Saturday, November 8, 2014

Clean Chalk Boards & Community

I have been fortunate to have many "memorable moments" in class which have served as reminders of why I show up every day.  These moments come in all different packages.  Sometimes it is the "aha" moments of learning, when a student figures something out for the first time.  Sometimes it comes in the form of a compliment paid by a student, parent, colleague or administrator.  Other times, it is the feeling of accomplishment that comes from the entire class when the students recognize that they all played a big part in the success of the discussion, assessment, project or performance.

Being a #reflectiveteacher heightens my sense of awareness of these moments.  It helps me to stop and recognize - often publicly - that this moment was special.  Once I start looking for them, I find them all over the place.

But I would be remiss if I didn't use this opportunity to blog about one of my favorite students ever.  His name was Sidney and he was "messy."  School was not his favorite place, nor was it something he was particularly good at.  I had Sidney in the mid 1990's.  He liked to talk in class and he loved to roam the hallways.  I had a soft spot for him from the beginning.

Sidney stayed after school every day.  Not because I asked him to, but because he loved to wash my boards.  No one ever washed chalkboard as well as Sidney.  He stayed after school every day for the entire year and the year after.  Even when he went to high school down the street, Sidney walked to his old school, to my class, to wash my boards.

We didn't just clean the boards, of course.  Sometimes we worked on homework together.  Sometimes we ate snacks.  There were other students who would stay after, and Sidney always chatted with them, asking questions and goofing around with them.

When the building engineer would kick us all out at the end of the day, Sydney would often walk me to my car.  "This is a rough neighborhood, Ms. Ironside.  I want to make sure no one messes with you."

Sidney was killed a few years later in a shooting.  My boards - and my heart - have never been the same.  The thing about the moments I spent with him was they weren't about his academics or his skills.  They were about his needs (and mine) for community, understanding and acceptance.  

I have this picture on my desk of him.  It is a Polaroid of us and I don't remember who took it, even.  But it serves as a reminder to be kind always - especially to the "messy kids."  Sidney reminds me to have fun.  To eat snacks and to laugh.  To create safe spaces for students to connect and be together. To walk each other to our cars and to always, always clean the boards at the end of the day.

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