• Shaneequa Cannon

Eye of the Teacher

Yesterday a fight broke out during lunch; fights happen nearly every day here in this school. Kids chatted excitedly about the fight that popped up almost instantly on their expensive phones via SnapChat. I got an instant migraine and my eye began to hurt. I popped a blood vessel— again. Teaching has taken a toll on my health over the years, giving me high blood pressure, debilitating migraines, hives. Usually, the reasons are the stress of unfit principals, micro-managing administration, hovering parents, stupid tests, endless faculty meetings, out-of-touch politicians, mounds of paperwork, and the inability to financially and emotionally provide for my kids. There’s more to add to the list. But this year has been the worst. This year, it’s all that PLUS the kids. Never before had it been the kids. That fight was the final straw in a barnyard filled with haystacks. Because, this year, while fielding questions about, “Why do we have to read” and “Why do we have to write,” I’ve come to the sad realization that many of my students, many students in the school, the county, the country are hopeless. Not that there’s no hope in saving them but in that they don’t dare to hope for a fulfilling future using their brain, creativity, skills unless it includes toting a ball or a duffle bag, or getting Insta & Snap famous for their fights and half-naked pix. Many of my students are scared to dream. Scared to try for fear of looking too smart. Scared to believe something about themselves other than the negativity they were fed. And many of my students struggle with more than any kid should— incarcerated siblings, unplanned pregnancies, murdered friends, domestic abuse in the household, father or parental abandonment, overworked therefore inattentive mother, family fights, school shootings (ref Sandy Hook, Parkland) that tell them their lives don’t matter, and so much more. And it breaks my heart. But what widens that chasm in my heart is how much they don’t want to try. It’s like they’re tired old souls at 14. I’ve talked to them on a real level. I’ve changed skippers into children who race to get into my class when the bell rings. I’ve had one tell me the song, “ This is Me ” from The Greatest Showman represents what I mean to her (didn’t see the movie but played the song when she told me and 😭😍). But the fact that these students run TOWARDS fights with their phone out, sound exactly like my 4-year-old twins (“He’s looking at me!”), and put as much effort into getting their education as I do into losing weight depresses me. And popped my blood vessel. The only thing that beats a failure is a try. But they’re ok with failing...until the end. They’re Casey at the Bat , refusing to take the opportunities and swing...until they strike out. And, what stresses me even worse than all the other things listed above— the diamonds who are content to be just shiny plastic.

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