The Learning Curve

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 22 2011

CLING to the POSITIVE

That’s what I’ve written on all my lesson plans for the past two weeks. It’s been an uphill climb in every way. It is a rough realization, recognizing that you’re not being the best that you can be. It feels like a slap in the face, a crippling disappointment, a brick wall too high.

I haven’t written in a while because so much of my life seems so hard to put into words on a blog post. Now that the first quarter has passed, we have begun to settle into our school’s culture, which is very much… not good. Our school has a violent incident on a daily basis – usually in the middle school, many times in the elementary as well – and the police have become a regular presence on our campus. On Thursday morning they arrested three students (three unrelated allegations) prior to the first bell. There was a brawl on the yard in the middle of the day and an incident with a parent of one of my students that was, frankly, traumatizing to witness.

But there are good things. I am closer to some of my coworkers than I could’ve ever imagined. I am starting to build a life in New Orleans, and although it is very slow-going, I am beginning to feel like I live here instead of just occupy a classroom more hours than I care to admit. There are so many things I’m not doing well, or well enough, when it comes to teaching. There are so many ways in which I allowed myself to get comfortable with less, which means that I am lowering my expectations of my teaching skills and thereby letting down my students. I am trying to take a strong accounting of my own failings and prevent them from sinking another quarter. It’s imperative that my students get a better teacher from me than I have been delivering.

To end on a positive note: the absolute best part of my day yesterday was offering my students 2 Wildcat Bucks (incentive tickets at our school) to the person who could do the best Cat Daddy (video has explicit lyrics). Seeing 22 eight year old children break into simultaneous, ridiculous dance moves in the middle of the hallway was absolutely hysterical. BEST. EVER.

2 Responses

  1. StumbledUponThisPost

    Very sobering post and I applaud you for revealing this to your readers. I am a current TFA applicant and reading this reminded me of the attitude that you have to assume in the classroom – “It’s imperative that my students get a better teacher from me than I have been delivering.” I don’t want to patronize you since I honestly have no idea what it’s like to be in your shoes but I will say that I wish I could have this attitude if I end up in a classroom someday =). Please keep posting!

  2. Eric

    Very sobering post. I admire your comments and honesty throughout. The sentence, “It’s imperative that my students get a better teacher from me than I have been delivering” was such a reminder of that attitude I hope to one day have in a classroom (I am a current TFA applicant). I won’t patronize you by saying that “it’ll be alright” because I honestly don’t know. However, I hope that you will get to see the fruits of making that uphill climb.

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