Thursday, June 29, 2006

There Will Aways Be...

It's almost 11PM, and I just finished the reading homework and a journal assignment for tomorrow's Fellowship class. The classes have really been working me hard, and I can't remember the last time I picked up a book of my own. Today's assignment came out of Dominic Belmonte's book: Teaching from the Deep End. And the journal assignment was to fill in three endings to the following sentence:

Regardless of what occurs in my life or in my school, in my classroom there will always be…

I really get a sense of where I've come from the last few weeks; I refuse to identify with those who idealize the concept of "marching into the trenches" of New York City Public Schools. The Angelina Jolie's of the educational field, if you will. Believe me, I've run into quite a few of them... and it makes me want to compulsively bathe. What's funny, is that even though I'm trying to play ice queen and be cool about helping out impoverished students with special needs I really do know how important this program is that usheres bright (if inexperienced) teachers right into the schools that need them most. Below are my responses. (and a long glance into my motivation to teach)

There will always be structure. In fact, structure is pivotal in maintaining order and productivity in the classroom on those gross Tuesdays, those my-cat-just-died-and-I-have-no-more-sick-days-left-but-I-rather-be-home-sobbing-on-the-couch Thursdays, or just your average headachy Mondays. With a solid lesson plan, months of procedure and routine drilled into the class, and structured activities at the ready, a potentially terrible day can at least be an OK day. (And sometimes OK is the best you can ask of anybody)

There will always be extra writing utensils and paper in my desk for students. No, I wasn’t a member in the Have-not’s poverty club growing up, but I was certainly forgetful: homework folder on the kitchen table, notebook full of paper thrown under my bed, pencils lodged into the crevice between floor and fridge. The teachers who could lend a pen and offer a sheet of paper for notes often saved me from the embarrassment an empty desk. Now, I’m realistic enough to know that I’ll be dishing out some cash upfront to stock my classroom, knowing full well that education tax dollars may not take into account that students can’t all bring the bare necessities to class. However that scritch-scritch of a busy borrowed pencil is infinitely more pleasant than the silence of a student who would do the work, if he only had the materials.

There will always be hope. I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t join the NYC Teaching Fellows as a lovey-dovey hippie wing nut. My dad taught in the Peace Corp before I was born, so I feel like my family has paid its liberal dues; I’m not going to be chaining myself to a tree anytime soon, or boycotting tuna fish. But that doesn’t mean students in low-income neighborhoods shouldn’t have someone who wants to teach them. A good teacher doesn’t just teach the lesson, but gives a student hope; even if it’s just a red-pen-scrawled smiley face on an improved test.


Anonymous Dominic Belmonte said...

I wanted to thank you, Ms. C, for your resilience and courage in helping your students achieve. I am also grateful that your eloquent raison d'etre came as a springboard from my words, which I sincerely hope were of some utility.

Thursday, August 24, 2006 11:18:00 AM  
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