Making the Desert Bloom

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 09 2012

The Importance of Why

Earlier tonight, my school hosted it’s elementary orientation. I knew it was going to be an opportunity for me to meet some of my students and their families. After hearing stories from the kindergarten orientation where on average 80% of the parents showed up, I was expecting most of my parents to show up. I figured since my parents were choosing to enroll their child in a charter school, most of them would show up at an orientation.

However, only 7 of my current 21 students showed up with their families. I was a little disappointed at the turnout at first. But then I started re-thinking some things here. First, most of my students have been to this school before. Since they were familiar with the school, they probably just figured that they could meet their teacher on the first day of school. Second, the transition from fourth to fifth grade is not that large of a jump. Next and probably most importantly, many of my parents were probably working and thus unable to make it. Therefore, I am going to call these parents this weekend to try to arrange individual meetings with them in the coming week before school starts to introduce myself if possible.

But I had two real treats this evening that made this orientation a success. Two families showed up at the school for the first time, and both of them decided to enroll their children in my class. The first case was just because the boy wanted a male teacher. To this point in his life, he had never had a male classroom teacher (to be fair, I don’t think I had a non-specialty male teacher before middle school either). Therefore, getting this student into my class is pretty cool.

The other story touched me far more. During my 20-minute introduction to the parents, I mentioned what to me seemed like a simple fact. I had moved cross-country out to Las Vegas for the sole purpose of teaching their children. I didn’t move out here in search of riches, due to a family/girlfriend, or any other reason. I moved here to become a teacher that was solely dedicated to seeing that their children would succeed. When I was saying this statement, I saw that a mother and grandmother in the corner of my room started to cry. After everyone else had left, we stayed and talked for another 15-20 minutes. Both of them described how their son/grandson had been a student who succeeded in lower grades. However, this past year he had a teacher who didn’t believe in him. He started failing every single assignment. The grandmother asked to meet with the teacher multiple times, but she refused after a first meeting. She said that she was leaving the school, and there was nothing she could do to help him. That’s why they had decided to send their son/grandson to my school instead of the neighborhood school.

After hearing my presentation, they were convinced that I would be the perfect teacher for their son. I was deeply humbled by their suggestion. Here am I someone that has not formally taught a school-year yet, but they were convinced that I am the right teacher for their son. During the rest of our conversation, I promised to keep meeting with them throughout the year to do whatever I can to help their son succeed. We are already going to meet again next week, so I can meet their son before the first day of school.

Even before meeting him, I know I have a tremendous burden of responsibility on my shoulder. I knew this fact in theory before today, but talking with his mother/grandmother brought this fact to life in a real way so quickly. After weeks of not delivering my why key points at Institute so that my students could understand them, I finally found my voice tonight at orientation. Hopefully, it stays with me for the year, so I can continue to constantly connect with my students.


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