second year teacher

Maslow’s Hierarchy

Today I wore a dress to school. I was a little cold during my commute, but I didn’t think much of it as the day went on.

Then I had a student in horror, but in a grandmotherly way, say “Ms. Shanna WHAT are you wearing?! It is too cold for that. Aren’t you cold?! You are going to get sick. Shame on you.”

I immediately made the connection for her that I don’t have to wait for the bus or walk, so I really am ok and will not freeze to death. Her concern and care for me struck me in a different way than it usually does. Usually when the students ‘take care’ of me (by getting the door for me, helping me out around the classroom, grabbing me a spoon at breakfast), I thank them and move on. This time, however, it hit me: I need them just as much, or more, as they need me. It’s not in a basic way—I don’t need them for my physical survival, but for my emotional survival. They’re the reason I worked for almost twelve hours yesterday. I’m writing a unit about constitutional rights, particularly when being involved with the police (which happens all the time for my kids, unfortunately). I’ll talk about the unit in detail in a following post, but most importantly, I couldn’t freakin’ wait to teach them today. Three kids got pulled from my class for a bell for something, and I was bummed because I knew we were going to have some good discussions.

They need me, but I need them way more. They are entertaining, hilarious, and beautifully resilient.

It’s what keeps me going, even in the brutal February cold.

-S

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The day my students squealed in delight as they published a blog post

Sometimes I don’t believe I can be as entertaining as a cell phone, but today I did it. 

As my creative writing class published its first blog post, the uproar of joy was pretty ridiculous. I certainly don’t jump off tables when I post. Maybe I should? Eh, I’m just going to guess it’s because they haven’t had school for two days. 

Image

snow days = cooped up kids

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Why “if you can reach just one” isn’t good enough

I’ve had some conversations over this break that have been  revealing about the way I think the public views students in poverty in the classroom. People ask my about my job and what I do in it, and I respond about the challenges as well as good things that happen. I try to make my job sound hopeful. And it is hopeful, most of the time. I don’t let my doubts of my effectiveness show through during these conversations.

And then I hear, “well, if you can reach just one, you’ve done your job.”

All of these statements are well-meaning, coming from the heart of a cliché we’ve all probably said or heard. The challenges and struggles of those in poverty seem insurmountable. It’s something I used to believe—even when I became a real teacher. I used to be ecstatic if I had fifty percent of students on-task, declaring it a victory because I couldn’t make them want to learn. It’s true that you can’t force learning, but you can surely innovate in ways to increase your engagement.  I was failing with this tenet of teaching. Fifty percent is failing. As I improved my skills and rapport with the students, this on-task engagement has risen dramatically. It’s not always 100 percent, but it’s up there. And I had to work at it (reading Teach Like a Pirate helped). The defeatist mentality isn’t helpful when you teach teenagers. They will eat you alive.

At some point what I had heard about “if they don’t care to learn, then you can’t teach them” instantly linked itself to “well, if you can reach just one…”

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I am not Hilary Swank

While reading Ilana Garon’s Why Do Only White People Get Abducted By Aliens? Teaching Lessons from the Bronx, I realized this—

“Damn you Hilary Swank!”

Of course I’m referring to her inspiring character in Freedom Writers, not the memorable The Office episode when the office spends a WHOLE workday answering the question: Is Hilary Swank hot or not?

I really don’t know. What do you think?

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