mathinaz

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 23 2010

Desperate times call for desperate measures

Everyone knows about my bad class. Not only have I been blogging about Period 3 since the first day of school, but they’re also the infamous group that goes through the day causing trouble in every period. Lately, they’ve started making another teacher cry…in class. Half these kids names strike fear into the heart of teachers everywhere. I’m not kidding.

I’ve reached a point with them where behavior is fine. I don’t mean good, but I do mean that we can function without me running out of the room screaming. They’re chatty and annoying, but if I get really mad they will shut up. It’s problematic but survivable. Unfortunately, they still are so checked-out that they aren’t learning anything. Test scores in that class consistently average 10 points lower than my other classes. The last straw for me was yesterday, when I repeated something we’ve been learning since the beginning of the school year and no one could simply repeat it back to me. Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

I had hopes that after spring break, with only 3 weeks left until AIMS, I might be able to pull something out of the kids. That was naive. This is a daily waste of everyone’s time, and I’m getting desperate. Desperate enough to knock on my assistant principal’s closed door (which I’m always too nervous to do) and beg for help.

Amazingly, he and another teacher were in there and more than ready to help me. They heard my whole story and got that I needed a 3-week emergency fix (as opposed to the long-term investment speech TFA would give me). When the other teacher started to give me management advice, he told her that management isn’t usually my problem and pulled out my class roster. The two of them spent a minute admiring the disastrous combination of infamous students, and then he took a stunning amount of responsibility for my situation. He admitted that because of tracking and special ed needs and other factors, I could not have gotten a worse group of kids. (His words.) It sounds like he knows that I’m doing my best and no one is blaming me for the situation. I’m so relieved.

But obviously I can’t just blame it on the kids and call it a day; it’s still my job to convince them to learn something. So they were ready with really helpful tips and tricks, both on my teaching and on bribing the kids with lots of candy. I’m desperate and they get it. I walked out feeling really optimistic.

Then today, he actually showed up in my classroom and pulled out the six biggest troublemakers. He assigned them a permanent Wednesday after school detention, revoked their rights to walk at graduation, and signed them up for summer school. Boom. The kids can get out of this, but only with positive reports from me and their other teachers. Otherwise, it’s not an empty threat anymore. It. Just. Happened.

This is beautiful: I asked for help and it showed up in full force. The kids learned that there are serious consequences for their actions, but behaving in my class can save them. I FEEL SO SUPPORTED. Every teacher everywhere complains all the time about not getting enough support, so I know to really appreciate this even if it doesn’t work. Someone has my back.

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Phoenix
Grade
Middle School

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