Wednesday, January 17, 2007

These Kids Will Break Your Heart

Since my kids began journaling earlier this year, I would inevitably have a few kids throughout each day ask me to read what they wrote. I would gladly agree to the chance to gain a glimpse into their lives. Unfortunately, by the end of the day, I would have a full head and empty hands. The journals would go forgotten until the next day.

"Mr. Chase, did you read my journal?"

Sheepish look. "No, I forgot."

One thing I hate is the feeling of letting one of my kids down. I do everything I can to keep it from happening, but the journals were my downfall.

After viewing Freedom Writers, I decided to change things around and implement a new system. If a student wants me to read what he or she wrote that day, they put the journal in the top drawer of my filing cabinet. If not, they put the journal back on the shelf. I've had no problems with people looking at other people's journals. They get that it's a personal space. It's one of the few places where The Golden Rule truly works.

At the end of the day, I now empty the drawer, sit at my desk and read. If a student wants a comment or reply, they've been told to write, "respond," on the entry.

So, I sit at the end of the each day and wait for my heart to break and be repaired.

Yesterday's highlight was a student who wrote about plans to go home, bake a cake, make coffee and watch a movie. She wrote that I could have a piece if I wanted one - all I had to do was e-mail her. I did. One smiling student delivered one piece of cake to my room bright and early this morning. I saved it for the end of the day while I was reading. Something to brighten the spirits.

Unfortunately, the offer of baked goods is the rarity. My students are struggling with things I'm yet to encounter. Suicide, drug addiction, neglect. I think I'm still amazed at how much they are willing to share. Much like Erin in the movie, I head to the drawer at the end of each day and expect a lighter load, but it's always full.

Interesting, I've got some repeat customers, but the daily selection is usually on rotation. Today these kids want to share, but tomorrow it will be an almost entirely different group. I love these kids. You have to. You absolutely have to.

More later.

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