Friday, December 02, 2005


About once a month I join my coworkers in Teacher's Happy Hour, which usually is at least four hours and provides much insight into the dysfunction of our school system. For the most part, I love the people I work with. They are incredibly motivated, implement creative ideas to try to reach a tough group of kids, and somehow find a way to laugh through the daily craziness of our jobs.

Today, a woman who used to teach at my school showed up for happy hour. She could be categorized as emotionally/behaviorally disturbed right along with our students. She was one of the first people I met when I began working at my school. In the days before the students came, she seemed very helpful and even let me borrow a few books to teach from. Of course, before handing them to me, she said, "If I don't get these back, I'll fucking murder you." My thought at the time was, Welcome to New York City. My thought now is that this is not a person who should be molding our youth, and this is not representative of our city.

Fortunately, our staff this year is mostly made up of new teachers, and that kind of bitterness and edge is long gone. The people I was surrounded by were the ones who still love what we do, and know that love is still there even on those days when we don't think we're going to make it through. There were several with whom I shared the week's stories of funny things the kids said. These might be different from what most teachers share, because your humor must change in this job. For example, one of my students today was held back from Gym because of his behavior. It was just the two of us walking down the hallway, and he turned to me and yelled, "You don't want to me to curse anymore?! Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK!" In the moment, I just kept walking and ignored his ridiculous display. But this particular child is brilliant at pushing your buttons, and there is a humor in that. (This is also the same student who came up to me this morning and said, "Ms. Armstrong, my birthday is next week, and I just want to make sure you know I don't like cake. I like Dunkin Donuts, and it'll save you money, too.")

Amidst all of the laughter, I could see our former co-worker was feeling a little out of place. I am sad for her, but I know she is a strong reminder for me. If I get to the point where I can't laugh about my work, I need to get out.

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