Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Give me an "M"! Give me an "R"!

Dear Friends,

Today when I came home to my apartment I attempted to use my classroom key to open my front door. I feel that instinct communicates much about my current state. I am my classroom at this point. I think about little else and as a result I took kids that I would mutter under my breath about to other teachers and made them excited participants in my classroom. Well…all except one who is seventeen and has tantrums where he pretends to be asleep and then bursts into what can only be referred to as an episode. I am told he never does this in Biology (another victory for science). He is the exception though. One of these students ready to burst forth from his cocoon into a literary superstar found himself in the context paragraph for our vocab. It described a student with a lot of “vitality on the court”. At one point at looked at me and said, “Is this about me?” I nodded. While I read it out loud he raised his hands in celebration to the class after he had written his challenge sentence – a fine moment.

I unveiled a college friend’s book donation (Claire and her mother both donated books – amazing people!_ that featured a biography of Lebron James. When I presented the book to the seven students jumped out of their seats and declared that they would be the first to read it. An argument broke out, “No I said it first!” ; “Mr. Stevens there’s no other book I want to read!” ; “Ah man it has pictures in the middle – pictures!” ; “Mr. Stevens you need to get a Kobe book.” ; “Man look at this!”. All the students crowded around the one and peered at each page with enthusiasm I did not know they possessed. If you have an extra copies of this book please send them along.

When I left school on Tuesday after a rather long day I slowly walked out into the parking lot lost in my own thoughts. I heard a “Mr.Stevens!” and found the entire cheerleading squad with their coach in the shade of a building. They formed up into a triangle and said in unison “Bye Mr. Stevens!” - written here you miss the melody, the echo of unified clapping, the smiles and the laughter from me and the gaggle of girls
I have made a transition – a crossing of a kind, a figurative Rubicon if you prefer – I can’t say when it happened, but all at once I feel different. I feel at ease in the hallways and in the classroom. I stopped letting every little thing let my blood boil. I’ve realized that my school has so much to offer. By no means am I done learning – I’m still “a duck on the water” as Gene Hackman said in that classic of our time “The Replacements” featuring Keanu Reeves.

I want to finish by shouting out three people: Debbie H- who is sending her second large donation of books. She is a woman I have never met. In hearing about me and my students she acted and galvanized her friends to meet my class needs. I admire her determination and willingness to give. Joni D- She has so much passion for TFA. She retired only a few weeks ago and is already searching for ways to not only help me, but also help teachers near her in Chicago. Lastly, my sister who came and visited me during Labor Day weekend and listened to all I had to say, had fun with me and made me feel loved. Aww. Come on everyone Awww. Wait - I'm going to cheat and do six. My mother, Dr. Christine N. and Dr. Doug B. They both sent huge donations! Christine got her parents and friends all the way up in Canada to send me an international package for my classroom. Vampires of Ottawa is going to blow someone's mind! You people are all amazing. I could go on for paragraphs about countless others, but I will end here for now.