Here's the thing about this time of year. When I leave home in the morning -it's dark out. And when I return it's dark. Daylight happens while I'm stuck inside.
Yesterday was the last day of the first semester. My back hurt. It was cold. I took the closer bus and when I changed for the second one, Elio was sitting at the very back. Elio is from the community of students who immigrated here from English speaking countries in the Caribbean and Central America. The ones who show all the features of an ESL student, weak educational background, lack of vocabulary that matches school success and then general appearance of being adrift in a school system which deems them ineligible for any special services since they are Native English speakers. Yet Elio is dedicated to success.
We wrote memoirs in the beginning of the semester and Elio after several redirections wrote about the time he was a hero because he caught a mouse and removed it from his baby sister's room. And the story ended with his father coming home and saying he was proud of him.
Like me, Elio shlepps across the borough on two buses, to get to school on time. And what's his reward?
I wobbled to the back of the bus, sat down next to him and went over the math test before the sun rose.
Elio didn't complain, he was happy for the help. He got the highest score on the math test. He makes his father proud.
Today the January Regents week began. The "raise the bar" set of exams that stands between our high school seniors and a high school diploma. The school custodian, was the only one left on the floor as I locked up the Regents at 6:30. He pointed out that when he graduated high school passing the Regents was optional. I have no idea if he could pass algebra or write a persuasive essay. I know he earns his paycheck. I know we really need him.
But since the custodian graduated, NCLB has "raised the bar", we expect everyone to be college material and I stood in the classroom and watched the sun set as my struggling seniors sat and wrote and wrote and wrote.
Ralf, Isiah, Miri, Louis and his brother filled the essay books with everything they knew or thought they knew about Of Mice and Men, Macbeth and The Bluest Eye. Six hours they stayed in that room. Did they pass?
But they make me proud.