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I am a mommy, scribe, and middle-school English teacher. I am trying to cope with being separated from my beloved. DoUWantMore? email me: theprisonerswife@gmail.com

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don't you know?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 9:26 PM

dear student
(an apology)

and it's not your fault
fucked up and thirteen
i mistook your pain
as attitude misread you
and flashed righteous like
you should know better

we did not get it
raised voices spit
pain and accusations
in mixed-up directions

but it's not your fault
you didn't know
i expected so much
wanted you to carry us
deep into the future
wanted you to live
for all those that could not

instead of telling you
about your genius      again
i told you to leave
and not come back
until you know how to act

(c) me. 2008


my mind is racing. i just finished watching, "A Live Conversation on Race" on MSNBC and i am feeling so...conflicted. i am trying very hard to unpack all that was discussed: the effects of slavery, the doll test, systemic racism. my heart and my head are heavy. this round table discussion made me feel like i was misreading my students & not quite meeting their needs.

you see, today was one of those days. i'm usually a patient person, i don't do very much yelling in my classroom, i try to deal with my students reasonably and with respect. but today *sigh* i flashed HARD on one of my students. she constantly annoys me with her actions and her choice to not meet her potential. she is very smart, but acts dumb to fit in. i can't stand that. i wish she were comfortable enough, wise enough to know that BEING SMART is a great thing. i wish she knew deep deep down to her core that dumbing herself down isn't cute. today she worked my nerve to no end & i told her that i didn't want to see her anymore until her momma came to talk to me. i said a few other things (no expletives tho), but i was SO hot. honestly, i wanted to slap some sense in to her, but the munchkin already has one parent locked up, so i'm cool. but as i think back, and as i think-through all of the conversations the panelists engaged this evening, i am a bit ashamed of myself.

my students struggle with a myriad of issues. i am a big advocate of personal responsibility, so i try to get them to take responsibility for their actions. but how can i expect my students to know right from wrong, to see the value and importance in education, and to see the absolute genius within themselves if no one ever tells them it is so? how can i try to convince them that they can accomplish the impossible if they live in a world that does not value black/brown genius? my kids are scared. they come from homes with absentee parents, and i suppose, they will take any ounce of attention they can get even if it's from a tired, worn-out teacher yelling at them. at least they know somehow hears them. someone cares?

i am still dealing with the conversations of tonight, but i felt i needed to apologize, even if only in poem form, to my student. on monday i will try to smooth it out, tell her why i was frustrated. it's not because i don't care, but rather it's precisely because i do. i'm human. we all fall short. i pray she is able to really hear & understand what i'm saying and that i'm coming from a place of love.

i went into teaching not really expecting to get emotionally involved. i'm pretty even tempered and nothing really stresses me out. but these kids, lawd, are a whole 'nother animal. each of them has become my own. i worry. i shake my head. i pray. i love. and hopefully, a few years from now they will be in a better place. hopefully they will be responsible adults. hopefully they will walk away from my class knowing that they are valuable, and someone cares.

10 Response to 'don't you know?'

  1. Anonymous Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/04/dont-you-know.html?showComment=1208037960000#c2114984605289090686'> Saturday, April 12, 2008 3:06:00 PM

    afternoon. i thought about you, your blog, your life over the weekend..i was watching shakespeare behind bars..which touched my spirit. ive lurked on your blog, touch and go over the years..this time, i wanted to say hello. be well


    @ www.aburstoflight.wordpress.com


  2. Lovebabz Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/04/dont-you-know.html?showComment=1208040600000#c3868610939996613395'> Saturday, April 12, 2008 3:50:00 PM

    You are HUMAN! and you are up against it just like these/our kids. Give yourself a break. It is not Us vs Them...it is WE. The fact that you are changing your mind on a lot of these types of issues says to me you are worth your weight in M&M's as an educator. Love prevails and sustains and changes the world. You my dear love teaching and as such, love the kids you are teaching. Tomorrow is a new day! You are the one You have been waiting for! Go teach and be fabulous...change the world! Oh wait you have changed the world---you just don't know it...yet!


  3. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/04/dont-you-know.html?showComment=1208052780000#c5316760873753106602'> Saturday, April 12, 2008 7:13:00 PM

    More power to you. You are accomplishing something I know I could never do. In college, as part of working in the computer lab, we tutored for any math course lower than any classes we were taking; for us that was anything but calculus. I enjoyed helping folks (for free) because they came to us on their own. They wanted to be there.

    I admire what you have done, how you care, and what you will do.
    You are a loving person who is definitely blessed for it.
    Keep up the good work!


  4. Christina Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/04/dont-you-know.html?showComment=1208058660000#c7603971031779462771'> Saturday, April 12, 2008 8:51:00 PM

    Apology+caring+being conscious= Love

    You are an incredible teacher:)


  5. Mango Mama Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/04/dont-you-know.html?showComment=1208122020000#c756824977257688926'> Sunday, April 13, 2008 2:27:00 PM

    God bless you. Recently, I had a chance to check out a new doc entitled, First Person (www.firstpersondocumentary.org) which details the journey of a group of students in Philly as they try to navigate the last year of high school and matriculate into college. All of the participants had the intention of going to college, but today none of them are in college, all for various reasons. One of the students, is now serving a life sentence because during the project he shot another student in the head. This kid is smart, but like your student, he didn't want anyone to know it and he got caught up while trying to fit in.

    You are doing this young lady a favor. Your experience and wisdom knows what awaits her if she doesn't get her act together. Stick with her.


  6. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/04/dont-you-know.html?showComment=1208177160000#c1000193538462414843'> Monday, April 14, 2008 5:46:00 AM

    just tells me how wonderful and passionate a teacher u are


  7. T.C. Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/04/dont-you-know.html?showComment=1208197260000#c1597074922104020522'> Monday, April 14, 2008 11:21:00 AM

    the fact that you even care enough to be a teacher out there daily trying to make a difference says a lot...i mentor, i tutor, i even work for a non-profit that is strictly about doing better and giving better health services for youth...but what you do is work with young minds everyday...

    don't be so hard on yourself...you are truly doing a GREAT work!


  8. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/04/dont-you-know.html?showComment=1208404740000#c8012755085367363157'> Wednesday, April 16, 2008 8:59:00 PM

    hello all!

    thank you for your words of inspiration & motivation. teaching is definitely one of the hardest things i've ever done (and i've done quite a bit!).

    i did apologize to my student on monday. we talked & she gave me a hug. i told her i expected SO much more of her & she said she knew, but today she reverted back to her old self *sigh* constant struggle. i am tired, but i'm not giving up just yet.


  9. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/04/dont-you-know.html?showComment=1208404800000#c316165916717580061'> Wednesday, April 16, 2008 9:00:00 PM

    btw: thank you for all of the movie recommendations.

    Mango...i went to the site of the film & it looks so good! i wish it were out now. i'd love to watch this with my class.


  10. Rhasha Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/04/dont-you-know.html?showComment=1209657540000#c5862298117250658482'> Thursday, May 01, 2008 8:59:00 AM

    You are an amazing teacher. Those babies are blessed to have someone who cares enough about them that she will admit a mistake and apologize for her actions.
    That little girl doesn't know yet but I hope that one day she will remember the English teacher who cared for her enough to push her past the steretype of the dumb black girl.
    Keep it up we need more sistas like u.