Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An Education In Progress

Two weeks in already.

Wow - how have I been standing in front of my students for over two weeks already?

You'd be surprised at how much can happen in two weeks, even just one day.

First, I apologize for the lack of posting. I'll be typing a post and bam, homework appears in front of me to be graded.

The most memorable day I've had so far was this past week where I had 3 fights take place in front of me (2 I broke up).

Right after the fights I spoke with an administrator. Even more upsetting than the fights was this conversation. It started off talking about a student and his schedule. What it turned into was an attempt to teach me about teaching.

I understand that this gentleman has years of experience as a PE teacher. Beyond that, I know he has years experience as an assistant principal. But let me tell you, that does not make you an amazing teacher.

His words were rough to hear -- so harsh that I wanted to either cry or scream at him. (I'm not a violent person, but I honestly thought -- who is this dude and how dare he care so little for these kids?)

Okay, so you're probably wondering what he said to make me so upset. Well, the first part of the conversation had to do with my students keeping their disciplinary forms. Originally my thought was that they should keep my discipline documentation in their math folders so that I could simply grab it from them when they violated the rules. This was recommended to me by one of the veteran teachers at the school. It hasn't worked, so I've made other arrangements to hold onto them myself in my file cabinet.

Now, when I told this to my AP what did he say? "Mr. Wright -- how long have you been in Mississippi?". "3 months," I answered. "And how long have you been around black children?" he asks. My heart stopped because it's clear where that was going.

For the record, my AP is black as well. I told him "Well, sir, 3 months." He looks at me and says "Well, in a black school, especially a black inner-city school, you won't get things back."

My breath was taken away. Did my AP just tell me that since my children are black and from inner-city that they can be expected to bring things back to school?

I'm sorry, but he just gave ever student in my school that is 99.9% black an excuse to not bring things back to school.

Then I spoke to him about my students needing remedial skills. We recently took Academy of Math tests that told us at what grade level students are on for math skills. I have some students on a 1st grade level and only 3, out of my 70, students that are on grade level. Before the tests I was analyzing my students abilities through our lessons and quizzes. It's clear that they all need help with addition and subtraction.

So, I told my AP that I don't allow them to use calculators in my class to build up their skills. He responds, "Stop stop stop -- Teachable Moment -- What I would have done is told them to take out their phones and to open a calculator app. Then they could use technology to learn"

Excuse me? Pull out a calculator to do -4 + 5? How is a calculator going to help them learn a subtraction skill? They can't see the calculator thinking it through, they can't see anything but the answer.

It felt like a punch in the stomach. He had the audacity to hold our students to a low standard of never learning subtraction. Do we want our kids coming out of school and not being able to tell me how much change they get from buying a Snicker's Bar?

I felt ever stronger about my high expectations after hearing these words from one of my APs. He told me that he was excited about my enthusiasm and that he's seen great teaching from the teachers that he's observed. But, all I could think was "You better not visit my classroom, because there won't be a seat for you if you think my kids can't achieve my expectations -- That means you don't meet my expectations for my classroom and you must leave."

Anyway, I've also had some AMAZING support from fellow teachers, other APs and my Principal. I have a lot of pressure to achieve great things because I've set myself up with high expectations and shared them with so many people. When you share your thoughts and feelings, people expect you to keep up with them. This has held me accoutable.

If I could ever tell TFA-ers to do one thing it would be to share your vision and expectations for your students with your Principal, APs and fellow teachers. Make sure that they're excited to see your achievements because you'll be excited about the expectations and every bit of progress and feedback to achieve them.

Everywhere I've gone, I've shared the high expectations I have for my kids, and the kids of those whom I speak with.

Ms. Gilbert from the library is one of my biggest supporters and she's always asking how it goes in school the moment I step into the library.

Share your Visions. Share your High Expectations.

Monday, August 13, 2012


I just completed my first Monday of the school year... I made it.

My first Monday meant waking up at 4:45am to get ready for a 5:00am run with a co-teacher. Getting ready for the day and being at school by 7:45am, but preferably 7:00am. Teaching straight for 5 hours and then finally getting a break for lunch. Heading home around 5:00pm is the goal.

My first day was Friday but I only had about 50% of my students and I was told they would be all my "good" students.

Today was Monday, I had my "real" students. They are great! No, they're not perfect and yes, they like to act out of line. But I'm working on them. My favorite student was sent to the "discipline chair" because he acted out too many times. He's not bad by any means, but talking without raising your hand and writing on my desk, although small, do mean disrespect in my class.

I want to start the year off stronge. I'm lucky enough to be receiving constant support and advice from veteran teachers. My principal is all about new teaching energy and innovation in teaching methods.

I truly feel that the saying "I am the Teacher. It is my classroom" means something for me in my school!

I couldn't have wished for a better situation and to be working in a school where I feel like I can truly reach these students.

It's day 2 and I know there will be days of exhaustion. My goal is to constantly remind myself that they are kids, I am here to promote their learning. There are things I can't change, but I'm in control of my classroom. If I teach them the rules early, we will succeed. If they realize why they're in my classroom, we'll succeed.

Tomorrow I'll post a picture of my 3 classes' "Why 100%" pictures. They're striving for 100% and giving 100% for a variety of reasons and they're now showcasing it in our hallway!

Continuing the positivity into every day. Step by step, my students and I will succeed.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Trouble in Paradise?

I have been internet-less and roommate-less over the past week. I'm going stir-crazy, but that means whenever I run into people I get a little zany. All I have been doing is trying to plan for this upcoming year... it's hard to do without internet. So, instead, I've been reading "Coming of Age in Mississippi." It's a truly moving story about Anne Moody's childhood through adult-hood years. For the first time ever I've felt angry about how blacks were treated in the South (and even partially at fault). Being from Massachusetts, I've been so sheltered from the facts. Yes, I know segregation existed and "still" exists, but to me in MA 'still' was a contextual term that didn't apply where I was from. Now that I'm in Mississippi where it has all happened, I can't neglect the realities of what happened. Walking past the old Greyhound Station in downtown Jackson (which isn't much of a downtown compared to Northern cities... sadness) is a memorable moment. Seeing rundown historic areas is even more indicative of the sort of culture around black history in the south. Farish St. - probably the most historic street in Jackson - is completely run down with boarded up houses and closed businesses. I think I saw 2 open buildings for the 30-40 I saw that were falling to pieces. I finished Anne Moody's autobiography today and I can tell you that I refuse to let the gaps in humane treatment to persist. There's no sense in people receiving less care because of any part of their being (be it race, sex, sexual orientation or any of those characteristics we all hear yet never remember) Anyway, no - there is no real trouble in Paradise.. just being without internet service and roommates is making me go crazy. Oh, and not being able to walk as much as I'd like! I'll give you an update on my school travels soon (the next time I happen to pop into the coffee shop!). Brief snapshot: I love my school, I love my teachers, I love my principal and I'm sure I will love my students when they show up on the 10th! Yesssss.