light bulb

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 18 2008

Are you serious?

Wow! Another hectic week has come and gone, and this one came with some definite ups and some horrifying downs. 

As I was driving to work on Monday, I came to the four-way stop just two blocks away from my school and knew right away that something was not right.  5 seconds later, I realized it was an accident, and 5 seconds after that, 20 people wearing dark and camoflauge clothing came sprinting past my car and heading for the neighborhood across the street from my school.  10 seconds after that, I saw the white conversion van tipped on its side and glass shattered all over the street.  I soon realized that the people running were undocumented and they were running for their freedom here in the United States.  I had to take a detour and loop around my school.  In that short detour, I saw 5 police cars rushing to the scene and a helicopter was soon hovering above my school.  I saw two men get arrested across the street from my school.  Tears rushed to my eyes to see the desperate state in which so many are living become a reality.  My school started the day in a very chaotic lock-down during the arrival of students.

 Today, when I went out to the playground to pick up my kids after lunch, the playground was in massive disarray and chaos, even more than is to be expected in a school of 1,000 students.  My eyes scanned the large playground.  I saw no adults!  No supervision!  Are you serious?  That’s criminal!  I got my kids somewhat settled after lunch and was soon called into the hall by my grade-level team to discuss a discipline issue.  In the hallway, I saw 5 students lined up and ready to give their testimonies.  My mind jumped to possible conclusions, but I never could have guessed what they were about to tell me.  As it turns out, a few students in the 6th grade decided it was a good idea to remove their belts on the playground and whip each other with them.  One of those students was in my class! 

I walked into the classroom knowing what I had to do, this called for a teacher MONOLOGUE. “Are you serious?  When has it ever been okay to remove your belt and use it as a weapon?”  I spoke with the suspected student who fortunately, was honest with me.  One small step in the right direction in the midst of a huge leap backwards.  That’s the typical feeling anyway.  I wrote him a referral which he accepted without fight.  The sad thing is that later, after all was said and done, the thought crossed my mind, that maybe, at some time or another in their lives, it has been considered okay to use a belt as a means of inflicting pain.  Learned behavior?  Most likely.

Good news.  I’ve started a class reading goal: 150,000 minutes by the end of the year.  The reward? Some form of public humiliation aimed of course toward me.  I’m thinking my kids get to pie me, or maybe a dunk tank?  Anyway, they have to read on average 37 minutes a night and their planner must be signed by their parents.  In just four days, my kids have already read 3,031 minutes.  I’m super excited.  They’re taking more of an interest in reading and in their homework.

 Another small miracle is that I’ve gone from half of my class in lunch detention because they haven’t done their homework to a quarter.  This is wonderful!

I started three of my students on an individualized behavior plan this week.  It has worked small miracles for me thus far.  My chatty Cathy has started to remain on task during my lessons, and has even used her worktime in class responsibly and efficiently.  She entered my class not knowing any of her multiplication tables, and while she’s still not quite there, she understood prime factorization today almost perfectly, and she even volunteered to do a problem on the board, which she did correctly.  I was so proud of her.

I had a mild breakdown on Wednesday night.  I’m so physically and emotionally exhausted, but after a discussion with my mentor, I’m doing my best to realize that I must forgive myself and look for small successes amidst the overwhelming challenges.  I’m also trying to take better care of myself.  I may have to adjust my perfectionist expectations for myself.  This job is larger than life, and in addition to the great difficulty, I’m learning on the job to boot.  So, hooray for ‘Cathy’ completing her science questions in the time given and hooray for her understanding prime factorization.  Hooray for my overhearing some of my students say they like taking notes with me.  Hooray for the fact that my most challenging student, whose grandma told me upon my meeting her that her granddaughter’s greatest struggle is math, came up to me to tell me “Miss, I like how you teach math.”  Hooray for 3,031 minutes of reading.  Are you serious? That’s more hoorays than I’ve noticed in a while. 

One Response

  1. Jenna (1/3 of the trio)

    Ang, I wanted to let you know that I am soo happy to hear about your recent successes! It sounds like amidst your daily struggles, you are finding that your effort is not in vain– you are making a difference in your kids’ lives! Ang, I never doubted it! You are an amazing woman of great faith, dedication, and compassion.

    Ang I love you!!

    Love, Jenna

Post a comment

About this Blog

Just another Teach For America blog

Middle School
Elementary Education

Subscribe to this blog (feed)