Hello From Baltimore

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 09 2013

Actually Hello from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!
So far, i’ve been here on the East Coast for 22 days though i promise you it feels as if i’ve been here for about 3 months. I kid you not that I just counted the days i’ve been here almost 4 times simply because I don’t believe it’s only been 22 days! say watttt.

I’ve been here in “Philly” as they like to say  for 2 1/2 weeks now and I’m currently in my second week of teaching summer school.
This summer I was assigned to be a 3rd grade elementary teacher at Harrity Williams. I’ll be completely honest and say I was initially really happy with the assignment until I met my kids on the first day of school. After spending not even a full 2 hours with my students, I begin to cringe at the thought of me having to teach third graders for a whole year! (3rd grade is my placement in Baltimore) I was seriously SO resentful that I got placed in elementary for the coming school year and the summer because the 1st.. 2nd.. and 3rd day of summer school was absolute chaos. (C-H-A-O-S)

I’m currently teaching literacy and the objective for the summer is that our students will be able to determine the theme of a book. Easy enough so I thought, but apparently not.
After I read a book to the class, I give students an exit assessment which basically asks that they write down what the theme is and 2 pieces of evidence that support their answer.
I had 100% of my class fail this exit assessment on day 1 and day 2 and 98% of my class failed the assessment on day 3 and day 4. Today is only Day 7.

After spending over what feels like 1,000 hours of training and a gajillion hours of lesson planning, naturally I secretly blamed my students for failing these assessments. I blamed them for being unwilling to do the work, unable to answer the question, and unmotivated to be in school. In my own head i’m thinking, dang I can’t be anymore clear in my lessons (that was a great lesson..) – I did my part, if  you can’t answer the question.. well.. you should have been paying attention!! (These thoughts were specifically for the students who would throw tantrums, push chairs around, and talk while i’m talking aka the ones who willingly choose not to do work) And I just caught myself constantly averting their failures and misbehaviors off of me ..

For the first week I found it extremely frustrating when my Corps Member Advisor (CMA) would tell us that when our students fail, it’s the teacher’s fault, that the data and the test scores is a reflection of the teacher. It ticked me off for many reasons 1.) being that the number of hours i’ve put into training& lesson planning surpasses the number of hours i sleep  2.) if a kid is unwilling to move from her desk to the carpet to hear the book after 3 warnings what am i supposed to do? and 3.) well i was essentially being told that i failed 100% of my students on day 1 and day 2 and 98% of my students on day 3 and day 4.

On day 4, i had one of my students throw up about 5 times within a span of 2 hours. When his aunt came to pick him up, he actually ran back up to the class and screamed bloody murder to get his homework packet. “I HAVE TO GET MY HOMEWORK PACKET” while running 2 flights of stairs. I died– even if in the moment it’s just David who is eager to learn, teaching him alone is worth it but that also means any disruption in the class will essentially affect David’s learning.  On day 4, my perspective on teachers and teaching completely changed.
On day 4, I actually had students sitting in their seats! (btw one of the best feelings in the world– and might i add that this probably only happened because half of my students were absent most likely because the 4th of july was the night before) and I realized in this small, little classroom victory of students paying attention that dude, seriously a teacher has all the power  in the world to command their students to sit and stop talking. If they can’t do that much, well then they suck at being a teacher.

Friday last week I realized that in order to be a good teacher, I really do have to take ownership of my student’s failures. If 100% of my class can’t answer their exit assessment, clearly something is wrong with my teaching.  And if I have 3 of my students falling asleep in class, I must be super boring.

so long story short, thank you Jesus for hitting me with a stick of humility.

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