world on fire

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 15 2010

one day, one day, one day

point-blank, it’s easy to feel like a failure here. it’s frustrating to “own the results in your classroom” while wondering all day every day what happened in your students’ classrooms in the years leading up to this summer. it’s exhausting to create rough drafts for lessons that you know will likely need to be tweaked a lot based on your students’ needs anyway. it’s exasperating to realize that you’ve completely dropped the ball on getting J invested, and now she’s missed 3 days of school in a row and you don’t know if you’re ever going to see her again, let alone get another chance to teach her.

but it’s exhilarating to see the look in a student’s eye when they approach you for the first time after reading the tiny note of encouragement you nonchalantly placed on their desk while circling the room during writers’ workshop. it’s invigorating to notice the steady increase in confidence within K, who would hardly even make eye contact with you during the first days of school and who now readily and consistently raises his hand, both to say what he thinks and to ask for help when he needs it. it’s humbling to realize that, although you ARE making a lot of mistakes and you DON’T yet know exactly how much growth each student will make this summer, you’re dedicating most of your time (and of yourself) to open the window of opportunity for these children, to allow them for perhaps the first time to breathe deeply of the possibilities that await them if they fight for their own education.

how are we so lucky?

yes, i’m tired and emotional a lot of the time. i’m sometimes even exasperated. but i’m more angry on these children’s behalf that they would even have to fight to get an education in the first place. every single day at SMS, i think about brown v. board, and about how ultimately the crux of marshall’s argument was that YES, segregated schools not only provided unequal educations BUT ALSO perpetuated deeply-rooted feelings of inferiority among students who attended the “separate but equal” halls of learning. i look at the hundreds of children passing through the school’s halls and i wonder how deeply those feelings are rooted in their minds and hearts. if my students learn nothing else from me this summer — and dear God i hope that will not be the case — they will, at the very least, realize that they are worth the best. period. they DESERVE to be challenged, to be pushed to deeper levels of understanding, to be celebrated as bright lights on the horizon of our country’s future.

what’s difficult is wondering whether i, as a teacher barely out of the tfa womb, can give them THE best as opposed to simply MY best. getting to know these children and seeing how eager most of them are to learn — despite even the lowest level of skills, in some cases — deepens my desire to help them, and makes me that much more cognizant of the weight of my responsibility even for the summer.

so sure, in a lot of ways i’m doing well. but i HAVE to do better.

back to work.

One Response

  1. Robin Johnston

    Deep words of wisdom from a master teacher on MY first day of teaching: your students will not all remember what you have taught them. But they will all remember how YOU MADE THEM FEEL.

    Praying for you….

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