St Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 25 2009


It’s great to have time to breathe again– last night I was in bed by 10:30, tonight I was able to go out with some guys from my CMA group to see a movie, and tomorrow is easy as pie– give 2 tests, show up to some sessions, and perhaps a Braves game! AAHHHHHH…..

I’m not going to sugar coat it– Institute is HARD. WORK. but, as we’ve seen, heard, and said multiple times: “Work hard! Get smart!”… I’m doing my best to “get smart” every day– and I think (?) it’s paying off. My students are doing marginally better on their daily quizzes… we’re averaging about 65-70% now instead of 45-50% at the end of last week. The problem is, I have 4 days (really 8 lessons with my co-teacher) to get them up to 80%. As much as I’m trying to hold each of them to high expectations and believe that they can meet our goals– as the time to test gets closer, I get more worried. I don’t even worry too much about the test itself. I just know there are 2 or 3 students in my class for whom it is going to take a lot out of them to pass that test– and in a way I feel like I’ve failed them. I know it’s not really my fault; I mean, spending 4 weeks in a classroom at Sylvan Hills Middle School can’t undo YEARS of educational inequity, but DANG IT these kids try hard– they deserve to pass this thing!

Now that I think about it, I guess my last post was before I got kids in my classroom! It’s been interesting working with them. I’ve got 13 on my roster, and usually 11 or 12 show up, if not all 13, which is great. Behaviorally, I really couldn’t have gotten any more lucky, and it truly is luck– our classroom management plan was/is SO disjointed! The past few days have been rough, but nothing compared to what I’ve heard about in other classrooms and other schools. Let’s put it this way, in comparison to other people’s experiences, I call it a successful day if I don’t have someone swearing me out, and we haven’t even come close to that.

As in any class, I’ve got a few kids who push the limits, especially the past few days. There’s this kid who I adore– J. He’s super intelligent and usually works very hard which surprised me a little since on the 2nd day of summer school he told one of my team teachers that one of his good friends died in a car accident. The past few days, though, he’s been acting out. I know it’s because of what’s going on with his friend, but what can I do with J when he tells me he wants to get kicked out of class that day so he can just go home?

And then there’s P, whose mom actually called us in the first week of school to tell us how much P loves his math class and that he comes home every day talking about what he learned and that he wants us to stay in Atlanta so we can be his teachers next year. He participates ALL the time. He picks things up quickly and, probably most importantly, is willing to actually help is classmates, not just tell them the answer (turns out he failed the math test by 1 question, so he’s in summer school probably because of a sick day or 1-day suspension or something). In short, P is the greatest student I could ask for at this point in my development. On Monday P comes in and just looks exhausted. I ask him what’s wrong and he says he’s tired. I tell him he’s here so he might as well make the most of it and take and active part in class and learning (which we both know he doesn’t have to do because he’ll get it regardless). Tuesday the same thing happens. I go over again and ask him what’s up and this time it’s he’s hungry–like REALLY hungry. Turns out P’s been staying at his dad’s this week and, well, he doesn’t get breakfast, or sleep while he’s there. I know for anyone reading this who’s been a teacher you’re thinking “welcome to my world…” and I knew coming in that that happens all the time, but it’s just so heart-wrenching to see the absolutely significant difference being fully rested and fed can have on a student’s learning when my BEST student who is probably the most invested student I have in that class can’t concentrate enough to understand the directions of the day’s activities.

Wow that’s a lot of negativity right there…. in other, happier news, like I said, my kids are averaging better these days, in fact, I’ve had a few days where multiple (like 5-8) students have gotten 100% on their daily quizzes!!! On a personal level, even though Wednesday was just the halfway point, I’m so close to being done with Institute, I can almost being to taste it. almost. I have 2 more lesson plans to write, 4 plans to review/finalize, and 2 tests to administer. WOO!

I’m going to try to figure out if it’s possible/how to post pictures on this site, and if so I’ll put some up of my classroom. I need to take more, though, because even in the week and a half since I took these pictures, it look so much better! Until later (hopefully not 11 days later, this time!), ciao!

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    a Teach For America teacher’s blog

    St. Louis
    Elementary School
    Elementary Education

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