Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 11 2011

Are you sleeping?

One of my favorite fellow Teach For Us bloggers, Wess, left me a nice comment on my last, bitter post to the universe. It started with a question, “Are you sleeping?”

Yes. Yes, I am sleeping. Enough? Probably not. Way more than last year? YES. Yes. I am sleeping. I am eating so much better, even cooking dinners at my house for myself and my closest TFA friends every other Thursday. I am going out on weekends, taking full days off from working. I am coming home and able to read my book (two weeks ago: The Help, currently: The Hunger Games). I am so much healthier than I was last year.

This also means I’m slightly more empowered, slightly more bitter, slightly more confident, and a whooooole lot happier! Last year, when October ended and the worst-month-of-my-entire-life-November started up, I was filled with gratitude at the tiniest things. A student telling me she was disappointed in her classmates’ behavior. My secretary asking me how I’m holding up. My favorite custodian and friend taking care of the brakes on my car.

I still love these things, they still fill me with joy. But I am no longer satisfied by them.

Last year, toward the end of second semester, one of my students whined without prompting, “Ms. L, you treat us like BABIES!” I probably laughed and said, “Because you act like babies!” Or spit out that retort with a bite to it. But the sentence resonated. I realized that student was right. Last year, I didn’t trust my students. Last year, I underestimated their responsibility, their drive, their want to learn, their aptitude for success.

This year, I’m not doing that.

It comes largely from the experience of seeing what eleven-year-olds are capable of, something I didn’t have last year, but they are basically little adults, and I’ve decided that’s how I’ll treat them. Before I ever taught anyone I was asking CMs if they talked about the achievement gap with their kids. Most, if not all, said no. I decided then that I would. How could I not? Did I last year? No. But this year, I showed them the average percent of 6th graders that passed the state test (Benchmark) in 2011: 71%. And the expected AYP (annual yearly progress) that our school needs to meet for 6th grade literacy this year: 83%. And the percent of sixth graders that passed last year, in my district: 53%.

Staggering. One girl raised her hand, “Ms. L, don’t you think that’s a lot of pressure to put on a bunch of sixth graders?”

YES. YES I DO. But do I have a choice? No.

Last year I wanted my students to be able to write, speak, listen and act like junior high students. I wanted them to focus on graduating three times: elementary school, high school, and college. Could any of them articulate what that actually meant day to day? No. My PD (excuse me, MTLD: Manager of Teacher Learning and Development) has already observed me three times (WOW!) and this last time, on Thursday, she asked one of my lower students what we do in class and why. From her observation feedback, this is what he said:

Well, we gotta know how to write good paragraphs so we cango to college, b/c in college you have to write a lot of stuff. That’s why Ms.Lampinen is helping us learn how to edit. We’re also trying to go up 5 pointsin our writing, and to pass 6th grade, do some other stuff (J), and go tocollege. She tells us what good colleges would be for us – I wanna go toFlorida because they have good football scholarships. Our other goals are toget 5 points on our Do Now and to get class points so we can get a pizza orice cream party.
I would and could write so much more, but my computer battery is about to die and I’m exhausted from ProSat today (ProSat! I have to talk about ProSat sometime!) This year is incredibly different than last year. Incredibly. But I still feel like I have just as much, no more, work to do. Just this year, I think the work is actually going to get my students somewhere.

3 Responses

  1. Ahhhhh!!!
    I LOVE what your kid said to your PD! That’s fantastic!

    … isn’t this fantastic? How lucky are we, that we get to be among those in this world who know their work can really make an important difference? That we get to be filled up by each others’ work, just because we both write words online?

  2. Emily

    This is awesome. So awesome! I feel kind of weird reading all of your posts online, but I love them and I’m captivated and I want so bad to do the same things you’re doing because you have confidence in you and you have confidence in your students and what Wess said! I get to be filled up by your online words too!

    I just submitted my application today. I’m nervous like a crazy lady. If I do ever become a part of TFA, I want your drive and your optimism. Heck, if I DON’T ever become a CM, I want the same things.

    Good luck this year! I’m excited to read more from you.

    • Emily,

      You’re so wonderful! Congrats on applying. I bet you already have the same (or more!) drive or optimism, it shows just with your application.

      Advice: OBSERVE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE before institute.. as many grades and subjects as you can. It will give you insight into what you want your classroom to be like.

      You are so sweet for commenting and reading! Stay in touch, and if you have any questions about TFA or anything else feel free to contact me!

      C

      ([email protected])

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