I am a teacher. I'm aware that regular readers already know this, but I just like saying it. I almost always find a way to work this bit of information into conversations with strangers, not in the hopes that they'll nominate me for sainthood or marvel at my dedication or leer at me and make suggestive comments about what they would have done if I'd been THEIR teacher but simply because it's who I am.
And although it may not always seem like it, I LOVE being a teacher. Not every minute of every day and certainly not when there's a mountain of papers to be graded, but ultimately teaching rocks. And on the good days I wouldn't trade it for anything.
I mention all this because Dave asked me last week if working with today's teenagers makes me worry about the America those teenagers will create for us in the future. His comment got me thinking, and I realized that most of the school stories I tell do not paint a particularly flattering picture of America's youth. But it's not because there are no flattering pictures to be painted, it's because those stories aren't funny.
They are, however, important. And I have lots of them.
Just this week alone I've been approached by seven kids looking to start various clubs or campaigns to improve the world around them:
- One of my girls from last year stopped by between classes on Monday to tell me about Turn Beauty Inside Out and to ask me if I would help her create a schoolwide campaign. She was so excited about the possibilities that she could barely put a sentence together. And PS, this same student brought me a bagel last Friday morning for no reason other than that she's just an all-around awesome kid.
- At the beginning of 5th period on Monday one of my students -- a kid whose main hobbies seem to be skipping class and smoking weed, not necessarily in that order -- asked me if I knew about the Invisible Children movie and announced that we should learn about it. I called him over to the computer later to look at the website and he said, "Yeah, we should really do something. I mean, I was thinking about doing something. Like maybe a project? For your class? We could get the whole school involved." And then he was off and running about film screenings and awareness bracelets and fundraisers. Oh, and extra credit.
- Tuesday morning brought me two little blonde field hockey players who I've been teaching since September and STILL have trouble telling apart. They're fired up about Sudan. "You know how we watched that movie about the lost boys?," they asked, "well we wanna start a club to help them." Their pitch was interrupted by another girl who'd asked me in October to sponsor her Human Connection Project, a fundraising club she created after we watched Sarah McLachlan's "World on Fire" video (administrative approval STILL pending, by the way).
- On Tuesday afternoon two of my favorite girls took a break from coloring their maps to whisper excitedly to me about their plans for an environmental club. "We want to recycle," one girl said. "And plant trees!" the other added gleefully. I explained that the Young Greens, an existing club that I co-sponsor, has just recently begun talking about an extensive schoolwide recycling program. A potential partnership was born.
And yesterday, when my first period class unexpectedly lasted an hour longer than the normal 90 minutes and I popped in the monkey chant to keep my kids occupied, even the coolest of the too-cool-for-schoolers sat enthralled. At the end of the monkey chant one of my problem students, a perpetually unenthused boy, shouted, "Whoa! Cool! Can we watch it again?" So we did.