Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Success Story

Given no guidelines on what constitutes a true "success story," this topic intimidates me a little. I worry that if I describe a student who has turned it around in my classroom, describing their success will somehow jinx them and lead them to a quick reversal. An alternative is to write about success on a more macro level; I could talk about an aspect of teaching I suppose that I am doing well. Both of these options seem imperfect in their own way. So I am writing about a third kind of success: my "success story" is that 50+ days into the school year, I am happy, healthy, and upbeat.
At the beginning of the year I knew I wanted my kids to know two things: I cared about them, and I expected them to conduct themselves in a manner conducive to learning. I wish I could say my success was that all my kids love me and are cherubs within the walls of my classroom, but that would be an outright lie. My kids still question my decisions, they still act persecuted, and they are sometimes nasty little brats. But at a basic level, I believe they respect me and understand that I do care about them and want them to do well. I have never yelled at them, never disrespected them purposefully, and have treated them as fairly as possible. And, over time, the rudeness, and disrespect, and the egregious assaults on my human sensibilities have gradually decreased. This is my success.
By the end of the year, I will hopefully have dozens of students I can hold up as shining success stories. Right now, I feel more democratic about this situation. I still believe that success is something that classes can achieve together. If I can remain positive, and my attitude remains unassailable, then my students and I will all be successful this year and beyond.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Ten Thoughts on Teaching in the Delta

1. First year teachers tend to focus on what they don't have when it comes to classroom materials.
2. First year teachers have more materials than they realize; it's just a matter of knowing the right person. To get an overhead projector, I had to go to the superintendent. The principal, librarian, and other teachers could do nothing to help.
3. All teacher corps member have their own challenges based on their own circumstances.
4. It is impossible to compare one teacher's situation to another's: in one situation a teacher might thrive, whereas the same teacher might struggle in a different situation.
5. Free time is a teacher's best friend.
6. There isn't much free time, so you must prioritize. I never sacrifice sleep: I pull at least 7.5 a night, and usually 8 hours. I can go without running and reading, but not without sleeping.
7. Students will do some things simply to test you: last week, I had one student call me "Mr. A-bitch" and another call me "Mr. Gay-bear." Neither of these were said in anger: they were simply trying to see my reaction (sidenote: students were punished and I haven't heard these nicknames again).
8. Could I teach in the Delta for 30 years? No way. The negativity of the hallways, with students hitting each other and cursing each other out, is more than I could handle.
9. Corporal punishment would seem to fit right in at my high school. I cannot imagine my school environment becoming any more violent than it already is. Students understand physical abuse more than they understand more mature forms of consequence.
10. Although we don't practice corporal punishment at my school (to my knowledge), and my school is a violent, swarming mass of aggressive students, I am glad I do not have to worry about my students getting paddled. But I have to admit, there are some students I wouldn't mind taking a paddle to myself.