Sunday, February 7, 2010

2nd semester - marking a moment.

i am beginning to understand why many teachers stay in this district for 2 or 3 years and are out. never one to abandon a challenge (and usually the one to run toward it), i knew this when i signed up. what i didn't know was how large my responsibilities would be outside of my classroom, and how much that would affect my focus and my day. here's what i've learned: it takes an incredible amount of work to keep a school functioning, and in a small school, it takes every single member of the team working to the point of exhaustion.

another unfortunate thing that i've learned is that what our school does best (loves, nutures, encourages, becomes family to many students) is not assessible and thus not important to the construct that we work within. we are graded (quite literally, thanks bloomberg and klein) on our test scores and graduation rates, not on how effectively we provide an environment that students want to come to, stay way after school and come in on weekends... not on how effectively we can reach kids who are on the verge of or a part of the criminal justice system... not on how we work our asses off to find ways for the kids to engage, connect and actually learn the material in a relevant way (by talking about the bronx river and how we impact that ecosystem in science, by talking about math and problem practice as building neural pathways in the brain, by talking about how what we learn from cultures and civilizations of the past can impact decisions we make today, by talking about art, film and music as ways to deal with some of the stress of your life).

we have been working ridiculously hard in the ELA dept to make our work meaningful to the students and ALSO build in the skills that they need to pass our state exams. to help them question and analyze, read books, videos and other media with a critical eye. but we struggle with absenteeism, low monthly attendance, overage students, and those to whom the street's call is far louder in their ears. our small victories with individual kids are often not quantized in the ways that matter, on our school report card and in the quality review we undergo each year.

but it does not mean that the work is not worth it, or that i'm packing up and leaving. it is just marking a moment about how hard the work is, but how important it is to keep getting up the morning and trying my best.



ACHG said...

I swear--it could have been ME writing this post. We're in the middle of renewing our charter and trying to justify our existence, as we battle low attendance and all those other factors that seem so beyond our control. How can I explain the minor victories (a student who finally felt comfortable enough in class to read a part out loud, a pair of students who asked to stay after school to work, etc.) in a way that seems more important than test scores and "achievement" to the powers that be?

Anyway, thanks for writing and reminding me that we are not alone in this struggle.

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