∆ Jackson

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 01 2013

What made me cry on the way home from work…

So, driving home from work today I had a really sad realization.

With the exception of a few of my students, I realized today that nearly none of my students will be ready for college when they graduate high school.

And I say this not because I don’t believe in my students, but because even my BEST students (the ones who work exceptionally hard and/or come after school and/or have really great critical thinking skills)… just lack basic writing, reading, and sometimes math  skills.

When I get notes, assignments, etc from some of my best students and they spelled though, “doe”.  Or instead of saying given, they say “giving”.  Or when a student doesn’t know how to write the fraction two and one half.  These are mistakes that would be cute if made by a second grader, but are simply sad when made by a high schooler.  A high schooler who has dreams of being an architect, a veterinarian, or a dentist.

I made this realization on my way home from work today as I mulled over a series of events that had occurred throughout the day.  It literally brought me to tears as I merged onto I-55.

HOW can I prepare my students for college?  Especially the ones who are graduating in MAY?!  How do I provide for them, in four months, what 13 years of education has failed to teach them?  How do we allow it to get this bad?  I am so appalled.  I am so upset.  I feel so helpless.

Let’s say I can guide them through the college application process.  I know the tricks, I worked in the admissions office.  I can make sure they submit everything on time.  I can write a recommendation and suggest others they could ask.  I can help them edit their admissions essay so it seems as if they are a competent writer.  If they are accepted- awesome! : )

But then what?  What happens when they go to submit their first essay or written assignment in college and their professor can hardly read it?  Or if they copy and paste off wikipedia (like many did for their semester 1 research project), which is grounds for expulsion at the worst and academic probation at best.  What then?

So I can’t just sit here.  I can’t just cry on the way home from work everyday, because, let’s face it, I need to pay attention to the crazy Mississippi drivers on 55.  I may not be able to solve this terrible problem plaguing our schools.  I may not be able to make all my students excellent writers in the next four months.  But I sure as hell can do everything in my power to get them on the right track.  I will leave no room to ask myself, what if I had done this…  No.

We are writing more.  In complete sentences, no exceptions.  We are having short grammar and spelling lessons.  We are completing a written research project in which a rough-draft must be submitted and there will be NO copying and pasting from any website–or you will not only get a zero (what I did last time) but you will be reported to the administration.  We are reading more.  Out loud.  In groups.  Silently.  For homework.  And I don’t care that this is science class and not English class, because guess what?  Scientists need to be able to communicate.  They need to be able to write.

So at least if my students reach college and can’t write a research paper, it will not be because I did not give them 100% of my time and commitment in an attempt to prepare them.

5 Responses

  1. Thank you for providing this part of your thinking about the new generation’s future. It is very important review what we have given for students. Also, we have to think more and more what and how we should teach the students. Always we have to think and review to keep effective methods then work to improve it. Some methods worked effectively with the previous generation , but it does not work with nowadays’ generation. Therefore, developing teaching method is important. I believe that, nowadays’ students depend on electronic devices to correct their grammar and sapling mistakes, so we have to solve the problem by sophisticated ways that appropriate the students leering system.
    May this will be good start to think about new and effective strategy that can solve this problem.

    I believe that, you are unique teacher.
    Thank you

  2. Pat Federowic

    Ronnie, Thank you for taking the time to work with your students on this massive problem. My local school system has a reading specialists because it is so important. Kids have to be able to read in order to learn.

  3. Cioci Amy

    Ronn, I just emailed an excerpt from your passionate and eloquent blog entry to President Obama (through whitehouse.gov). I hope his staff shows it to him so he can see, through your eyes, the state of our education system and also understand the dedication and compassion of his Teach For America corps. Your commitment inspires me every day. Love, Cioci

  4. Anonymous

    Ronnie, it astounds me that so many students can reach high school with such poor writing skills. What aren’t our elementary schools doing?? This is a major issue in education, and it’s complicated as well….as is the education system in this country.

    Hang in there, sweet girl. You’re wonderful, and your students are so incredibly lucky to have you!!!

    Ann Marie

  5. gmason

    Their English teachers will thank you! I’m an incoming CM, but I’m student teaching right now. In my program, we talk SO MUCH about the necessity of reading and writing across the curriculum: About how it doesn’t help students when their math, history, and science teachers tell them “grammar doesn’t count.” About how important literacy is in all subject areas BECAUSE it is critically important in higher education and in the professional world. I hope more teachers (TFA and traditional) start following your lead. Students will undoubtedly benefit from it.

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