∆ Jackson

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 14 2013

The teacher I imagined I would be…

I love writing blog posts when I feel very happy and positive.  And right now, I really feel genuinely happy. : )

**Side note: The only thing really getting me down is this rain and COLD.  And let me tell you, I can pinpoint the exact second it became cold in Jackson, MS.  I was sitting on the steps after church.  I decided to join a committee at church and Nick was running some errands while I was in a meeting.  I finished and decided to wait on the steps for him because it was a beautiful morning!  Then, as I sit there, a big gust of wind came and brought some bitter cold air.  The temperature dropped about 10 degrees in about half a second.  And stayed that way even when the wind stopped blowing.  It was the most eerie strange thing I have experienced.**

Anywho, I was spoiled all weekend by gorgeous springtime weather, so that’s the real reason I’m upset that it is cold all of the sudden.

But I have few other reasons to complain.  Last week was awesome.

I had an awesome lab where you stack a cup of water, a pie tin, a toilet paper tube, and an egg on top of each other and knock the pie tin away.  It demonstrates inertia as the egg drops straight down into the cup.  The kids got super into it and filled out their entire lab reports, then proceeded to take notes and finish AND go over their worksheets.  Seeing my kids working so hard made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

And today I had a repeat of hard work, respect, and attention on a much more difficult lesson.  My B day classes usually have trouble concentrating if things get a little tricky, but today they were great.  There were only one or two people who were not living up to those high expectations I have for every one of my students.

It feels good because I feel like we are making steps forward.  I feel like I am finally able to be the teacher I imagined I would be when I first got that TFA acceptance email.

The teacher whose kids WANT to be there, whose students WANT to succeed.

Whose students are ENGAGED and answering questions and fighting over the marker to do an example problem on the board.

The teacher who can joke around with her students to keep class interesting and engaging, but still get a lot done.

The teacher who has a class under control and is able to give those extra five minutes to someone who is struggling when need be.

I feel like I am finally becoming that teacher.  I might not be there yet, but I think I’m getting there.

When I was in institute, my CMA, Natasha, said something to me that I repeat often in my head when I feel like a failure:

“You are not going to be the teacher your kids need and deserve your first few months of teaching.  Heck, you probably won’t be the teacher your kids need and deserve your first YEAR of teaching.  But you will get there.  And they will know that you are trying.”

So I have been thinking of this quote lately.  Because I still do not think that I am all my kids need and deserve.  They deserve so much more than I can give them in my limited experience, but I will not stop trying.  My students struggle with problems most people I went to school with can only imagine.

Over Christmas break, I overheard someone say that EVERYONE has the same opportunity to succeed in education, but some people just don’t have enough motivation.  “Equally opportunity” is commonly misconceived.  We might think, as long as someone in poverty could potentially reach the same goal as someone not in poverty, that is equality.

And in reality, that is:   Simply. Not. True.

When my students go home and there is no dinner on the table and they have to do their homework on an empty stomach, that is not the same opportunity.  When my students go home and have two younger sibling s and a child of their own to take care of before they can even think about doing school work, that is not the same opportunity.  When my students’ parents cannot even afford to buy them mechanical pencils (something I took for granted when I was in school), that is not the same opportunity.  When my students do not have electricity for a week because their parents cannot afford the bill, that is not the same opportunity.  When my students cannot have their own copy of the textbook because the district can’t afford to buy extra copies, that is not the same opportunity.  When my student’s can’t get sleep because they have to deal with the stress of caring for a family, fending off their mom’s abusive boyfriend, or working a job to help pay rent, that is NOT the same opportunity.

Yes, with a HUGE amount of motivation, my students CAN go just as far as ANY OTHER STUDENT.  I know they can.  And believe in them 100%.  But it takes so much more effort for a child living in poverty than a child who never has to worry about whether there will be food in the fridge when they get home.

And that is NOT equal opportunity.


And this is why, everyday, I struggle and work toward becoming not just the teacher I imagined I would be, but so much more.

Because that is what MY students NEED and DESERVE.

4 Responses

  1. Teri Keefer

    Ronnie, you are amazing and your students are lucky they have someone as caring and concerned as you in their lives. No, you can’t fix all of their problems but for the time that they have with you each day you show them that people do care. i am proud of you.

  2. Valerie Thomas

    Veronica – have I told you lately how proud I am to be your aunt!? You warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes. You are such a blessing to your students

  3. Eileen Campoli

    Ronnie, I’m a believer in a person with HEART. You surely have that and as teachers want their kids to be like a sponge and absorb all they can, you too are always learning from them. They help saturate your sponge so you can give so much more to them. I always felt that the teachers teachers who got to know me as a person, got the most respect and work from me. Good luck in all you do.

  4. alana

    Absolutely excellent, Ronnie. Just by recognizing the inequality, you are well on your way to challenging your students as a mindful, compassionate teacher. Your enthusiasm, ability to bounce back, and pride in them have established your credibility to them.

    God bless.

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