Finals happened this week. I learned that I will always be giving my finals 1 week before the rest of the finals. End of discussion.
My students are... animated... to say the least. They are dramatic to the extreme. But most of them never cross the line. They might swear at each other, but if I hear them, they apologize to me (which is funny - they yell f-you to someone else, but apologize to me). They might roll their eyes when I ask them to put their phone away in school AGAIN, complain when I give them work to do on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or any day, or yell "I'm not late" when I ask them to sign the tardy sheet... but that's about as rude as it gets. Until this week. I took a student's iPod after repeatedly asking him to put it away and repeatedly he took it back out again. The school's policy is that a parent has to pick up the electronic device on Friday between 3 and 5. The policy sucks but it is what it is. It's meant to motivate students to not use them in class - they do what they want anyway. So, I took this kids iPod. When he asked for it after class, I said his parents could pick it up Friday. He started talking about how ridiculous that was. I calmly stated "that's the policy. it's not up for discussion." he then proceeded to storm out. (There were other students in the room...) Not just storm out, but push every desk over on his way out while screaming profanity that I refuse to repeat or write down. Let's just say - think of every cuss word you've ever heard and combine them in one sentence. Yep, that was me. I said (again, calmly), okay I'll go ahead and add that to the write up. His response: "yeah, you do that B***"
He came back 2 hours later to apologize. "Uh, Ms. Cook, I'm really sorry about earlier. I'm not usually that disrespectful. My friend was shot this morning and I was pissed and taking out my anger on you. I'm sorry."
The situation was confirmed when I ran into my assistant principal who asked if Brian apologized to me yet. I said, "yes how'd you know." "Oh, he's my little project. I love that kid and he has a lot to deal with. He's got some tough stuff and is working on managing anger in a healthy way - which is not what he's learned in life so far. He has a lot of potential. He came to me frantically explaining he had exploded on his music teacher and felt terrible and didn't know what to do. I told him 'boy, you gonna march back down there and apologize to that lady.'" And that was the end of that. He still picked up his iPod friday.
Not 5 minutes after Brian stormed out screaming profanity, I met Jamequa (*name changed*). A student that I have a good relationship with brought her to me. The student that is in my class explained her friend had a problem and that she trusted me and Jamequa needed help. I then learned that Jamequa's uncle had been raping her since she was 7. Yeah, that's how I felt too - shocked. Tears started streaming down my face. I wasn't qualified to handle this. I called DCFS for the first time as a teacher. Hopefully, this will not be a common occasion. Long story short, Jamequa told the DCFS investigator she made up the whole thing. I still don't know if it's true. The story changes a lot. Either way - true or not- this precious 16 year old girl needs a lot of help. Bottom line - she needs the saving grace and hope found only in Jesus Christ.
My 1st period seniors did so terribly on their final (which I graded towards the end of the week) I started crying. Probably the tears were a result of the entire week. But, I was so disappointed. They didn't even try - most of them didn't do the review guides. Most of them skipped the essay. Just skipped it. I'm realizing the low academic standard that most of these students have been held to throughout their education and they have created terrible habits. I could go on and on about this, but mostly, I am just relying on the Lord for wisdom - how do I continue to hold high expectations and teach them in a way that helps them see they can reach them.
After a ridiculous week, Friday was the BEST! The students had off - professional development day. So, I went to Kelly HS, where I student taught, and watched their advanced choir rehearse. Their top choir has rehearsals on every professional development day - the students come in from 8-12. Amazing. The guy I worked with there has built the best neighborhood high school choir program in CPS, no doubt about it. His group performs the quality of literature that most of the suburban schools attempt (where all the students take private lessons) and competes with the best of the best fine arts schools in the city. Yesterday, they sang in Russian, French, German, Slovak, English, Spanish, and Chinese. Wow. I was so encouraged. (And it only took him 4-5 years!) His students have become sweet, hard working. They care for each other, they practice their parts, they help each other out... He spent the afternoon giving me advice and answering my questions. How do I get the beginners to sing more? How do I cultivate appreciation for choral music? How do I .... How do I .... How do I...
Bottom line - teach to the best. Move forward with the best kids and many more, who see their success, will pick it up. There will be some in every class who don't care and don't want to and never will. And you can't bring the entire class down with them. You have to move forward. That is my goal for 2nd semester.
When I explained I don't really have a budget - we have no money in our music department - he said, "Make a list of what you want and we'll buy it for you. We have the money." I could have cried (which, as we've established, isn't saying much this week since it was an emotional roller coaster). The best part was connecting with another music teacher (2 actually) in another school where the choir program is working. I often feel isolated at work. The Lord brought this along and I am so thankful to him.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Heavenly Father, who is unchanging." (James 1:17)
Thankful for the end of this week and for a fresh start,