Today I had a rare opportunity to spend a class period with just 4 of the 20 students of the class. Most of the class had gone to the computer lab with my co-teacher, leaving me time to work with these academically-challenged students — 3 black boys — as well as my monolingual girl.
We worked through some essay writing with promises of a treat when we finished. Somewhere during this time, I discovered a rather nasty looking spider in the classroom. I don’t mind teeny-weeny spiders, but this one was bigger than I had comfort with. One boy said, “You know that’s a jumping spider, right?” That didn’t make me feel any better about it. So I challenged them to kill it. The only rule was they couldn’t use any of the books in the classroom to do it.
One boy tossed a roll of paper towels at the spider. Yeah. Really. That didn’t work. I turned my back and soon they told me the spider was dead and in the waste can. I made them promise it was really dead, and we went on with our work.
When it came time to have our snack I said, “Whichever one of you brave boys killed that spider, here’s a handwipe before we eat.” They all just looked at me. Finally they confessed. “It was Roxana who killed the spider.”
Rockin’ Roxana! She may not speak English but she can slay spiders better than those boys from the hood. Gotta admit I got a good laugh about that one.
Other things I learned about my students today: Backwards walking continued. I let my students play some clean YouTube videos and discovered I like a song called “Black Widow” by Iggy Azalea. One of my boys finds himself in tears when he watches the Chris Brown video “Don’t Judge Me.” In another class I learned how one girl lives with her uncle because her mother tried to drown her when she was two. She said she had the choice between her uncle and a foster family and she said, “God made me point to my uncle. That was a good thing.”
It was a blessing today to spend some real time with my students. We had an opportunity to talk and get to know each other better. The kids in 7th period left messages of love on my whiteboard before they left. Relationships are what matters in education, more than we allow time for. I admit, I scaled back the lesson plan today when I saw the opportunity to talk. I recently changed the tables in my classroom to a U-shape which is allowing for more fruitful conversation. Today, we all learned new things about each other, and learned to love each other a little better. Their stories made me laugh and gave me new insights into who they really are. But truly the best thing I learned was that the little Spanish-speaking girl in the pink jacket is the bravest one in the room.