Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 07 2010

Squeezed Through the Cracks

I’m used to kids randomly appearing and disappearing from my class list.
The front office sends out a weekly email with lists of the students who have enrolled/dropped out in the past week, and I usually get about one or two new students every two weeks. I’d say I lose about the same amount, whether it’s because they’ve been transferred into SPEC Ed classes once they’ve finally had their annual ARD, or whether they move, or just disappear. When I see an unfamiliar face in my classroom, I know by now just to take their schedule, sign it, and tell them what period they’ll go to next. When someone disappears from the roster, I usually sigh and silently wish them well.

But I’ve been watching my roster like a hawk for the past couple of days. My administration has started forcing out the school’s lowest achievers, its worst behavior problems, its kids with the spottiest attendance. They’re “backing parents against the wall.” Where do they go? “Wherever their parents take them. They’re not our problem anymore.”

Maybe this is one of those normal processes I’m supposed to be okay with.

But this morning as I updated my gradebook, I saw that my Big Goal is gone. My Big Goal, my scary gangster, my THAT kid, the one who personifies the achievement gap in my mind, had the dreaded (D) next to his name.

His are the smallest successes that I’m the most proud of: the first day he came to 1st period AND 5th period, the day he looked me in the eye, the day he smiled for a second. He’s that kid I think of first when I hear the “… and THAT’s why I Teach For America” turn-around stories. He’s the one who reminds me how real my job is, how much is at stake.

I poured myself into this kid, writing to him, talking quietly and urgently into his elbow, pissing him off by not ignoring him. The last time I saw him, he went over his progress report with me, let me give him a pile of make-up work, and genuinely agreed to come to special tutoring to work on it. My tiny progress with him is one of the only things I’m truly proud of about how I’ve handled this year.

And now he’s gone, just like my Tallest Leader, my Wise Young Lesbian, and Boy I Can’t Figure Out. We didn’t even get to do any math. I didn’t even get a chance to show him the one-on-one part of teaching that I’m actually kind of good at.

I don’t hold grudges, but I’m getting angry and possessive. My grip is tightening on the one they call Dirty, my Tiniest Student, my Cadet, my Wannabe, my Wanderer, my Avid, my Rapper, and my 130-Lb Dad. These are “the ones we love the most,” and I will not see them sacrificed for the sake of AYP.

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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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