One of the pieces of advice that someone gave me during Induction was to “blog on happy days and journal on sad days.” When family, friends, and supporters are reading, let them know about the great things: the kids that you love to death after two days, the people you’ve met, everything you’ve learned. But on the days when all you can focus on is the mistakes you made in your lesson, or the pressure the program places upon you, and the system that has failed these kids so outrageously, keep it to yourself. At least, that was the advice I got.
Well, today was one of those rough days.
My lesson centered around a short story, “Lamb to the Slaughter”. In the story, a wife murders her husband by hitting him in the head with the frozen leg of lamb that she’s planning on cooking for dinner. She then cooks the lamb, therefore destroying the murder weapon.
I used this story as the backdrop for my lesson, which centered around reading between the lines and making inferences. The problem is, none of my students were able to comprehend the story. When I asked the class what happened in the story, they all gave me some variation of this: the wife wanted to cook dinner and the husband was mad about something. There’s a body lying on the floor in this story and my students couldn’t make that leap. Honestly, it’s like I took this school day (one of 19 I will have with them this summer) and burned it. Some of the grades from today’s ending quiz are in the 10-20% range. Two so far have been passing and one of those is because I walked the student through every singe question.
I feel like I let my kids down, another cog in the machine that so systemically fails these kids, my kids.
I’ve been pulling my kids out one on one and asking them what they want out of life and out of summer school. I’ve got kids that want to be lawyers and singers and mechanics. And with each one of them, we’ve sat down and talked about what it’s going to take to get there. I’ve got a girl who wants to do social work in Uganda. Uganda! So I took these kids, and I told them all, individually, the same thing: “Listen. I see where you want to go. You can get there. I can get you there. But I’m gonna shoot you straight. It’s gonna be tough. So tough. We’re going to have to work hard and focus every day. But if you can give me that, if you can prove to yourself that you’ve got what it takes to both work hard and be smart, then you can go wherever you want to go. You can be whoever you want to be.”
And you know what the crazy thing is? They believe me. My kids believe me! I can see it in their faces. They’re buying in. They want this, they want to go to college, they want to succeed. And when I hear that, it lifts me up. I get so excited.
And then a day like today comes and completely blindsides me. All of a sudden, I’m faced with so much more than kids who are a little behind grade level. I’ve got kids who can’t read, kids who have been so bullied before that they can’t speak in front of class, kids who don’t speak English at home. I get two hours a day of teaching time with these kids and I, a brand new rookie, have to use that time to completely change the path of these kids’ lives. Woah.
On Friday, I gave an assessment to my students to see where they were. Of my 22 students, 2 passed. One got a 0, and several others only got one of the nine problems right. To put that in perspective, guessing should have gotten them at least two right.
We have been blessed with an opportunity to demonstrate resiliency.