I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
These words were spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28th, 1963. Most Americans and citizens of the world know this part of the speech. He had a dream that went beyond just the African American community. There was the inclusion of other races and it was a beautiful dream.
In the world of education we see this a lot and hear this buzzword a lot: diversity. We know what it means by how does it play a part? In most large cities it’s glaringly obvious of how it plays a part. But if you’re from a small town in West Virginia where a majority of residents are Caucasian it’s not so obvious. I work at my childhood elementary school and I see more diversity there now then when I attended there. Allow me to give you a snapshot of my classmates. There were 2 Latinos, 1 African American, 1 Asian. That’s it. All of my teachers were Caucasian and that was just how it was. I saw zero representation of my ethnicity anywhere and that’s not my parents fault nor anyone else’s. And none of my classmates every pointed out that I had a different skin tone or looked completely different from them. But what’s the point of this background story? And what does it have to do with Dr. King’s dream? Everything.
Let me put it into better context. I’m the lone teacher at my school that is of another race. A few weeks ago I had a new student arrive and throughout the morning he kept staring at me and smiling. At first I thought he was just happy to be making friends but finally I asked him why he was smiling. He said, “Because my teacher is just like me. I’ve never had a teacher that looked like me.” I asked him what he meant by that and he pointed to his skin and then mine. It was then that I fully understood how this student was viewing me. A few weeks later I get another new student and he’s Latino. When I went to the front office to meet him the second he saw me and I introduced myself as his teacher his smile grew. Later in the afternoon the first student, D, motioned me over and then pointed to himself, me, and K and whispered, “Ms. Barrick, slowly but surely we’re taking over this classroom.” “What do you mean,” I asked. “You know, we’re adding a splash of color to this classroom.” Smiling I knew exactly how he felt. It would have been nice at times when I was in elementary school to have looked around my classroom and seen someone else with my skin tone. I wouldn’t have felt so alone.
As a teacher of another ethnicity I always take the time when I’m seeing so much hate in the news (nationally and locally) to talk to my students about the events. I want them to understand different viewpoints and to realizing not everyone has the same opportunities as themselves. Whether that’s based on the color of their skin, their SES, gender, physical abilities, etc. My classroom is one that fosters inclusion and we value our small family in Room 204 on their character and morals. Not the color of their skin. If you’re seeking some bright and good news come to my room & you’ll find it because I’m so proud of all of my kids.
What if you woke up one morning and you found yourself in a cabin in Virginia. You look down and the clothing isn’t of this time. And most importantly you are not in the year 2018. Instead you’re in the year 1774 and the adventure you’re about to embark on is full of danger at every turn and hidden along the Ohio River.
From Thursday evening to Sunday evening I was on that kind of adventure. A few months ago it was suggested to me that I read this book:
At first when I was told the time period of the novel I wasn’t interested. The Colonial era has always bored me ever since 5th grade and my boyfriend knew that but he kept insisting I would love this book. I kept declining his suggestion telling him there’s no way I would like even a page of it. However here lately my curiosity was growing about this book and so I downloaded a sample. It was just the first 50 or so pages but after 14 I was hooked. I devoured this book & quickly understood why it was his all-time favorite book. Now it’s not a thin book by any means. It’s a total of 626 page but 100-something of those are full of annotations and a list of Native American vocabulary. It’s set mainly in the Northwest Territories. Historically it focuses on the settlers moving further into that particular territory and the tribes of that area-namely the Shawnee.
Ever since I finished that novel I decided to stay with the theme of Westward Expansion and because we’ve had two snow days my next pick is Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’ve only read 50 pages but it’s already hooked me in. I was already told numerous times by B that the time of frontier days was harsh and not for the faint of heart. I thought I knew how hard it was but after reading The Frontiersmen and even this book I didn’t fully understand just how strong you had to be not only physically but mentally and emotionally. I had read The Little House on the Prairie books when I was in 3rd grade but now that I read them at age 29 I realize that they were written like an episode of Growing Pains or Full House where everything works out in the end and is all tied up nicely with a big bow. As I was reading his favorite book there were points I stopped and thought how I would’ve handled the situation being presented to Simon Kenton and realized some of them I could handle but others I’m not that quick thinking. I wonder if any of us could in this day and age. However this novel has given me an idea to do with students once we get to Westward Expansion in Social Studies. My question to you is do you think you could handle being a settler during the time of the frontiersman?
Sunday Lately is a weekly linkup hosted by the Blogger Tribe, which is fearlessly led by Angelica (Gardening in High Heels) and myself. We e-hangout every Sunday, sharing a small glimpse into the past week of life in our own worlds. We’d love if you could join us!
In a blink of an eye the first complete week of 2018 is now behind us. Time for a snapshot review.
Cherishing…my additional free time to read. I read a couple of books while on Christmas Break but then I resumed watching Unsolved Mysteries on Amazon. A few days ago I bought the book The Frontiersmen by Allan Eckert. It’s set during the 1700s which is a time period that I’m typically not a fan of. However by the first night I had read for over 2 hours and found it extremely captivating. I finished it today and I was quite sad to see it come to an end. Sticking with this time period I’m going to continue with Prairie Fires. This novel is a more in-depth look into the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder and now that school is canceled for tomorrow I’m going to have another free day!
Applauding…the love of music my students are fostering this year. I found a ReadWorks Article a Day set about 20th Century Composers for last week. The first day we read about John Cage & his aleatoric music. Thursday was Claude Debussy. After we read that article I had the students complete a Venn Diagram and then we listened to their music. The class was split on whether Cage’s aleatoric music was truly music or not. One student compared it to what one would hear during a scene in a horror film while another compared it to the music the Demogorgon would listen to in the Upside Down. That comparison made me laugh. They loved how dreamy and soft sounding Debussy’s pieces were. Next week we will read about Duke Ellington & Scott Joplin and compare/contrast their music. Then we will compare/contrast Amy Beach & George Gershwin. My students love how much of a musical person their teacher is and one told me, “Ms. Barrick you make music so much fun! Even that boring classical stuff they play at the opera.”
Singing…the new song Bruno Mars released. Finesse has a 90s feel to it and with the addition of Cardi B it sounds almost like a TLC song with Bell Biv Devoe. It’s so upbeat and the perfect song to get me up and moving in the morning.
Sunday Lately is a weekly linkup presented by the Blogger Tribe.Next week’s themes: Redoing, Altering, Borrowing.
After some thinking I decided to change the name of my blog. I’m no longer using thirteen point one miles to fit because the focus of this blog isn’t solely fitness anymore. My new one is thesassymightymissb.
And now back to your usual posts!
Today was our school’s talent show. It was set for the afternoon and the contestants were excited. There were fourteen acts ranging from dancers to instrumentalists. We even had one 4th grader be the in-between acts entertainment. All of the kids were great and they were fearless. If they were nervous they never showed it. There were two 5th grade girls that sang a duet and their voices blended beautifully! A 3rd grader performed Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” and she had such an innocence to her voice. Of course that song has personal meaning to me because it made me think of all the vacations with my grandparents. I found myself fiddling with my Origami Owl necklace during that performance. Three of my 4th grade girls came over and sat around me when they saw me doing that. They knew what it meant. However they didn’t realize that was about to make me really cry because that small gesture meant a lot to me. The final act was a trio of girls who sang “Fight Song” and one of them was a 4th grader that is pretty outgoing but I had no idea she could sing! At the end of the show I found her she latched onto me and asked, “Ms. Barrick, what did you think?” Her eyes were brimming with hope and the second I told her that I loved her voice she nearly toppled me over with her hug. Another 4th grade girl, who danced, came running over to me and asked what I thought. I told her that her moves were awesome and I was glad that this year she was healthy. She was going to dance last year but came down with a high grade fever and the flu the day before the show. She was so mad at herself for becoming sick.
Before we went to this show I told my group of 5th graders that I expected better behavior from them than from the previous assembly. I told them that if the thought crossed their mind to heckle or jeer any of the acts that it would be automatic detention and we would be making a trip to the front office. I told them them that it takes a lot of courage to get up on stage alone for an audition. But it takes just as much, if not a little more, courage to perform in front of their peers. During the entire show none of them goofed off or made any negative comments. For this 5th grade class that’s a huge accomplishment.
I was proud of all of the kids that performed today. For just a moment they were fearless and oh how they shined!
Today was a much better day. My students worked all morning with zero complaint. My BD kid didn’t show up until 11:30 but his day went smoothly. He did his work and stayed on task. He told me at the end of the day that after school he was going to go home and meditate. He said that he was pretty sure he had a good day. I told him that he had a very good day. He wished me a good afternoon and left.
I didn’t mention yesterday to him at all. Instead of focusing on the negativity of yesterday I chose to focus on the positivity of today. I commended him on his good work today. I told him that his explanations to the social studies worksheet were well thought out. He’s a bright kid but his temper tends to isolate him from the other students. But today was a good day. Here’s hoping tomorrow is too.
Have you ever had one of those days where the minute your eyes opened you just knew that it was going to be a long day? Today was a VERY long day. The morning started out okay and the kids complained very little when we started working on our vocabulary worksheet. The kids went to gym, I did a little grading and made copies for math, picked them up from gym and sent them back to the room while I waited on a few girls to finish in the bathroom. I get back in the room and that’s when it all went south.
My BD kid is sitting there with a look in his eyes. Someone had said something to him and he was stewing over it. Before I can say anything he exploded. The aide and I told him to go walk it off and he stormed out, slamming the door, and letting the dust fall from the ceiling. We called the office to let him know he was on his way. I headed to the office while the kids started working on their math worksheet. By the time I get to the office the situation had become worse. He was becoming physical with the Special Ed teacher and cussing out our Superintendent. Another 5th grade teacher and myself met with his mother and explained what had happened and how he had been triggered but he was still sent home for the day. I go back to the room and the kids are working quietly. The rest of the morning was uneventful. After lunch I head to the cafeteria to get the kids lined up for recess. The second I enter the speech teacher comes and tells me one of my students was caught with their cell phone. That’s an automatic detention. I call his name for detention then head down to the room to fill out the form for the detention teacher. As I turn the corner there’s said student standing in the doorway refusing to go to Detention. After fifteen minutes of complaining about how it’s unfair he finally goes. He has detention again tomorrow. The rest of the afternoon was uneventful and I am quite glad that this Monday is finally over. Here’s hoping tomorrow is a better day.
This morning started out rough. My acid reflux was acting up & I was in a lot of pain. My BD student was pushing my buttons but I let it slide because I did not want nor did I NEED another blow up like last week. It helped that he was picked up early. Seriously that made all the difference in that room. The afternoon was full of fun. My kids worked hard this morning and had completed a lot of writing without much complaint. They had recess from 1-1:35. They came in and sat down ready to start Health. I looked around and with a small smile told them that if they sat quietly for an allotted time we would go outside for the rest of the afternoon. They were as still as statutes. We lined up and just as we started out the door I told them if anyone talked in the hallway we’d turn around and sit back down to complete the Health worksheet. Again-silence. As soon as we hit the doors to the playground I told them to go be kids. They took off running and suddenly all 22 of them froze. They began pointing and whispering and growing more excited. Looking ahead I noticed one of the 4th grade teachers standing there with this huge slingshot in his hand and he was loading another water balloon into it. They looked at me and I told them to go over and stand with the other students. 22 eleven year olds scampered onto the pavement and eagerly awaited for Mr. L to shoot another balloon into the crowd. Two minutes later two of my students were very wet. Third and fourth grade were out there too & the minute Fourth grade realized Ms. B was outside I was surrounded. I had two of my girls from this year and last year hanging off of one arm, two other girls were hanging off my other arm, and three were attempting to hug me from behind. Suddenly I heard “Look out!” I may have grabbed one of my girls and lifted her up as a shield. When I brought her back down she was splattered with water and did not look happy with me. Her best friend was laughing so hard she nearly had a side stitch. A few minutes later Mr. L aimed the slingshot my way again and my one girl didn’t learn from before and didn’t move fast enough before I used her as a shield again. The balloon was released and she was soaked this time because his aim had improved. This time I was the one with a side stitch.
This afternoon while I was surrounded by this group of fourth graders and a few of the third graders I felt myself beaming. Yes, my morning started out rough but these kids-my kids-were the medicine I needed today. I felt a lot like Miss Honey this afternoon. OH! And the best moment? As we were walking back inside one of the 4th grade boys flew past me, running at full speed, when he suddenly froze, turned around with this sheepish smile on his face and said, “Um Ms. Barrick, I think you’re about to tell me to walk so I’m just going to walk back to the point where I started running and walk it this time.” He did just that and before he could pass me I caught him and told him to ask his teacher if he could come to my room for a minute. He started to dip his head but I told him that I wanted to give him a STAR ticket. His smile grew much bigger then he asked why I was giving him a ticket. I told him because he was a responsible student and recognized the fact that he was making the wrong choice and corrected it. He was over the moon when I gave him a big STAR ticket. He wished me an awesome weekend, followed by a thumbs up, and then he left my room. I really did need an afternoon like today.
This week has been a blur. But today was a long day and it was also stressful. This post will not be very long because I have a headache and I just want to go to bed.
Downsides of today:
- My BD kid throwing a fit as well as a few of his things at the other kids.
- His refusal to do work.
- The fact he stormed out of the room after having a yelling and screaming match with his aide even though she kept calm and used soothing tones.
- The fact he thought it was perfectly okay to call me the b word & think there would be no consequences.
Upsides of today:
- My other kids told me not to take his comment to heart. (I didn’t.)
- I had dinner with a girl that is trying to navigate her way through her first long term sub job. She just started in January and graduated from college in December. This class is really trying her patience and she was afraid she wasn’t doing a good job. I assured her she was and that she was doing everything right. Sometimes it’s just because you have a class that’s a handful. After dinner I shared this image with her:
- I needed reminded of this too to be completely honest.
- I followed up dinner with dessert at the local Mexican with another friend who is in for spring break. Things haven’t been all that great for her lately due to family stresses. I just let her talk and by the end she felt much better.
Tonight I felt like I was in the position of being the go-to person to talk to and even though I had a rough day I really didn’t talk about it much to either one of them. I knew at that moment they needed reassurance and some vent time. At the end of my time with both of them I felt a lot better. I felt like I was a mentor to both. The first because she’s a new teacher just like I was six years ago while the other is dealing with stressful family situations while attempting to stay focused on her classes. I’ve been in both their situations and I offered my take on how they could do things to help relieve the stress. Both seemed relieved to learn that what they were feeling was completely normal. I hope that my little bits of advice really do help them. And now it’s time for this exhausted teacher to go to bed before this post turns into a rambling mess.
For the past week I’ve been coughing and barking like a seal. Tomorrow I plan on going to the doctor. It has not slowed me down at the gym or work very much. The only way it affects work is when I’m reading out loud for long periods of time. Then cue an inconvenient coughing fit. Today while walking down the hallway to get a drink to stop yet another fit one of my students was walking the other direction to head back to music after speech. She stopped & looked at me for a second before asking if I was feeling any better. I shook my head no and croaked out an “I wish I were though.” The next thing I know she’s wrapped herself around me into a very tight hug. A few seconds later she pulls away.
“Now do you feel better?”
“Yes, I feel much better. Thank you. Now go try and enjoy music class,” I replied with a wink. (Our music teacher is everyone’s least favorite teacher)
“Okay Ms. B!”
Twenty minutes later I’m walking back to pick up my kids. Once we’re back in the room they return to working on their Reading worksheets. I turn on the Brubeck and everyone’s working silently. As I return to grading their math papers I hear a student whisper my name. I look up and it’s one of the boys. He’s shifting from foot to foot but doesn’t have his reading paper in his hand and it makes me wonder what he needs from me. I ask him how can I help him. He asked if I was feeling okay. I shook my head no again and told him I’ve had better days. This cough is wearing me out. He leans down and the next thing I know he’s hugging me. He lets go and tells me he hopes that helps and goes back to his seat and begins working.
A part of me is shocked by this because at the start of the year we did not see eye to eye. He didn’t want to do his work, he back talked, and hated following directions. But something changed in October. We had a small conference and after that he turned around. I’m not sure what I did but whatever it was made his attitude do a complete 180. He’s one of those boys who I think doesn’t really like to show that he has a sensitive side. But today he let that side show. He asked a few more times during the day how I was doing and to me that was the best medicine.