Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I'm interpreting students creating a romantic drama for me as a sign that they like me. They're comfortable with me. It seems to be in good fun (and they even knock it off when I tell them that's enough).
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
- you already have an early release planned
- students haven't been in school for a week
- you drop in on a conversation about how to offer showers to students
- you hear that your students won't get power for another TWO WEEKS (Parmelee again)
Friday, November 7, 2008
I've heard the elders say winter will be hard this year.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
For every 23 registered Republicans in SD, there are 25 people who are registered as something other than Republican. If there are 243,524 registered Republicans, how many people are registered as something else? (Link)
Proposition 11 is the state issue that will probably get the most national attention. (It’s the law that would ban abortion in the state.) An Argus Leader Media/KELO-TV poll showed a dead heat on Initiated Measure 11, the state's proposed abortion ban: 44% said they'd vote for it and 44% said they'd vote against it if the election were held immediately. It takes one more than half the voters to decide an election. If there are 508,240 registered voters in the state, how many more people does either side need to convince to win the election? (Link)
Most people in South Dakota have 6 weeks to vote early by stopping by their local courthouse. Saturday was the only day early voting was offered on the Rosebud Reservation. How many fewer days of early voting do residents of Todd county have than other people in the state? (Link)
In the last presidential election 149,244 South Dakotans voted for Kerry and 232,584 voted for Bush. If there were 508,240 registered voters in the state, what percentage of registered voters did not vote? (Link)
Sunday, October 5, 2008
One of my friends complained that I haven't taken pictures of myself recently. As a way of making myself feel better about staying late Friday afternoon, I took some shots of the classroom. I posted them on Flickr and had a request to share with a group within a day.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
It's something I started last year. I need to process the day with someone from outside the system and they're great for it.
They had a meeting this evening, so I called a friend instead. I had stories from tutoring that I wanted to share.
Because I talk to my parents so often, I forget how sensational my stories can be. I remembered somewhere in the midst of telling my friend--a friend who's on the phone with me weekly; who has other teacher friends--because I didn't want to paint too negative a picture.
The theme of today's stories was one of hope. The lightbulb moment when a student saw the connection between repeated multiplication and addition. The awe that I've become a person that students can tell me some of the problems they're dealing with. And the way that students face their challenges.
These are the moments that remind me both that I have improved since last year and of the power of being a consistent presence here. These stories hold the promise of the coming year. My friend was able to catch the hopeful rays, but there's still the shadow reminding me how different the world my students experience is from my own.
After all, I can call my parents every day.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I love playing with data.
I believe that testing can be a good thing.
But, yet again, good in theory comes off as horrible in reality. I’m sitting with students as they take our in-house standardized test. They’re bored.
For the seniors it’s the 10th time they’ve taken it. It being this exact version of the test. Same questions. Same choices. Same order. Don’t write in the booklet, because we need to use it next time sameness.
If the data was useful, maybe it’d be worth it.
The math version has as many questions on it about Roman Numerals as questions about variables. We have one evaluate the expression, one single-step solve the equation, two plot the points, nothing about actually graphing lines. The Roman Numerals are ones I’d have to take my best guess on, though my mom could answer them.
But this is what the school board uses to judge the teachers. (Students saw their scores only once last year.) Hopefully we’ll have enough practice with fractions and decimals to “show improvement.” Because this year I’m saying, “You’re in Algebra/Geometry/Algebra II. We don’t have time to go over fractions for a month. You need to be able to use them. They’re in our problems. If you need help, ask!”*
I could teach to the test. It might impress school officials. Or I can keep looking at what we’re supposed to teach (even our vague standards are beyond what we’re testing) and pushing beyond.**
*I am working through some examples on the board. Trying to remind students of rules they never learned. And then enough walk me through it examples where we should do something.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
They weren't processed until a week or two ago.
I was trying to save the school some money, and instead of using our catalog found an online vendor that has lower prices. I especially relied on them for the materials that other schools expect students to provide. Binders. Notebook dividers. Notebook paper. You know, the basics
Think about the past three months. Gas prices are dipping now, but companies are already raising prices.
So my shopping cart of materials is more expensive now than it was then.
School starts next Tuesday. Hopefully, I'll be able to get this processed so the supplies will arrive to an (empty) school on Monday.
At least I didn't try to save too much money and ordered extras of many supplies. Maybe those 30 bumper binders will save enough money to help this go through.
The question: what supplies do you find most necessary for your students?
Monday, August 11, 2008
Sunday, August 10, 2008
I’m a knitter and, when I get the chance, I like to hang out with other knitters. Overall, knitters have two ways we approach our work.
There are the knitters who are project oriented. The ones who ask, “When are you going to finish that?” or “How long did that take you?” These are the people who know the techniques to speed up their knitting so they can finish one project and move on to the next. And they always seem to know what they’re going to work on next.
Then there are the process knitters. The people who will work on something for a while, just enjoying the process of creation. They experiment with techniques for the effects they have. They have more works-in-progress than planned projects, because if something looks interesting then they should try it out now.
I’m a process knitter. Currently there are two major projects I’ve almost completed, but finishing--joining pieces, weaving in loose ends of yarn, blocking a project to define it’s final shape--bores me. Completing the project isn’t enough motivation for me. I want to be able to really experience it. When winter comes and I’m ready to wear that wool sweater, I’ll find the time to finish it. I’ll block my shawl soon, but there’s no way I’m wearing it mid-summer.
As such, I hate being pushed to give an end-date for a project. My senior year of high school, I worked on a sweater jacket.* As the bag carrying the sweater became fuller, the question, “When will you be done?” came more and more frequently.
...from college.” **
I have a similar attitude toward goals outside of knitting. I understand that some people need them. I hear that they help you more if you define them specifically. But they feel more constraining to me.
It’s a bit of a lie to say I don’t have goals. I do.***
I don’t know. Maybe my GPA would have been .15 points higher, if I had more explicit goals and found some extra drive during my worst college classes, but I still wouldn’t have graduated summa. Maybe that sweater jacket would have finished 8 months earlier, but I wouldn’t have worn it any more. The fact is, I’m perfectly happy being a process person.
But, I face a dilemma at school. The beginning of the school year is ripe with goalsetting. I’m told I should do it, but it just seems so forced. I believe in the end-product, but the process fails at motivating me. Student goal-sheets never did anything for me as a student. How do I convince students of their benefits when they’re not something I get genuinely excited about?
Because most people aren’t process knitters, I understand that setting goals is a useful skill for most people. In a region where kindergardeners give you a blank stare when asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and high schoolers think it’s okay to tell their teacher that they’ll sell drugs, I do believe it’s crucial to create visions, to repeatedly go through the process of defining action plans and following them to an endpoint.
But I haven’t found an overall method that’s comfortable for me. I didn’t have much buy-in with my pep talks and personal conversations last year, perhaps because they felt trite even to me. I’m realizing I need to try something else.
How do you bring goals to the classroom? What do you set for students? What do you have students define for themselves? How do you motivate anyone to set honest goals, and not follow my habit of filling in the answers I expect people want to hear?
*I was, and often still am, that girl who knit during class. It helps me concentrate.
**I had the pieces completed and pinned together by the time I graduated high school. A friend convinced me to sew them together in the fall of my first year at college.
*** A personal goal for this school year is to take the pictures necessary to create a calendar of hay--because my phrase last year was that I was living in said calendar. But I classify it as a project rather than a goal.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
In an effort to improve my outlook, some things I'm looking forward to this year.
- Being more prepared than last year.
- Already having established favorite resources while planning. (If you want more, look at my del.icio.us account--it's listed over to the side.)
- New math teacher.
- Greater motivation to collaborate with new math teacher. (We'll be living together, so my guess is it will be hard to avoid.)
- Introducing class blogs. (Planning to be a teacher-centered list of resources. I can't count on students having a constant phone, never mind internet access. But I can publish websites where you can practice and set students to work on them when they come in for tutoring.)
- Hope that as a returning teacher, I'll have better relationships with students.
- This year's precalculus class--I already know most of the students who will be in it and they know me.
- Word-problem warm-up journals.
- Teaching organization skills through notebooks.
- More groupwork for discovery lessons.
- Having actual discovery lessons.
- Knowing more about how different manipulatives work.
- Hearing back from last year's seniors. (Though I'm afraid they'll be like campers and not really keep me updated as much as I'd like.)
- Creating studentwork that can decorate our classroom.
- Being more of a stickler about teaching what the class should be, not falling back to where students were left behind. Running with them to catch up.
I'll be out of town celebrating my grandmother's 80th birthday for the next week. After that, I'll drive back across the country to start in-service. Here's to savoring the break of summer so that there's energy enough come fall.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Excerpt from Conversation Type A
Setting local cafe (or library. This time it’s the cafe). I’m sitting at a table with my computer and a textbook.
RANDOM GUY: What school do you go to?
ME: Oh, I’m a teacher in South Dakota.
RG: Wha? You never…
ME: Yessir, just finished my first year. Working on planning some lessons right now. Holds up textbook to read cover. Algebra, teacher’s edition.
RG: South Dakota? What are you doing down here then?
ME: Visiting family over summer vacation.
RG: Okay...When do you go back?
ME: Well, I’ve just got a few more days in town before I go on a trip with my family.
ME: I’m working on writing my “Welcome to Algebra” letter to students. What would you have wanted to hear from you teacher on the first day of school?
I hear other people talk about how little time they took to write and reflect during their first year teaching. The end-of-year comments on blogs that started enthusiastically in the fall only to be pushed aside by October. Compared to some of the people who are dedicated bloggers, I’m an irregular presence here. But between my writings here and elsewhere online and my actual journal, I wrote more details about last year than I remember at given moment.
Then summer came and I stopped.
Few entries here. Fewer there.
During my writing sabbatical, I’ve been talking more.
Excerpt from Conversation Type B
Setting Stitch and Bitch at a yarn store (or book club at the library or local church. This time it’s the S&B). I recently joined the conversation and made everyone else introduce themselves.
CONVERSATION LEADER: So what school do you go to Sarah?
ME: I just finished my first year teaching.
CL: What do you teach?
ME: High school math.
CL: And where do you teach?
ME: I’m teaching on a reservation in South Dakota.
CL: Wow. How’d you get here?
ME: I’m visiting family in town for a few weeks. My parents moved here after I left home, so I don’t really have connections in the area. I found your website and came here tonight.
CL: And what’s it like in South Dakota?
I’ve been telling stories. Trying to convey my experience truthfully, but hopefully. Trying to separate my experience of the place from my experience as a teacher. Trying to keep teaching separate from first year teaching.
I don’t know how to do it.
Instead, I talk about students. I talk about the weather. I talk about teacher housing. I talk about the drive to the grocery store. I talk about the insanity of not knowing whether a student has dropped out or just isn’t in school for a month. I talk about the student who threatened to get me kicked off the reservation in the fall and invited me to his confirmation in the spring. I talk about how far behind they are. I talk about how much progress we made. And sometimes, sometimes, I talk about how uncertain I am.
Excerpt from Conversation Type C, Part I
Setting local farmer’s market (or book club at the park or wherever I find people closer to my age. This time it’s the farmer’s market).
CUTE GUY: How’d you end up in South Dakota?
ME: Well, I joined Teach for America and wanted to go someplace rural and not in the South, so there I was.
CG: I’ve been thinking about doing a similar program. What’s it like?
ME: South Dakota’s pretty different than other regions, so I can’t say what it’s like elsewhere, but... lots of the aforementioned rambling...
The thing is, my identity this year has been framed by being a math teacher on a reservation in South Dakota, not by being TFA. The program is very much present, but it’s not what I name first. For this year at least, I think it’s claimed me more than I’ve claimed it.
It has shaped how I teach. But so have the education courses I took in college and the people I’ve found online.
Excerpt from Conversation Type C, Part II
Farmer's market. The conversation draws to end. I scribble on a piece of paper and hand it to CG.
ME: Here’s my e-mail address if you have any more questions. I’ve also included the address for my teacher blog. You can find some links to other people in my area there. Get a larger sense of things. I haven’t updated for a while, but I will once school starts again.
This blog has suffered for lack of definition. Any guidelines I tried to impose on myself here disappeared pretty quickly. I’m going into the next year with a different approach--an approach that I think I’ve already taken, so I don’t think anything will change. I’m stating the guidelines more for my benefit than yours, but writing them here so you know what we’re getting into.
I’m going to let this be my space to share what I feel comfortable about my life. About being a math teacher on a reservation in South Dakota. It will have stories from the classroom, both student anecdotes and reflections on teaching. It will almost certainly will have requests for help (which may well be accompanied by comments on others’ blogs so you know I’m asking). Posting will probably be irregular, so if you have a feed reader go ahead and subscribe. We’ll see how much I reflect about my second year.
Friday, June 13, 2008
I'm currently in DC and am loving the opportunity to play tourist. Hitting museums right and left.
In Feburary, I saw this article and resolved to visit the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. Seriously, I saved it to del.icio.us tagged to a friend in the area with the note, "Can I visit this whenever I make it out to visit you this summer?"
I did not visit with that friend, but with another friend. We arrived just before a docent tour of the portrait gallery started and decided that would be a good way to start off our day. The tour was wonderful. Our guide took a route where she stopped in every room that we walked into. She would tell us about a portrait, giving all sorts of fun facts. (Which president had a rubber jaw? And where was the secret surgery performed?) And she kept us moving. If there was something else in the room that you wanted to see (for instance when I saw a Lakota cradleboard), that was fine. She kept everyone else moving through. The style was so exciting that I wanted to keep up and find out what else was going on.
After that experience, we were eager for the next docent tour this time of the Art Museum side. Maybe our expectations were raised so they had farther to fall, but we were not impressed. When we were given the out (another docent tour starting now) we jumped for it. And were thrilled to find our first guide doing a different tour.
The thing is, the second docent did the things that good teachers are "supposed to" do. She started out telling us where she would take us. When we were touring she asked us questions about the paintings. She waited for us to stop looking at other pieces in the room before she started talking. She got out the special docent gloves and showed us things that most visitors won't get to see.
And I was BORED.
If I wanted to talk about the pictures I would go through with my friend. I was there to learn more. I wanted the action-packed excitement. And the docent gloves weren't it, no matter how much she liked them.
I keep thinking about how this applies to my classroom. I fear I'm too much of the second docent. Too much of the following the rules. Too much of being excited about myself. Not enough contagious excitement about the material.
I'm not always sure of what makes the excitement contagious, but I think having the deep knowledge of the material. Having the confidence to say, "I don't know the answer to that. Let's look it up." Having the knowledge to be comfortable asking what students want to learn. Where do you want to go from here?Being able to say, "Oh this museum is confusing. I came up a different direction than normal and now I'm lost. You enjoy in here while I go find the picture I really want you to see."
Hopefully I'll have a bit more of that confidence in year two.
And lesson for anyone visiting DC, on Docent tours at the Portrait Gallery, Library of Congress, and the other museum where she works, try to get Madonna as your guide.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
10 schooldays since I turned in my keys for the summer and I may be ready to reflect on the year.
Dear Me '07,
Congratulations! You've made it through the whirlwind of finals/induction/graduation/packing-up-and-saying-goodbye/putting-stuff-in-storage-and-meeting-everyone-new
/9-hour-drives/flights-galore! Doubtless you realize that the whirlwind is just beginning. Take a moment, however brief, to savor these moments. They will be the last ones you have for a year without the pressure of lesson planning, grading, or just thinking about students.
During the fall, a friend will ask you, "If you could go back a year ago, would you still do it? Would you still check the box signing up to teach?"
My answer? "I don't think I could have talked myself out of it."
Claim it for what it is. The confession that you wonder why you agreed to this despite the warnings. The acknowledgment seeing the achievement gap from the student side is a different story than seeing it from the teacher side. All the more so in a strange and foreign land.
This accompanied by the optimistic hope that you can help the education system in some small, albeit stopgap, way. The determination that what is happening is not right and that doing something is better than not. The faith that, at least for now, teaching is your calling.
Because no matter how much you hear the stories, you don't know it until you live it. And even after living it, yes, especially after living in it, you realize you still don't know it.
After two weeks visiting friends in cities I've realized that when I'm in one world, I can't really imagine the other one. On the reservation, the neighborhoods of the suburbs aren't even a dream. The stores of downtown might as well be on the moon. The fifth-graders on a scavenger hunt at a museum are a sight to take pictures of, never mind that I have no connection to them.
As I drive farther from the reservation, it becomes ever harder to describe. When asked about jobs in the community, should I avoid mentioning the 85 percent unemployment rates? As the force of the number is reflected in people's face, should I remind them that this is among the poorest places in the states. I feel guilty for falling back on the deficit model--there is a rich heritage, my favorite tradition is the morning flag song--but there is truth that in other, larger areas there is wealth nearby. That wealth symbolized by something more than trailer-park teacher housing. Meaning not only is it existent, it's visible.
Given that I fall short of describing the reality you'll face, offering wisdom of how to prepare for it is beyond me.
My general advice?
Take advantage of your ability to ask for help.
Be amazed at how much you can keep in touch with people when you really need to.
Retreat to the edublogosphere when you need to passively plan for the future (or just not plan for tomorrow quite yet).
Take a mental health day when necessary and hope for conveniently placed snowdays.
Get out of town to remind yourself of the different worlds when you need to.
Own the successes of each day as they happen (too many will still feel like failures at the end of the year).
And remember, you couldn't talk yourself out of it. There's something here you believe in. In the students. In the community. In yourself. You may not know what it is, but it was strong enough to get you to check the box. And for what it's worth, it's strong enough that you'll be back.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Not my town. But the town where many of my students live. The town with the closest grocery store. Best gas prices in the area, because its large enough to have more than two pumps at one store. He was there. Where the tribal college is. That's actually where he spoke. On the steps to the museum. Drum group and tipi to the left*.
I found out less than 48 hours before the event. I wish I'd known sooner. School ended on Thursday. (And most students stopped coming before then.) I would have encouraged them to go. I don't want to promote one policital agenda before another, but I do want my students to feel empowered in national politics.
I saw my politically active student at the event. He's already clear on his candidate of choice. (More so than I am of mine.) He came to school about three weeks ago telling me about a rally he'd attended in a city 4 hours away. But he was the only one.
I hadn't attended political rallies before this year. At the campaign events I've attended this year, I've learned that I get snarky when listening to political schmooze. I'm not sure that they've really influenced my vote in the primary. Still, it's the type of live-it education that I want to offer my students. When it comes so close to us, is so accessible to us**, it's so frustrating that the school can't do anything with it.
* It was interesting to classify the people at the event as locals or coming from elsewhere for the event. Racial sterotyping? Oh yeah. I say this knowing that I look like an outsider. Then again, after only living here a year, I am an outsider.
**I arrived three minutes before start time and still got to shake hands before leaving. Totally different from waiting outside in the cold for three hours to see a speech in January.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
They're all handwritten on chart paper. I went through and typed most of them up. See them here if you need some sort of inspiration. (Or in your feedreader. It took me a bit to figure out how to get it up with blogger.) Warning that the quality of the problems vary.
I'm leaving the last warm-up word problem on the board. It's a reminder to myself of the situation here.
This year’s graduating class is 1/3 the size of this fall’s freshmen class. If we had 45 freshmen this year and assume that the seniors entered SFIS with a similar class size, how many students are not graduating this year?
Edit: Hrumph. Link not working yet. I'm leaving for my summer travels in the morning and need to pack. I'll update when I figure this out...
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I'll take some of the responsibility for it. I have some plans of what I'd like to change next year, but at the moment I'm feeling afraid of my shortcomings.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Friday, May 9, 2008
For letting students come in for tutoring.
They came to my window to ask me to open the door. My phone rang at the same point, hall monitor saying the doors were locked and she would not open them for the students. I walked to the entrance, escorted them back to my room. I figure explaining that I got written up for trying to give students extra help so they could graduate would not look bad on my record.
Thankfully, I think my assistant principal agrees.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Algebra kids had a concept quiz yesterday. I scored them last night, put them in the gradebooks, gave them back today. But if I want students to learn from the quiz, I figure they need a way to go back and review the quiz.
The method for today was to give them just the answers to the problems. They had the rest of class to work with a partner/group to discuss any problems missed. (I answered questions by turning them around, pointing them to their notes, the filing system of old notes, or a poster on the wall.) Half-way through the review time, I gave them each a post-it with a problem from the test. Yes, the problems were strategically chosen to be one they missed, even better if their partner missed it too. If students were working, I assigned a problem that I knew they were discussing. If they were slacking, that's when they got the "harder" problems.
In order to get your participation credit for the day, you needed to put your problem on the board by the end of the review time. You didn't have to explain it to the rest of the class (my students really shy away from talking). You weren't going to embarrass yourself by getting it wrong (you have the answer and you have people helping you).
It's a decent way to review. I like it better than me working all the problems on the board. It has the perk of getting students to the board (they tend to stay away from it to work, but will doodle and tag their name all over it otherwise). They were more likely to ask questions of a single peer than they are to ask questions to me in front of the class. They were also more likely to ask questions when they knew they needed to do this again and soon. I'm not knocking this method. I'll use it again.
But there must be other ways to review tests. What are they?
Dear people who observe me,
It's not that I don't like good reviews, having someone pump up my ego is fun. When you actually name things that I'm doing well, I appreciate it more than just hearing "That was great."
But, I am still new at this.
I am nowhere near perfect.
I can tell from how poorly students do on tests that there's a lot they don't get, meaning I'm not doing my job as well as I should.
So please tell me what to do better. Please give me some concrete ways I can improve.Thank you,
Monday, April 14, 2008
By 8:45 Thursday morning, it was snowing in St. Francis, but not in other parts of the state. It wasn't until 2:45 in the afternoon that it started snowing in Pierre, 114 miles away. Find the speed of the system to approximate the average wind speed.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Monday, April 7, 2008
If you're done with testing, it's a free day. Apparently I'm not supposed to offer tutoring, but if you want it, stop by. We'll take over the back corner of the classroom, no problem.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Monday, March 31, 2008
- Got more sleep
- Finished reading One Hundred Years of Solitude (Also, after a friend asked if I understood it, I scanned the wikipedia article and took the Sparknotes quiz. I didn't get a perfect score but 88% isn't bad for a "whatever I get out of it" read.)
- Tried a new tofu recipe for lunch. (Hot lunch that I want to eat on a weekday. Luxury indeed.)
- Half-watched LOTR: The Two Towers
- Took time to go through links and check out some new blogs (because there wasn't enough new material coming in through the reader)
- Read the early posts of teachers who have made it past the few years to reassure myself that you felt like miserable teachers at one point too
- Baked pizza for dinner
- Attempted to build snowman
- Read up on fractions in Elementary School Mathematics: Teaching Developmentally by John Van de Walle (suggested by Dan, who I still owe a huge THANK YOU for talking with me in January)
- E-mailed my principal my plan of study for the year
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Students have become so burnt-out taking the tests that they no longer care how well they score on them.
Perceptive as always, C--- recognized that he had missed a slew of problems not because he didn’t understand the concept but because he didn’t know “the words,” the specific language of the specific questions of this test.
How's this for a classic example of tests written to favor middle class suburban students:"The city council is considering an ordinance banning cycling on all sidewalks. Consider the effects such an ordinance would have, and decide whether you support or oppose the measure. Then, write an essay in which you express and support your opinion on the issue."
What??? Some of my students have probably never SEEN a sidewalk! And kids around here do not have/ride bikes.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Before classes begin, our school drum group sings the Flag Song in the commons area. Students aren't allowed back to the classrooms until the Flag Song is over, meaning that it's a good chance to get a sense of who is present any day. Today the other schools in the area have the day off.
When Flag Song began, I counted 32 students. That's right. Total attendance at my school appeared to be smaller than some of the overcrowded classrooms some of you are teaching.
Somehow, my actual classes have had better than average attendance. Apparently looks can be deceiving.
Friday, March 21, 2008
I'm glad I did.
Yesterday, we spoke briefly about his poetry. I asked him to bring in a piece to share. Today we were one-on-one, so we just talked. He performed his piece, which was an amazing moment for me. It gave me a chance to hear his perspective, to better understand where he is coming from. He's a pretty good writer, especially when I remember what his education has been.
At some point, the conversation turned to his plans post graduation. (I might have pushed it there.) I could envision him sitting around the cafeteria discussing philosophy, politics, religion, and whatever; having the courage to give his perspective during lectures; hanging out late at night; just being that voice from such a different life than his classmates. I can even see him finding his way to bring it back here.
I think it was the first time that I really saw any of my stuents succeeding at any college, not just one of the smaller, more local ones that caters to them. I could tell that he would have the courage to ask for help, a confidence that I lack for other students.
It makes me proud of him. I haven't fully learned his back story, but I think he spent time in JDC. I am almost positive he's been a trouble student in the past. He never expected to come this far. His poem included the line, "I never expected to live this long." And I'm sitting here dreaming of how far he can go.
I'm frustrated that the system has failed him. He has a brilliant mind, but his education is roughly at the same level as the middle schoolers that end up attending the colleges where I want to send him. I'm sure my visions of college are skewed by my own experience. I feel like he's best prepared for a community college or technical school, but wish I could send him somewhere like Middlebury. (Which both my sister and my cousin strongly considered last year.)
He's not always a stellar student. Mostly it's because he's absent so much, not because he's not capable. In some ways, taking the time to connect with him may be better for his math grade in the long run--who knows, maybe having a stronger relationship with me will help him come to school more. In every way I'm grateful that I have this student who is willing to share so much and help inspire me.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
But I'm so relieved when it does.
F stayed afterschool today for tutoring. We've been struggling all year. He, more than any other student, is in a class way above his current knowledge. A few weeks ago, there was a breakthough. I realize how my expectations for students aren't really where they should be when I expect so much more now.
After school, it was a lot of drill practice. Not the fun stuff that I like. But getting the material again and again helps. And finding the right balance is a trick I haven't mastered yet.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
Thursday, February 7, 2008
His two favorite phrases:
"You didn't show us that."
"Yeah, well, you didn't teach it right."
Definitely a student who makes me want to claim the victories while I can.
Yesterday was a practice day in his class. I gave them time and space to work, checking in with everyone periodically. After looking over one problem he'd solved, I told him it looked great.
"That's all you have to do? That's so easy."
A relief to know that even though the day before I hadn't taught him anything, he can work through problems that require mastery of previous concepts in addition to the new material.
"I know I'm tardy. Just..." mutter under his breath.
"You're in the wrong class."
"What hour is it?"
"Second. See you in an hour."
The second period students had a good chuckle, before the hall monitors came to take them to the assembly or ISS. (Really? They can't do the work in my room? How is ISS any better?)At least, having a handful of students coming to class, getting ready to work, when they don't need to is a morale booster.