Milty Goes to Connecticut

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 18 2011

Days that Make You Cry

Crying - as we all know from weddings (and funerals for some of us) – isn’t reserved for sad moments. In fact, some moments are really too sad to cry. I had one of each this week.

First the sad: out of all the kids in my caseload, I really only have one with significant mental impairment. Everyone else is mostly just behind or has emotional difficulties. You can imagine I’m very protective of this small, slightly-effeminate child with the protuberant eyes. Compound this child’s disability with some self-control issues around his urges and throw in the fact that he self-identifies as homosexual. Many opportunities arise for his peers to mock him. A situation arose this week when he chose to do the right thing but immediately doubted himself because his peers mocked him for it. First of all, I don’t think his friends understand the extent to which the situation was manipulative and abusive. Secondly, our freshman have a character problem around “snitching” and gossip. I spent a good portion of my week trying to re-convince him that he did the right thing. The fact that anyone would try to manipulate and take advantage of someone who can’t really advocate for himself and who might not be able to intellectually understand that he’s being manipulated is reprehensible. I’m with John Locke that as much as we are able to protect other people, we should. It is the responsibility of the strong to protect those who are not as strong so threats and intimidation make me very upset.

Now the other type of crying: I saw the result of high expectations coupled with good support in one of my students this week. She has been languishing in the bottom of her class for the whole year, resigned to being the “stupid” one. Our low readers have a reading intervention class that uses a computer program to help them catch up in phonics and comprehension. It’s not a terribly fun program so most students haven’t been working very hard on it. My co-teacher and I started tracking their time spent working and posting when they completed levels in the program. I also became very strict about my expectations for the class, including sitting up, pushing in chairs, how they wear headphones – no detail too small. The most amazing thing happened: they started working … hard. The use went way up. Eight students passed a level during the first week. I also decided to have a little case conference with the kiddos on their current reading level and goals for reading level. After I explained her reading level, this particular student said that she wanted to work harder to catch up. She met with the social worker to set up an accountability plan. She’s committed to finishing her homework and being respectful to teachers so she can stay in class. But the two things that made me cry: she counselled the student above to stand up for himself and not worry about what others say and helped him organize his binder. Also, after she finished her paper, she asked if she could spend some time on reading intervention because she just had a little bit to go before she finished her current level and moved on to the next one. Compared to the surly teenager I first met, I’ve seen the leader and amazing person she’s becoming. And that just makes me cry everytime.

And just for fun, one thing that made me laugh:
My college readiness class students are taking the Myers-Briggs personality inventory to help them figure out what they’d like to be when they grow up. I wanted to take the test first so that I could give them an idea of what to expect. Not surprisingly, I came out an INTJ (the mastermind), characterized as a person who likes to be alone and work complex intellectual problems out. The fun part was the career suggestions which included (in increasing order of ridiculous):

  • Lawyer/judge
  • Budget analyst
  • Dictionary editor
  • Aerospace engineer
  • Post-secondary physics instructor
  • Fire inspector
  • Anthropologist
  • Coroner

Noticeably absent was secondary teacher or really anything resembling what I do now. I apparently missed my calling to examine dead bodies. I’m also thinking that I might be able to roll most of those into one career: a coroner who investigates arson and the community of arsonists and cross-examines the expert witnesses in trials of the arsonists while applying the principles of physics to determine in the cause of death is really smoke inhalation or spinal fractures from terminal velocity.

 Ideas for how to incorporate budget analyst and dictionary editor?

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    Charmingly (maybe) Existential (possible) Musings (read: rants) on My TFA Tenure

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