The second day back – less of a high but still overwhelmingly positive.
THE POSITIVE MOMENTS
- more support flowing in -Today was much like the day before. I kept my signs and decorations up, and I embraced the steady stream of coworkers stopping by to, again, welcome me back. I was not on as much of a high as i was the day before, but i still basked in the warmth provided by over a dozen employees, who took the time out of their hectic days to connect with me and let me know they are here to help me out if i happen to need anything.
- Youth Visitation Day – Occasionally, our facility actually does some things that are genuine, beneficial, and selfless. Today i got to experience one of those rare moments. A group of employees – possibly belonging to one of the MANY committees at our place – compiled a list of youth who (1) had been consistently demonstrating positive behaviors the past month, and (2) never get visits from friends and family members on visitation day. The employees then organized a special visitation day , where officers and teachers were invited to participate in two hours of eating, socializing, and game playing with those youth. It was amazing. The youth were given accolades, free food, and a rare opportunity to stop being treated as a locked-up delinquent and instead be treated as a regular teenage kid. The whole event was rather wonderful, but the truly pivotal moment came when one of my former students looked me straight in the face and said, “I got my high school diploma, and I did it for you.” He what? Got his diploma … and for ME? The teacher who flunked him in Debate class three times because he, a Native kid, so stubbornly resisted his White teacher’s attempts to lure him in, to the point where that teacher eventually stepped back and stopped trying to get him to come around? This kid??? The kid who earned his way past the barbed wire, only to P.V. multiple times and return one of those times with a tattoo on his cheek? The kid who reluctantly warmed up to me once he discovered our mutual love for the pattern argyle, but still sat in my Race & Culture class trying to avoid participating as much as he could? Yup. That kid. He sat before me and talked about how he earned his diploma and now has a goal to become a massage therapist when he gets out of ADJC. He already researched how much schooling he needs, and he’s excited that he might get to meet famous people one day – if he’s good enough at his job. I told him he will be.
THE NEGATIVE MOMENTS
- There really is just one. Today i found out IN A STAFF MEETING that i will be teaching next block. This had not yet been discussed between me and the superintendent. I would have liked the opportunity to actually talk *with* him about this. There are plenty of things i could do in education that would not directly involve teaching, and one thing is clear: I am not going to be able to successfully teach next block. I still have two rounds of chemotherapy left. There will be absences: the two days of chemo, the days after when i am too weak to get out of bed, the days before when i have blood work and infection checks with the PCP. On those days when I am absent, i won’t be able to deal with having to prepare substitute lesson plans like i’ve done so diligently and consistently in the past. The bulk of absences isn’t the only problem. On the days i *am* there, I won’t be able to stand and teach. I will be talking through a face mask. I will avoid going close to kids to issue them pencils, collect their papers, and provide them with 1:1 help when they don’t understand something – all because the whole time i will be so worried about the germs, the bacteria, the illnesses festering inside them that my body won’t be strong enough to fight. I won’t have the energy to grade and lesson plan, so – for the first time EVER in my 13 years of teaching, my students will be doing book work out of a textbook, and they will have no idea what their grades are for weeks on end. On top of it all, my lack of strength, balance, and energy will put every single person in that room at risk, in the event that a fight or assault breaks out. All of these concerns COULD have been directly expressed … except the superintendent never bothered to take the time to sit down with me and have an actual discussion. Instead, he just made the decision by himself and chose to communicate that decision in the form of an announcement at our staff meeting.