Of all the reasons I could give you for my decision to go into the field of education, only one will keep me in the field: every single day of my working life, my kids completely blow my mind.
Granted, they have a particular knack for blowing it with their sheer…well, childishness. When I pull two boys apart for hitting each other and discover that they’ve been locked in a begrudged blood feud for two weeks over a single particular Lego block whose identical twins comprise approximately forty-two percent of our ample collection, “non-blown” would not describe the state of my mind. Some days are made up primarily of running interference on one pitched battle after another of equally flabbergasting insignificance.
One of my kids has been driving me up a wall lately. He’s been ignoring the rules, been mean to the younger kids, and is downright defiant in the face of any reprimand, gentle or harsh. Some days I don’t know how we’re going to make it through the school year. There’s only so much I can do to keep him in line within the parameters of my program’s guidance policies and not much of it does a lick of good. I have also noticed that he’s struggling with school, however, and I don’t want to end up in the place of having to ask his mother to disenroll him. Kids who are struggling in the ways he’s struggling are the kids I entered education to help.
A bunch of my kids were out with a horrible puking virus last week, which meant that I actually had time to sit down one-on-one with some of the still-healthy kids for a while. When I spent some time with this particular kid, we worked together on his Script Frenzy project. He astonished me, not so much in his creation of characters (I am a popular choice for a super-hero, by the way), but in the way he constructed a resolution to the plot arch I helped him with. My role was only that of scribe–for the kids whose struggle with spelling and forming letters is an impediment to getting their story out, I’ve been trying to simply listen to their ideas and write what they ask me to.
Most of the kids put together their archs like this: Bad Guy does something bad. Good Guy fights back. Bad Guy almost wins, but Good Guy prevails in the end. The status quo is restored and the people rejoice. It’s a simple, classic formula to hang worlds and characters and interesting machinery on, but it doesn’t change much. This student’s arch, however, went something like this: Bad Guy attacks Good Guy. Good Guy fights back. Bad Guy almost wins, but Neutral Third Party with superpowers steps in to negotiate a treaty. Backstory reveals that Bad Guy and Good Guy used to be friends, until Good Guy’s government tried to annihilate Bad Guy’s world. Neutral Third Party removes the memory of all superpowers to force Bad and Good Guys to put aside their grudges and find a way to work out a peaceful solution. Peace prevails.
The differences were subtle but clear, and I realized that tucked away in the mind of this kid who often goes out of his way to make my day a living disciplinary nightmare is the mind of a kid who is not morally retarded. This is a child who knows right from wrong and, more to the point, cares about and thoughtfully considers the finer points of the matter. In some ways that makes his regular behavior all the more frustrating, but mostly it gives me hope that he’ll be alright.
Those mind-blowing little revelations of reason to believe in a child’s future are the moments that will keep me working with kids even when the going is tough. And even when the going is really tough, there is never a day where at least one child doesn’t shine.
So I teach.