About two months ago I set a countdown to June 6, 2013, the last day of school.
At that time, one hundred and forty-two days stood between me and freedom. On the other hand, one hundred and forty-two days stood between me and the coveted TFA “significant gains”. One hundred and forty-two days stood between putting my students on a different life track and being just like every other teacher.
I shared the countdown on Instagram and wrote that I am often discouraged by apathetic students and bogged down with planning. Although planning is one of the most important aspects of teaching it’s probably something I hate the most (besides grading). Yet, outside of teaching I consider myself to be a great planner. Furthermore, administration can’t tell that I’m not backwards and unit planning (which is not something I’m proud of). I am bored. After a while teaching simple, compound, and complex sentences becomes colorless and flat. Again, going back to planning. I should be planning lessons and educational games that make sentences FUN, right? I am flat out bored with the monotony of English, but also I realize that there are other life lessons they need to learn in addition to whatever is tested on the STAAR. Plus, my students are taking reading and math STAAR which means English is not a priority as far as the district is concerned (same with science and social studies). What counts for me is one little section on Stanford. As I delve into persuasion and poetry (two units that I adore), I am worried that maybe I should curtail these interesting topics to instead become a Grammar Grouch so that my kids can score well on Stanford.
Lest I begin to sound like a complete Debbie Downer, the rest of the IG post stated that even with all of these grievances I want to be held accountable. I want to grow personally and professionally. I want so badly to make a difference in the lives of these children. I want to be pushed to my limits.
Yet, it’s 53 days later and now only eighty-nine days stand between myself and freedom. Eighty-nine days are left for me and my students within these four walls.
Over the last two months, there are only two things that stand out to me. First, I started to do home visits (which I should’ve done a long time ago). Through the home visit I extended an invitation to our ELL/LEP (English Language Learners/Limited English Proficiency) Family Fun Night to one of my students who I thought was already labeled as a LEP student. Turns out he’s been struggling all year, going home frustrated and crying because he doesn’t understand what’s going on. He should be labeled ESL (probably an Advanced/Advanced High) but wasn’t. All year I thought he was lazy and disorganized (which probably is part of it), but part of it is he doesn’t understand. If I hadn’t done the home visit and invited his family, we never would’ve known. I count this as a victory, although, he’s only done moderately better since then. He is now on the radar and will receive pull-outs when necessary. The second victory was with D.P. He’s come into class the last three days (blocked schedule, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday) discouraged, puts his head down, unorganized, etc. And after a while I almost wanted to let him keep his head down to simply cut down on distraction, but each day I took him outside the room and had a heart-to-heart. This Tuesday, I even got the band director to mentor him. I’m hoping this will help. D.P. has had a rough life with a lot of loss, but as sad as that is he cannot afford to use it as a crutch. I don’t know if I got through to him, and I don’t know how much the band director can help but I rest at night knowing that I tried.
Over my last three years as a teacher, I’ve grown to realize that I am not a super hero. Reading ‘One Day’ and hearing various stories from TFA classrooms might lead you to believe otherwise, and for some it may be possible to achieve superhero status. But for most of us in the trenches, it’s a daily struggle for small victories. I must say I didn’t think it would be like this. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I might not know I’ve made a difference until a former student contacts me five years from now. I’m okay with that. I’ve also come to grips with the fact that I’m a good teacher, but I’m not a super hero, and I’ll most likely be leaving the classroom. Instead of being viewed as a superhero, I’ve always had an affinity for Optimus Prime, so I believe I am a Transformer because they have a Spark. “The Spark is that indefinable, indescribable energy that makes them truly alive, more than mere machines.” Working with children makes me come alive, but in order for me to continue and feel content and fulfilled I need to find a different outlet.
It’s 53 days later and now only eighty-nine days stand between myself and summer vacation freedom. I’ve stopped idolizing the red cape and switched my focus instead to my heart, my soul, my Spark.