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.

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