This I Believe

Eliza - Annapolis, Maryland
Entered on May 31, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: children, hope
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I remind myself almost daily that the best they can be is still just an 8th grader. You’ve got to search far and wide for an 8th grade boy whose personality really inspires you. And I teach the finest, most practiced “challenging children” our county has to offer.

It has been a challenge to me – to take the daily onslaught of insult, indignation and ire. I have been called a whore, a racist, been taunted and laughed at, shouted at and threatened. My kids blame me for their poor grades – no accounting for the fact that I do take make-up work… And the patience it takes! Recently, the greatest daily annoyance has been the reminder “I’ll get over it.” “He’ll get over it, you’ll get over it, I’ll get over it.” To anything at all, a student of mine is there to remind us that we’ll all “get over it.”

But if I am truthful, Michael is right. We all got over 8th grade. If I remember correctly, I was busy writing the words “YOU SUCK” over anything that came my way. I think it escalated when my mother asked, “Who wrote ‘YOU SUCK’ on this spool of thread?” I blamed Lauren, and then, got over it.

So what, then, is my purpose? I guess what I take from this type of teaching is this – it is not the learning that matters. It is not the love that I, without really even meaning to, pour out on them. They will not remember the knowledge or the love – this is not the time.

I am not an inspiration – I am a different species than them. Success is not displayed by what I have achieved. Success is getting on a pro-sports team or drug dealing or anything they see as essentially easy and a money-spinner.

I can’t even be to them what they need most – a consistent, even-tempered, consequence-doling parent-figure. As much as I try, here I cannot succeed. For it is much nicer for a child to get his own way than deal with consequences – and if this is the way it is at home than it is all the more engrained.

But there is something here. Maybe it is the belief that I have in my kids that forms a connection that is the basis for why I do my job. For the parent who let them win, for the idea that pro-ball is success: it is my belief that they can be better. I believe that they just can.

That they can function: listen to directions, learn something, move onwards an upwards a level.

That they can succeed: that pro-ball or dealing is a WASTE, for I know of the wealth of potential to be even greater that lies within each of my kids.

Hopefully, and I know it will be by and large ungraspable, this idea or feeling will float through their minds at the funniest and strangest of times: that me, Ms. Toomey, and countless others before and after me, know that they can.