updates for 03.05.2011
When I received my notification back in November, I was given the placement of secondary math. My first reaction was something along the lines, "Oh, crap." I am not a math person. At all. Some people in life can do math and just rock the hell out of it. Other people stare blankly at it and go through the motions and just pray they're doing it the right way. I fall into that second category. All through schoool, I was on the "advanced math track," but I always towards the bottom of the advanced pack. Math for me, for lack of a better term, was just plain hard. At times, miserably hard. I have no idea how I made it through AP Chem when I was struggling to stay afloat in trig at the same time. I made my feelings about math teaching math known early on--as in within a few hours of accepting. I made a very clear and logical argument about why math was not a good placement: I haven't had math since high school (I didn't have to take math in college because of my placement scores and ACT score), I don't use anything beyond basic math in my everyday life, and that I had serious doubts about my ability to pass the secondary math MTTC. I gave it all a try and studied more then I've studied in years, but I wasn't progressing from the initial practice tests I took. If anything, I was actually doing worse, since I was stressing beyond belief trying to study for all of my tests and work 40+ hours a week. At that point, I threw in the towel, to some extent. I told the regional office I couldn't do secondary math. If I was teaching it, I'd probably have the kids leaving doing worse then they were when they started. So they told I could do elementary math. Okay, that's cool. I understand algebra. And oh, how was I mistaken. The elementary math test isn't that different from the secondary test. Elementary lacks calculus and trig. Beyond that, they were incredibly similar. So despite the fact that I studied an awful lot, I failed the elementary math test. Failed with an absolutely miserable score. I did A-OK on the general elementary test and can be placed with that, but I now have to retake elementary math again and things still aren't clicking. I'm not trying to be negative or give up on myself, but seriously, how bad do I have to be for people to realize what I already know. I'm not going to say what my score was because of how embarassingly low it was. I'm ashamed of it. I wasn't even close the the 220 needed to pass. It would reflect badly on me, my family, my education, and probably cause schools to ask for my degrees back. I've now been experiencing a constant math anxiety. I'm already being treated for anxiety; it's not like my psychiatrist can give me something else just for math. On top of everything, there's the fact that just because I pass doesn't mean I'm capable of teaching math. Let's say I manage to hit the elusive 220. In my mind, that doesn't mean I should be teaching kids math, especially kids who, statistically speaking, are lagging behind in math. Like all TFA CMs, I'm afraid of not being good enough. But I'm also afraid of the distinct reality that I honestly am NOT good enough to teach people math. I understand the need for math teachers in Detroit. Trust me, I've lived in the Detroit area for most of my life and I know how great the need for math and science teachers is. But I also know how important it is to have good candidates teaching those areas. I don't think I fall into that category. I'm amazing at the stuff I do. I know more stuff about social studies and the humanities then most people do. I can throw out those facts in 20 different ways. But math? I can't say I have that ability. I can't just give up because that isn't an option. I know the struggles that many of the Detroit CMs have faced and have heard about the situations they've been put in. I don't want to be in that boat (obviously, no one does). This isn't something that I've just come to a conclusion on. I've felt this was since I was about 11. But now, the stakes are so much higher.
We have been writing papers, drawing pictures, and doing assignments about the same hero for the past 2 weeks. Now, 'Quisha, who I want to call Squishy because I think i'ts funny, gets to write a letter to Satchel Paige's hometown asking them to build a statue in his honor. We have been working on these all week. Now, Squishy's not exactly the A+ Advanced Honor Roll student in my class, but her letter rapidly devolved into the following questions:
I'm not kidding that the kids are crazy lately. There were 2 fights on my floor of the middle school building today. Kids get In School Suspension (ISS) for misbehaving terribly (telling teachers to "Fuck off, bitch" is becoming a classic example), and then get sent to Out of School Suspension (OSS) for mocking and cussing at the woman who runs ISS. Of course, they don't mind OSS because they get to chill at home while their parents work. "You can't tell me what to do! I don't have to listen to you" is not an uncommon sentence anymore. The classroom next door to me hasn't had a teacher in weeks and has become a revolving door for substitutes. By this point, they're so crazy that I regularly hear kids shrieking, see them climbing on furniture, or catch them going through the teacher's desk. "Out of control" would be an understatement. I'm thankful to all my lucky stars (or whatever you're supposed to be thankful to) that my kids within the doors of my classroom have actually been pretty good lately (or maybe I should just say "relatively good"... I have a funny feeling I'm losing my perspective in the insanity). They've been working hard and most of the big behavior problems are in ISS or OSS anyway. There's a long-term substitute in the other math class, so I don't have to run back and forth anymore, and I think my kids are feeling less abandoned and behaving accordingly. I don't know what I'd do if my classes were acting like looters after a natural disaster too... it's already exhausting enough just walking through the halls.
I've been working through the Pre-Institute stuff since I downloaded the .pdfs off of the TFAnet site and am currently working through the reading for Exercise 2. My problem is that I probably don't read as quickly as others and I find the content so interesting that I read every word. I've also picked up two other books that I'm reading, as well, Other People's Children and The Teaching Gap. On top of that, my list of education blogs that I'm following have hit an all time high. Oh, and I find myself being sucked into reading all the posts on this forum. The current education budget situation in Texas has turned me into Mr. Politics and has led me to do a whole bunch of research on what has been happening, while composing some new ideas on a multi-pronged teacher evaluation methodology and on an overall evaluation of what education should look like in America. Oh, and I'm looking for some kind of temporary work to fill the current money gap until my life is consumed by Induction, Institute, and Interviews. I'm just glad I already have my degree and am not trying to graduate, too. All of this education chaos has left me with some questions on my long term plans. I had expected to spend the next...rest of my life in the classroom, working to make a difference in my students lives. With all of the reading I'm doing, it is clear to me that the problems with education will not be solved by good teachers doing the work in the classroom trenches. So, my new current plan is to do the teaching thing for the next 5-6 years and then moving on to something outside of the classroom, but still in education. I'm not sure what that will look like, but I'm a huge proponent of national standards, true teacher evaluations that are based on so much more than test scores (tired of teacher mentors that suck, co-teachers that need to find other lines of work, and the idiocy that is LIFO), and in doing whatever is needed to get a good, quality education to every student. I don't think I can do that from the classroom. I have ZERO interest in school administration, so I'm not sure what that leaves for making real change. But I'm going to keep my eyes open and see what opportunities open up for me. Until then I'm going to be the best teacher I can be with the tools and resources I am given.
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