∆ Jackson

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 20 2013

Things that make me sad. & Things that make me glad.

So far, it has been a good week back to school from Spring Break.

We started the unit on electricity in Physical Science, which I think students are enjoying it because it is so relevant.  And my Physics students have had some really great attitudes lately, which just makes class so much more pleasant.

{SIDE NOTE}…Also to brag about my Physics kids real quick… Most teachers are constantly having to chase kids that don’t belong in the classroom out of their homeroom in the morning.  Those teachers are jealous of me, because if a student that does not belong in my classroom in the morning walks in, my homeroom students tell them that this isn’t their classroom and they need to get out (even if it’s their friend).  I love it.  Today, they even closed the door because they didn’t want anyone else stopping in.  That, I loved less, but the gesture was nice.

Anyway, the two reasons I am writing this blog post today is something that makes me really happy and something that makes me really sad.

Let’s start with sad, so we can end on a good note.

I’m having my Physics students submit entries to the Raytheon Company “Build it Better” competition so their homework yesterday was to come up with something in the school that they think could work better.

The prompt is: “Is there something you use at school — in the classroom, on the field, in your science lab, on the playground or anywhere on school grounds — that isn’t designed as well as it could be?”  The examples the website gives are things like a better pencil sharpener, a better Bunsen burner, shorter lunch lines, and better monkey bars.

My students came back to class today with really good lists of things they think need improvement in our school.  But it didn’t quite follow the prompt.  My students came to class reporting that we need better pest control.  They mentioned that they wish the ceiling in my classroom wasn’t about to cave in.  They discussed the problem of mold and walls that are crumbling.  They talked about rooms that are too cramped.

At first, I was confused.  Did they read the prompt wrong?  I mean, these are intelligent kids, what was the problem?  Fixing mold in a classroom isn’t a “redesign” issue unless your building a whole new school…And then as I listened to them discuss the problems they see around themselves everyday, I realized it wasn’t that they didn’t get the prompt, they just couldn’t understand why they would need to redesign a pencil sharpener when the problem was so much bigger than that.  They couldn’t see past the fact that their school building is falling apart and what they really need is a better space in which to learn.  My pencil sharpener in my class, in reality, does not really work.  It sharpens pencils on an odd angle so that there is always way more pencil wood on one side of the graphite than the other.  It’s annoying.  But this issue is small when you look at the crumbling plaster and asbestos that leaves dust all over the floor and the white board everyday.  Or when you look at my ceiling…which really IS about to cave in…and sometimes a leaky pipe from the floor above allows water to drip down into my room RIGHT through the part that looks most like it could cave in at any moment and then my students are afraid to sit in that corner of the room…and I don’t blame them.

So, eventually, we came up with two really good ideas of things that we could actually redesign to make the school day a little better.  But my point it that I had yet another realization of how much my students lack sometimes.  How little we have to work with.  How lucky one might be if the problem that affects them the most throughout the school is the fact that the pencil sharpener doesn’t work very well.

On a happier note….

I did notebook collection last week.  When I collect notebooks, I grade the students on taking all the notes they need and keeping their notebook neat and organized.  I also write them a little note and then they write me back so we have a little conversation going on between the two of us.  Reading their notes to me is one of my favorite things, because it helps me to get to know them better.  It’s how I learn about one young lady’s son who has sickle cell.  Or how I learn about one girl whose mother was a drug addict so she grew up taking care of her little brother.  Or how I learn about a sweet girl who is always getting picked on by her classmates, but gets through it because of her strong faith in God.  Or how I learn about a young man who draws little sketches in his notebook of spaces he imagines.

A couple notes really stood out this time and I thought I would share them with you.

First, one young lady from my 3B (my most difficult class) ended her note to me with this:

“You are a great teacher and know to control your class regardless of how the students act.  You can teach very well and make it interesting, I understand everything.”

Sucking up?  Maybe.  But it made me smile big time.

And another young lady from the same class wrote me this note after I thanked her for coming into class smiling everyday:

“Thanks for being a supportive teacher.  I really have enjoyed this class since day one.  Throughout the day I’m not as happy and energetic as I usually am when I get in your class.  It’s a wonderful vibe. . . . And have you seen Freedom Writers?  To me you’re like the teacher in that movie.  You see so much in us.  When everyone else has given up on us and we kind of given up on ourselves, you don’t.  Thanks.”

I almost cried when I read that one.   It makes the whole week a little better when you start it out reading something like that. : )

And there you have it: One thing that made me sad this week and….TWO things that made glad.  Very, very glad.

No Responses Yet

    Post a comment