by Babak Mostaghimi
Davida: "Mr. Mostaghimi, is you a preacher?"
Me: "Nope, Davida, why?"
Davida: "'Cause Chakayla say you be a preacher and I think you is 'cause you be so nice."
Me: "Well, thank you, Davida, but you dont have to be a preacher to be nice. Im not a preacher. I'm just a teacher."
October is the cruelest month. Its the first month that is long enough and without a break where the kids and the teachers truly get to know each other and test limits and boundaries. For some kids October is entirely too long and they voice their desire to have a break. For others, October gives the chance to sit up and straighten up as they realize that their teacher is not going anywhere anytime soon. The problem with October is that it made me realize that for some kids, the school year truly could not be long enough.
I just recently found out that two of my kids, one of them a 14-year-old fifth grader, cannot read above a prekindergarten level. I had always known that my kids were overall a far shot from fifth grade reading proficiency, but I didnt realize the true extent of the situation until now. I discovered the 14-year-olds secret while reviewing with him for a retest and finding out that when I read him the test he scored 100 percent whereas without the accommodation he scored a 13 percent.
When I asked him why he did not tell me that he could not read earlier on, he gave me the look of You already know the answer to that question, Mr. Mostaghimi, at which point I just nodded in silent understanding and patted him on the head. After school that day I found myself mentally kicking myself for not realizing earlier that clearly something beyond a lack of motivation had to be at work with the child, especially when I already knew that his younger brother was one grade ahead of him. Needless to say that the two of us have our work cut out for us for the rest of the year.
October made me realize once again that being a teacher was a long shot from the 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. job I had envisioned it to be and that there was a lot more to teaching than teaching. I found myself talking about Gandhi and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the glory of nonviolence. I experienced giving a lecture in praise of a child who had just been punched in the head but who did not fight back and instead stood his ground and told the teacher so as to allow school rules to deal with the situation. For a class that, when asked at the beginning of the year what should one do when somebody punches him or her, said almost as one that you hit em back and laughed when I suggested the high road of not fighting back, such situations were a clear sign of progress and learning.
In October I went from being that new teacher Mr. Mostaghimi to being a daddy, a godfather, a cousin, and a confidant. There is truly no better feeling in the world than when a child runs down the hallway with excitement in the morning to give a big hug voicing a good mornin daddy, or being brought a child who has been misbehaving and all it takes to set things straight is a stern look and a simple reminder: Youre better than that. Fix yourself. Even though I told Davida that Im just a teacher, October sure did make me feel like a preacher.
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