This is the time of year when the optimism of the summer about being able to stay on top of things comes to a crashing thud. Tonight was another night at school until 7pm. I was there that long, yet I'll only be able to do my lesson tomorrow if I'm able to grade 50 benchmarks in the fifty-minute period I have off from teaching between first and third.
My school years usually get off to mediocre starts and I start to feel better as the year goes on, probably because I have this pristine image of teaching when I'm off for the summer and when I return, I'm disappointed when things go wrong. I had such high hopes for this year about staying on top of things, but it's tough.
This year, I find myself angrier than usual about things I have no control over. I'm talking about the American Dream in class today. It was about the American Dream, and we listened to parts of "God Bless the USA" (patriotic, proud), Neil Diamond's "America" (immigrant dream), Tracy Chapman's "America" (angry, accusatory), and Tupac Shakur's "Panther Power" (angry, revolutionary) to depict different voices about the American Dream. We compared and evaluated them for tone, then pulled diction from the songs that emphasized the tone, then went on into introducing Of Mice and Men. (The lesson, by the way, was awesome, one of my strongest in recent memory.)
Anyhow, during the discussion about the American Dream and equality, I heard myself say, "And look at all of you. Here you all are, having worked your butts off in middle school to attend a great high school, and now you're working your butts off to stay here. You obviously - obviously - put value in education as your path to success - that's part of the American Dream. Yet, you're asked to learn in a classroom with 37 other students. You're asked to learn in a classroom without enough desks, where there aren't enough textbooks and you're asked to buy all your books. Is that fair? Is that right? Is the American Dream attainable to all? Do some people have to work a heck of a lot harder for it than others?"
This is something near and dear to me, because the ultimate reason I'm a teacher is because I do believe in the American Dream. I teach in an urban school because youth in cities have so many cards stacked against them that education is just about their only means of advancement and the only way to end social reproduction generation after generation. I believe in this, I believe in education as the path to success, and the fact that this is happening just makes me irate.
I want to incite people this year. The politicians think it's fine to put me in front of a classroom with 38 kids, the school board okays it, and the press ignores it. I'm fighting mad. I want every parent in Baltimore to go on strike until the class size issue is resolved. I want Martin O'Malley and Bob Ehrlich to talk about this, not about principal academies ($$) or teacher incentives for high test scores (there are so many things wrong with that...). I want to hear about why ~ten teachers were laid off at my school last year and now I'm teaching classes pushing forty (and many classes exceed this number). This is a state in which the #1 voter issue is allegedly Education, but this is allowed to happen. It's utterly ridiculous, almost criminal, and just so sad and so wrong that these kids are put through this.
I'll be at Brewer's Art when it opens tomorrow for the much-anticipated first-Friday-of-the-school-year Happy Hour. I'm sure it won't disappoint. I have worked roughly 60 hours in the last five days and Happy Hour couldn't come quick enough.
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