i remember when sam, who is now 15 and a freshman in high school, was in elementary school. i would go eat lunch with him at least once a week. i did this with all my kids until being cool meant not being seen w your mom. i would walk into the school and sign in-just bc that is your kid, came outta your body, you must get permission to have lunch with him…if you want to see what is going down in his class, tough shit get over it, he’s at our school and we tell you when and where you can see him! anyway, i would sign in and stand in the hall waiting for my son’s class to walk single file down to the cafeteria. sam would look at me and a huge smile would engulf his face! the kids were quiet, like really quiet, unusually quiet. no noise. i would go and walk beside sam and try to talk to him, ask him how his day was so far and what he had done. i saw the teacher’s sideways glances at me but i didn’t care-sam cared though.
we would walk into the cafeteria, and walk through the lunch line. sometimes the lady would smile at sam and that made me happy. we would take our seats. i would talk to sam and he would nod his head. we were surrounded by elementary school kids, but there was not so much as a giggle escaping the lips of these kids. there were teachers with no-nonsense looks on their faces. the teachers stayed huddled together for the most part, then occasionally one or two of them would break apart from the gaggle and walk in between the tables, looking down at the kids who, i guess, had a tendency to get unruly. there was no smile in these eyes of these teachers, only eyebrows knotted together and mouths drawn down to their chins. they were usually wearing take me serious shoes and a seasonal sweater-they all wore christmas sweaters between november and january.
i remember the kids not speaking at all. i remember seeing the tops of little heads. i remember that. but most of all i remember the look on the teachers’ faces-these were some i ain’t takin no kid shit teachers.
a friend of mine, who is a great fella, is a teacher. he has been a teacher for quite awhile. this year he moved from high school to teaching elementary school kids. man, he was so excited! he had all these great ideas and wonderful things to encourage these kids in learning. o i should add he is a special ed teacher. he loves science! he had a microscope that could project onto a screen, he was going to do a garden, he wanted to teach these kids some critical thinking skills! i wish he would have been my kids’ teacher. i talked to him right after the meet the teacher night before school started. he was glowing with happiness! these little kids, most of whom were labelled bad or dumb and were the kids the school forgot, ran up to him and hugged him. he was the cool teacher! and he was serious about it. he was gonna do some cool stuff w some cool kids!
but somewhere things went awry. somewhere things got messed all up! he had the magic to turn these kids from future mcdonald’s workers into the next chomsky or da vinci. this is what the guy was built for! but that is not what the district wanted. they had prefab lesson plans for the teachers and all teachers were to teach all kids the same thing the same way. none of this nonsense! he tried and tried and at every turn it became more of a bureaucratic nightmare. up all night working on trying to help these kids, going to school and having a principal breathe down your neck watching every move you make, classes on how to handle crisises although he has a masters degree in psychology, dealing with popularity contests in the teachers’ lounge…just bullshit.
so the kids have lost a teacher and my friend has had the rug ripped out from under him. i am sad for my friend. i am sad for his family. i am mostly sad for the kids who will not have a garden or see what a bee’s wing looks like projected onto a screen.