Yesterday I wrote about Dangerous Minds like movies and their inaccuracies. Here is a bit from yesterday’s post:
But something else always infuriated me about those Dangerous Mind type of movies. To be honest with you, I didn’t mind the whole being painted as a hero thing too much. I had to get a feeling of validation somewhere! No, it was the picture of an average classroom that is always painted in those movies:
of color, impoverished, rude, rowdy, gang affiliated, pregnant, academically behind, abused, violent, and checked out.
Yes, yea, that’s about right.
But what they never show is this part:
Here is an accurate picture of who was in my classroom on any given day.
Yes, about five loud, rude kids who wont listen, wont work, are full of anger. And, unlike any movie depiction, it not some mountainous struggle to get through to them and then it gets better and better and their grades are going up and their reading level is rising. It’s back and forth. It’s a slow gaining of their trust and most tricks, like karate, aren’t going to work on these jaded teens. They’ll have good days and bad days and just when you think you got them buying in they’ll have a bad day, or another kid will influence them or they’ll miss a bunch of days and they’ll be frustrated that they are behind or I as the teacher will loose patience, or get slack in enforcing discipline, and things will slip.
There are a few gang members in every class. They are not always who you think they are. Sometimes they are the sweet ones.
Then there are a bunch of normal teens. They are full of angst, frustration, all of those things. They love to talk. They will fall in line but they are teenagers. They may fall in with the influence of the more rowdy ones.
There are at least two or three learning disabled students in every class. They are never in the movies. The movies always show smart kids that just need to get caught up, kids that can’t read because they never got the right education. But what about kids with actual learning disabilities? My last year teaching I taught the most advanced class, average classes, and classes with severely disabled students. In the second to last there were students mixed in with some learning disabilities along with high functioning average students. In the last there were four students of average intelligence with 15 severely handicapped students. You have to be able to do so many different things at once. Students with learning disabilities can be smart and they can get caught up. They do need to be taught in a different way and every learning disabled student needs to be taught in a different way than other learning disabled students.
There are one or two or more students whose primary language is not English. Some of those are refugees or immigrants from another country.
Every year I also deal with one or two crack babies. I don’t mean disrespect, but I need to make something clear. I have taught students whose mothers abused drugs while pregnant. These students, for the most part, can’t control themselves. There can be slight to severe learning disabilities but also behavioral challenges. Sometimes they can’t stop movement and noise and agitation. They can, of course!, be taught They cause chaos though and it never stops, all 180 days it never stops. It can be managed, they can thrive, but they need understanding and a whole barney bag of strategies.
There is one student who quietly sits in the back, sometimes emotions all over the place, crying, cuts visible on their arms, sometimes not. Sometimes I never know anything about this kid because they don’t talk much to me. And they will do no work. And sometimes they stop coming to class.
There is one kid who needs an academic challenge way above the rest of the kids. He’s not necessarily well behaved, however.
Then there are one or two doe eyes in each class. Students who are naive and geeky and needy. The outcast. Little mousey goody goodies who want and education and want to make their teachers their besties. I love those kids. I love their neediness. They all find their way to me because I was one. They often need to be protected from things including but not limited to bullying. But it’s quite an act to juggle when they are doing tricks for your attention, and they really do need it, and the rest of the dangerous minds ensemble is being their bad ass selves. It’s like this:
“Hi miss! How are you? What are we learning today? Wanna talk about my anime? Wanna talk about my new bag? Is that a picture of your husband? I got a new puppy.”
Meanwhile two kids are shutting down in the corner, all kinds of inappropriate language and behavior is happening, no one is doing their work, one of my angry kids come in holding his fist, he just punched the lockers, there is a fight in the hall, three others wont come into the room even though the bell rang…
Mean while, “wanna talk about my anime?” is getting abused at home.
There are many students who leave, schedule changes or they move, often to go to a new town because of foster homes changing or the family can only get housing somewhere else. And students come in, new to class, new to routine, at all points in the school year. I have gotten students enrolled in a class in June. They need to make a first impression, they need to test me and others. It’s starting all over not just with that one kid but the whole class.
You also rarely see in those movies that YOU DON”T JUST HAVE ONE CLASS! Teachers teach five or more classes a day. Full of all that mixture. You get about an hour. An hour to reach each kid and usually about four minuets before you get the next group. And then the next and the next.
So why can’t a school full of teacher heroes make the difference one teacher in the movies does?
Well, we do. We make dents, we plant seeds, we lift up, and we go on day after day.