So like my schedule isn’t full enough, I had to give up my lunch break (my only ‘prep’ on Fridays) to be the detention room
After each student finishes, I tell them that they need to come up to my desk and tell me why they have detention. One student says because he was chewing gum in the hallway. Another student became teary eyed and told me that she has detention because her mother decided to make her breakfast because today is her birthday. It was the first time her mother had ever made her breakfast before school. On top of that she lives an hour and 30 minutes away by train and she arrived to school 8 minutes late. Two best friends were in detention because the day before, they didn’t come inside immediately after the bell rang.
All of these offenses seemed extremely minor. So minor that I felt like not only was this a waste of my time, but also of theirs. So to turn a major negative into a positive I had them write poetry, starting with the line from one of pharoahe monch’s rap songs, My Life. The first line is: My life is all I have. I told the kids I wanted them to write a poem, a rap, or a song starting with that line. They got to work. Pens skated across their pages. They were into it. It was relevant. It was self-reflective. Isn’t that the point of detention? To get the students to think about their actions and their lives? I felt like I circumvented the unnecessary BS about good ol Abe Lincoln by throwing in some relevant stuff. They want differentiation right? Well here you go.
When it came down to ten minutes left, the kids were still heavy into their work. Out of nowhere, I delivered mine:
my life is all I have
like a KING I am free at last!
for our lives im scared cuz even Brooklyn has Baghdad blasts
my life is all I have!
no phones or gold, degrees or clothes
my life… so controlled yet free
sometimes even I forget it belongs to me
sometimes I forget to just, be
so i.. ‘do’ instead of ‘be’ black
i act wack
i gum smack and talk back
i walk back and arrive late
i have good intentions but it was my mother that made me…
and I wanted to go in, but on the yard we had a friendship session
but next week is new…
and this life is too…
and its mine, forever
I saw the eyes that make teaching worth it. I saw the eyes of students that want to control their destiny, their minds, their education. I saw eyes of re-focusing, re-determination, re-mind(ers) of why we are here, our purpose. And it was reflected in their poetry that I asked them to share before heading back to their class after lunch.
I had to write them all passes for being a few minutes late to their next class. Surely I didn’t want to be the cause of yet another detention!