Magazine article Radical Teacher

Reflections of an Associate Teacher

Magazine article Radical Teacher

Reflections of an Associate Teacher

Article excerpt

It is with full clarity that I now appreciate the impact and trickle down effect that poverty has on parenting. See, I am a single mom of a wonderful nearly 7-year-old boy. And I do mean wonderful. Today, however, I punished him for not remembering to give his teacher a note. He has allergic asthma. He was to give the note that was tucked in a Ziploc baggie and wrapped around his albuterol inhaler to his teacher so that he could get his doses in today We spoke about it at length in the car. He said he understood the importance of it and agreed that he could be responsible and manage this all-important task. Well ... he forgot.

It just so happened that today was a very difficult day for me to be at work. I am bored stiff at work almost daily and feel like I am wasting my talents watching a talented teacher teach whilst I police the carpet and shuffle children back and forth to the bathroom.

I remember back in September the children would see me and instead of saying "Good Morning Ms. Harris," they would say, "I need to go to the bathroom." Some other daily tasks include wiping down the tables, making sure the marker caps are facing up (clearly an especially important chore because I was led over to the shelf and given a demonstration on how to make sure that this is done daily), sharpening pencils, changing calendar pieces (except when it is done for me--then I get paranoid ... did I forget to do that one day? are they not straight enough? ... oh well, one less tiny task to worry about I suppose), sweeping the floor, and choosing and reading a book. Choosing a book is my single-most consistent chance to present something intellectual and of my own choosing to the group. Except sometimes there is a book pre-selected for me ... then I wonder if my "intellectual" slot is only half mine. Oh and I can't forget my favorite: walking in the back of a line on Tuesdays behind 22 students carrying a heavy bin of library books whilst she leads from the front with a nice hot cup of coffee in her hand and one single sheet of paper. I am gently reminded, "Ms. Harris, could you get the book bin." My head says, "Yes, Ms. Daisy," and to steal a quote from one of our students, "I hate being in the back!"

My usage of a 5-year-old student's tantrum-filled verbiage ("I hate being in the back") would be strictly reserved for the days when I am gently reminded to grab the flimsy book bin filled with 22 assorted books that were checked out of the library the previous week and need to be returned for more. Each child selects his or her own book and carries it upstairs to the book bin but somehow the returning of the books becomes a huge burden for me to carry in silence with a smile. HOORAY! What a way to start my day after sitting in traffic on the Riverway and barely mothering my child each morning.

My son forgot to hand in the note, perhaps because when he got there a substitute teacher was in his class. Maybe, just maybe, he took what I said literally. "Give this note to Ms. Mckay and know that Mama loves you." He replied, "OK, Mama, love you too," and boarded his shuttle bus. Well Ms. Mckay was out all day and he had a "sub." What's a first grader to do? Think? No. PLAY! They play even harder when their teacher is out, and that he did.

So what? He went 10 hours without meds; he was wheezing this morning and a tiny bit when I picked him up at 5:30. Even with asthma being such a tricky disease, he won't tell the white women who care for him during the day that he can't breathe right anyways. …

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