that make the biggest difference some days. It seemed destined to be a bad day--I woke up late, I forgot something important at home, I wasn't ready for my afternoon meeting, I was stressed out because a huge number of kids failed to turn in a project, and everyone else I talked to seemed to be in a bad mood too. But I sucked it up and went about my day--I am a big believer in fake it til ya make it.
Around 8:30, I was once again visiting In School Suspension to drop off work for some students. I moved around the room and ensured my three current students understood what they needed to do. I could hear some small commotion across the room, but I ignored it.
As I had the previous day, I also spoke briefly with one or two students I had in previous years and let them know how disappointed I was to see them there.
Finally, I finished my rounds and headed towards the door. Just then, another student, let's call him Arnold, called out much too loudly:
"Ms. Hirsch, Ms. Hirsch, I left my project on the stage in the little gym! Will you get it for me?"
Now, to be clear, Arnold is not known for his truth-speaking, work-doing ways. In fact, he failed my class spectacularly both semesters last year with percentages in the single digits. It takes a tremendous effort to fail my class that catastrophically.
As I turned towards him, I could hear quiet scoffing and titters from other students...and snorts of derision and loud guffaws from the two supervising teachers behind me.
Ever an optimist, and in the face of what I am sure is Arnold's deeply entrenched insecurities, I smiled and responded:
"You know what, Arnold, I am actually going that way anyway, so yes, I will stop and check for your work."
I headed out of the room fully aware that not one person in that room, believed there was any work for me to find and retrieve. . .to be honest, I didn't really think I would find anything either, but I didn't see the harm in humoring Arnold's request.
I walked around to the gym, entered, and moved around the gym towards the stage. Several students were perched on the stage watching the rest of the class play volleyball. The teacher gave me a curious glance so I told her my errand. She didn't scoff as audibly as the others teachers, but she was dubious I would find anything.
Yet, lo and behold, there, on the end of the stage, was a stake of construction paper with what might have been the beginnings of some sort of project. Along with it, instructions. Even more surprisingly, it had Arnold's NAME on it.
I was thrilled. I grabbed the work and scooted back upstairs to the ISS room.
I swear every single person in that room stopped breathing and sat in slack-jawed shock when I returned with that work.
But I didn't make a big deal out of it. I smiled at the room, handed Arnold his work, winked at him, said "Your welcome'" and headed for the door.
He said "thank you" as the door swung shut behind me.
I don't think he really thought I would find his work either.
It would be awesome to say he completed that project, or even that I believed he would. Sadly, I'm pretty sure he got suspended a couple of hours later.
But I still think it was a good thing. Arnold doesn't get much positive attention and he doesn't make many positive choices. No matter how insignificant this moment was, he told me the truth; he wanted his work; he was willing to ask me for it despite the obvious potential for ridicule; he got a little vindication for his intentions.
Arnold is profoundly unsuccessful at school. He isn't stupid or troubled or disadvantaged or any other ignorant stereotype his gender and race cause society to label him with. But he just doesn't DO school at all well. Some days, though, like today, he offers us a little hope that he may yet save himself from becoming a statistic. I think that is a good thing.
I told that story to the secretary in the office who sees him regularly. She said "Baby steps! That's good" and smiled broadly. Mind you, she has told me more than once that she is sick to death of that kid and his antics.
I told that story to a group of teachers at lunch. Arnold being Arnold, they ALL knew him even though only one had him in class. They smiled and only one person shook her head looked at me like my optimism made me an idiot (I get that look a lot-fellow optimists, you the know look of which I speak).
I told that story at the end of a rather heavy afternoon meeting when the facilitator said "Ok, somebody, tell us something GOOD!" The whole room laughed and the tension in the room lifted visibly.
It was a good thing. It might have been a better thing for me than for Arnold, but I'll take that and hope my enthusiasm is somehow catching.