Friday, April 30, 2010
Why teaching is so freaking hard.
I'm taking down the photos of the kids i tutor for privacy. I'll be putting up a new post maybe Wednesday or Thursday night. I am probably being overly cautious because i have doubts that many of these parents at this school even own a computer and it's very doubtful they would actually find this blog. I am however, leaving up this one.
This blog post today is a sort of op-ed piece. And i won't keep it up very long before i change it because i like the participatory part of blogging best.
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I took these photos just today when i went to tutor. I tutor at a school once a week at lunchtime at one of the poorest schools in the district where the free and reduced lunch percentage is about 96-98%.
(Their teacher is Ms. Hippie's mom's best friend, Mrs. E and she is awesome. )
The kids in the first photo are not ones i tutor, but i liked this photo a lot so i put it up.
As i arrived i slipped in quietly because Mrs. E was presenting online math on a screen. So i sat down and after a bit discreetly snapped a photo, but that girl in the middle noticed me. And she said 'Oh i didn't look right in that one, can you take another'? And so i did. (She was right, the first one was not good.)
Later i went off to tutor with my three girls. That is S a hiding her face. She is so incredibly sweet. And she is often absent from school. (I have heard that her family may be keeping her home to help babysit the younger kids. But S is only 3rd grade!)
I like S a lot because she really wants to learn and she is so polite. E is the girl in pink and she is the one who cannot add 2+3 unless she counts on her fingers, so forget about multiplying. She doesn't even try because she has decided math is too hard. No one at home helps her according to her so the flash cards i bought her won't help much if they don't use them. My mission with her is not to even get her to multiply in the double digits, but to at least get her to a point where she is not afraid of math and to at least pay attention and try to understand. She is difficult. And i am not ready to give up on her, but i almost was after the first two weeks.
P... That's her in the blue coat. I had to take three photos of her before i got one i felt was natural. I had to tell her 'quit with that fake cheesy smile'. (I talk to these girls like i did my own nieces and nephews because i figure they cannot fire a volunteer, right?).
P is the drama queen that cried my first day tutoring which shocked me because I have never, since my first day of tutoring back in 1997, ever had a student cry. But what is so amazing is she is actually the best of all of them even though she is still not quite where she should be. What i love about her is she is really trying hard. She, like S, really wants to get this. Right now her own personal mission is to learn all her multiplications x 12 on her own. I actually never expected to like her as much as i do. But i really do like her a lot.
The reason i am writing all of this is because they are talking so much about education reform these days. And i only see a teeny tiny fraction of what teachers are going through. I am only tutoring 3 third graders. But all 3 are on different levels.
AND I only work with them for 45 minutes. But after 45 minutes I am fairly exhausted from trying be inclusive of all three of them at their different levels. And i wonder, how in the freaking world does any teacher with a class size of 25 do this?
And yet the news is filled with talk about education reforms and how good a teacher is should be decided by their student test scores. So i have a couple of questions to ask of those folks who believe this shit.And especially the legislators who think they need to do something about this:
#1. S misses LOTS of school because her family needs her at home. So when Sabrina scores low on the tests because she has not been present for the teaching and she has no parent at home working with her why should her teacher be punished?
#2. E should never have been promoted to the second grade, much less the third grade. If you want to evaluate a teacher on student test scores, shouldn't the first grade teacher be blamed more than the current teacher if E cannot add 2+3 in third grade?
and finally #3. What teacher would ever want to teach in a school like this if they felt their evaluation and salary depending on their students?
And i am not even working with the BD kids (behavioral disorder) because Mrs. E likes me and doesn't want to scare me off.
So to anyone who thinks that student test scores should be tied to a teacher's pay i have something to say to you, and it's what i've been saying for years about anyone who wants to rank and rant about teachers being so bad, (and DON"T even get me started about that recent Newsweek article)....Get your fucking ass out there and tutor for awhile and see what teachers are going through first.
Then come and tell me about it. Because until you have been in the classroom, i won't listen to you. And....i won't vote for you either if you believe in these reforms without knowing what a classroom is like for teachers these days.
But to end on a good note. Aren't these kids adorable? (I know you can't see the photos now, but they are indeed adorable.)