Sunday, February 08, 2009

My visit to the Ron Clark Academy--and other stuff

I'm sorry it took me so long to get this post up. I've been pretty busy the last couple of weeks. I expect that I'll have some extra time now, though.

I was at Shawn's last night and, well, he saw Bad Jen. It wasn't pretty, of course (we'll leave it at that). I'm feeling pretty low today because I haven't had a full-blown episode since July 2007--since "the night" that finally drove me to seek help and get on the meds. So yeah, it's been an entire year and a half since I had one, which is great. I knew when I started treatment that the meds wouldn't ever make the episodes go away completely and permanently--they would just help to increase the time between the major incidents and to help me control the more minor ones. But it's always heartbreaking when one happens, because once again, there was someone involved who I care about very much. I don't know how this will affect our friendship, and I can only hope that he remembers that last night wasn't me, that the last YEAR is who I am. Over the last year, I've defended him by saying that he may be a shitty boyfriend but a great friend. I guess now we'll see whether my faith was right on or misplaced.

Brad, my roommate, did make me feel a lot better when I talked to him about it this morning. He told me that he's known quite a few bipolar people, including a couple of family members, and that "by far" I'm handling the BP "way better than anyone else he's ever seen." He also reminded me that I've had, what? 500 good nights and 1 very, very bad one in the last year and a half. He told me to quit being so hard on myself. "You're crazy, Jen," he helpfully reminded me. "So sometimes you're going to act like it. That's just how you roll."

LOL. Nicely put, my friend.

Get it? Bi POLAR? I don't care who are, that's funny.

ANYWAY. Onto the fun stuff: my day with Ron Clark.

When we got to the school, we were greeted in the lobby by a bunch of the students. Ron Clark introducted them--they were the students who wrote and performed the "Dear Obama" song that I posted earlier on this blog. And then--they performed it for us. I have to tell you, I got incredibly choked up. The talent in these kids is just amazing, and to see and hear this song in person was powerful.

Painted on the lobby floor

Then we all broke up into our assigned groups for the day (there were about 25 visitors on this particular day). First, my group visited the language arts teacher's room. She was wrapping up a unit on using the blues as poetry. Today, the kids were presenting blues songs they had written themselves. Of course, there were some great ones.

And then came the moment I've been waiting for: we went to Ron's classroom for an hour and a half to watch him teach math. I could spend the next 4 hours trying to put this experience into words and I still wouldn't come close. Suffice it to say that it was the experience of a lifetime. (He would walk ACROSS the rows of students' desks--and I mean, on top of them--as he checked their answers. "Good....nice're very close...go back and double check that last step." I laughed out loud when he looked down at one student's work. He crossed his arms, cocked his hip and said, "Now that's not even in the realm of POSSIBILITY. Come on now." ) What struck me the most, though, was that even in THE Ron Clark's classroom, the kids weren't perfect. He had to "fuss" (his word) at a couple of kids, and a few even had to get up to write their names on the board, etc. I know that may not seem like that big of a deal, but it brought me a lot of comfort to see that even for THIS man, students can still act up. And it was amazing to see these kids jump up and sing all of these songs and raps that Ron has written (including one for the order of operations). It was truly an amazing classroom to be in. The whole time, I kept sitting there, thinking, I'M WATCHING RON CLARK. It was almost surreal.

Next was lunch. The kids eat in their classrooms, so we all spread out and talked to the students while we ate. That was also a great experience. I was talking to a particular young man who went to the inaugration, and it was really interesting to hear about the experience from his point of view.

After lunch, we had a couple of workshops and seminars. First, we returned to the L.A. teacher's room, where she broke us up into groups and had us write OUR own blues songs. We only had 15 minutes or so, but I have to say, all of the groups had some great ones (they all turned out to be teaching-related; ours talked about a kid who hadn't taken his meds and was out of his seat all day; it turned out pretty funny). Then we were in Kim Bearden's room; she's the woman who cofounded the school with Ron. She told us about all these different games she plays with the kids--to present new information, to review old info, etc. I can't even tell you how many great ideas we got out of that single hour. Again, I was blown away--and made VERY aware of just how far I have to go to be considered a truly great teacher.

AND THEN: we all returned to Ron's room. He didn't have students during this partiular period, so it was like a professional development session--WITH FREAKIN' RON CLARK. He talked to us about classroom management. Of course, my dorky ass sat in the first row, dead center--and at several points he was talking to us WHILE STANDING ON MY DESK. **MINE**!!!!!! (I received a very stern warning from my friends beforehand, forbidding me from latching myself to his leg and declaring my undying love for him. Damn buzz kills.)

After that, we went down the slide (a giant winding slide that the kids can take from the 2nd floor to the first, officially become "slide certified"). And then we had one last chance to mingle with Ron, get pictures and autographs, etc.

The day, truly, was one I'll never forget. In fact, I probably COULDN'T have posted about the experience any earlier, because I was still absorbing and processing everything.

It was the memory of a lifetime.


Renee said...

I'm glad you had such a fantastic time in Atlanta, and can I just say? I'm extremely proud of you for not accosting Mr. Clark :-) Really, though, what a great opportunity! It's every exciting that you got to spend the day in his school, listening to him and his staff, and talking with some of the students! Way cool.

Your comic strip is hilarious, btw.

And I'm sorry to hear that you had another episode, but I'm totally with Brad, whose comments cracked my ass up-- ONE bad night in a year-and-a-half is great! It's gonna happen once in a while, and honestly... I can't believe it's taken THIS long for Shawn to get a glimpse. Because, seriously, some of the shit that has happened between you guys would cause even Mother Teresa to blow a gasket. Kudos to you for keeping your cool for as long as you have. Even when we didn't want you to ;-) Don't be hard on yourself, sweetie! I think I can safely say that all of us here are very proud of the way you're handling the BP. I've only known one other person with it (John's uncle), but DUDE. In comparison, you ARE Mother Teresa. I know it's heartbreaking for you when it happens, but it's happening so infrequently... you HAVE to see that and be proud of that. *I* am.

Nik said...

Glad you had a good time in ATL. Sorry that you had a bad episode, but seriously, it's been such a long time since you have. Brad's soooo right on this one. Don't beat yourself up, though. It's going to happen and the infrequency of the bad epsiodes has GOT to count for something.

Jen said...

Thanks, Renee and Nik. And, hey, look at the bright side--at least I wasn't in the back of a cop car this time! Holla! (I do, however, have a gash on my arm that may need stitches, due to a broken plate, which I did NOT throw, let the record throw--so that's my second "holla" of the whole incident. I do NOT, though, recommend trying to unload the dishwasher while you're drunk and are trying to "make ammends." Just a little helpful hint from me to you.)

Jen said...

Hahahhaha...that should be "record SHOW," not "record THROW"--but it was funny enough that I kept it.

Renee said...

Hahahahaha. How'd the gash get on your ARM, though? That's a weird place for a plate to cut, drunk or not :-)

Jen said...

Not when you're gathering all the pieces into your arms. With short sleeves on.

Yeah, I know.

Renee said...

Hahahahahahahaha!!!!!!! Only you, my love :-)