Sami Strikes – a birthday surprise

img_0367My birthday is February 19th, and as such tends to fall near President’s day when many schools also have their mid-winter break. This year, our school didn’t have an extended break, but a half-day on Friday the 17th for students, followed by the remaining half-day spent in professional development (PD) for staff, and then Monday (President’s day) off for all.
It is no secret that my students love parties, surprises, and cake. Yet, it was a surprise to me that despite hearing my students planning “something” all week, nothing had happened. Every time I was called from my room for something unexpected, I braced myself for the “surprise,” but it had not come.
That is, until Friday.
 
 
The Youtuber starring in the video is Sami. I love Sami, but he will tell you that when I met him as a 9th grader over six years ago he was a pain in my side during class. He was often off-task, would talk to anyone I sat him next to (and even those he wasn’t next to), forgot his work, and was a bit of a class clown (the good kind, but still). I had him again as a 10th grader in composition class, where I watched him mature and grow as a student and an individual; he came to visit me as an 11th grader, then a young man whom I sadly did not have in my English class; and by 12th grade, he had become one of my favorite students.
A picture of us together after his Capstone presentation hangs proudly behind my desk, and when I talk about how much I love teaching “my kids,” I am definitely talking about Sami and students like him. 
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I pranked Sami earlier this school year when his sister, K, (a current junior) asked to call home during class to ask for his help. When Sami answered she covered the receiver and told me to “Tell him I’m in trouble! Prank him!” So I obliged, telling him that I needed to speak with him about his sister’s behavior because they are so close I was hoping he could help me.
 
For several long minutes, I led him on with horror stories about her behavior in class while the girls in the classroom giggled silently. I told him things like K is always tardy to class, she’s been acting out and being rude to her classmates and verbally bullying others. Then I dropped the biggest bomb – that she had recently started cussing in class. He was aghast. He was shocked. Then he got angry and defended his sister mightily. But before he got too incensed, I let him know that it was all false, and of course his sister wasn’t doing any of those things and that she just wanted to ask him about video editing software for a class project. We laughed about, but he vowed that he would get me back.
Back to Friday, when our PD got paused for a stretch and a bathroom break, a staff member, Mr. Gus poked his head into the library and told me that I had a “phone call downstairs – an angry parent who was pissed off.” My gut told me that “something” was up, but I didn’t know what.
 
The staff member that was in on the prank, Mr. Gus, is not a member of the regular disciplinary admin staff, so the fact that he was speaking to a parent on my behalf was suspect, and since I knew myself to be innocent of any wrong-doing with any student, I wasn’t worried; I was confused. I had a feeling that the entire thing may have been an excuse to prepare something for my birthday, but I couldn’t be sure. The fact that Mr. Gus wouldn’t tell me whose parent it was, or what the call was about was the biggest clue in my favor.

Mr. Gus took me into his office and all along the way I asked “whose parent is it?” but he wouldn’t answer me directly or kept saying that “he didn’t know.” I could hear a loud and angry voice on the other end of the line, but could only hear one side of the conversation, and what I could hear didn’t make any sense. When he finally let me have the phone, I asked “Who is this?”

The voice on the other end said “I am coming right now, bye!”
Still miffed and wondering what the real reason for my having been brought downstairs was, Mr. Gus opened the door and there was Sami, with my birthday surprises: sign, balloon, cake, and stuffed elephant. 
To say that I am honored or touched cheapens the depth of feeling I have because it is so much more. When a student comes back to visit, it means everything. It is humbling to know that you have touched a life in a way that has lasting impact.
It has been said that teaching is like planting a seed that you will never see grow to bear fruit. That isn’t true. I’ve planted, nurtured, and tended many seeds in my time in the classroom, and not only have I seen them bear fruit, but some of my students are now planting their own orchards.
FIA students (class of 2010 – 2017 and on) – I’m proud to have been your teacher
Northwest High School students (class of 2010, 2011, and 2012) that I student taught in 2008-2009 – I’m proud to have been your teacher

Pride and Posture

One of last year’s graduates came back to see me today. He has completed bootcamp and is preparing to ship out to South Korea.
This is one of those students who is a genuinely good kid, but who is not prepared for or interested in college. This is one of those students who could fall through the cracks, who could drop out and/or disappear because the current public and charter public school system isn’t designed to help him.
Last year, he barely passed. He drug his feet on everything. I had to constantly kick him in the ass about completing his Capstone requirements. All of his teachers kicked him in the ass because he was a good kid that we didn’t want to see lost.
In January last year, when the various military recruiters started coming around to give their spiels, several teachers (myself included) pushed him into considering the Army. The biggest obstacle to his recruitment was whether or not he would finish and get his diploma. Thankfully, that became the carrot that he needed to reach the finish line.

I asked him to keep in touch. I gave him a few blank cards with self-addressed, stamped envelopes, and he already knew my e-mail. Unsurprisingly, I never heard from him, but I thought of him from time to time, particularly when seeing recruiting advertisements.

So today, when he knocked on the door (a respectful, mature knock – not the frantic, overly loud, knocking of hurried, entitled, discourteous students) and I opened the door to see him standing in the hall in his full Army Combat Uniform, my eyes teared up.

I exclaimed, “Look at you!” as if I were a grandmother seeing a long distance child relative for the first time in years, and as I asked his permission I opened my arms to give him a hug which he happily accepted and returned in kind.

“Hey, Mrs. Magy.”
“You look taller – it’s your posture.”
He blushes and smiles the same wide, genuine smile that he’s always possessed, “Everyone keeps telling me that.”
“I heard that you are going to be stationed in Korea. Are you excited?”
“Aw man, who told you?”
“A____ told me – he came by on Friday. He’s in town before going back to base in Missouri; I’m sorry that he stepped on your good news to share.”
He shrugs, “It’s okay. And yes, I’m excited. I’m getting out of the country for a while, and at a good time, if you know what I mean.”
I nod.We continue this way for several minutes, my asking him questions to allow him to share about himself in a way that makes him feel like he’s answering questions and not bragging, but it’s clear that my class is no longer engaged in their activity and are intently eavesdropping.”I’ve got to get back to my students, but I am so very glad that you came to see me today. Will you forward me your address once you’re settled so that I can send you goodies from home?”
“Sure, Miss, I still have your e-mail.”

I give him another hug, and as I turn to go he calls my attention again.
“Ma’am?”
As I look back, he snaps me a proper hand salute, executes an about face, and walks toward the office.

Reentering my room, my tears will not be withheld any longer, and I go to my desk to grab some tissues.

Finally, a beginning

In its heyday, I was extremely active in keeping an unfiltered and uncensored LiveJournal. (I was young and headstrong, so emphasis on the uncensored part…) There, I catalogued my personal ups and downs and mainly used it as a safe space for therapeutic journalling. For professional reasons, I removed it from the public sphere once I began my journey to becoming a teacher and as other social media websites gained popularity I abandoned my LJ entirely.

After that, Facebook became my writing outlet, mostly in the form of short posts, and when the mood struck, longer notes, but it was never well-organized or purposeful in terms of presenting an ongoing narrative or memoir. And once again, over time, I began limiting my audience and removing myself from the public eye in order to maintain a professional appearance for the sake of my occupation and the scrutiny that comes with such a public responsibility.

The one constant among all of my online rantings, ravings, and musings is the encouragement from family and friends to make it more public, to share it with more people who might find it amusing or helpful in some way. (And, if I’m being honest, I’m far more likely to write when I know that I’m being read and when I feel like I’m being heard.) It’s time to come out of my cave and present my stone tablets for others to read and discuss.

So who am I? Why should you read my blog and why should you come back? 
I’m an educator working at a Charter high school in Detroit. My day-to-day in the classroom is a combination of every made-for-television special about urban schools with suburban teachers and National Geographic’s Wild Kingdom, crossed with the love child of The Office and Parks and Rec. No, I’m not exaggerating.

I’m a working mom trying to balance the insane emotional, mental, and physical requirements of both my teaching life and my parental life while simultaneously finding time for my partner and our marriage. It’s a lot like juggling raw eggs – when I’m in a rhythm it seems effortless and everything flows together, but if I stumble even a little bit, it’s a stinky mess.

I’m a Jewish convert still learning about what being Jewish means to me and trying to raise two children with love and respect for all faiths while instilling in them a strong foundation of Jewish ideals and spiritual rituals. The most important to me being the concept of tikkun olam, which loosely translates from Hebrew to English as “repair the world” and is rooted in the concepts of social justice and human compassion and kindness.

I’m a woman possessed with making her mark in a positive and lasting way and I can’t do that without reaching out to more people and in more ways. I need you to help fulfill my mission.

So there it is: a beginning. I’m looking forward to responding to comments and meeting new people through this blog, and I hope that you enjoy reading my posts as much as I enjoy writing them.