Our V.I.P. Party with author Tiffany Jackson was coming to an end. Empty lemonade cups, red paper plates littered with cookie crumbs, and crumpled polka dot napkins lay forgotten on the bright blue, green, yellow and red table cloths. The room had settled into a quiet hum as Tiffany talked and laughed with small groups of kids, signed copies of Allegedly and Monday's Not Coming, and posed for photos.
One of my freshmen boys sauntered over, flipping back his carefully-combed brown hair. "I didn't actually know book parties could be fun," he said.
The day had exceeded my expectations. After some behavior problems in an assembly earlier in the week and a last minute change of students announcers, I held my breath as Tiffany took the stage in our Performing Arts Center. But two sentences in, Tiffany Jackson had the whole audience under her spell. She introduced herself and went on to describe the research she did for Allegedly, all the interviews, and the eighteen draf…
My class was set up as an intervention, a remediation, a fix-it for students who have fallen behind, fallen off, or fallen out of favor, I’ve learned. It’s convenient to think we’re fixing problems, catching them up, helping them succeed.
It’s a nice game we play when we set up interventions.
I do not, however, see my classroom the way others might. I do not see a workshop for the broken, a repair shop where I take apart, analyze, diagnose, mend and put back together; a place where I patch and plaster, covering cracks and flaws and shining them up until they’re ready to be sent back to the world, sewn up, fixed, healed and good as new.
Instead I see my classroom as a haven, a safe oasis, a place where being you is the best thing this world could ever have. I see my job as cracking open, leading out, uncovering the lost humans who were buried under the avalanche of other people’s massively broken expectations. I see my r…
My daughter Emma hates to buy new shoes. For the longest time this utterly baffled to me. I love new shoes. I love browsing the shoe aisles, picking up shoes, trying them on, and finally selecting the perfect pair. But not Emma. Emma resists even acknowledging me when I suggest that her well-worn sneakers are looking a bit shabby and we could go shoe shopping. "I'm good," she says, over and over again.
Finally, I asked, "Emma? Why don't you like new shoes?"
Her explanation reminds me of my classroom conversations with students who have just finished the first book they ever loved and now they're trying to get into a new one.
"They're so comfy right now," Emma explained, "I love the way they feel; they're perfect. If I get new ones, they'll be all stiff and won't feel right. I'll have to break them in, and I hate that feeling. These fit great so there's no point in getting new ones. They won't be as g…