Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Neither will moments like today when Adony and I both realize that he has jumped 9...NINE Fountas and Pennel reading levels since September.
This is the kid who told me I was wasting my time with him in the mornings.
The kid who freaked out when Jose stepped on his foot and drug me down the hall in bare feet in my effort to restrain him.
The kid other teachers are afraid of because he's so big and...well...angry.
Neither one of us could quit smiling today as he read a level K book and understood it.
Maybe he will drop out and maybe he won't pass the damn ELA that is just around the corner.
But by the time he leaves me he will know how to read on grade level.
It's my mission and I refuse to fail.
It will not be televised but it may very well change both of our lives forever and that's what we're here for right?
To be changed...

Monday, November 20, 2006


Today Jose tore up an entire notebook of paper and sprinkled it all over the rug. He then laid down and made snow angels and said in his toddler voice, "I'm making snow angels!"
There was no punishment or reward that could have stopped him. I tried. Instead I kept teaching, the rest of my kids kept learning, and Jose kept making snow angels until he was done and I made him pick up all of the paper.
He tried to use the broom. "You made the mess with your hands so you can pick it up with your hands," I said.
"Okay!" he said. He bounced as he picked up every single piece of paper.
It was a moment that reminded me that there are times I have no clue what to do with some of my kids.

Then Malik threw a pair of scissors at Mario. Child proof scissors are not so child proof when they are thrown in anger across the room.
Almost hit by the scissors, Adony hid under his desk.
None of us could stop asking what had happened - it seemed completely random.
The cause? A math worksheet they both thought was theirs. Nevermind the fact that there was an extra one on the floor (one had fallen)...After school Mario and 5 of his buddies waited for Malik. I requested that he be escorted to the bus. Unfortuneatly I cannot always be there to protect them.

I need a break. A home where I am not in charge of anyone's safety or education.
2 more days and I head to cold weather and good vegetarian food and friends who became family during my 5 years of college. For the first time in my life, I'm actually hoping there's snow on the ground when I get off the plane in Minneapolis.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Somewhere in the time between the end of May and now my kids learned to read.
Maybe it was during the summer, or maybe my attempts at teaching over the last 10 weeks actually resulted in progress.
Either way, they're breezing through the EClass (our reading diagnostic). Some of them jumped 3 and 4 levels in some areas. The average growth was 2 levels. That's almost a year's worth of growth. That means that my little Joshua has grown a year and a half in reading since the end of May.
He came in reading on an end of kindergarten level and he now reads on a mid second grade level.
When I showed him his progress he asked me to take his picture.
"I've never had a smart day before," he said.
I wish I would have had my camera.
I left school on cloud 9.
I can catch these kids up.
I can get them ready for general education and LIFE.
Holy buckets.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I cancelled their field trip.
For throwing pens and fighting and cursing and refusing to do work and not listening to directions.
It was not a logical consequence.
It was not fair.
In 10 seconds I took away something we've all looked forward to for over a month.
But the respect that they used to show is slowly fading away and something needs to change.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I feel like I lost focus.
Like this stopped becoming a mission and started becoming an effort to survive.
Like the passion is there but not like it used to be, then maybe again I associate passion with the rigor of institute when really that was closer to insanity than passion.
I love my kids.
I think about them all of the time.
They are a part of my everyday life, even on weekends and holidays when I don't see them.
I am not teaching like I should.
I am not assessing like I should.
My instruction is not driven by data as much as it should be.
I let my kids get away with not walking in a straight line because I don't have the energy to teach it, even though I know it will save me time in the end.
I do the things I have to do (like bulletin boards and portfolios and grad work and grading and planning) but the creativity is gone, lost in the overwhelming number of never ending tasks.
My kids work silently and instead of rewarding them I relish in the peacefulness.
There is not a sense of urgency, even though we know the ELA is only 33 days away.
How do we get that back?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Somewhere within the past 2 weeks we started having more and more days like today.
When a majority of my kids are on 'good day' in our negative consequence tracking system.
When they LEARN and actually do their independent work successfully on their own.
Where they work together and hold each other accountable for behavior in the classroom.
Where kids notice the room is messy and clean it without me asking them to.
Where I'm not on edge or stressed out and don't have moments where I think, "Oh my God, I don't know how to get their attention right now."
If you walked by or in my room today you would have had no clue I taught 13 emotionally disturbed/violent kids.
I come home thinking, okay, this is my job, and I like it.
Who'd have thought 2 months ago I would ever say that.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Professional development was really 8 hours of too much overwhelming information.
Teach to the test.
Don't teach to the test.
Start now.
Don't start now.
8 weeks left until my babies show what they know on the ELA. Our school year won't be even half over, but if they don't pass, they'll be retained.
After school I added new books to our library and graded their morning journals. A lot was accomplished today, and my classroom and spirit are ready for my kiddos to come back tomorrow.
In spite of all of this, I can't stop thinking about 8 words said to me by an administrator.
A person who's job it is to HELP me help my kids pass these tests.
"A****, we know he won't pass the test."
He's the one I read with 2, now 3 days a week in the morning.
The kid who stays in during recess to do book reports.
My 13 year old working as hard as he can to get out of the 3rd grade.
This past week we took another 'practice' standardized test. I handed it to him and pounded his fist on the desk. Then he cried.
I almost did, too.
He couldn't read it, we both knew it, and all he could do was guess - how do you guess at short answers? He has the potential to be very very screwed, in spite of all of the work we're doing.
But for someone else to write off the hope and the work and the POSSIBILITY that both of us have - the knowledge that he WILL learn to read - it's all I can think about.
All I could think to respond was, "He WILL pass that test, no matter what it takes."
She laughed.
I couldn't be more motivated.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Janitors and Parents

Of all the people in my life, janitors and parents were my heros today.
After witnessing my scolding from my AP for not filling out a form to get my printer fixed, and I responding back to her that a broken printer was about the last thing on my priority list, one of the janitors came back to my room at night and fixed my printer.
The same janitors that instantly clean up bodily fluid, fix broken lightbulbs, close my windows when I forget, climb ladders to get Jose off of the roof when he decides it would be a good idea to hang out up there, and rescue me when I get trapped in the school yard are now fixing my computers.
Janitors are the unsung heroes of my classroom.
Most days I feel like they're the only people who believe in my kids.
Even in the moments when I don't, they do, and they, for some reason, believe in this white girl from Kansas who came to teach the class nobody wanted.
And then there's my parents, who listen to the good and the bad and still answer the phone at the end of the day, and then send emails that say, "No matter what ... Dad and I are behind you all the way. Our support and faith in your ability and decisions is one constant in your life."
They're a seatbelt on this rollercoaster that I chose for myself.
I could leave tomorrow and have a place to call home.
2 places, actually.
That knowledge is what allows me to stay.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I don't know how to fight for myself when my kids seem so much more important.
Professional development and missed preps and illegal ratios seem unimportant when I look at all that needs to be accomplished.
Today I got scolded for not filling out a form to fix my printers.
I really don't care about printers.
Could we fix my kids first please?


Part of TFA's recruitment strategy this year is having current corps members replace their myspace and facebook pictures with a banner linking to the TFA website that says, "2 years from now you won't recognize yourself."
Clever, but kind of scary.
We arrived at institute these idealistic people who couldn't wait to spend the next 2 years saving the world. Now so many of us are burnt out, overworked, discouraged, and in bad need of a hair cut, but who has time when you work 70 hour weeks?
We see each other on the train and in the gym and many times the conversation consists of a weak smile and hope that eventually life will get better than this.
It will...at least that's what we're counting on.
Someone asked me today if I would recommend TFA to upcoming graduates.
It's not about recommending. It's an incredible organization that has the potential to change education in this country. It's about coming prepared to give yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Before your jump at the thought of changing the world, know that it is not easy and that never, not even on good days, have I felt like I'm saving the world (because we're really not - we're first year teachers trying to survive). They say that to you all the time. They prep you for this to be the biggest challenge you will ever face, but there's lots that doesn't get said even in the 17 hour days of institute.
I wish someone would have told me I would have fights in my room almost everyday, and that there would be no where to send kids after (or during) their outbursts/meltdowns, because there's really no one in the school that can manage them.
I wish someone would have told me that violence is the culture of my school, and that eventually I would become numb to it just like my students have, and that this numbness would leave me questioning who I am and why I chose this as my profession.
I wish someone would have told me that I would think about quitting at least 2 times a week.
I wish that someone would have told me that idealism is not what gets you through this. The big picture is sometimes only seen at the end and on many days the only thing that gets me up in the morning is knowing there are only 2 more days until Friday.
Instead, they told me that at the end of the day, I wouldn't be able to imagine my life without these kids and what do you know...they were right...so maybe at the end of 2 years we won't recognize ourselves....
Hopefully we figure out how to squeeze in time for haircuts.