Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 06 2010

Head –> Wall

Today felt like an exercise in futility.

We had a three day weekend for the 4th of July. I spent hours this weekend trying to get ahead (read: catch up) with lesson planning. I planned and planned and planned when I should have been chatting up my lovely relatives. I spent hours grading assessments, grading practice worksheets, and entering scores into my spreadsheets. I spent time brainstorming more effective ways to do everything from handing out pencils to entering and exiting the classroom to what to do with kids when they finish early. I wrote personal letters to every kid in my first period class, telling them how smart I know they are, how hard I know they’ve been working, and how hard we’re going to keep working to make sure they pass the test in two weeks. I put together colorful folders with every worksheet each kid has ever completed. I made a gigantic objective tracking poster, so every kid can see by looking at their ‘star chart’ which skills they’ve mastered and which they have yet to master. I made a behavior tracking poster, so every kid can see whether or not they ended each day with an “A+” behavior ‘grade.’ I called every single one of the 32 home phone numbers on my roster, leaving message after message about how great (or not great) their kid is in class, giving an update on progress, and reminding everyone that there are, in fact, two more weeks left of summer school. I spent two hours researching on the TALON website, looking for ways to improve my key points and make my lesson plans clearer. I printed out pile after pile of extra enrichment worksheets for my kids who finish early, and then I printed out extra copies of every assessment I’ve given so far for kids to re-take quizzes when they master old objectives. I sharpened 30 pencils with a dead pencil sharpener last night, alone on the 5th floor of a residence hall, while I rehearsed my lesson plan for today. I scheduled out the next two weeks’ worth of before-school “Math Club” meetings for kids who need remediation and who need extra practice time with objectives the rest of the class has moved on from (i.e. to re-teach material that I failed to teach the first time around).

Look! Today’s objective!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home from an absolutely draining, spirit-sucking, horribly ineffective day as a teacher and completely re-evaluated and made revisions and made changes and improvements and gotten to work fixing things, just to go back to school the next day and have everything fall absolutely flat. After all that time spent working myself to a pulp, I STILL wasn’t able to communicate the material clearly–STILL wasn’t able to keep the class focused–STILL have students completely falling through the cracks–and STILL couldn’t tell you if a single one of my students even enjoys being in my classroom.

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    High School

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    “The minute you think of giving up, think of the reason you held on so long.” - John Maxwell


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