Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap

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Sep 27 2012

Knowing Parents

I am really bad at parents.   More generally, I am bad at faces; it takes multiple encounters for me to even recognize a face, much less put it with a name. Every year, I explain this to students, ask forgiveness in advance, and then quiz myself relentlessly (“Hi. Is your name John?”) until I…

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Sep 26 2012

Not Aging Gracefully

Sometimes, I have to spend all day with kids who are in too much trouble to go back to class. Today was one of those days.   I was sitting in my office, trying to get work done, and this kid was supposed to be writing an essay. Unfortunately, he is an incessant pencil-tapper and…

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Sep 22 2012


I dealt with my first very very infuriated parent today. His son got into a fight and he seemed like he was supportive of how I handled it. When he dropped the boy off today, he met with another administrator and seemed fine. Then he called me hours later, ENRAGED, and started yelling at me…

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Sep 21 2012

I didn’t even cry.

One of my Regulars came into the office today, absolutely fuming with rage. She was yelling and ranting nearly incoherently and talking to her was impossible. It took her a loooooooooooooooooooong time to calm down. I was maneuvering so delicately with her that I was paying attention to my posture: I made myself consciously sit…

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Sep 20 2012

Taking Responsibility

A kid got sent to my office today for being tirelessly difficult and disrespectful in class. The hard part about working with him is that he absolutely refuses to take responsibility for anything. After a lot of talking, I finally got him to admit to five different things he had done during that class period,…

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Sep 19 2012

Witchcraft for Angry Boys

I was talking to a psychologist about how to help angry kids calm down when they don’t yet have the mechanism to calm themselves. We’ve tried various forms of breaks, none of which work very well. If we let kids decide for themselves, they don’t yet know what works for them. If we let kids…

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Sep 18 2012

Why I need to know everything

I am learning about gangs. I’m learning which ones are in our neighborhood and which ones are in the city but not near us. I’m learning who uses which colors. I’m learning alternate names and lots of symbolism. Some of it comes of the internet, but mostly our campus security guard is teaching me. He…

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Sep 11 2012

Small Victories

I have been fighting tooth and nail to get this kid to serve his detentions. He has football practice after school and a shaky home life, and had it in his head from Day 1 that detention wasn’t for him.   The first detention he skipped, I went through all the standard consequences. He was…

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Sep 07 2012

Hugs All Around

I need you to imagine an angry, angry sixth grade boy. He’s having a hard time adjusting to middle school, he keeps getting in trouble in his classes, and he’s just gotten scolded in PE. He isn’t able to control his anger and storms away, yelling. I find him sitting in a staircase, yelling “This…

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Sep 06 2012

Why I’m Not A Novelist

I am feeling isolated. I feel entirely alone in the bubble that is my job and I hate it.   There is a huge chunk of student life that I’m just in charge of. It’s my business what we do and how it gets done, which is an incredible amount of freedom but also means…

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Sep 05 2012

Why I Shouldn’t Judge

If there’s one thing that irritates me about first-year teachers, it’s when they start the year thinking they’ll make everything look easy. That by just working a little harder and wanting it a little more, they’ll succeed where the rest of us failed. That by refusing to acknowledge that enormous challenges might stand in the…

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Sep 01 2012

Chasing Children

I chased a child yesterday. His dad dropped him off late to school, and the kid decided that entering the building wasn’t really his thing. He just kept going. By the time a teacher got me down there, he was cutting through a park a couple blocks away.   I wish I had the rest…

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September 2012
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