Making the Desert Bloom

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 14 2012

Well Day 34 was a lot tougher than Day 1 (A General Update)

Note: Since I have fallen behind on blog posts, I am writing a series of rambling mini-updates here. I hope you find them somewhat illuminating. 

Once of the cliches that I used when talking about teaching before I started teaching was that I was far more scared for Day 34 than I was for Day 1. Honestly, I thought that my first day of school had gone relatively well, but I realized soon afterwards that I didn’t do a good enough job at teaching procedures right away. The amount of time I have spent so far this year reviewing procedure is unacceptable in my mind, but it’s necessary since I didn’t do a good enough job on Day 1 at defining each and every procedure. Therefore, each week we have to spend time practicing specific procedures with a great focus on being quiet and walking the proper way in line. It’s frustrating to me as their teacher, and it’s frustrating to my students as well. But if we can’t master these procedures, then we won’t be able to learn this year. That’s not an acceptable outcome. I didn’t move out here to Las Vegas for that to be the case.

Despite my issues with behavior management, there have encouraging signs in my classroom. My students are really starting to get multiplication ranging from simple times tables to 3 by 3 multiplication and now even decimal multiplication. Their grades are starting to improve, but for some it may be too little too late. Friday is the end of the first quarter, and while there are some more grades left, the window is closely quickly. It also hurts my students that they can only get one of four grades; exceeds standards, meets standards, approaching standards, and not meeting standards. Instead of the traditional A-F system, this system is both aligned to the new Nevada growth model and it combines Ds and Fs as the same grade. This latter subject will hurt some of my students who have shown tremendous growth in the past few weeks to hit the D range. But then again, I am just one teacher, and I can’t control that part of the grading system.

Starting last week, some of my students have started to stay after school with me in my classroom. While they are mostly doing work on the computers, it has given me the chance to get to know them much better.  For example, one of my boys who has a significant problem talking out of turn can run his mouth uninterrupted for an hour with me. While I do much of the talking during the day, I love listening to my students both during and after school to get to know them better. Yes, I end up staying at school longer, but it’s so worthwhile in my mind. While I am not required or even expected to provide this service (I am not getting paid for tutoring or babysitting here), I feel obligated to provide computer access for homework when a majority of my students don’t have Internet access at home. Then, the discussions and culture building is just icing on the cake. Even though I only have 24 students (that number changes in both directions all too frequently), I know that I am not going to get through to all of them despite my best, genuine efforts. However, those that come after school and stay with me are far more likely to develop a real relationship with me than those who do not. Hopefully that will lead them to having a better chance at a more successful life. But more simply, it gives them a chance to get some of the attention that they want and cannot get during the school day.

Overall, this job is really hard. I try my best everyday, but I haven’t yet left school feeling like I have had a day where I am really proud of myself yet. Honestly that day probably won’t come in the near future, but I hope it comes sooner than later. Of course, there are moments everyday where I am inspired by my students and proud of the fact that I am here and not somewhere else. However, the negative emotions often override the positive ones. It’s tough. But at the end of the day (assuming I leave the building when there is still some light outside 50-50 right now), I look in all directions and see the mountains that surround me, and I still smile. Seeing snow on top of Mt. Charleston the past two days has brought such a bright smile to my face. When times are tough, I remember that I still live in a strangely beautiful place. That must account for something, right? I quickly laugh and get back to work. It’s the story of my life. I am not giving up here in the least bit until we succeed!

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