Saturday, September 15, 2007

Hard As Nails and Soft As Cupcake Cream

Many teachers keep their home addresses a big secret from their students. Lots of teachers prefer to live outside of their teaching area altogether.

I live right smack in the middle of my former public school teaching gig area. Students on the left, students on the right, students down the road, students behind. . . . We hire students and former students to cut our wood, roof our house, paint our doors. We invite them inside and give them Pepsi and talk for hours. I let them burn cd's on my computer. (No burner right now, kids; sorry.) I love it when they call and just want to come over and visit. I LOVE IT. When are you coming over again, Alex and Torri?

I loved Halloween, when dozens of my students rang my doorbell.

Former students call (Yes, I share my home phone number, too) and ask for advice. They ask me to meet them at SubWay for lunch, and I do.

They ask me to proofread their papers. They ask to be tutored. Both of us tutor for free.

They invite me to their conducting debut in an out-of-state college, and I drive down there and attend. (One of the happiest and proudest nights of my life, Wes.)

They ask me to be their "Mom" at college orientation because their real mother is dead/busy/not interested/drunk/etc. I go.

When I had money, I used to send checks to a couple of students once in a while because I knew they desperately needed a little something to, you know, LIVE on. I can't do that any more, but if I could, I would.

I picked up band kids at 5:00 a.m. for trips because their own mothers couldn't be arsed to get up that early. I did this even when my own kids were spending the night with friends, which meant I was getting up that early for other people's kids.

On weekends our family room was full of kids. I knew my own were in there somewhere.

Many of them spent the night on weekends. I drove one of them around on his morning paper route a time or two.

I used to drive to town to see if any of "my" kids were part of the hoody crowd at the skating rink, and drive them home.

If I had a nickel for every meal I cooked and served to students in my home, I'd be rich. However, I'd rather feed kids than go on cruises.

I wonder if anyone realizes how much of his/her own money your child's classroom teacher spends each year, buying shoes and warm coats and socks and jeans for other people's children?

I did all of these things for 26 years. My students seemed to like me in spite of my extreme strictness and cruelty and unreasonable expectations in the classroom, ie my insistence that they behave properly, obey me, and do the work.

This is not a brag post. It's a simple statement of fact.

Most teachers go overboard for their students. Those who don't, shouldn't be there.

Wes, remember when we used to drive up to IU and hit the bookstores and the Union to play the pianos?

I visited students in the hospital. Mental institutions. Funeral homes.

I did all these things when I had small children at home, and I did them when my children were older. And I did them in between.

The fact is, I loved my students. I figured the best way to show it was to insist that they behave in a way that would best allow them to earn a living and fit into society, and to love them in and out of the school building.

Nowadays, this would probably be looked upon as improper. I never cared much about keeping inside the box, so I'd probably still be doing it if I were still in the public schools.

I miss this interaction with my students, because at the college level, they don't follow me home and ask for food. I miss those days very much, but I wouldn't go back.

Why? I think I've made that pretty clear in previous posts.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:00 AM | |


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