Facing La Frontera

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 19 2012

a teacher’s job is never over…

6/19/12

 

I had this realization today that half of my summer is almost over. Oh my. I start training again on July 27th. Eek. I spent the first two weeks of this break freaking out about the fact that the entire summer seemed to be looming before me and that I felt like I was wasting it.

I no longer feel such sentiments.

 

Absolutely no plan has worked out yet this summer, but as the dust settles and I see my new summer plans formed, I am quite excited for what is in store. July is going to fly by with moving, pre-ap insitute, and getting acclimated with new school setup and staff.

 

Before jumping into all of that however, the real reason why emotions prompted me to write today has to do with my students from last year. Someone once told me that you develop a stronger bond with your students your 2nd year. You know better how to work with them. I don’t know, but I think it may be true. I’ve been working on a document I hope to pass on to their new ELA teacher that outlines the reading growth they made & any pertinent notes about their influencers & potential ways to influence their behavior if something arises. I’m trying really hard to keep it objective in the sense that I don’t want to say “She interrupts class a lot, so make sure you….” b/c then 8th ELA is going to be looking for that. But, I have found myself writing alot, “this is an AMAZING student. Push them far!!” I’m going to go back & edit though.

Anywho, we retained 3 students this year. I was shocked that our principal supported this. We presented one candidate for retention to him, unsure if even that would pass. Our principal actually commented on the two other students who were failing and showed no improvement, and we whole-heartedly agreed. You only fail our classes if you’re just not trying. There is a HUGE cushion built into the grades.

Those conversations were some of the hardest of my teaching career, and I am so thankful our entire team and at least one admin was there to support our talk with the parents and student. Luckily for us, all of the parents were supportive. We had been in enough contact with them throughout the year about all of our efforts to where they knew this was coming. The students were a different story. One cried, one didn’t say a word, and one asked if he could go to summer school and start in 8th grade.

One was just lazy. Yes, he’s behind, but he didn’t pass because he was lazy. Two of them should be tested to see if they qualify for additional services. It’s something we teachers jumped through a lot of hoops for during the year to try and get them tested, but it was always denied. As teachers, we’re also not allowed to tell a parent – we think your child might have ADD and dyslexia, you should really get that tested. We can’t diagnose. All we can do is suggest that based on certain symptoms that they might want to get an outside opinion.

When really, our school should be doing that. It’s an injustice.

 

Anyways, how does this relate to summer? Well, since they’re staying in 7th grade, they have a different book to read & assignment. We had already done book orders, and I didn’t want these students to have any excuse to not starting off the year on a strong foot. So I ordered the books, but they didn’t come in until after school let out.

So it got put on the to-do list. The one you think about but don’t typically get around to.

 

Fast forward to last Saturday night. I went to see Rock of Ages (mildly scandalizing, but good music). During the film, I get 5 calls in a row from a Valley area code. After the 5th time, my friend says – don’t you think you should get it? What if something is wrong?”

Did I mention that this is at 10 p.m.? on a Saturday night?

So I step outside and first try listening to voicemail, worried maybe something has happened at my apartment. Thus, I laugh when I hear the following (translated from Spanish), “Miss, this is Rosie. I need the book from you for the reading.”

This was a 6th grader, the cousin of one of my 7th graders. It was her first year in the U.S., and she only spoke Spanish. We had befriended in the first weeks of school and when I chaperoned 6th grade events, we would often chat. I had promised to get her a Spanish copy of her summer reading because she was worried about not understanding it. I went back to my movie.

I got two more calls that night, and two more calls Sunday morning. You gotta admit, she embodies persistence J

This Monday, I ordered the book and got in touch with her aunt. We agreed to meet this Friday to get it. Well, I decided to call the parents of the 3 students we retained. I spoke with 2, and we agreed to meet on Friday as well. The 3rd, I asked if I could just go and drop it off. I took him home A LOT this year, so I know his mom, and he lives 5 minutes from me. The mom agreed.

I got to the trailer park, and his mom invited me inside their humble home. I explained everything to Juan, and then I got him to explain it to his mom in Spanish (nifty trick b/c he explains it better than I can, but I understand it so I can jump in if needed). What struck me was that as we walked in, Juan switched on the light. His mom asked, in Spanish, if I needed the light on. When I said no, she immediately motioned for Jean to switch it off. I was reminded that during Thanksgiving break, this was the family whose electricity was off because they couldn’t afford the bill. And I can’t believe that their bill cost more than 30$. My heart broke again as I tried to impart some final words of wisdom on Juan, a perfectly capable student who just needs to put forth the effort.

As I drove away, I decided to do the following. I had written a short message of encouragement in Juan’s book. I will do the same for the others. I will also speak to their mom’s about what I really think their students need to be successful. I will be speaking as a concerned adult now, not as a teacher, so I can diplomatically present what I really think.

The one other thing that happened today was being contacted by a frantic mom because our school sent out the STAAR raw scores to parents…without explaining the context. That was an unintelligent move, in my opinion, because some parents freak out when they see that their child scored a 60%. Oh wait, though, last year, the passing standard for that test was a 55%, and odds are they aren’t going to up the passing rate on a much harder test. So actually, I’m 99% positive that she did pass. Now, I’m all about pushing our students so they pass this test without a curve. It’s still not meeting the mark in comparison to other states’ tests. But don’t freak out parents like that. You’re creating drama AND missing the learning potential to educate parents on what these scores really mean. And who knows if they even sent them out in Spanish too, which is another HUGE issue. If our goal is to educate children, and do the best by them, then we do what is best for them, regardless of their background. If their parents or grandparents only speak Spanish, then we cater to that. Punto.

 

More later on what I’ve learned about my new school that has me super giddy. I’m going to learn so much!!!

 

 

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    you can always change the world around you

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