Friday, February 27, 2004

Jeez, I Remember This

After this journal of a teacher in the South Bronx public schools.

Emotionally thinking, I hit adolescence late: I was still a total nervous wreck -- a disaster, a seethe of hormonal bipolarism -- at 20, twelve years ago, when I dropped out of college.

I didn't identify as an adult, either. I still wrote poetry like an adolescent, and in those first few months of my Sophomore year was still just discovering many things that, it turns out later, were part and parcel of other people's teen years -- like pet snakes, sun tea, group massage, and Primus.

I had, I suppose, played some adult-like roles, but this was solely playacting; I had (for example) done no small amount of babysitting in my time, but did so mostly to potter around the homes of other people while their babies slept, rather than out of some love for the wee and the educable. I don't think I had really begun to think of kids as categorically distinct from what I was, let alone teachable.

After a month or two slamming my rage and anxious diffidence around my parent's house, by mutual consent I moved into a matress on the floor of a scummy studio-share with two Belgian exchange students, and joined City Year. Which meant, among other things, being a classroom teacher's aide and running after school program in one of the most "urban" (now there's a euphemism for you) schools in Boston: Dorchester's Patrick O'Hearn School.

The neighborhood was unsafe; we had to leave early enough to make it to the T station before dark. The bodega across the street from the school sold pop and cigarettes and quite probably drugs to the kids. During recess, the kids played on the asphalt courtyard. Most of the kids were already rotting inside.

I remember there was this kid, too, ten years old, who ate paste in great fingerscoops because he was hungry and wore all the right basketball clothes. At first, it seemed nothing we did would get through to him; he was resigned, already, to the neighborhood malaise, and would never get out. Until our afterschool program called for a day of jazz and tap dancing, and his eyes lit up.

Poor kid. Even at ten -- heck, especially at ten -- he knew how futile and limiting such a love would be. And we'd be moving on in a week. No one else around there was going to teach him to dance.

I bet he never got out. I wish I could remember his name.

Incidentally, City Year sucked. But then so does the forge, from the iron's point of view. I tell students that it's painful, but it's a good pain -- the pain of finding out who you really are, and doing something about it, dammit. I imagine it's a lot like the "good" endorphine-laden pain of the true athlete.

Oh -- and City Year brought me to the Museum of Science, Boston, where the director of the museum asked me to stay on once or twice a week. I slowly weaned myself from a night delivery job at a D'angelo sub shop, ended up with a three year fill-time education fellowship, and learned how to teach...and what I wanted to teach.

And now you know the rest of the story.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:17 PM |

I'm puzzled with lots of exercises. I was afraid I could not do the right time despite my hard work. I need a support person.

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