Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 21 2012

The difference // Skateland

Last year and this year are simultaneously no different and completely different. I feel massively more effective and ineffective. I love and hate everything.

For this week, my lowest homework average is 80%, and my highest is 96%. My student who is reading on an 11th grade level (according to STAR testing, but still…) wants to write children’s books. He’s really into an Australian fiction writer whose name I can’t remember. Today, on the field trip bus, I asked if he’s read The Lightning Thief. He said yes. I asked if he read the whole series, and he rattled off, “Well there’s three in the first series and four in the new series and then he wrote all these side books to go with them…” when I asked if he’s read them all he just nodded.

I read his notebook after school today, I was going to save it for last of the 25 I take home on Fridays but instead indulged first. He wrote about walking through the woods of his backyard in the country and used vocabulary that made me think of Thoreau. Is sixth grade too young for Thoreau? I might pull out some sections for him. This child will be an author.

We had our first field trip of the year, to Skateland and the Nature Center, today. It was a reward for all students who scored proficient on at least one of the three fifth grade state tests (literacy, math, science). Before leaving, I had to remind one of my homework students that he was not allowed to go. I rubbed his back as he burst into angry tears at the floor. I explained, “You are smart. You work hard. I looked at your Benchmark scores, and you are so close to scoring proficient. You can do it this year. I know you will.”

I felt empty and ridiculous saying it out loud, that he was not allowed to come because of a test score. He has a 98% in my class right now (all grades are completion so far, but whatever). I don’t support rewarding state exams with field trips.

I made seating charts on the way to skating, and held hands with all my students for the full two hours on the rink. I traded between my twins — who are quick and low to the ground, great skaters and full of whispers and screams — and my self-sufficient boys who are not yet grown enough to shrug off their teacher when she offers to hold their hands around the skating rink.

I am 25, in no serious relationship, in no way at all interested in finding a family. But if anything could convince me to have children, it’s holding hands with sixth graders, teaching them to skate. My teacher heart was screaming, yelling with love for each tiny hand, each little body of inertia. Each time a student fell (which was probably 5x/sec), I was again astounded at their resilience, at how they jumped right back up. Over and over and over and over.

I could have cried.

I again scolded whatever part of us that makes that die as we grow older. Where does our determination go? Why do our fires get so low?

I’ve been on four field trips as a teacher, and this was by far the best. The most organized, the most calm, the best behavior, and the most appreciated. Aside from the lunch trash all over the state park we ate at (that the teachers cleaned up), I was absolutely impressed with the students. We left talking with our principal (who didn’t skate, but did Wobble) about the next trip we want to take to the capital.

So much more, but exhaustion hits.

I’m not sure what this blog has turned into.

4 Responses

  1. Cindy Wexler

    Is the Aussie John Flanagan? Love his books for kids – The Ranger’s Apprentice series, and Brotherband series. Lightning Thief series is 5 books in the first go round, and now 3 of the second series Heroes of Olympus are out, plus the Kane Chronicles, which is a different series about Egyptian mythology – 3 of those out now too. Expect there will be two more in each series . . . might suggest Nancy Farmer’s Sea of Trolls trilogy, which does a fine job of introducing the tale of Beowulf within the adventure story.

    Not sure about where the fire goes, but I can say it takes longer to heal from those falls as you get older . . .

    and this blog – I love reading it, whatever it has turned into or eventually becomes – thanks for writing it, Caroline.

    • Yes! That is him. This boy looooves that guy; it’s his dream to meet him. I might have him do a special homework assignment to write him a letter.

  2. Joan Harrison

    I’ve been reading your blog for several months and absolutely love it. Something you said in this post reminded me so much of this song, I just had to share it.
    (Even though it’s by a Christian artist, it can definitely be viewed solely in the context of your experiences.)

    • Thanks so much for sharing! I’m a fan of all music, religious ties or not. Living in the delta has got me especially attached to gospel but I hadn’t heard of this girl yet.

      & you’re right, it totally applies and inspires. I’m glad you’ve been reading and enjoy it– I never know what to think about this blog but can’t seem to stop. :)

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