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Home > School Issues Channel > School Issues Archive > Teach for America Diaries > Babak Mostaghimi's Diary > Entry #3

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Seeing Lessons Taken to Heart
by Babak Mostaghimi


Chakayla: Mr. Mostaghimi, Im gonna stick him right in his eye you just wait!

Mr. Mostaghimi: Chakayla, you and I both know whats going to happen if you choose to fight.

Chakayla: I know, Ill be suspended and my momma gonna be mad and its worth it, shoot. Tears began rolling down her cheeks.

Mr. Mostaghimi: No Chakayla, the worst part is that youll disappoint me and youre too good to be caught up in this mess. She looked at me and instantly backed down. I fought hard to hold in my smile as I realized that the hours of preaching about the importance of respect had taken hold on Chakayla.

I sent Chakayla inside with a buddy to calm down and read a book until recess was over. Upon reentering the classroom at the end of recess a smiling Chakayla came up and hugged me.

Chakayla: Thank you, Mr. Mostaghimi.

Mr. Mostaghimi: For what? I said, smiling back and waiting to hear what lesson she had learned.

Chakayla: For not lettin me stick him and get suspended. I aint gonna disappoint you.

Mr. Mostaghimi: So whatd you learn Chakayla?

Chakayla: That I shoulda stuck him in the eye, then came to you.

Mr. Mostaghimi: Chakayla!?!

Chakayla: Naw, you know Im just playin Mr. Mostaghimi.

It is now December and the school year is officially half over. I do not think I could have ever imagined how far I would come with my children in just half a year and I will admit that it feels great.

After a brief bout with the new teacher blues, an extensive search for the silver lining of the teaching storm cloud was successful as I was able to reconnect myself with my kids. December found me frequently in the projects splitting tubs of fried chicken with my students while talking and listening to the latest hits on the local hip-hop and rap station. I found that working with some kids after school on computer skills while practicing my rap skills with others was the perfect way for me to remind myself of my role as a friend and teacher.

Every day after school I find third through seventh graders in my classroom all wanting to check out books and to relax for a while before heading home. One day when I was wondering if keeping kids after school was having any impact, I asked my student Glenntavis why he always stayed after school. Well Mr. Mostaghimi, he replied. I like it cause I aint getting into trouble and people dont be pickin with me and gettin into fights like when I be at home. And its boring at home. Needless to say I decided to keep children after school every day.

Although teachers have warned me that smiling too much and being friendly are the recipe for a disaster in classroom management, I have found that the more I befriend my children while setting clear expectations for acting towards me in school (as opposed to after school), the more responsive my kids have been.

Sometimes, however, I go out of my way to show the distinction between Mr. Mostaghimi the teacher and Mr. Mostaghimi the after school friend. On Friday I walked into school with a suit and polished shoes. As I walked down the hall in the morning I heard exclamations of Man, Mr. Mostaghimi lookin clean, that suit is fresh, and my personal favorite He must be preachin somewhere tonight!

Why was I wearing a suit? Friday was the first day of the nine-week exams so I spoke to each class about the importance of the exam and how hard we had all worked to get to this point. The suit, I told students, was a sign of how proud I was of them and how much I respected their hard work. It was a reminder that this day was a day of utmost seriousness and required concentration.

In class, I showed a list of the things that they had learned in the nine weeks and reminded them of where they had started. In my five months as a teacher I had never seen so many proud faces or such a sense of achievement among my students as when I gave those speeches. The preacher Mostaghimi had revealed his head once again.

December taught me many lessons and took me back to my foundation teachings of kindness and respect. Given all that happened in a short month, I cannot even begin to wrap my brain around what is to come next semester.

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Article by Babak Mostaghimi
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Posted 01/17/2007