Joshua B. Guild,

       As in most workplaces, Fridays here have a different feeling, a different rhythm, from other days. My classroom tends to be a little more relaxed, the kids a little more focused on completing tasks. We joke a lot; sometimes we play music as we finish projects and all look forward to 3 o’clock. With two students serving a two-day suspension for fighting the day before (thus two fewer personalities to manage), I anticipated a fairly smooth close to the week. Instead, it was another draining day, marked by the perpetual feeling of being only one step closer to my students.
       The Benjamin Banneker Charter School is a math, science, and technology-focused school in its second year. As one of two sixth-grade teachers, I teach reading, writing, social studies, and science (my teaching partner, Robin, handles math). I started teaching here last September, three months after graduating from Wesleyan University with a degree in American history and African-American studies. Needless to say, every single day has been a learning experience.
       Friday morning began with my alarm going off at 10 minutes to 6. I arrived at school at my usual time, about 7:30. That’s a half-hour before classes begin–just enough time to get my bearings and organize a few things for the day. By contrast, Robin had been at school for at least 30 minutes. In a year and a half, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve got to school before her. She and I decided the previous afternoon to make a change to our weekly schedule, adding a period of math on Fridays in place of what had been a somewhat vague “project time.” Let’s just say that my students are not exactly thrilled to learn about the change. If I can say anything about my kids, it’s that they’re not shy about letting you know how they feel. “Aw, that sucks, Mr. G!” seemed to be the general consensus.
       When it was time for a lesson on that fascinating prelude to the American Revolution, the French and Indian War, we ended up engaging in a 45-minute conversation about the usefulness of “American” history in a classroom full of students of color. As much as I agreed with my kids’ insightful comments, I had to fulfill my role in helping them to see the larger context. I informed them about our upcoming unit on the civil rights movement in the spring and implored them to trust me when I said that you can’t understand that moment in history without appreciating the foundations (however contradictory) upon which the nation was built.
       It was a bit of a stretch, but I think I made my point.