Monday, May 25, 2009

True Notebooks

Since starting the class two years earlier, I'd had plenty of opportunities to wonder: What is the value of a positive experience if it is only temporary? How do you weight the advantages against the disadvantages of affection, or of aspiration? After all I'd been through with the boys--some of it wonderful and some of it terrible--all I could say was that a little good has got to be better than no good at all. That, I wrote Kevin, was my answer to his question of why I went there: not because I always enjoyed it, and not because the boys always enjoyed it, but because most of us seemed to agree that it was a good thing to do.

~page 323, True Notebooks by Mark Salzman

I copied this quote when I first read True Notebooks sophomore year of college. Found it in my journal this fall and was inspired to reread the book as a teacher. I'm finally returning the book to my friend and flipped though, just to find the quote again.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Prayer from the Last Day of School

I picked up my copy during third period. There is now a photo on Bebo of me reading it to two of my Blueberry Girls.

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Two Years"

Sam comes into my room early morning. She's here to have me sign her checkout form. "You're my last signature." Everything's in order for graduation.

"See you in class, Ms. Cannon." 
"Really? Are you done painting your senior tile? Will graduation practice be done?"
"I dunno."
"Don't make promises then. I'll see you later."

Fourth period, last chance to attend class as a student, Sam sneaks in just after the bell. My plan this week is having students study old skills, present mini-lessons, and retake quizzes. I try to have her help some other students study a topic she's been working on, but when she ends up in a back desk, earbuds in, gazing at the word wall, I'm not bothered. Just curious what she's thinking.

"Two years this room."

From this desk to that one. From head-on-the-desk refusing to try to serious dedication getting things done. When I asked the vice principal about her two years ago, I was told stories of fights the year before. How a summer program transformed her and she was working for everyone else. I wondered how to get her to work for me.

I can't give you the recipe. It didn't work for everyone. But eventually, something clicked with Sam. After Failing my class last year (sorry), Sam made it through the first one and a half quarters this year. By third quarter she was back in the danger zone, with graduation requirements looming. I showed her exactly what she needed to do to get any grade she decided to aim for. It would take work, but we'd make it happen.

And happen it did. Up to passing in time for prom, Sam kept working. Celebrating each baby step along the way, passing wasn't enough. She wanted the best she could earn.

"Two years." 

At the Wacipi that afternoon, Sam hands me an envelope. Graduation invitation. Inside is another card that says "Thank You." The note inside is exactly what I needed to hear.

"You helped me more than anything."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Stay ability

If you click my profile, you'll see the Ethics of Service blog. Last year I was asked to contribute to the class blog for a class of the same name. Even though the class ended a year ago, I posted again in December about the decision to leave. Wanted to share this with you.

On Leaving

I don't know if anyone will read this, but this seems like the appropriate space for sharing my current reflection process. I'm struggling with the ethics of ending service.

I'm working on my grad school applications, planning to leave the reservation next year. Yet when the security guard asked me yesterday if I would be back next year, I said I didn't know. Although I do not feel called to teach for the rest of my life, and want to attend graduate school, I'm experiencing guilt for this decision.

They didn’t expect me to make it through my first year. On my first day of school, I allowed students to ask me questions. The most frequent question was, “How long will you be here?” Time and again they have been abandoned. By teachers. By family. By volunteers who are here for a week of their summer, leaving to tell stories of the difficulty of these people's lives.

My return from Christmas convinced some students that I would make it through the year; they never said the words, but their attitude toward me changed. Girls who had walked out of class refusing to do work, moved to the front of the room to work on the board and stayed afterschool for extra help. While I know my teaching has improved, my continued return has gained a trust that transforms my classroom. Stability--stay ability--is a gift they do not receive often enough.

When I leave, whether it's next year or 15 years in the future, I will add more instability to the system. My time here has been longer than the summer volunteers, but I wonder how much good we do. I have to believe that the benefits we help bring outweigh the cost of this unstable system. Have to hope that my presence for two years is more meaningful than the absence I replaced. Have to trust that someone else will fill in the void I leave.

TFA is sometimes said to stand for "Teach for Awhile." The program's only been at my school for 3 years. One-third of the first corps has stayed for their third year. And even leaving after two years we are more constant than the one year teachers who were here before us. Still, I'm afraid of this system that says, it's okay to be here a little while. A little while may be better than never, but some days I'm not sure.

Two Weeks Notice

Face-to-face friends know it. I told people on Twitter when I clicked the button. And have been telling students through a gradual process for a few months.

I'm not coming back next year. Not to the reservation and not to teaching. At least not directly.

I'm going to graduate school. 

FAQ (Minus the Q)

A1. Northwestern. 

A2. Human Development and Social Policy. 

A3/4. PhD program. 5 years.

A5. Interdisciplinary program. I'm excited to explore statistical analysis of schools and policy. Especially after seeing how the numbers play out in reality.

A6. I'm sure I'll keep blogging, but not here. This is my teacher blog. If I'm not a teacher at the time, then this isn't the place. There are two weeks left this school year. I'll transition to a new space online as I transition to the new place.

I made a list last night of posts before I leave, but this is your warning that a bookmark shift will be in order soon.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Song from the Mean Teacher

Paul Ford's six-word description is "Perfect for prepping for your finals." Video below for easy listening, but download at SXSW.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Why I Haven't Shared More of the NaPoWriMo

April 30

It's the students who tell the counselor, "Yeah she's a fair grader," even though they're still failing. (But getting better.)

It's the "I'm going to get a bunch of people to tell you to come back next year." (Followed by threats of leaving too.)

It's the dropping in and chillin'. Talking 'bout what's wrong with the rez. (Gang violence and I look at the blue shirt, the matching hat on backwards.)

It's the celebrating milestones, baby victories along the way. Asking "Who should I call to brag on you."

It's the knowledge that I will not lower my expectations no matter how who bullies.

And it's some kind of hope in those convictions that bring me in day after day.