eleven

15 Mar

I officially started my new ESOL job this week! So far, I am LOVING it–the hours are better, the kids have been cool, and it’s something different.  I think I was ready for a change of pace–life was getting pretty stagnant, and this new job means constant changing, going with the flow, and adjusting.

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I was a little bit nervous about working with kids who are in jail/out on parole.  I didn’t really know what to expect.  I haven’t been to jail yet (that starts next week), but I have loved almost every minute of working with the kids on parole.  To be fair, many of them are also not parolees–they’ve been placed in this program for truancy problems, for excessive fighting in their home schools, and to try to get them back on the right track and graduated.

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Today, a new kid who I haven’t met yet showed up.  Did I mention that these kids have pretty bad attendance (most of them)?  Anyway, she was a tough kid, right from the get go.  “Who is she?” she asked with a huge attitude as I walked in today.  She continued with the attitude for most of the day.  Every other word was a curse word (not at me or about me, just about life in general).  She spent a lot of time singing to herself, in particular some song about selling/smoking weed.  I had pulled her to try to catch her up on her ELA, since today was the last day of the marking period.  She listened to the story while I read and could answer all of the study guide questions, but refused to actually write any of them.  Every 20 minutes, she “needed a break.”  We got through about 5 chapters and 2 pages of questions in 2 hours.  It was painstakingly slow work, and I wasn’t satisfied, but the ELA teacher was impressed I’d gotten her through that much work.

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One of the things she said, though, really hit home with me.  The book they’re reading is called “After Tupac and D Foster.”  It’s kind of a coming of age story about these girls growing up in the inner city, dealing with foster homes, family, friendship.  I’ve only read a few chapters, but it’s really good, and the kids really seem to connect with it.  Anyway, we’re reading, and the girls in the book are talking about how they can’t leave their block, and my student snorts and asks how old they are.  So we discuss what we’ve already read and conclude that they are 11, just turning 12.  And she stops for a minute, looks off wistfully and says quietly, “Man I wish I was still eleven.”  I just let it hang for a minute, then said “Yeah life sure is easy when you’re a kid, huh?”  “Yeah everything gotta be so complicated now.  Ain’t nothing easy no where anymore.”

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Our little moment was broken by her giggling and talking about how she’ll “sell a fuckin dime or a nickel.”  I’m sure she was just embarrassed and needed to remind me how tough she is.

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Truth is, sometimes I wish I could go back to being eleven, too.  Not that I’m not happy now–to the contrary, things are really, really good.  But simpler would be better some days.  Emotions were so much less complicated back then.  I miss the times when good was just good and bad was just bad and there wasn’t really gray area.  When all I thought about was me.

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Anyway, the first week of the new job went really well, and I am excited for next week and to see what jail is like and how the new schedule is going to work out.  Hooray.

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