Category Archives: Lessons Learned

Before I Forget: Restorative Practices Anecdote

[Warning: this post contains profanity]

So some time in early May, a girl created a Kik account for me. Kik is basically an instant messaging app that kids have on their phones.  Many kids don’t have text so they use kik.  News spread but lots of kids were reluctant to add a teacher. Totally uncool, I understand.

Also, I’m a bit apprehensive about getting too accessible and friendly online because I don’t want to ever get caught up in some scandal AND I don’t want kids to think that it’s okay for their teachers to be all up in their social media biz (because there’s always that one creepy teacher that we all read about in the news…).

So, my rule of thumb was kids could add me, but if it wasn’t related to homework, I wouldn’t answer.

The other night I was invited into a group chat and well, you can look below.

The group is called “FBGM”, and being unfamiliar with how Kik works, I just assumed it was someone’s username.

Screenshot_2015-06-08-20-02-53

And wow, that sucked because this was a group of boys that I think highly about. I quickly took a screenshot and removed myself from the group mainly because I didn’t want them to incriminate themselves further (although in retrospect, I should’ve stayed on just in case they denied this happened).

I then emailed some leadership about what to do.  As I emailed, I felt embarrassed because I’d been told offhandedly by someone in that email group that “Kik causes drama”, and I’d breezily responded with, “Oh, it’s just for homework.”  I mentally berated myself for opening myself up to this because the kids probably say these kinds of things all the time but I just had to have witnessed it.

I know the blame is misplaced, but I just wished I hadn’t seen him make a bad decision.  I called his home right away and said that I’d like a conversation the next day with a parent.

Well, the end of the year is happening and there aren’t many times for breaks.  He showed up for class, and I was surprised because I thought he was going to be pulled until we have a conversation. I tried to keep things normal because honestly, I didn’t actually care that much.   I’m pretty sure kids say things like this to look cool and if the kid actually thought it was me, he wouldn’t have said it.

Finally at lunch, he, an administrator, and I had a conversation.  This is what I love.  Because the kid is used to this sort of protocol, he was able to open up right away.  He expressed his guilt, his sorriness, and how he just “didn’t know it was me.”  I and the principal sort of pressed upon him the fact that the hurt comes from the words themselves too and the principal asked him “How do you think it makes Ms. Kim feel?”

He responded with, “She probably lost respect for me and doesn’t trust me anymore.  She’s probably hurt because it was a bad thing to say, and I feel bad too. I know I messed up and I don’t know if she can respect me anymore.”

The principal then said, “Why don’t you ask her?”

and he said, “I don’t want to ask her. I don’t want to know.”  Then there was some silence, and she discussed ways to restore our relationship.  She then left us to continue to talk it out.

“Ms. Kim, I just knew I messed up. I woke up at like 2, and I couldn’t sleep, because I was sorry, and I knew I messed up.”

I stopped myself from quickly saying, “Oh don’t worry, it was a mistake.” and instead I allowed myself to say that I had been hurt.  I don’t actually know how hurt I was, because I think as a middle school teacher, you just have to grow thicker skin.  You can’t let things like this hurt you because not every kid will respond like this kid was.  So, it wasn’t until I said, “You know, I try really hard with you guys, and I felt like you and I had a good relationship,” that I sniffled a bit.  I bet I could’ve held that back.. but ya know, sometimes a kid has to see that he can inflict pain.

We agreed that he would help me pack after school, and today I was a little irked because I had to go remind him rather than he coming up to my room right away.

But I think things are okay because some kids later came into ask why he was here, “For service” and one guy began laughing saying, “dude, he was all..” and was about to share the story, but my kid hushed him quietly and kept doing his piece.

And that helped pull things together for me.

Does that make sense?

Anyway, things suck, but things always pull up. I want to keep loving them as much as I can.  I’m going to be a mess tomorrow.

It was only one year with my ASCEND kids versus the two with the kids from OCA.  Yet I feel like we just had more … heartstring action. I’m thankful for an environment that lets me connect in healthy, whole relationships.  If you don’t have this at your school, I don’t know how you can continue to teach (unless kids are docile and there’s a lot of moolah!).

A speech I want to give tomorrow..

Well, maybe not a speech, but just a…

Hey guys, I just want to ask the class for forgiveness for losing my temper yesterday.  It was wrong. It’s just that you guys are doing really great, advanced work but instead of seeing it through, you prefer to stop and play. These reflection parts are also important because this is how you SHOW what you know and did!  It’s just really hard for me to see that, but I know that doesn’t excuse my outburst yesterday.

You know what though? I get sarcastic quickly.  I raise my voice quickly. And it’s something that I really think I learned at my first US charter school. I don’t remember yelling or being angry in my tone when I began.  It makes me sad that I didn’t notice the bite in my words until I lashed out today at a few kids and didn’t realize that my assistant principal (who is the most sunshiney, kind, understanding soul in the world!) was in the room.  I blushed right away but blustered on acting as if it was fine.

It stinks that it wasn’t until someone else truly saw my colors that I felt remorse. I wish that my conscience had kicked in sooner and that this wasn’t so normal for me.

Something to sit in for a while..

2015 Resolutions

I’ve never been one for resolutions, much less, New Year’s Resolutions… but last year, I tried.

To be honest, I forgot #s 1 and 3 and focused mainly on #2.

I think, I’d want to keep last year’s resolutions and roll them over onto this year’s.

I remember the darkness of 2013.  Most years, I write a quick year-end update to email my friends.  I remember at the end of 2013, I just couldn’t.

2014 was much better. I think that summer in Taiwan, where God reminded me that His plans are so much higher than my own sort of kickstarted the recollections of what it means to be a child of God (These things I call to mind and THEREFORE I have hope).

This year, I spent my winter break hiking in the mountains of Peru.  Everyday, God’s blaring glory challenged, overwhelmed, and swept me.  Everyday, to be faced with the intricacies below my feet, above my head, at a part of the earth where I am gasping for breath and am reminded of my finiteness, was.. healing.

Resolutions?

1) Seek God and His will – not by looking inwards, but looking to scripture. (A tweak of last year’s #1).  This is how one attains wisdom.

2) Again, guard my heart, so that I can guard my mind and words.

3) Practice forgiveness.  *sigh* .  And this part is the hardest.

And maybe adding 4)  Forget the memories that need to be forgotten.

Epilogue

Today was my last day of teaching my students.  The last day of school is already an emotional affair, especially for 8th graders who are now embarking on a journey into high school, but remember, I’ve been with my students the past two years and a majority of them have been with each other for the past three.

I am the kind of person that can easily dissect other people’s practice, but it’s hard to dissect mine.  On one hand, I had students do an informal evaluation form for me (Keep, Change, Stop, Start), and honestly, it was pretty sad.  I felt so sad because their suggestions were valid.  Yes, to a certain point, there were certain policies that I would change if I could – only that the school wouldn’t allow it – but other points were really on me.  (Many students felt that I should stop yelling and clarify homework more).  It’s sad.  How crappy must it be to be confused in class and have a teacher who blows her fuse regularly by the end of the day? I am hoping that this was due in part to the environment, and that a new environment could help me change.

On the other hand, I honestly had kids from other classes (and from mine) declaring that I was one of the greatest or their favorite or their favorite with a disclaimer (ie: Favorite teacher who brought lots of suffering; I think you’re now my favorite teacher, barely; You’re my second favorite teacher – after my 1st grade teacher).  So, I know I’m doing something right.  Yet is it just because they have nothing better to compare with?

I feel like this year, I got better about yelling.  Hopefully every year, this will get better.

did ask for forgiveness on the last day of school to my class, for my tongue, for my angry outbursts, and … oh darn it!  I forgot to tell them that I TRIED!  Man! I had this epic speech planned, but as usual, there were lots of random things to do, so the school day ended in a sweep.

 

Today we finished Glory and I don’t think the kids liked it.  In general, I’m realizing that maybe the reason why there are remakes of movies are because people don’t watch them in the same way that we do!  And their attention needs to be caught a different way. Whatever, I digress.

Then we had an epic raffle/auction, we had an awards ceremony, we had silly awards, I gave out books that I got for each one of them, and we cleaned the room.  Then right before my slideshow, this inspirational speaker came early.  Honestly, I liked the speaker a lot.  BUT… REALLY? ON THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL?

We had 2 minutes left and kids stayed late to watch the slideshow.  But, as technology would have it, it was pretty laggy.  Different kids left bit by bit and I made sure to give each of them a hug.  Then, one of my enigmas (a large, stoic, semi-stern boy) came to say goodbye and I saw that his face was awash in tears, and I had to cry too.  Then another of my girls (she is the only one being retained this year because she stopped doing work after 1st quarter, pretty much), began to cry when I told her she could contact me for anything, and I just cried too because I wish I could’ve been there more for her.

It was truly bittersweet, and nothing kicked in until I saw four boys a block away, walking away, and I realized, they are walking away for good.

In the car I cried, because I was just awash with regret.  I wish I could have done more because I could have. I could have been more patient, taken care of myself better, been more on top of things so as not to snap when I’m disorganized, and I could have really tried and not allowed my kids to step down . I think especially of the aforementioned boy and girl.  This year, I sent the boy to a 7th grade math class because he had been low last year and this year he was low, didn’t turn in work, and agreed that going down would be best.  The girl was retained and I was just sick of how slow she worked (when she’s actually very smart.. just every week, she’d get slower and slower).  Yet, I could have been there more.

I think I prioritized the kids who were behavioral and academic issues, so I would always try to talk to them and figure them out and work with them, and because the boy and girl were relatively well-behaved, I did not step out and be with them and guide them and lead them as much as I could have.  And I just cried because I could have done more.

And no, this is not your cue to say, “Aww, you’re such a great teacher, you did your best.”  I understand I did my best, and I understand that I am above average.  Just, it’s, in this neighborhood, they need more, and at the end of the day, I wasn’t selfless, I wasn’t an aroma of Christ.  I know that there were many occasions where my selfishness oozed from my actions yet it was coated by the artificial mask of teach-y charity.

I honestly do feel a lot of loss right now.  In a sense, I think I feel a tiny fraction of what parents go through when they send their child to college- except this is with 24 of them.

 

They will disappoint you.

But love them anyway.

Love them anyway?

Why?

I’m so sick of it.

The noncommittal shrugs.

The mumbled, “I don’t know’s” 

The smirks.

The avoided eye contact.

Okay fine.

suppose it’s because they’re having a hard time.

With school.

With home.

With summer break just around the corner.

But why–just because I have this title–am I expected to be so selfless and ever-patient?

Why, Mr. Middle-Class Taxpayer, do you get to criticize me when I lose my temper and confess?

Why do I have to deal with condescending nods, outbursts of anger, ill-concealed whispers, attitude up the whazoo.

Why do I have to love them?

What have they done to earn any of it?

.

.

.

.

.

.

And this is probably why I have such difficulties working in an environment where “everything is earned.”  

Partly because for those who have not “earned” much, grow so disheartened that by the end of the year, they’ve given up.

Partly because I refuse to be someone that dangles bait — it cheapens the motivation.

Yet mostly because everything is not earned.  

This time, I’m not talking about the social construct (although that could apply too).

I love because He first loved me.

And the Gospel is where I’m laid bare and broken.

Because this is just super hard.  

It’s really hard to love.

Pray and Love.

Cadet: Ms. Kim, did you hear about the boy that drowned on Wednesday?

Me: What? no!

Cadet: That was my cousin.

Me: What?  What?

Cadet: Yeah.

Me: How’s he related.. like, is he on your mom’s side?…

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Boy swept out to sea

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search Thursday for a 14-year-old boy who was swept out to sea at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach on Wednesday afternoon.

The boy, identified as Marco Cornejo, was swimming with his father and cousin at the beach near Lincoln Way when the group became distressed just before 4 p.m.

A 17-year-old surfer, Tony Barbero, a junior at San Francisco’s St. Ignatius College Preparatory high school, rescued Marco’s father and cousin.

The father was taken to a hospital in critical condition while the cousin was not severely injured.

Fire and U.S. Coast Guard crews have been searching for the 14-year-old since Wednesday afternoon using helicopters and boats.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart said after scouring 64 nautical square miles spanning from the Golden Gate to the southern end of Ocean Beach, the search has been suspended as of around 1:40 p.m. Thursday.

Stewart said crews will restart the search if the agency receives any more information.

ABC Bay Area News Roundup

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 Today was so tumultuous. The day before Spring break, the kids were having a hard time handling themselves. I had training so I had to leave early.  I didn’t get time to properly talk with Cadet.  On my way home, I went back to school to call his home to express my condolences.  Then midway through the rings, I realized my Spanish sucks.  And when I spoke with his mother, her voice was breaking, my heart was breaking, and I’m not sure if the communication was broken too.  I’m not sure if I overstepped my boundaries.  I’m not sure if she knew that I cared or cared that I called.  I wonder if I should have just left it.  But I wanted Cadet to know that even if I’m just briefly interacting with each student, that I care for him as a person, and that person includes the family as well.  BUT, what if that was just selfish of me, to look like a “caring teacher” when I should have left the family alone to grieve?

I wish I knew what to do.  Since I don’t, I pray.  Through that, perhaps I can better love.

Owl, I did you so wrong today.

There’s a girl in my class.  She came in today after being absent yesterday.  She said family stuff happened yesterday and she didn’t want to talk about it.

At this point, I could have understandingly said, “Aw, Owl, what’s wrong!  Oh, it’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it.  But let me know if you do, I’m here.”  And I could have waited because knowing Owl, she always says she doesn’t want to talk about something but then she then starts chatting and chatting.  I know I could have shared some of her burden.

Instead, I just politely said, “Okay, whatever you need, Owl,” and went back to my work.  

And throughout the day, i just felt so irritated by her.  She just.. doesn’t get anything, and every time she misses a day, she falls farther and farther behind.

And now, I’m thoroughly ashamed.  I mean, it’s both overwhelming, but also awful, because it really isn’t her fault she is so behind.  The sad thing is, tomorrow is a new day and I’m sure she and I will be better.  I will ask her for her forgiveness and she will probably forgive me, because she’s sort of a puppy in that way.  She’ll always come back.

But I need to stop wounding my kids!  Even if on the outside, I’m doing nothing wrong, I know there are ways I could have been a support, but chose not to.