Friday, October 7, 2011

The New Colossus and Horse Lips

I've been a bit of a smart ass lately sharing my thought that our school seems like the Ellis Island of public schools. I've been saying, "you know, give us your sick, your weary..."

So I decided to actually look that passage up, because I really only know a few words.

Turns out my smart ass isn't that smart.

The passage is actually a poem, and it's not at Ellis Island, it's mounted inside the Statue of Liberty. Liberty Island is near Ellis Island, but it's not the same thing.

So I am adjusting my comments.

Our school should have it's own plaque with The New Colossus posted at the door. (That even sounds smarter.)

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, 1883

Am I being a bit dramatic? YES, of course I am. But this week has been so hard. This week has just wrecked me, and some of my colleagues. Our school, and I am speaking specifically of kindergarten, has enrolled some very special friends. If you teach, you know that's not a positive label. I'm not talking about actual special-needs friends. I am talking about the children that require astronomical amounts of time, effort, patience, physical strength, etc...

We have so many special friends right now, that I truly feel like we have a sign on the door that says, "GOT CRAZY? GOT DEFIANT? GOT DISRESPECTFUL? COME ON IN!"

My yoga instructor just taught us "horse lips," deep breath in, floppy horse lipped exhale.

I just horse lipped.

I know our doors are wide open to every child. Please don't post a comment reprimanding me for being exclusive. I'm just feeling overwhelmed. Overwhelmed and flabbergasted.

Yesterday I was sitting in the hallway with a child who was screaming "NO! NO! NO!" and kicking anything that came near. He wasn't allowed in the classroom until his body was ready. Clearly his body was not ready. Two other teachers joined me. This child is what we call a frequent flier and this is a daily occurrence, so everyone pitches in when they can (that's just the kind of staff we have). Another colleague walked by and pretended to take a picture, "CLICK! Your tax dollars at work."

Horse lips.


luckeyfrog said...

It probably does sound dramatic to someone who has never taught in a school where it's normal to face those kinds of things.

The hardest thing for me at my old school was that these kids who came in SO far out needed so much extra attention and love and help and effort- and then they might move away as suddenly as they came, sometimes without the kid even taking his things home or having a chance to say goodbye to anyone. You put in all that work- and the kid moves on somewhere else. And you're a little frustrated that your effort feels wasted because some other school might get 'credit' for this kid's growth, but you're even more frustrated that you can't keep the kid there to keep helping and teaching them now that you've finally started to figure out what works. You're a little relieved your workload has gone down, too, but you feel guilty about that. And you worry, too, what will happen at that kid's next school. How far back will the kid regress? How long will it take them to figure out what motivates the kid? How much further behind will the kid get in the process?

It's just a helpless feeling, which doesn't bode well for caring about the kid OR the accountability-heavy culture in education right now.

Anyway, to put on my teacher hat... good text-to-self connection :) I thought the poem was an apt description (clearly).

Snippety Gibbet said...

You hit the nail on the head with that one.

Anonymous said...

Amen, luckeyfrog.