It's been a long, frustrating week. Many realities have begun to sink in. I've cried for the first time since I've started, so I guess that's an ok record, but I was hoping to go a little longer before having to take it there. . .
To begin with, I've had to admit to myself that bringing my beliefs about writing/reading workshop into this school culture that doesn't embrace it is way more of an uphill battle than I imagined. And, believe it or not, the battle is mostly with trying to get my students to care about their own writing, to own it and to produce authentic work--a battle ultimately rooted in the inadequacies of the design of the curriculum. Simple, really: when no one makes you give a shit about your writing for 7 years, you don't. And when someone comes along who tries to help you towards the goal of caring, it's hard. It's hard to take ownership when all that's been expected of you is the deliverance of writing on some terribly dull schemed up topic described as "relevant" by the lazy slobs who drummed it up, or some canned response to reading which does not require your actual reaction--but rather the reaction your teacher told you you should have had all along, silly--or some "persuasive" piece planned, written and typed in one day. I'm assuming that my students would want to pick their own topics and that they're capable of it. I'm assuming that my aims for their writing are transparent. I'm wrong. They have gone through 7 years of having others tell them when to write, about what to write, exactly how much to write down to the number of sentences and paragraphs, and when to write it. And they were ok with that, because it's simply all they knew. I'm turning their world upside down and they're frustrated and a little daunted by the challenge. I'm doing my best to assure them that I will support them. And I'm hoping that what I envision for them can become a reality.
In other news, I've had to face the truth that my students aren't who I thought they were--my assumptions were naive at best. To begin with, they are still 7th graders in many ways and I think I forgot that. They're dealing with a major transition--a huge shift in expectations, in workload, in social arrangement, in social pressures (keep reading). We spent a few minutes today talking about what they're overwhelmed or frustrated by, what they're finding challenging. One of my kids--one I'm rooting for and have been working hard with--bravely announced that he was pissed off about everyone assuming he was the same kid he was in 6th and 7th grade. I think our talk in lunch detention today had an impact. I hope.
Now the tough stuff: tonight many of my kids are attending a party at which they will be doing things I can't imagine having done at their age. Among other things, it sounds as though this party will include a mom who doesn't care about what they do and "open access to bedrooms," as one of my little informants put it. I'm cringing for their poor little brains and bodies, much too young to accommodate any of these activities. The school knows, but can't do much about it. I don't get it. But I guess I do. I'm sad. I didn't know it was like that. I reminded them all to make good choices and use their best judgment this weekend. I sure hope they listened, though my intuition tells me they don't give a shit--as I didn't, when people told me that in high school. But that's the point--in high school. Not eighth grade.
I'm lost right now. I guess it's ok to be lost, to be frustrated, to be pissed off and sad and disappointed. I just keep hoping it's all going to teach me something I need to know, to bring me to some new place I need to be--for my kids and for me. Boy, friends, I sure am on the learn this week.