Woke up this morning listening to this song
You’re so blessed yes, yes
Gonna rock this joint all night long
It’s so blessed yes
Each time I listen to Jill Scott’s “So Blessed,” I imagine an impromptu spitting at the mic with blessings pulled from the corner of the mind, almost forgotten, but brought to the surface by peace, music and art.
So a couple of mornings ago as I prepared for my 8 am class of eighth graders, I found myself needing to play the song and share with them that they are indeed blessed.
Believe it or not I intentionally chose to teach middle school. Most people bristle at the thought of the hormones and attitude and the schizophrenia associated with the junior high school student, but I still remember how confusing and daunting this transition was and when it came time to select an area in Education to focus on — I chose middle school with my eye toward teaching eighth grade because it was the last year before entering high school.
High school is where the stakes get higher, lines are drawn or colored outside of and college looms.
I wanted to help my students see their possibilities and try different gifts on for size as Mr. Turk did for me in the seventh grade and Mr. Barkan did for me in the tenth. I could not see what they saw. I was too caught up trying to figure out who I was or the best way to express me; which societal rules could be bent and which broken rules hurt most. I was too busy —at times just too overwhelmed— to see just what distinguished me from the classmate sitting beside me. And that this difference was not a problem to be solved. It was an asset.
These teachers were my blessing, watching intently and setting out to guide me, advise me, the best they could. It is their effort and influence that I took with me into my first eighth grade classroom in East New York, Brooklyn and it is their example that I call on as I work with my current eighth graders.
My eighth graders—whom I refer to as my babies— are currently applying to high school and I was moved to share Jill’s words with them after reading the first draft of their essays where they omitted the magic that I see in them: the rare experiences afforded to them the past three years and the accomplishments that I have personally watched them work to attain. I needed them to know, remember; understand that they are so much more than the words they managed to get on the page.
Sighs of remembrance and whispered ‘Ohhs’ filled the room as I listed experiences I have watched the past three years: their talents shared with our school community, the original songs and chants they created to keep the energy flowing during the school day, contests entered, teams they led to victories, team mates they coached and inspired, Japanese children they taught African-inspired stepping, gorgeous photos of South African landscapes they took on a trip last year, demonstrations of innovative lessons half-way around the world; how they inspired educators as part of our school’s teacher training program and most importantly their work to further the dreams and values of their families.
A nice flow, a fresh page and a microphone soothe me into instinctively counting blessings, but we must all keep an eye out for the next generation.
Get them to a blank page, an instrumental riff, an emptied court or a sun-drenched park and let them listen intently for their blessings.