Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Since day one, my fundamental level students have heard me repeat the question, "What have you done today to get yourself into college?" I happen to believe, because I've read about successful charter schools, that my low-income Hispanic students can achieve and ultimately go to college. Because we track students, and I'm not entirely against this as you will see, some of our low-track students come to believe that they are stupid and not as intelligent as the honors students.
My goal this year has been to convince these students that they will go to college, and that, if they learn the material I teach them, they will be successful in school. The intial assessments bore out the obvious fact that a real divide exists between my fundamental and honor students. But to this point, I have been able to provide all of my students the same opportunity to interact with challenging short stories like "Hills Like White Elephants" and "A&P." I have taught the same skill sets, like identifying tone (a typically challenging skill). All of my students received the same brief formative assessment following the lesson and subsequent practice. The honor students averaged an 83%. The fundamental students averaged and 82%.
So then what is the difference? Behavior. Honor students know how to behave and will generally comply quickly when asked. Fundamental students do not. Which leads to a larger question for me. Because I am working twice as hard to teach the fundamental students (in terms of classroom management), how am going to sustain myself? When I have to break up near fights over which desk a sophomore in high school is going to sit in, and when I have to remind a student five separate times that calling another student a "faggot" is unacceptable, and when on any given day only 2/3 of the students arrive to class, will I have the energy come, say, November, to keep these scores even?
Keeping order in a school is absolutely essential, but how does that happen? I read about charter schools, of which I am a proponent, and I wonder how to transfer that order to a building in which a growing sense of chaos exists. When students receive a "conference" as a consequence for storming out of the classroom and cussing the class out, to what extent can I expect a strong academic environment capable of keeping the fundamental level students focused on college admittance? Each period I am with them, they are keenly aware of the hallway din, the students wandering with their music blaring. Eventually, that could become more luring than my lessons on literary analysis. I fear that.
There would be nothing more satisfying to me than my group of students, who so many for so long have doubted, passing the state exam, graduating, and going off to college. But what will it cost me? My sanity? My family?


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