A Night Under the Stars


It’s that time of year. You can feel the excitement throughout the entire week. On Friday, kids who have been ditching your class actually show up. Why? It’s Prom night.

Throughout the week you see and hear all of the signs of prom. They’re talking about their dresses, where they’re going to dinner, where they’re going afterwards, etc. Colors of their dresses aren’t the only colors that I’m noticing. The girls, themselves, are changing color. Some have turned that artificial orange/tan color. I saw another that just is too pale to try it and was sporting a very pink, painful looking sunburn. There’s a group of 25 couples that has rented a bus – the “party bus” as they call it.

It’s always interesting to see which kids are going together. One thing that is different from years ago is that you no longer have to have a date for prom. Kids go in groups. One group had six girls and one boy. Some even come by themselves. There’s always a group of Autistic kids that come with their teachers. They’re so cute, all dressed up and excited to be there.

I think I’ve chaperoned the Prom every year that I’ve been teaching. It’s always a fun evening. The kids are excited to be dressed up. They look fantastic. Some of them look so different that you hardly recognize them. It’s so nice to see the boys with pants that have the waist AT their waist! The dresses are in every color of the rainbow. Many are very tasteful and the girls look gorgeous. There are always a few that give you that crinkled brow reaction. Sometimes you see a dress and you are fearful the whole night that something might fall out of the dress. (Yes, something did at the end, but I was fortunate enough to miss it!)

The dancing is another story. They all seem to know the bump and grind type of dancing. Can you call it dancing? I feel like I should avert my eyes. When they’re doing that type of dancing and it’s really explicit, we’re supposed to go and tap them on the shoulder to get them to stop. Well… I’m not exactly comfortable with doing that. It’s partly because I think they’d look at me and just laugh if I tried. It’s more effective when an Assistant Principal does it. After a few songs in a row with the bump and grind beat, one of the AP’s went to the DJ and asked if he could change it up to something not as conducive to the B&G. The next song you hear? That Cotton Eyed Joe song. There’s nothing like country music to break that up!

You can tell if the Prom was a success by how many kids are around at the end. The DJ even remarked that he was impressed that so many kids stayed until the very end. So at 11:30 they all gathered their purses, discarded shoes and their coats and off they went. I prefer not to think about what happens after prom. I’ll just keep in mind the group that was going bowling and stay in my happy place…


Not Again…

Does it end? It’s April 26th! Geeze!


Just another day…

I was walking to the library with another teacher today. As we rounded the corner, we met up with one of her students. The conversation sounded like this:

Teacher: Hey, how’s your knife wound?

Student: Oh, it’s gettin’ better.

Teacher turns to me and says: He and a friend were playing around and he got stabbed last week.

I just started laughing and asked her if she realized that she just said “Hey how’s your knife wound?” as if she was just saying, “Hey, how’s it goin’?”

Just another day in the ‘hood.

The Ultimate Blame Game

Me: Why can’t you get your name on your homework?

Student: It’s the pencil’s fault.

Head shake…

They keep fixing

I took my car in to get an oil change today. I take it to a family run garage. I’ve been taking it there for several years. They know me. They know my car. If anything happens with my car, I know I can take it there and they will fix it. I can even call on the phone, describe my problem, and Bernie will diagnose it. I trust them and recommend them to anyone that needs a great mechanic.

My car is a 5th grader. It turns 11 in November. We’ve been through a lot together – alternator, fuel pressure regulator, dead battery, transmission fluid flush, countless oil changes, fuel filter, brakes, tire rotations, plugs and wires, and all of the regularly scheduled maintenance. We have this history, but I’m getting a little tired of it. It’s a little testy with me too. Every once in a while, my car thinks I’m trying to steal it. In that case, it won’t let me start it. I have to wait ten minutes before the computer resets itself and we can be friends again. In the summer, it’s not a big deal. Winter? ‘nuther story. In a hurry? Not so fun.

The thing that’s nice about our relationship, is that it just requires a little attention every once in awhile. But now, my 5th grader is more like a senior citizen. A few things are falling apart. I’ve got some rust by my gas tank. Today, Chuck had me come out and look underneath the car. Just behind the front wheels there is some rust under the car. So he sprayed a can of undercoating on it to stop the rust. If it were to keep rusting, I would be able to do the Fred Flinstone stops. Or at least, I’d have a view of the road from the inside. The best thing about our relationship is that it doesn’t require a monthly payment and hasn’t for 6 years. My friend will probably need new tires by fall. But will it make it through another winter? I don’t know. But my mechanics will definitely keep it running!


They sit and stare. Quietly, they find a way to pass the time. Some look around the room, others doodle on their paper. I wonder what they’re thinking.

Crap. I really don’t know this stuff.

I should’ve listened.

I’ll show her. I’m not even going to try.

I hate math.

This is what I imagine they’re thinking. But in all actuality, I’m probably not anywhere close. I may have gotten it right with a few. But I really can’t tell if they actually care. Is everything else in their life so overwhelming that a simple math quiz is meaningless? It’s quite possible.

Part of what I think is hard about teaching in an inner city school, is that I don’t have the same experiences as these kids. (Not that I want to have them.) The world I grew up in is so completely different than theirs, I think I’m having trouble relating. Oh, I try. And many times I’m pretty good at getting close to the mark.

I grew up with two parents that cared about me and what I was doing. I never had to worry about being hungry or homeless. I had never heard of a gang. Teenage pregnancy was taboo at my school. You didn’t hear of kids being abused. You heard of some drug use and alcohol, but not of who was selling it. Kids didn’t come and go from the JDC (Juvenile Detention Center). Hardly anyone was bi-lingual. Most everyone was college bound. The question wasn’t if you’d graduate, but where you’d go when you did. To the vast majority, failure wasn’t an option.

What do you do when you teach kids who are growing up in an environment where success is not an expectation? When they’re raising themselves with parents that are absent, drug addicts, or in jail, how do you get them to see that education is their way out of the cycle? How do you get them to care?

I know to start small. Give them chances for success. Get them to feel good about their achievements in school. Build on that foundation. But I feel like time is getting away from me. There isn’t a quick fix to this problem. And by the time I get them, they’re almost done and have already developed detrimental habits or have dug themselves a hole that’s too big to climb out. The truth is that they got left behind a long time ago and it wasn’t necessarily by they school system.

You want me to what?

I had my first belly dancing class this week. It was the first of eight. Let me tell ya- I’m going to need all eight, and then some!

There are about ten of us in the class. Everyone is a beginner. We all have to concentrate on our own stuff, so no one’s really looking around to see how bad we all are. We started off with some stretching. Belly dancing uses some muscles in my body that have been just chillin’ for quite some time.

One of the first things we did was an exercise in isolating the muscles around our ribcage. Arms out to the sides, contract the muscles on the left side of your ribs. Release. Contract the muscles in the front of the rib cage, as if someone poked you just below your sternum. Release. Now it’s time for the right side. Release. Pull the shoulders down using the muscles under your shoulder blades. Release. Repeat. I’m sure the goal is to do it all in a fluid movement.

Next we learned to shimmy. When you stand with your knees slightly bent, you alternate straightening one, then the other and low and behold, your hips shift up and down. The teacher would vary the speed of which we shimmied. Then after a little practice, she wanted us to try to walk forward while we were shimmy-ing. What?!? It was at this point that I decided that I’d probably be able to belly dance much better if I had a drink (or two) ahead of time!

We learned a few more moves before the class was done. I had fun, but felt completely inept. I think I can probably do it with lots of practice. You’ll know I’ve lost it when I start to shimmy up and down the school hallways…