You do not get to decide that you are a bad kid. Not this year. Not in my classroom.
I don’t believe there is such a thing as a bad kid or a good kid. Calling yourself a bad kid is an excuse to make poor decisions, and I will not hear it. You, and every other student I teach, are just a kid. Everyone makes good and bad decisions each day. We are all a combination of good and bad, and we have to choose to let the best parts of ourselves surface more often than the darker side.
Your question this morning intrigued and upset me:
Hey Miss, I just don’t get it. Why you chose to teach the bad kids in the bad neighborhood and put up with all my disrespect every day?
It is not important that I chose to be a teacher. The question you should ask yourself is why I choose to teach every day: in our school, in our community, in our neighborhood. Because it is a choice, you’re right. I made that choice, and I continue to make it each day.
I also made a decision to teach the book Maniac Magee. I recognize that it seems like I am on the “wrong side of town” just like Jeffrey Magee. I have seen the confusion on the faces of most of your classmates when we talk about why someone with skin the color of copy paper wants to stand up in front of a room full of different skin tones and say words like “Black,” “Brown,” and “White.” Yes, I have seen you mouth the word “racist” when we talk about the White side of town and the Black side of town in the book.
I want you to think about this tonight as you do your homework (which is to read chapter 8 of Maniac Magee; please don’t forget to complete this assignment). Ask yourself this: Why Ms. Jackson chose and continues to choose to teach you, Joshua. No, I didn’t say the bad kids, and I didn’t say the Black kids, and I didn’t say the Brown kids, I said you. Why do you think I made that choice? How do you see yourself and your classmates? How do you think I view you?
Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I would add that disrespect is also a habit. Considering yourself a “bad kid” and writing off your neighborhood as a bad place to live and go to school is a habit of thinking. What if you repeatedly chose to label yourself differently?
Lately, you have been in the habit of making bad decisions. You are not a bad kid, but your choices matter immensely. What if you started choosing to act differently?
All my love,