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Teaching Kids Who Aren't Taught at Home

You can't make me drink my milk!

I have a new respect for teachers. I never wanted to be a teacher. When my fellow classmates in kindergarten were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, there were the usual answers – fireman, veterinarian, astronaut, teacher. Teacher was never uttered by me. I wanted to be a movie star or a bird.  Hey, I had a good imagination I clearly wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box.  I was less than fond of school, so the idea of purposely going back on a regular basis never appealed to me. I blame it on my kindergarten teacher, Miss Whiting.

I thought she was the wicked witch of the west. I was convinced she was put on the planet with the sole purpose of making my life miserable. When the other kids finished their milk and cookies (We didn’t care about healthy back in the day. We didn’t call pizza a vegetable to ease our consciences. We served up milk and cookies because, let’s face it, cookies are really, really good!) Anyway, when the other kids finished, they got to play at the sand table, or with Play-Doh, or they got to have story time with Do-So the Dolphin puppet. But not me, oh no. Nope, the evil teacher made me sit at the table for the rest of the day because day after day I refused to drink my milk. I hate milk. I’ve always hated milk. When I was a kid, I thought milk was cow urine. What five-year-old wants to drink something that comes out of a cow’s butt? She may have made me sit there Monday through Friday while everyone else got to play, but in the end, I won. I never did drink that nasty warmish milk in those little cartons with the soggy cardboard spouts.  Ha!  Who has the last laugh now, Miss Whiting?  That’s right, the stubborn brat with the boy haircut and smocked dress from your class in 1975, that’s who!

Anyway, teacher was never on my What I Want to be When I Grow up list. So naturally, here I am. A teacher. Well, I’m not actually a teacher. But I am a teacher-like person. I have six periods a day of students who are, hmmm, how to put this? You know how there are always one or two kids in a class that drive the teacher nuts? Cause trouble? Don’t listen? Don’t study or do their homework? Those are all my students. I work with the lowest performing kids in the school. I try to help the ones who are failing, the ones who have behavior issues, the ones who generally don’t have any support at home. It’s a tough job. It’s draining. And I’m not even trying to teach them anything! I’m just trying to reinforce what their teachers are teaching them. I’m trying to get them to do their assignments. I’m studying with them and hoping some of what I go over will get pushed to their long-term memory.

I try to remember that a lot of these kids go home to an empty house after school.  I have students who are homeless.  I have ones who should be in high school, but have been held back a time or two.  I have kids whose parents are too strung out on drugs to care for their kids.  I have students who acutely feel the effects of financial hardships.  I know I have students who go home to situations that you and I can’t imagine.  I try to remember that a lot of these kids act the way they do because they simply haven’t been taught any other way to behave.  These kids are out there.  These kids who don’t have support at home for a variety of reasons.  Seeing this first-hand has really given me a new respect for the people who deal day in and day out with other people’s children, caring for them, teaching them, trying their best to set them on a path for success despite, in many cases, little to no support from the kids’ own family.  Still, when the librarian at my school recently asked me if I ever thought about going back to school to become a teacher, I answered, “No way!  I’m still planning to be a movie star or a bird when I grow up!”

Buy your very own copy of Dawn’s latest book, Because I Said So here!

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