15 years ago, as a junior at Tulane, I spent several days "observing adolescents" as part of my Adolescent Psychology class. I was assigned to Alcee Fortier High School, just down the street from Tulane but a world apart. This beautiful brick building was reputed to be one of the worst schools in the city. It used to be one of the best. (And, has since returned to being one of the best. It's no longer Alcee Fortier. It no longer serves the neighborhood kids.)
I was sent to Coach Rusell's math class. Those few days broke my heart. The handful of kids attempting the problems on the board all had the same incorrect answers. They were dividing integers. They'd been told a negative number divided by a negative number is negative. The kids that were trying to study and learn were being outright denied an education.
Thus began my career in teaching. Offering kids who were already disadvantaged an adequate education would not level the playing field- but it was a start. I definitely wasn't the best teacher. There were plenty of times my lessons flopped or spelling time wasn't included in the schedule. I tried.
And then I left. I couldn't take the weekend work... the late nights of grading papers... the endless supplies that I needed to purchase... The list could go on. The kids were the one aspect of the job I loved. Being silly with them, offering unsolicited meant-to-inspire lectures, growing to know their families, their dreams, their struggles. I have many, many fond memories and many faces I'll never forget.
But today, my last batch of pumpkins graduated on 8th grade.
I'm so proud of my former 3rd graders. Watching the girls dressed in their finest (with high heels on!) walking the stage while finding their balance... the boys standing tall in their tuxes trying to hold their heads high... It's a beautiful moment. It's a moment that reminded me why I became a teacher and question why I left teaching.