Wednesday, February 11, 2015

English Language Learners Never Miss School

“They’re tough, but we’re tougher.” When I was in college I played in a band and the bass player would always say that. It stuck with me, and when I became a teacher I started saying it to describe our relationship with the kids. I’ve always prided myself on being the craziest person in my classroom, despite the painfully apparent fact that I’m the only one in the room who isn’t a teenager. But I’m beginning to think I’m wrong.

On Monday, I had a lot of trepidation about coming in. The roads were literally covered with ice, as was my car. After a few minutes scraping, I said the hell with it, turned on the defroster and waited. After ten minutes it stripped away like magic. I drove very slowly and carefully and made it in alive, and who could ask for more than that?

One of my colleagues was not so lucky. He took a nasty spill on an ice-covered parkway at 5 AM and turned around. I wondered whether or not that was a good idea. After all, he had to turn around and go back on those same awful risky streets that got him in, and at the same time. I was coming in around 6:30, and perhaps the streets had been salted and were not quite so awful then.

Every day before I leave I turn on channel two, and ignore virtually everything except the weather. I couldn’t help but notice the bottom of the screen, which listed school closings and delays. Had NYC decided to delay, it would likely have saved my colleague his near-collision and who knows how many other real accidents. But since the late closing protocol was established, it’s been enforced precisely once, and that was for the transit strike, not a weather emergency.

I’m becoming slowly accustomed to driving in and listening to mayors, my employers, lecture us on how crazy it is to come in. Dozens of my smarter colleagues choose not to risk their lives on those days, and as I walk the halls I notice that a great deal of classrooms are barely half full. This could probably be avoided if the city would us the delayed opening protocol, but I’m just a lowly teacher, so what do I know?

In our school, we test on particular days, so as to preclude the possibility of kids having 7 tests on one day. For my department, testing days are Monday and Thursday. I had a test prepared for Monday. I wondered whether or not I’d be able to give it. I decided if more than a handful of kids were absent I’d delay and started working out activities I could use if worse came to worst.

But in my morning class, every kid showed except for two kids who absolutely never show. Even a kid who’d been cutting fairly frequently showed up for the test. In my afternoon class, every kid showed without exception. So I’m beginning to question my long-held adage. Maybe those kids are tougher than we are after all.

But it will be a cold day in hell before you get me to admit that in front of my class.
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