Cornrows & Classrooms

Those of you who stalk me on Facebook (or saw me in person) know that I had corn rows all last week. Reactions to my hair covered a wide spectrum, from viewing it as a rebellious look to identifying the ease of care that it offered. In reality, I did it just for fun, but ended up loving it. Just today, as my hair was blowing in my face while I drove, I told my sister in exasperation that I needed to have corn rows all the time! But, like all good things, even my corn rows had to come to an end.

Wednesday was the first day of school, and the first day of teaching without the burden of simultaneously taking college classes. Though I might be somewhat depressed about summer ending, its like the poem “October Song” by Mary Weston Fordham:

Bright and beautiful art thou,
Autumn flowers crown thy brow,
Golden-rod and Aster blue,
Russet leaf with crimson hue.
Half stripped branches waving by,
Softly as a lullaby,
Tell of summer’s days gone by,
Tell that winter’s very nigh.

In the forest cool and chill,
Sadly moans the Whippoorwill,
Not as in the summer days,
When he gloried in his lays1,
Lower-toned, but sweet and clear,
Like thy crisp and fragrant air,
Warbling forth with voice sublime,
This is nature’s harvest time.

Crickets chirp amid the leaves,
Squirrels hop among the trees,
Brown nuts falling thick and fast,
On the dewy, dying grass,
Glowing sun with softer rays,
Harbinger of wintry days,
Tell the year is going by,
Sighing forth its lullaby.

Due to my own dread of the oncoming “winter wasteland” that Indiana has the potential to become, this poem resonates with me. Yet, unlike the dreary tone of the whippoorwill, my song is not entirely melancholy. After all, today was the first Friday of the school year and I do love my job!

I am teaching English 10 for the fall semester, which, in and of itself, is a huge blessing. Having this long-term substitute position gives me a full time job, while still allowing me to leave for Papua New Guinea in January. I am excited about school and the opportunity to help 150+ teenagers learn to communicate effectively. Much of my job is about enabling and giving kids the tools and motivation to succeed. Doing that can be a bit more difficult. While I don’t see many students with “rebel” corn rows, each student comes needy.

Last year, when I wrote my “Philosophy of Education” for college, I included the following mission statement:
“I believe that the purpose of education is to reach the next generation, preparing youth to engage the culture and become men and women of excellence. Specifically, in a high school English classroom, this means teaching literature, reading, writing, and speaking in a manner that instills students with a love of learning for learning’s sake. The learning that takes place inside the classroom prepares students for their lives outside the classroom. For that reason, character development is a vital part of education, training students to become adults characterized by respect and responsibility. In addition, students should learn to think critically about the ideas they encounter in literature and the world around them, identifying what they believe and why. Regardless of career choice, communicating effectively and confidently will give students the opportunity to reach beyond their horizons and change the world.”
I still believe in that. And just because I had corn rows and loved them (and want to get them re-done sometime), does not mean that I disregard the necessity of respect. In celebration of the success of this first week of teaching, I watched my favorite “teacher” movie, “Take the Lead.” In this theatrical rendition of the “Dancing Classrooms” of Pierre Dulaine, Antiono Banderas implements ballroom dancing class in place of the detention in a New York City school. One of the best scenes occurs when Banderas is confronted by the Parent/Teacher Organization who have been incited by a rival teacher to condemn the dance classes as a waste of time. Instead of jumping into a heated argument, Bandera merely begins to dance while softly explaining how ballroom dance teaches students to respect themselves and others, encourages working hard to reach one’s goals, and gives students a glimpse of what life could be if they reach for it. Though I don’t teach ballroom dance, the same ideas are equally as valuable in an English classroom.
So, cornrows, leather jacket, motorcycle helmet, and all, I’m ready for the rest of the semester! There are some “dancers” to be formed.
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2 Comments Add yours

  1. wordsoflife says:

    Hey Abby,

    I think your cornrows look cool. I’ve never thought of them being ‘rebellious’. 😉

    I really enjoyed this entry – especially the poem and your mission statement for teaching! I wish all teachers had that depth and aim in their work. I’m sure the LORD kept you in the States a bit longer so that you could spread your love for life and learning to the students at your school.

    Live under the Mercy!
    ~ J

  2. Nichole says:

    I agree with Jody…I really liked the mission statement for teaching. And…I liked the movie too! 🙂 Thanks for inviting me. Hope this week is going well.

    ~Nichole

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