Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Growing up I loved the sultry sound of Pat Benatar. I mean, who, as a teenager of the late 80s early 90s, didn’t love, “Love is a Battlefield”, “We Belong”, or “Heart Breaker”. BUT… the ultimate BEST Pat Benatar song was, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”. I would run around the house belting out this song at the top of my lungs! “You’re a real fast talker with a long history…” and “You come on with a come on, you don’t fight fair, that’s ok see if I care. Knock me down, it’s all in vain, I’ll get right back on my feet again”. OK, now that I have you all hyped up on Pat Benatar, I want to talk about something serious…. The state of education. WHAT??? How do you get from Pat Benatar (Point A) to Education (Point B)? Well, it’s simple… it’s how I feel about teachers always getting a bad rap for our children not learning. I happen to work in an urban school district where, in my school, 100% of our children are offered free breakfast (usually consists of cereal, cheese stick, muffin, or whole grain doughnut) and 90-95% of our students receive free lunch. Studies show that children in urban districts are typically more transient than those in suburban and rural districts; they have less access to good nutrition, have poorer prenatal care, are more likely to live in a single parent household or live in foster care or with a family member, they have increased chance of exposure to environmental toxins, and often are exposed to violence, sex, and know someone with substance abuse problems. These children come to school with so many more needs than others. To add to the environmental disparities, James Flynn reports the that the preschoolers of professional families are typically exposed to 2,150 different words, preschoolers from working class families to 1,250 words, while those from households on welfare just 620.[16]

These past few weeks I’ve been working with 3rd and 4th grade girls who WANT to learn. They are like little sponges who just can’t get enough. I’m delivering my education in dance and song and they’re remembering terms I thought they’d never retain. They’re using language that makes me SMILE. They’re asking questions that rack my brain! I feel so lucky to be able to be their teacher. and can only hope that my presence in their lives influences them to make different choices than what the statistics predict. I hope that they will stop and think about the message I’m trying to give them when it comes to their future. “No one can take your education away from you, don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of your dreams.” Their current understanding of “Hit me with your best shot” means to literally fight, it’s how most of our students problem solve. I plan on helping to transform their idea of physically fighting, with fighting mentally… I’d like them to start saying, “Hit me with your best shot LIFE, I’m better than that and I’m gonna prove it”. “Hit me with your best shot peer pressure, I want more for myself and I’m gonna DO IT”.

I recently wrote about how important it is to fail. I emphasize this with my students every time I meet with them. I tell them, it’s ok to make mistakes, it’s ok to fail, as long as you’ve learned from the mistake and can make something good come out of it. We talk about sex, drugs, and getting involved in the wrong crowd. We talk about listening to your gut and standing up for yourself and standing in what you believe in.

We educators have an amazingly tough job to do! We get paid less than most, work hard, are emotionally and mentally taxed at the end of the day, spend lots of our own money on supplies, have two jobs to supplement our income, and want better for our students. We are constantly trying to figure out different strategies to get our little babies to learn to read, with very little resources at our fingertips, with students who have higher needs than our suburban and rural neighbors.

So, I say to you who only have energy to criticize, complain, or point fingers…

Hit me with your best shot

Save your breath and show me that you can do better! Come out and volunteer, contribute to the solution instead of pointing out the problem.