Ragamuffin, Barefoot Irreverence

Last week, I was stuck with my last period of the day for LIKE 20 HOURS. I had them all morning for state testing and then for the full double period in the afternoon. Of course, this class is my cross to bear. I know this is dramatic, but it is also true.

We spent our afternoons doing nothing particularly intellectually stimulating, as per, more or less, our administration's suggestion. We decided to watch Freedom Writers, which held their attention to a much greater extent than my choices--August Rush and Ghostbusters. Figures. I'm happy to report that they found the husband in the film just as irritating as I do (ah, but this is another post).

By the time we finished the movie, even my most stubborn, smarty-pants student told me "this is a good movie." Better yet, the kids were clamoring to read the book that Erin Gruwell and her students put together, The Freedom Writers Diary. My two most reticent readers were the most excited to read it. Funny what a little profanity and violence will do to inspire some reading. . . who am I to argue? When my period 9 is asking for a book, my period 9 is getting the book. So, this weekend, I marched myself--a dedicated little literacy soldier in the pouring rain--to the bookstore to buy two copies. I figured while many of them said they wanted to read it, they would be whistling a new tune come Monday. O how wrong I was. The entire class shot up their hands when I asked who wanted to read the books.

The solution? The time-honored pick-out-of-a-hat. I knew I would rig the results if given the chance--I have a soft spot when my struggling students show this much enthusiasm--and I knew that wouldn't be fair, so I asked our librarian to do the honors. Lo and behold, my honesty was rewarded: it was my two struggling readers' lucky day! If you ask me, it was no coincidence.

Picture this: two way too cool eighth grade boys, sitting side by side with their hoodies and their iPod ear buds slung over their shoulders and their extra-super-coolness, comfy amidst my grungy, thrice-hand-me-down classroom pillows, nestled under the counter, reading. Not just reading. Reading aloud to one another, taking turns, paragraph by paragraph. Repairing meaning, helping one another with difficult vocabulary, stopping to comment on the text, engrossed. In the zone. I wish I took a picture.

And this morning? "Ms. [Me], we're on Chapter 9! . . .Oh, and I did my other reading homework, too."

My heart is smiling today. I'm making readers of them yet.

Oh, and I ordered four more copies of the book (used copies this time, I'm wising up after all).


Anonymous said...

Ni-i-i-ce. My young friend Nicole who reminds me of you did this with some kids last year and had a similar response from her kids. Also congratulations on the stellar evaluation, they'd have to be dumb all over and ugly on the side as Dr. Zappa might have said to get that one wrong. Meanwhile I spent the day at City Hall for 2 suspension hearings, one for weed and another for a girl who just missed the Ass. Principal with a roundhouse punch ! Ahhh edumacation.

teach people not books said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
teach people not books said...

wow, how easily i forget how different life can be outside of the land o' plenty. then again, there are a couple asst. principals from my h.s. days that deserve seriously more than a good ass beating.

Mrs. V said...

I love the Freedom Writers books. I just posted about the latest book that is coming out, and you might like it. Erin Gruwell does summer institutes for teachers, and the first 150 teachers to go to the institutes wrote a book together about their education experiences. One of the teachers who worked at my last school is going to have his story in it, so I can't wait for it to be released!


Ms. X said...

Awww! I'm gonna cry.

What did you think of that movie? It kind of made me puke...and the other day my supervisor informed me that he's going to try a Freedom-Writers experiment with me next year and give me all my freshmen back as sophomores!!!

teach people not books said...

my personal opinion of the movie is that i'm totally sick of martyr-esque (dare i say white-) teacher-saves-the-world archetype. it's completely unrealistic and unhealthy. teachers shouldn't have to feel like they are not "good" enough if they aren't just like erin gruwell. and i think the husband in the film is a total doucher.