then on Monday, we'll try it again!"

1 comment:

Alice T. said...

You are obamic. That new resonating optimism. And great articulation of Darthness. I see you you open all the gates and let the creativity flow with the teaching. After all, isn't great teaching a kind of performance art? Cheers!