Tag Archives: students

Friday Fulfillment

Meetings, open house, a student suspended, a schedule that doesn’t flow… All the usual teacher struggles were weighing me down on a Friday.

In the middle of a BAS assessment, a student from four years ago walked in. She was a shy, ten-year old who hesitated to participate in the whole group and somewhat anxious making friends. She was proud today to tell me about her start at high school, and the straight-A report cards from last year, and two former students she’s now best friends with. I asked her what she’s reading and her favorite subjects, and also what she remembers about fifth grade.

She told me, “I remember how you taught me to believe in myself.”

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When the going gets tough…

The tough get waterproof mascara.

I was very mindful today of my attitude; it used to be that educators avoided the teachers lounge if they didn’t want to be bogged down with woes and complaints, from the classroom temperature to how on earth will I afford retirement. These days, it seems a shadow of uncertainty is lingering in education no matter where you enjoy a Diet Coke.

After a social studies test last Friday, when 9 of my 5th graders incorrectly labeled the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, I needed to give myself a time-out before I could productively address them.

It reminded me just how much my mood impacts 21 students. 21 different, impressionable and developing children. 21 kids, who are trying to figure out where they belong.

Today, an avid reader raised her hand during independent/guided time in the morning. Working on being more supportive, I veered from routine and went to her quickly. She said, “Did you know Malcolm X once lived in Boston?” We discussed her biography choice, and I cautioned her about the mature themes and challenging concepts. Her response, “I understand… But I’m wondering, how did he affect people here in Boston? Especially black people? What was his legacy?”

I was floored. If I wasn’t such a timid kid, I would’ve turned cartwheels that I should’ve learned years ago. Her thinking generated so much enthusiasm, that adults visiting around 3:00 commented that they were so eager to learn. Things may get tough, but there’s mascara to withstand the tears.

I read a comment about why anyone would want to be a teacher today, with evaluations publicized, data-driven cultures, questionable compensation, and so on and so on. Last Friday, I even briefly wondered what I’m doing. But as long as we can inspire something, in someone, the good still outweighs the bad.

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Achievement Gap


We know all the facts, but they’re easy to ignore.

I’m not surprised when I’m analyzing my student data and all of my black boys’ names are at the bottom, usually falling in the red or starting off the bell curve.

But I don’t think I’ll ever get used to all of the ordinary events that show how alive and well the achievement gap carries on in our communities.

For example, students had a choice of writing tasks after reading Island of the Blue Dolphins, and many chose a how-to guide. After I graded them, I sorted them in groups according to how well they’re meeting standards. Above, I chose two to compare. (I did not choose what I considered the best or worse). Both students are English Language Learners receiving the same interventions, both have two working parents at home, both are considered low-income, both have families involved in school activities, and both are “well-behaved” students. Can you guess which book belongs to the Vietnamese student, and which one is black?

Don’t worry; it doesn’t make you racist.

We’ve heard all the statistics. Nationwide, only 55% of black males can read on level in the third grade, compared to 84% of white males. By eleventh grade, it’s down to 25%, compared to 65% of white males. City and state officials report using literacy rates to project jail and prison allocations. In a low-income Boston school, 25% of black fifth grade students were proficient or advanced on ELA MCAS in 2012, compared to 47% of Asian students.

I hope these numbers are shocking, whether it’s the second or fiftieth time you are reminded of them. Black students, and males in particular, are making some progress, but at such slow rates. Teachers face a daunting task, and it should be clear that we can’t do it alone.

Some don’t believe in the achievement gap, or it’s severity. However, it suddenly gets real when they encounter thugs terrorizing their neighborhood.

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Color, Cut, Paste. Eat trash.

Some teachers say don’t throw your life away, this one says you better not throw your lunch away.

About 20 hyperactive and moody five- and six-year-olds are getting ready for lunch in Bridgeport, Conn., with a teacher who is approaching 70 years-old. It’s just after morning work time on Tuesday, but she’s wondering how she’s going to make it to the 3:00 p.m. bell on Friday.

“Ok boys and girls, throw away your trash from lunch… Not you, Billy; I’ve had enough of your behavior. This isn’t playtime! This isn’t daycare.”

Billy seems like he is physically unable to control himself. He laughs like a maniac and disturbs other students. He needs one-one-on attention just to focus write his name. Lunch time is unbearable, and he chooses to launch his food at the girl near him instead of placing it in his mouth. Moving his seat doesn’t work, sending him to office is a joke, and his parents don’t understand the problem. What’s worse, right after lunch during math, he usually throws a fit saying he’s hungry.

She’s had enough.

“That’s it. Get your nuggets out the trash – you’re gonna eat every last bite.”

That’s how I imagine kindergarten teacher Anne O’Donnell, 67, came to be arrested and charged with risk if injury to a minor on Tuesday at Park City Magnet School. She allegedly took the five-year-old boy’s chicken nuggets and banana out of a garbage can and forced him to eat them.

She was released but agreed to appear in court.

67 years-old!? In a kindergarten classroom?

My mom, who is in her early 50s and has been teaching kindergarten for about 15 years is stressed out, frustrated and nearly crazy. Even though she’s been a teacher for 30 years, she’ll have to continue working in education until she’s 68 to receive her full retirement benefits. If she’s stuck in kindergarten until then… Well let’s just say she won’t make it.

I don’t know anymore more details about this teacher, and I am by no means defending her action. Such punishment is obviously endangering the child, not to mention humiliating and animalistic.

I do not defend her, but perhaps it should bring attention to what teachers need. My guess is she’s stuck in that classroom, without much support, just working a few more years so she can receive her well-earned retirement. She feels defeated and trapped, and maybe even worse because she knows the kids need her patience.

If she doesn’t torture herself, along with the kids allegedly, for just a few more years, she’ll have a rough retirement, maybe have to move-in with her jerk of a son, crazy and condescending daughter -in-law, 3 young kids that are wilder than the ones she escaped and spend her ‘golden years’ as a charity case in their basement. Who knows.

Back to the point: Instead of just handing out pink slips randomly or to low-performing teachers, hopefully Obama’s education team will spend their millions restructuring the staffing system. O’Donnell could be out of her kindergarten class, using her years of experience to lead new teachers or implementing new programs. More pay caps would ensure her retirement as well as a fresher teacher to take on the classroom, and there are a bunch of nonessential positions that can be eliminated. There’s dance teachers making $45 an hour who do nothing but stretch with the kids in their classroom for a short time.

I hope people see bigger implications from this incident: 1. Until some kind of restructuring in each district happens, both students and teachers will continue to be slighted, and even in danger.

2. Only get nuggets from McDonald’s. Nobody can throw those away.


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More Chicago shootings…

February. At least 25 CPS students killed. Last Friday, 13 year-old Johnny Edwards was gunned down. In September, 10 year-old Nequiel Fowler was killed in crossfire while tying her blind sister’s shoes.

And I’m not even keeping track.

When are the police going to do something more than hand out fliers? We need cops that are looking for the killers, extra patrols on the streets and working to confiscate and keep guns from kids, not Jehovah’s witnesses.

Last summer, they realized things were finally out of control and mobilized more officers, heavy duty weapons and vehicles after 26 students and many others had already lost their lives. Arguments can be made saying it helped or was pointless, but something needs to be done now.

Kids and young adults are killing kids, and nobody cares. If there were 25 children shot down in Lake Zurich, it would have the nation’s attention, but the disadvantaged Latinos and blacks on the South and West sides doesn’t even interest the city.

Are people just too accustomed to hearing about the killings to care? Are people hopeless? No matter what the reason, if we can put a black man in the oval office, we can put a black boy back in a classroom.

The NAACP needs to work in communities where they are really needed to change the racial and socioeconomic imbalance in our country instead of  picking losing fights with the NY Post.

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