We start school together at 7am every morning. We eat the first of several meals together and proceed to clean the campus grounds as a group. We learn together in the classroom and pass countless hours in various activities. They appear so ordinary, like average middle school students submerged in the years of awkwardness and insecurity.
I get frustrated with them when they ask to go to the bathroom, claiming it’s an emergency. I’m dumbfounded when more than half the class doesn’t use punctuation at the end of their sentences. I want to throw my hands up when they can’t follow the simple steps I’ve taught them in dance class. But then I remember, these aren’t “ordinary” school children.
We spend so much time together that I begin to see them only as they are in front of me from 7am-4pm everyday. But they’re so much more. They’re brave young soldiers fighting against the tide of their seemingly already determined futures.
I have to recall that many of their mothers and fathers are illiterate. So, only forgetting a period at the end of a correctly written sentence in a foreign language is really a gold star. I must remember that many of their home lives are filled with responsibility and perhaps abuses that I never could’ve fathomed at their age. Maybe their need to go to the bathroom actually is an emergency beyond their control. I have to remind myself of the malnutrition and underdevelopment they’ve experienced prior to Monte Cristo. For this, the coordination of dance moves between the mind and body truly is a challenge.
And above all, I have to remember that for many of my students, the hours between 7am and 4pm are spent in a safe haven- without the responsibility of providing, cooking, or toiling the fields at home. They are nine hours filled with creativity, values, and new discoveries.
The frustration I have over punctuation is warranted, and I will continue to hold my students to the highest possible standard, but at the end of the day, my pride is in the rest of the correctly formed sentence. By correctly piecing together their pronouns, verbs, and vocabulary, they’ve already thrown a punch in the face of their pre-determined future. From 7am-4pm, my students are warriors, and I’ll gladly lead them into battle every single day.