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updates for 12.17.2011

10 new posts today

In which there are endings

Today was the last day of school before Christmas. I don't know how to feel about that. Happy, relieved, obviously.  Confused, stressed.  Anxious, undecided. I have the emotional range of a preteen on a bad hair day, and that is just scratching the surface.  The only thing that I don't really feel as I sit in the airport, drinking coffee, eating an absurdly unhealthy bagel sandwich, is accomplished.  This is a milestone, but it doesn't feel like one. Maybe because survival doesn't feel celebratory. In any event, there will be more here in the next weeks about what is next.  Until then, my confused little heart is filled with love and gratitude for the people, big and small, who are the sponsors of my survival.


In which there is a great machine

To a certain extent, every blog post gets written in my head before it is put on paper or iPad note (I'm a modern girl).  This is one that has been in my head for a long time, and it has been one that I have been afraid to make formal and public, because for the first time I am not writing about myself, but about The Great Institution that is Teach for America itself. First, a disclaimer.  I do not seek to criticize either the staff members that I have encountered or the organization for which they (we?) work.  I seek to reflect, and to some extent inform.  There is a part of this experience that incoming corps members, myself included, are shielded from, and in the end, it becomes one of the quintessential determining factors of the experience. Here is my shocking revelation: Teach for America is a business.  It is a company, a corporation. Well duh, Ms. B, you're thinking.  Of course it is. Hear me out, friends. As a recruit, specifically as a college senior, you may or may not have a view of the day to day functioning of the business world.  You are inspired, moved, persuaded to join the thousands of like-minded youngsters across the country, to line up and lay yourself bare for admissions. You are admitted, and from the moment of your matriculation you are besieged with completely un-corporate messages.  If you're in the STL corps you might even receive a stuffed bear in the mail (this is ironically foreshadowing our very own corporate sponsorship, but at the time that is the furthest thing from your mind). Then you'll go off to induction and institute, both designed to blanket you in love and support.  You might kvetch that you feel anonymous, like a number at Institute.  Really, however, it is the most individual and human experience of your first months in the corps, and that's because for 5 weeks you are the product that the machine is attempting to produce, and quality control and monitoring is an essential part of the process. Then you'll move to the region; slowly the curtain will be drawn away and you will see, gear by lever by button, that you are working for a corporate machine.  TFA is a business, surprise, and as a result is highly concerned with image and with money.  And quite rightly, because how else could we move forward to fight the good fight? The problem, on a human level, becomes the fact that this machine is still covered up with a tarp that looks like the friendly, liberal, love-fest which is Institute.  And while you are now a cog in the machine, rather than its main focus and output, you need to operate with that lubrication of kool-aid in order to survive.  And although it is why we are all here, doing this work with varying levels of success, our ability to cope with this position in the Great Machine is frankly the lynch pin to our sanity. The question now becomes, what is our workaday output?  What are we, as a multi-faceted machine, attempting to produce?  And are we producing it effectively? Just this week, a conversation with my TFAmily caused me to, let's put it politely, lose my temper about a tangent of this problem (to clarify, I got mad at the organization, not at my friends.  They were innocent bystanders to my rampage).  I used a lot of variations of a word that starts with the letter F, some of which I learned from my children.  I probably permanently terrified a friend's puppy with my ire. I'm really tired of this anger, especially when pumping it into a machine with no ears, no skin, just a shiny reflective surface and a big sign that says, "point with the thumb."


Any New Orleans CMs willing to comment?

New Orleans is definitely the 'ground zero' for education reform. The corporate reform model is conducting their 'great' experiment there as 80% of the schools in the 'Recovery School District' are charters. If the experiment works it will be replicated throughout the country. Already, Memphis is starting to copy it. If the experiment fails, the whole corporate reform movement could fail too. Everything seems to be riding on New Orleans. Not being down there myself, I can only rely on second-hand descriptions of what's going on there. I've read press statements about what amazing things are going on there. About how only 18% of students now attend 'failing' schools vs. 60% before Katrina. But I also hear from the other side. I hear stories about cheating and about excluding kids with special needs. The scores from the RSD are pretty low though they are, apparently, improving. My question to people currently out there in New Orleans is: Is New Orleans the educational utopia depicted by the school leaders out there? Or is it more like the naysayers describe? I really want to get to the bottom of this. If I didn't have a wife, a 3 year old, and an 8 month old, I'd go down there for a year and find out for myself. But I can't do that, so this has to be done remotely. I just can't imagine that things are that great. Teaching is such a difficult job. I don't see how a bunch of rookie teachers are overcoming poverty through their hard work. It just goes against everything I've experienced about the job of teaching over the past 20 years. Help me out here. If you don't want to write it as a comment, you can email me at garyrubinstein -then the at sign- yahoo. What are CMs saying to each other about what's going on out there? I can get you a discount at Rubenstein's department store on St. Charles Ave. and Canal St.  Just tell them you know me.


Today was the best day ever.

I had the best day with my kids today. It was the last day of school before winter break, and we were careful to finish almost all of our testing yesterday because Christmas is one of the two holidays a year that are school-approved to have a party. My mentor teacher and I were talking about it, and since our kids work so hard (we're pretty much sure that our kids are working harder and at a faster pace than any other grade level, which may say more about our school than about us, but still), we wanted to have one complete day of fun stuff. Here's the thing: I adore my kids. I love them to bits. I have issues with some of the teachers, I have issues with my school administration, but I completely and unconditionally love my kids. And that's when I'm always pushing them, always making them work and do things they don't really want to (and sometimes doubt they can) do! Can you imagine how much I love them on a day when they get to have pure, unadulterated fun??? We took our spelling and vocab tests quick first thing this morning, and then we played Winter Mad Libs. It's the first time we've done this, because the definition of an adjective remains stubbornly elusive despite my anchor charts, but we went over it carefully and left examples on the board, and they rocked it. Plus, they LOVED it. All these silly little stories about finding a Cruzito inside a present, or swimming down the Thanksgiving tree, or (once they realized kissing was a verb...let the boy/girl craziness begin) kissing a Lyle through the night sky. They couldn't get enough. We probably did Mad Libs and laughed for an hour. Then, the activity I'd been worried would turn into a chaotic fiasco: gingerbread houses. Well, really graham cracker houses, which we constructed around our milk cartons from this morning so that they wouldn't collapse immediately. I made a vat of frosting, which stunned them as they were under the impression that frosting could only come in a can, and paired two kids to a giant plate of candy. Miracle of miracles, it went incredibly smoothly. No fighting, no anger, kids were excited about other people's projects and admiring their peppermint-marshmallow trees. A bunch of kids chose to work together and pool resources (VOLUNTARY collaboration? For my kids who could barely talk to each other at the beginning of the year, much less plan a project like a graham cracker school bus?) and made cars and mansions. One of my lowest academic-skills kids decided he was going to make a plane, and I completely doubted it. He has really low fine motor skills and broke one of his crackers immediately. But he patiently "glued" it with icing, made braces and supports from other crackers, and twenty minutes later, lo and behold, he had a plane! It was pretty amazing. I even got to make a house, so enraptured and on-task were they, and my lopsided milk-cartonless wonder brought many giggles. Second miracle of the day, we cleaned up in 5 minutes and washed our desks (which was instantly a game because the spray cleaner looks like snow and I wrote their initials on their desks in cleaner...this was the joy we had today). Lunch had to be in our classroom, and I left them for about 7 minutes to get my lunch with stern warnings that I expected them all to be eating calmly when I returned. As I'm walking down the hallway to our room, I see Malakai, the posted lookout, as he ducks back inside and half-yells, "She's coming! She's coming!" But when I opened that door, I saw 16 students calmly, innocently eating lunch, only to die laughing as I mentioned, "You know, you're not as sneaky as you think you are." Then we watched 15 minutes of Planet Earth's Ice Worlds, our favorite lunch-in-the-classroom activity, and laughed at the funny waddling penguins. We had a Christmas assembly, and our act deserves its own post so stay tuned for that, but afterwards it was FINALLY time to open our presents (which they'd been rearranging, studying, asking about, and generally salivating over all day). We did a gift exchange, so each child brought a $10 or less present for another. Some of them went way overboard, and some I bought because they couldn't afford it. We had snacks and excitement, and I was worried that they would ruin it in that this-is-so-fun-I-can't-control-myself way kids have. But they totally settled down when I asked them to, and we did a totally calm, super fun exchange. One kid would pick a present to give to its recipient, no matter who had brought the present. Then that child would open it, we would collectively ooh and ahh, they would thank each other, and that child would pick another present to give out. I was so proud of how good they were being to each other. Everyone waited their turn politely, and all I had to do was ask casually, "Who gave you that present?" and they immediately thanked each other for the gift. A few parents came to join us and I was so thankful that they weren't watching absolute chaos that it took me a few minutes to realize that I was actually blown away by how great my kids were being. A bunch of them got me presents too, which made me want to tell them to stop spending their money on me because they don't have any, but they were so proud to give me things and so sweet. They gave me a sweater, a watch, earrings, a necklace, lotion, a scarf, a mug, and candy, and I was pretty much overwhelmed with their generosity. Did I mention I love them? We spent the rest of the afternoon putting Legos together, throwing footballs outside, eating gingerbread houses, listening to music from my iPod, and asking the Magic 8 Ball (which they called the Magic Meatball until I explained) questions like, "Will I ever have a boyfriend?" (I swear, this started literally today) and "Will I get an A+ in math?" One of my boys, who is so smart and I already adore him, was so smiley and goofy and sweet to everyone that I realized how much I would be obsessed with him if I got to be fun all the time instead of pushing them so hard. He put on the clip-on earrings one girl got as  a gift and did a honky-tonk guitar dance to a crazy country song, and my heart melted with how much I love him. He also wrote 4 different post-it notes on our Parking Lot (where kids can put questions, thoughts, etc.) saying things like, "We're going to miss you!" and "I hope you have a great Christmas!" and gave them to me, pretending 4 different kids wrote them. It was pretty much the most perfect, wonderful day. They were playful, goofy in an under-control, fun way, sweet and adorable. One of our class rules, the one I call their Number One Job (sometimes I just ask them, randomly, "What is your #1 job?" and they answer with this rule), is Be Phenomenal To Each Other. It used to be Be Excellent To Each Other, but on the first day of school, Daisy, who is so smart and has such a great vocabulary, answered the #1 question with, "Be phenomenal to each other," and we voted that that was better anyway. We say it all the time, and sometimes it drives me nuts how, even then, they are still rude to each other. But today they were, in every way, phenomenal. To each other, to me, and just in general. Phenomenal.



Just finished my first full size candy cane of the season, about to sleep sitting at this computer. I haven't been tired in a long time-- all that traveling in the past six weeks wore me out, but nothing like this. Two full weeks of teaching and I'm a little fry-ball. See? That's not even a real thing. I can't decide if my management is getting better or worse. Today I differentiated and wanted to explode when it genuinely worked. With the newly replaced and now-functional Smartboard (it was only out for, you know, two months, so I had re-designed my room around the white board), I have adjusted my seats into six groups in front of it, with two long tables angled off to the side. Thankfully, I'm blessed with an enormous room and off-center Smartboard-- it leaves much space for creativity. This means I could physically remove my behind students and put them at a different table, away from group instruction. Also, for once, I think those students felt the impact of not doing their work on time. All the other students were reading their essays out loud, peer editing (really, just testing reading their work out loud-- I didn't put much emphasis on the actual editing just yet), but about four students in each class were behind, and sat excluded while they worked on their drafts. Not only this, but almost every single student new what s/he was supposed to be doing, and was doing it. Holy hell, please understand how amazing that is. Every time I walked by and a student was off topic, it was because that pair was genuinely finished with the work. My highest students I hired out as mentors at the side tables-- they're strong enough where they wouldn't have benefited or missed much during editing, so I put them in charge of helping other students. I am by no means an excellent writing teacher, not even a little bit, but hearing the sentences my students were writing today was incredible. We're using Sentence Composing for Elementary Students (soon moving to middle), and I am dying with excitement about using mentor texts. When they imitate "real authors", my students' are phenomenal. They love word of the day, love creating long and "smart" sentences, and love having a chance to work in partners every single day. I'm finding new routines and systems and resources. I'm also finding more and more teachers coming up to me to vent, explain, or ask about things. I forget, sometimes, that the huge-ness of my campus means that it's not just me that feels isolated and like I don't know anyone-- even vet teachers feel that. Some of them are probably just as nervous to approach me as I am them. I want to break that before the end of the year. I want to push the other teachers just as much as I want to push my kids. I think at this point we're all tired of just complaining about morale, complaining about failing systems, complaining about things that are making us miserable... and we're ready to change things. Achievement First sent me their 6th grade Language documents (after I asked), and I'm beside myself with excitement to dig through them over break. Finally, some exemplar writing planning texts (these do not exist in the Delta yet). I'm also teaching a spring course for ProSat-- a writing-only planning course that I'm praying won't collapse in on itself. Okay, exhaustion needs to morph to productivity so I can make it to el Toro in time to meet up with the gang.


In support of TFA Ohio

Teach for America is coming to Ohio next year! I know, right! How could you not be excited about that?! Well some people on this blog really got on my nerves, as usual. I should be used to the negative/Anti-TFA comments by now, and people are allowed to voice their opinion about TFA, but I just hate when people speak about something that they know nothing about! Here's the article: Teach for America aiming to be in Ohio in the fall http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2011/12/teach_for_america_coming_to_oh.html Here's my response: I would like to begin with a quote from GleninMars who previously commented on the TFA Ohio post in June, “TFA is a piece of the puzzle and never claim to be the answer. They just see a gap in achievement and refuse to sit by idly because they know it can be closed. I will forever be working for the improvement of the quality of education in our lowest performing schools. Something I could not say two years ago.” I am forever grateful for my TFA experience. I am grateful that Wendy Kopp saw a need for a corps of teachers in 1988. I am grateful that she took that idea from a senior thesis at Princeton University to an actual organization that she brought to fruition, that I am now a part of. To those of you who scoff at the 5-week institute that corps members endure before entering the classroom, and ROFLOL at the fact that TFA can help (but not solve) the brain drain in Ohio, when is the last time you visited a school? Have you offered your time to tutor any students in the last 2-5 years? How disconnected are you from your community? If you have not taught or tutored recently, you probably have a skewed perspective of what education looks like. A lot has changed since you were in school!! A whole lot has changed since I was in middle school only 10 years ago. I currently teach middle school in Houston, Texas. The achievement gap is real. It will not be solved over night, it might not be solved solely by Teach for America, but I strongly believe TFA is a step in the right direction. But if you haven’t been in a school then you have no idea what teachers are subjected to on the daily basis. Every year students enter Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms unprepared. Students, especially minority and low SES students are entering kindergarten already behind their majority or High SES counter-parts. The sad reality we live in today is that your zip code determines your success. Will a five-week training adequately prepare you? No, but ask any teacher, nothing can truly prepare you for teaching. I don’t have children of my own, but I imagine it’s like parenting. Read all the books you want, talk to experts and doctors, but when it’s just you and a kid instinct must kick in. Obviously masters programs and traditional training programs would be preferred, but if you haven’t looked into what the TFA process involves then you probably should refrain from commenting on how it doesn’t work because frankly you don’t know. I understand that a longer training would be beneficial, however I felt like Teach for America did a wonderful job in preparing its corps members. We attended sessions M-F from 7am-4pm for five weeks. There were various sessions on classroom management, discipline, curriculum, etc. During this time period we were also teaching one period a day. My summer teaching placement (See previous post: Welcome to the Achievement Gap) was an eye opening experience to the achievement gap that I’d had little personal experience with in high school. I am a Cleveland Heights High School and The Ohio State University graduate. I love the state of Ohio and I love education. I majored in Human Development and Family Science while at OSU, and applied to both TFA and OSU Master’s program. I wanted to teach, but I really wanted to be a part of a national organization which was dedicated to the education of ALL students. Being a Teach for America corps member has opened my eyes to the achievement gap that I already knew existed while attending Heights. I was in AP classes, so I was the majority in the hallways but a minority in class. Luckily, I made it through high school and through college. However, every student doesn’t get the same experiences and mentors/coaches that I had. Every child is not given an equal opportunity. TFA wants to help change that. Do all corps members become lifelong teachers? No, but that is a testament to the teaching profession as a whole rather than just TFA. It is a commonly known that 50% of the new teachers leave the profession within the first five years of teaching. In addition, young people studying to be teachers rarely know if they will succeed as a teacher. There has been no effective way of predicting whether or not one individual will be successful in teaching and will remain a teacher for an entire lifetime. (Haberman Foundation) TFA’s belief is that even if you leave the classroom, you are forever changed by your experience and become an advocate for education for the rest of your life. You can leave TFA after your 2-year commitment to enter law school and go into educational policy. You can leave the classroom and become an administrator. TFA’s goal is STRUCTURAL CHANGE. Also, I’d like to point out, “Teach for America reports that nearly half of their alumni teach at their placement schools for a third year. Many others go on to teach elsewhere, especially at KIPP charter schools and other schools founded by Teach For America alumni. Still others train for administrative positions, and Teach For America now reports that 67% of its alumni are working or studying in education.” Don’t believe me? Google is your friend. Take time out of your busy schedule to look up any of these notable TFA Alumni: Dave Levin (Houston '92), KIPP Co-founder Mike Feinberg (Houston '92), KIPP Co-founder Chris Barbic (Houston '92), Founder of YES Prep Public Schools and Superintendent of Tennessee's Achievement School District. Michelle Rhee (Baltimore '92), Former Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools system and founder of The New Teacher Project; Founder, StudentsFirst In short, TFA is not magic. I am not an amazing teacher simply because I’m a TFA corps member. (I apologize on behalf of anyone in my national corps that has given off that sort of bravado.) I have only been teaching a year and a half, and I have a LOT to learn. Yet, in this short amount of time I have learned A LOT. I believe OSU has a wonderful Master’s program that probably produces great teachers, but I’ve learned a lot from being IN the trenches. Experience is priceless. And while TFA is not magic, I believe it is a magical program to be a part of because it challenges me to challenge my students to reach beyond the stars. Excited this program is coming to my beloved O-H-I-O, Angel Williams TFA Houston 2010


Even if you don't see it now, someday you'll realize how much you learned.

It's amazing how right Vicki was all those years ago. I wish she was still around to share her good advice with the world. She wrote something on my post Exhaustion that I couldn't have possibly understood until much later. This is what I'd written: I'm sitting in my classroom. There are many things to be done. I have an hour of time to do whatever they are but I'm sitting here, lifeless, unable to do work. I have curled up on the dirty carpeted floor of my classroom and cried too many times this week. I'm so tired. I left my UNLV class last night because I started crying in defeat and could not continue the work. I left class and cried for half an hour out of sheer exhaustion. It's funny because my professor will probably read this entry and know that I left his class to go cry (not because of anything he did) but I'm at the point where it doesn't even matter. I feel like such a worthless student. I do the work, but I don't have the drive to be the perfectionist I used to be in college. My mom is giving a guest lecture about big goals to my girls class which is very exciting. Exciting in the sense that I can let down, stop being the non-stop Ms. Math show. It's like I'm performing, on display, to be analyzed way too many hours of the day. They look at my eyes (Miss, why were you crying?), my clothes (didn't you wear that last time?), how I walk (laughing at me if I trip over a wire), my grades, my everything. I know that so many of their criticisms are legitimate; it's as if I should be perfect because I'm the teacher. I cannot be flawed or make mistakes. It's so much pressure. I need to realize that just because I make a mistake, it does not mean that kids should be able to misbehave or that my plan in general is bad. She wrote one more insightful comment on the story of my life falling apart: When I let go of what I am I become what I might be — Lao Tzu Your plans are fine, You are fine. Remember they are jealous so they are looking for things to criticize about you. Don’t add to your pressure by being so critical of yourself. i assisted with a challenge day at a high school earlier this year and i saw how these kids are acting out because they have so much hurt inside they feel they have to hide. i witnessed these smart alecks breaking down and letting their real selves show through during this event. I am so glad you and your mom got some time together (she shared pics and now i feel really old cammie) You are a beautiful young woman and you are going to be a better person from these experiences even if you do not believe it now. i plan to say i told you so one of these days. take care and remember you are loved and supported by many many of us. vicki When I tell people about my students now, I often explain that the refused to try in math because they were so used to failing and didn't want to try and fail again. I ask people to imagine how much that must hurt to try and fail in math class for years and years. I am a better person for these experiences. I'm finally starting to see the "failures" from teaching as lessons I'm taking with me into my battles to save math education. I hope some of the new teachers out there are starting to understand that it is normal to have failures when trying to lead your students to unprecedented success. But we are supposed to be learning from all of it and taking it with us wherever we may go.


Redefining Perfection

When I was in college perfection meant getting A's. It meant getting the jobs I applied for. It meant continually making progress at sports and getting my body to do what I wanted it to with not too much effort. In TFA I had to redefine perfection because my old definition was so hard to achieve that I went crazy trying. Here is what I asked five years ago. Is life meant to be lived to be very successful achieving all that is possible, or is it better to go climbing on the weekends and waste time with friends now and again? I've certainly lowered my standards of perfection for myself. It's going fine so far, but I don't know if I'll be proud of myself later. But I was making myself sick with stress, so chilling out seemed like a necessity. It seems to similar to the questions I ask myself now. Even though my favorite commenter Vicki is gone, her words are still helpful. Hey Cammie Was just reading your latest entry and speaking as an “old” lady I really hope you can re-think your statement about lowering standards of perfection for yourself. Truly there is no reason to lower them, however at this point in your life reassigning your priorities to fit where you are may be all that is needed right now. Achieving all that is possible is a fantastic goal and successes are the building blocks helping you to achieve everything you want. I believe you NEVER need to lower your standards for then you have nothing to strive for. Putting them in do-able pieces and allowing the mistakes to help you move towards your goals a little or big or huge step at a time will give you the the achievement and success you deserve and also lets you experience life and make friends along your life path. Keep your standards high. Experience your life as it is to the fullest. Challenge, understand, and do what needs to be done to achieve all you want and more. Never wonder about if you will be proud of yourself later. Do the best you can with what you know and are learning. Pride yourself on your insights, integrity, and who you are becoming. Remember how far you have come even these last few weeks and know that even when you are feeling blue and cannot find it in yourself to feel proud of you achievements I know at least two fantastic women that are very very very proud of you just the way you are. Love Vicki


Revisiting advice on feeling like a failure

The woman who took care of me when I was a baby and toddler died this week. My mom told me my nanny Vicki loved me as her own since she couldn't have any children. Of course I can't remember those years-all I can remember is the comments she left on my blog when I was first teaching. In fact our adult relationship consisted, outside of one lunch date, of posts and replies on this blog. I realized as I read her comments last night that her words of wisdom were still relevant and that I could remember her by passing along her wisdom to the community. I'll start with her first post on my blog "What do I need to do to Survive?" I've realized in the process that much of what I worried about as a CM is still what I worry about now. I'm glad I'm revisiting her words. I'm so glad I wrote my blog-it was the way Vicki got to come back into my life. oh cammie, your mom gave me the new link and i have sitting here reading everything you have written and all i want to do right now is fly down there and give you the biggest hug i can. you are so terrific and fantastic and phenomenal. first girl — i am so glad you are trying to look at things more positively. remember you have always been a go-getter even as a little naked squirt on the farm. second — is there any way i can convince you to stop looking at the things you do not do at an “a +” level in your personal life, past academics and now as a failure? these are not failures at all they are challenges to learn from and help you in your next experience whether it is there in las vegas teaching these next two years or your life somewhere else in the future. your students have been told by other teachers and most likely friends and family they are failures. you have now experienced what you see as failure because you did not live up to what you have set for yourself. these student have not had the chance you have had to learn and travel and many have parents that do not care for them. here i go putting pressure on you but this is a good pressure –you may be the only positive lifeline they ever encounter. that does not mean you have to be perfect. they already see you as perfect –you are the teacher –that means you have accomplished way more than they ever may think of accomplishing. ... what happens if you just stop –will they eventually notice that you are just not talking, not yelling, not doing anything but standing there — how long would it take — you cannot always be on the prowl dear woman. you are one they are 40 or 50 or however many are crowded in there –they need someone to listen to what they are saying and they need teeny tiny obtainable daily goals that may take the whole quarter to accomplish. they have not a clue what they could do better because no one has given them the chance to learn how to think that way. can i help you re-think how you are looking at these kids–am i even close to seeing what you are dealing with???? my intuition tells me i am on the right track but if i am not then i want you to tell me –if i have overstepped my bounds please let me know you cannot change these kids but you can love and show them respect and in turn they will respect you. don’t try to be perfect this year — try to hear the students and try to give them some listening. i know you are not a quitter and that it is very discouraging for you and exhausting for you right now–yet i remember reading somewhere in your blogs that teachers for america choose students like you becuase they see you are not quitters. your passion is math –use it to help you figure out the challenges of teaching these students and while not all may learn you can say you are doing what you love and they will see it and as i have said before they will always remember their algebra teacher that even though she thought she was a failure she was a winner in their eye because you took the time and did not run away. okay done preachin’ i am proud of you and you have always been that special ‘little girl’ in my heart all these years. get the word failure out of you vocabulary and insert challenge. if the first challenge does not work find another way to challenge but NEVER EVER EVER EVER use the word failure again. make it a non-word and throw it away. with love and care for your best vicki


Micromanaging Mom

Here's another unsolicited hint to parents: If you don't want your child to grow up to be a neurotic, stressed-out mess, do not be a neurotic, stressed-out mess about everything they do. Do not become a neurotic mess about the fact that your child is neurotic. Do not stress about whether your child is too stressed. Just chill out. Please. Your child is 11 years old. It is okay if she misses a homework assignment here and there. It is okay if she gets a B+ on a report card. It is okay if she earns a bad test grade. She is learning and growing and making mistakes, and that's exactly what she should be doing right now. So back off. Do not call her teacher regularly to micromanage her progress making friends. Do not call her teacher every time she might have done something wrong on her homework assignment. Do not ask for detailed analysis of her lower-than-normal test scores. Do not go far, far, far out of your way to fix her minor mistakes. And definitely don't do all of that, and then call her teacher to worry about how stressed your daughter gets about everything. Let her make mistakes. Let her fail. Let her break a couple of rules. Let her realize which consequences she is willing to handle and which ones she isn't. Let her fight, let her cry, let her tell some people off. Let her be really, deeply annoying and really, hilariously awkward. Let her spend time lonely and let her spend time with people that aren't like her. She needs it, you need it, we all need it. So please, just let her figure it out. Also, I absolutely promise you that colleges will not look at her sixth-grade transcripts. I swear no one will ever even ask for an unofficial copy.


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