Thursday, April 16, 2015

I Wish You Wuz My Mom

My first student teaching assignment was in an urban school district in Pennsylvania.  I had been volunteering in an evening program for families learning English as well as a homeless shelter in this city for the two years prior.  These two opportunities had been very fulfilling to me and so I had a great desire to continue working in an urban area where the majority of the families were living in poverty.
I was assigned to teach second grade which thrilled me and I was very eager to begin.  That eagerness unfortunately did not last long.  The teacher I was supposed to be paired with had been promoted to principal and so as an after thought I had been placed with another second grade teacher.  The woman was a very unhappy person who had no business teaching.  Luckily for me the placement was only 10 weeks but the poor students had to deal with her all year.  Her teaching skills and classroom management matched her mood.  Each dreaded day I put on my smile and went in.

The students as a whole were well behaved and really wanted to learn.  One day while giving a spelling test, there was a bit of confusion.  I am not sure if a student peeked at a classmate's test or perhaps had a word written on his hand.  This sent the teacher off into an anger fused flurry.  She promptly grabbed the front of the boy's desk and screamed in the fiercest voice "You are a liar and a cheat!" I can still hear the words echoing in my head seventeen years later. Screaming these words over and over with increased intensity ,she took his desk and physically pushed it with him sitting behind to the back of the room.  Moments later it was as if it never happened at least for her, but never for the boy or me. 

I continued going in every day and putting on my happy face at least for the children's sake.  I had no respect for the teacher as a professional or a human.  I became sick towards the end of my time and was diagnosed with mono.  I took three days off to recover and when I returned barely healthy enough to stand, she felt it would be a good idea for me to do all the picking up and dropping off from their specials sometimes three flights up and down the stairs.  Somehow with the make up of those three days over my spring break, I made it through.  I hadn't pissed her off enough to write me a terrible recommendation. It was all a great relief and I could not wait for my next placement.

When I left, I felt horribly for the students, many of the who came from broken homes or lived in gang territory.  This was their safe place and even though the bullet holes in the school window dictated otherwise, school could be a constant in the world of chaos for many young people.   The children so full of life and love and all that second grade goodness made me tons of cards.  As we stood outside the school on my last day saying good byes, one very quiet little boy handed me a small piece of paper all crumpled up.  As he walked across the cement lot next to the school, I opened it up to read Dear Miss Wetzel I love you.  I wish you wuz my mom.  Seventeen years later I can still remember the emotional significance of opening that note and looking across the street at the back of this little boy's head heading home to a life probably so different than mine.  I knew I would never know what happened to him, but he would always have a place in my heart because at that moment at the age of 21, I wish I wuz his mom too.

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