Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 04 2009

Reality Check: Five Days

Every day, our CMA posts a “reality check” on the back of the door to our CMA room.  On it are Post-Its with the number of days we have left – with our students, with institute, with sessions.  I’m getting a reality check on Monday because all of those Post-Its will read the same thing: 5.

My faculty advisor (FA) talked to us about being realistic with changing kids in the summer – how much can we change them? – but I know I came in with huge dreams of turning kids from frustrated academic performers to diligent scholars within a matter of 19 days.  Easy, I thought, simple, because I’m committed and pumped about this cause.  But I now see what they were talking about when they discussed the “jaded dreams of the TFA teacher.”  Not to say I’m jaded and dreading this year, but my picture has changed.

After three weeks, I’m proud to say that S- is sometimes sitting still during lessons.  He sat all by himself for ten minutes working on a complete story the other day.  Considering the fact that he probably has undiagnosed ADHD, this is progress.  I wonder what would happen if we could work with him for a year – how much dramatic progress could we see?

G- is using kind words when he deals with other students.  This isn’t to say he still doesn’t tell kids to shut-up occasionally and we’re still working on not physically threatening others.  But it’s a beginning, an honest start, to not automatically want to insult J- at the Writer’s Workshop station.  What if we could come up with even more creative ways to reward his good behavior and teach him the pros of being respectful?  What would this look like beyond four weeks?

I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m lowering expectations for my students.  But I realized that a) I’m no Savior and b) there is more I’m dealing with here than learning subtraction and understanding cause-and-effect.  In the fall, I’ve got to help my students learn what sitting still looks like and how to work in groups and what it means to not tattle on every single person who looks touches them.  Stuff I would have to process with any group of kids but that I forgot about because I was too busy thinking I was single-handedly going to change everything in 20 days.

Our kids are going to take their final math assessment and get re-tested for reading this week.  I’ll keep you posted on their progress.  In the meantime, five days weighs heavily on me as I celebrate a country that still thinks it’s alright to leave a few million children behind.

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