Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Sinking Ships

Please allow me a moment:
"One teacher can't change this," she said, adding, "Maybe you should just give in a little." This senior girl sat across from me, her SAT prep book opened on the cafeteria table scribbled with something about someone. Maybe I shouldn't have let her hear my annoyance with the group of students crushing pretzels and making fake cocaine lines on the table behind us. It isnt' the first time I've worn my emotions on my sleeve--it's a weakness of mine.
"If it bothers you so much, why do you keep teaching here," she asked. And its a complicated question to answer. Do these underperforming students in a largely forgotten district deserve caring and dedicated teachers? Yes. Can I be that for them? I am beginning to wonder.
I can't imagine that her attitude towards the school, her own annoyance with student behavior is clear, is limited to just a few. But is the writing on the wall? Can one teacher, two teachers, three...make a difference? With all that has been written lately about effective teachers and their ability to create change in a student's life, is it just smoke and mirrors?
Can a dysfunctional public urban school change? Will a state takeover make the difference? Fat chance. Will a lovey dovey cajole them along approach get them to behave more appropriately? So far, not really. Do high standards matter? Not if the students don't want them.

"Well, I guess you have three choices. You can leave; you can stay and be frustrated; or you can stay and give in." I wonder if those are the only options.


At 6:15 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

In some ways a question remains:
What changes would you make to stay and feel differently?

You know the unbending branch is the one that is broken.

But what to bend on?

Perhaps chose up to th ree focus points that you will work toward, and not just stand tall on everything. It is not possible to act as if you are teahcing in another environment and survive in that one.

You could search for another position. you could make comitements to a small number of goals to focus on and let the rest go for a while.

Good luck.

At 6:50 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I agree with the last post. Choose some focused goals and feel good about the progress you make in those areas in spite of the myriad other problems. At the same time, you ARE fighting back in this blog, and without being in the trenches everyday, your comments would be unsupported opinion. I hope your blog becomes more well known. The public needs to be a lot more aware of the challenges teachers face when the children are in charge. Teachers can't hold students to a high standard while school districts persist in passing them from grade to grade without the skills they need to perform at each level. We talk about "high expectations," but shouldn't it be the right of a teacher to expect that all or most of the students in his/her classroom can perform at grade level?


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