Monday, February 21, 2011

Im still here ;)

Hi y'all. I've beendownright terrible about keeping up with this blog! I just wanted to put up a quick update and let you all know that I'm still thinking about my friends and family back home and certainly haven't forgotten about you:) It's been a LONG couple of months, but I'm on the home stretch.

Ok...a recap of the past few months...let me think. December flew by. We did a first set of benchmarks, which are like mock state tests, and got our first bit of official data on the kids this year. The results from my students were pretty discouraging, but I just keep telling myself that there is more to students success (and success in life for that matter) than passing a standardized test. Don't get me wrong, I still believe my students deserve to be pushed toward big academic gains. However, after seeing lots of scores in the 15%-30% range for basic on-grade-level multiple choice tests, I can't pretend that 100% of my students are going to pass this spring. I'm struggling with that, among other things, but more about social injustices and the broken education system later ;)

Christmas break was amazing. I got to spend a full 10 days at home spending time with my mom and sister and Chloe Unfortunately, since I arrived back in January, I've had some of the toughest weeks I've yet to experience since I've been down here. I was told the day before starting back to school that I would be teaching another teacher's regular 7th grade math class for three weeks because shewas out on sick leave. So, not only did I get to restructure all my plans over night, I also had to prep for a series of substitutes that took over my class for the next few weeks. While I was sent a fairly clear message that my class didn't matter very much, I was able to work with a whole new group of 100+ students and see what it was like to teach a "regular" math class. I built some relationships with 7th graders I had never interacted with before and many of them are still stopping by my classroom on a daily basis.

Long story short, when I came back to my regular class I had a lot of garbage and terrible habits to try to deal with after my students spent fifteen days with a total of four different substitutes. Many of my kids were behaving absolutely terribly, I think, in part, because they had the impression that I had willingly abandoned them. The class that I had worked crazy hard to get on the right track earlier in the year had become my absolute worst class. I had kids vandalizing things, cussing at me, refusing to follow any directions I gave, and getting agressive in their obstinate interactions with me. I spent a lot of lunch hours in tears and tried a variety of interventions before finally having to permanently dismiss a few students from my class.

Since then, I have still had more than the usual share of behavioral issues, but it has improved. During the time that the substitutes were in my classroom, the vast majority of my students also decided that doing any work was completely optional- an option that they opted not to take. So when interim progress reports came out, I looked like the worlds most terrible teacher to my administration when 75% of my students were epically failing my class. It turns out, it is my responsibility to make sure that no more than 10% of my students fail. AKA...I'm getting the message that teachers here are just supposed to pass kids for showing up to class and converting oxygen to carbon dioxide as they breathe. I had a heck of a time wrapping my mind around the repercussions for passing my kids after they had been given so many opportunities to earn a better grade and simply refused to do so. Quite literally, out of the forty students who I give 15-minute homework packets to every week, I rarely get more than three to four back. I sounds like the other teachers at my school have the same return rate. Absolutely crazy! And we are telling these students that they are "college ready" with our slogans and campus posters. I am ashamed of the hypocrisy in the messages that we are sending these kids. My kids will argue with me that they are going to college "no matter what" as they are refusing to do work in my class and haven't turned in more than a few pages of homework in their entire k-12 education up to this point. I am seeing a really concerning mindset of entitlement in my students that isn't accompanied by any sort of work ethic. The more I try to instill the importance of a good work ethic and the idea that there are no shortcuts to success, the more backlash I get from students, parents, and even well meaning and kind administrators.

Anyhow, so sorry to rant and rave. I'm just a little discouraged about the bigger issues that are making it so challenging to reach these kids in the way that I had idealistically envisioned doing. Obviously, if the issues in education were as easy to solve as sending a few college grads into high risk areas to turn them around, the problems would have been solved long ago. I do feel privileged to be working with a group of teachers who really genuinely care about these students and are pouring themselves into them. And the administrators at my school, while they are only human, are doing an absolutely incredible job given the challenges they are up against. I can't imagine facing all of the difficulties I have up to this point with out the support that I have been given on my campus. Again, I am reminded to take this journey one step at a time and love my kids unconditionally.

That's all for today. I'll update you sooner than last time hopefully ;) For all of you that have been faithfully praying for me and supporting me, thank you SO MUCH! It means a ton. Take care and love y'all :)
P.S. this picture is of my classroom door that my morning helpers and I decorated for a college door competition we are having on campus. I'll have to take some pictures of the other doors that have been decorated more recently by them as well. These are some talented girls! Plus it's way fun to see my alma matter every morning when I get to my room :)

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