Facing La Frontera

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Nov 21 2010



I was shown a graph in September. Teachers’ happiness relative to the months of the school year. It starts off in August really HIGH. with many happy thoughts. Then it takes a sharp dip in October….and continues to decline…….and decline……and decline……

I think it went up somewhere towards the end, but I can’t see that far yet.

I just feel so INCOMPETENT! I am getting frustrated SO QUICKLY with my students. Along with demoralizing test scores they just had. We tried to up the rigor on the tests……to shoot THROUGH their next test so they would find it “easy.”

Here’s the email I just typed to another teacher about it summing up my thoughts on that matter:

I finished grading all my tests. Class averages from 72-78.

I understand your sentiments now. you know, I never finished grading those other tests. I got behind, and they’re just sitting in a pile behind my desk just in case I need them, but I fully intend to trash them.

I am demoralized by the grades on this test.

I am upset that I had the highest failing rates for quarter 1 our of all the English teachrs because I don’t feel like I’m holding them to ridiculous standards….but it looks like something it wrong.

Facing the numbers, I have lost my cool about the next benchmark, and I’m worried. I don’t think all our testing has been helpful.

I’m just worried. I feel like I’m pulled in so many directions – teach parts of speech, brainstorming, paragraphs, how to comprehend, read a novel, teach vocab.

What’s the most important? What should I be concentrating most on? I am really interested in spelling patterns, root words, context clues. I think those are skills that could serve my students for years to come. But…those aren’t tested much.

Then, I have about 7 students who are consistently not performing. And it bothers me SO MUCH because they are capable….they’re just not trying. And my time is spent with them because they will do NOTHING without me on them….when I feel that I should be helping those students who really have been listening and straight up aren’t getting the concept.

It’s interesting. This lottery system to get into my school. So many kids want in. And I’m at this point where, and don’t hate unless you’ve been in a similar experience, I would rather kick out these apathetic kids and pull in ones who are going to actually appreciate the education and use it. Versus the ones who just sit there.

This is when my TFA training kicks in and a little voice in the back of my head pesters me, saying – but every kid *wants* to learn…..we just have to figure out how to reach them. And the thoughts of giving up let them get to this place in the first place.

Therefore, my focus with these kids – small steps and patience. There are a few I feel like I’m seeing it with.


–teaching “two, to, too” Half my kids didn’t need this review/lesson. However, it was SO helpful for my ESL kids…..of which there are more than I think I had previously realized. They’re intermediate, so you don’t notice until you look at some of the finer details of their writing/speech.  I could see lightbulbs going off today with it, which was cool. During special class, it was a bit of a free day. I was chatting with one of my lower kids, trying to build some investment, and he actually asked me some questions about the worksheet. Then, I wrote some practice problems on the board, and he willingly completed them. Made my heart happy!

–another ELL, the one who loves vocab, CHEERED when I presented the new vocab today. Made my heart happy. Oh, I found out why he’s so obsessed with it –> I give points for using vocab. Those points contribute to a school-wide rewards system. He has set a goal of getting a specific reward, and he sees this as the vehicle to get him there. I was impressed by his manuevering.

–my lower student, secret favorite, came in today during lunch…didn’t have to, but he failed his test….and worked on making up his test. I spent my time walking between him and another student who both are behind. As I went from him to her, I could see lightbulbs going off, and in those 20 minutes I felt like a true teacher.

–that’s all I got. Whoever said October sucks has never met November.

3 Responses

  1. Sieng

    Good that you didn’t throw in the towel. Teaching is a challenging job. There are times we feel that we have failed in our job. But it is important that we persevere. The kids need us. We will never know what impacts we have on our students. Just do your best. I am sure you are doing your job right. Not all benefits are tangible. If you have touched them with your kindness and good examples, you have already done your job. These attributes would help them in future as they remember the persistence that they have seen in you trying to help them.

  2. Ms. Math

    Hi! I’m leading the Upper School Math Community-I just wrote a post and put a link to your blog to remind people that they are not the only ones who feel like this and how good it is to focus on small positives. It will get better. I promise! Be kind to yourself. Cameron

  3. las

    Thanks for the encouragement!! Things have been looking up since Thanksgiving break :)

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