Dispatches from the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 22 2008

Sliding Towards Sanity

Late evenings in the little house in School St. typically bring with them one of two gifts: quiet or insanity. Lately, as my two roommates and I have continued to improve in the classroom, the latter has been in less and less supply. As you might guess, this is a welcome change in our household. Time has brought expertise and confidence, both of which were in short supply in August.

Still, even in light of my efforts to bring order to the chaos, the unexpected oftentimes reigns supreme in my classroom. I’ve had to develop more of a knack for crowd control than I initially thought I would. “If the rules are clearly stated and my expectations are consistently reinforced, everything will work out, right?” I thought. Surprisingly (to me and no one else), the answer was a sarcastic “Seriously?”

Oddly enough, a sense of trust has kept my class from getting out of control as the days have progressed. In less passive words, after 4 months, my children trust me to the point that they don’t think I’m going to give them a pointless task. This is the beauty of teaching children who can be reasoned with, even at their young age. Everything is geared toward the good – personal or common. They know that I care about them and that I’m going to try and meet them on their level – with varied success, obviously.

Unfortunately, the reality is that I’m not fully meeting every child’s needs. Some of my children can’t write neatly. Some of them can’t keep from counting on their fingers. Some of them read at a painfully slow pace. This makes a teacher thankful for after school remediation (and for a school that provides this time). Progress isn’t an option as much as it is an imperative.

With that said, my children excite me with their desire to learn. Unfortunately, they do not all want to learn at the same time, meaning that I oftentimes feel like I’m driving a car with 24 cylinders firing at random intervals.

I think that it’s possible that I might focus too much on what’s not working, which I don’t want to do, so here are a few pleasant surprises from the classroom:
> DeLarry, one of my least engaged students, beams at his success with 2-digit addition with regrouping. I consider this a small miracle.
> Ladashia, who frequently hid under her desk and seethed with anger during our first few months together, now smiles during the Writing block, proud of what she’s written, even though she knows she has a long way to go
> Deliyla, who could frequently be found giggling loudly to distract others in the early fall, is now a model of good behavior and how to be focused
And finally,
> O.B., whose erratic behavior gave me fits last fall, is progressing rapidly, to the point that he wrote a coherent, neatly-written paragraph on his own last Friday. Seeing as it used to take my assistant standing over him to get him to write even a few words, I’m still in shock over this.

The overall lesson I suppose has been that stability and routine go a long way in making a child comfortable and confident with his or her work.

Before wrapping up, I’ll just add that humor still plays a big role in our time together. Whether it’s Lasandria leaving me two singing voicemails about not having a pencil or Terrence interrupting Science to tell me about a show on Animal Planet where a woman was driven to insomnia because she kept 71 dogs, the unexpected keeps me continually on my toes.

I think I’ll keep it that way, at least for now.

2 Responses

  1. DAD

    There’s something hauntingly familiar about the analogy of the car with 24 cynlinders. Could it be a similar vehicle with 6 cylinders never firing at the same time?

  2. maria starkey

    Boys, boys, stop involving my family in this!

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One Journey through the Deep South

Mississippi Delta
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