Originally written: 7/7/2011
The last two days have been really difficult. They were my first days actually in the classroom. The first day we just gave the pre-test and the second day I taught my very first lesson. It was awful. Failing is not easy, and I think that failing is the best way to describe it. A number of other issues, big and small, have arisen in the last two days as well. There was a period of 24 hours where I really was just consistently on the verge of tears (see note below). Particularly after my lesson yesterday, I was putting most of my effort simply into not crying publicly. It was hard. Walking out of the classroom, I really felt like I didn’t know how I was going to be able to walk into it again the next day let alone for the next three weeks. As soon as I thought it though, I knew I simply would find a way. The scariest part of it all is that the whole time I knew and still believe that it’s not as bad as it probably get. In a few months when I look back, I don’t think it will be my worst day. Not because it wasn’t bad, but I just believe it will get worse.
After about 3 hours of sleep last night, I woke up this morning to face my classroom again. I felt pretty terrified. I knew what I needed to change and what I had failed at in the past days, but I still was nervous on top of being unprepared for the lesson. Still today was a different story. Today the only point that I wanted to cry was after my lesson because it had gone so well. It wasn’t perfect, but if everyday in the classroom for the next two years looked like that, I couldn’t ask much more. It was a night and day difference. I can only hope that I’ll get more great days!
One particularly striking moment was talking with one of my students TF*. The students were working on their warm up exercise. He’s a quiet student but very attentive in class. He raised his hand slightly and made eye contact with me, so I went to his desk. He looked at me and very candidly told me that he didn’t know how to do division, that he “just didn’t know how”. Looking at the problems on the exercise in front of him, I could see he was struggling with simple division tables. I remember learning these in the 3rd grade. It wasn’t the lack of skills that made this moment striking to me, but instead the courage and awareness that it took for him to tell me. He knows that he’s behind, and he knows that it’s something that has to change. It was an inspiring moment. When students like TF who at age 14 are drastically behind for whatever reason and are starting to advocate for their own education, I feel completely justified in joining this movement and know that there is a difference to be made. I just hope that I can hold myself to a high enough standard to make sure that I’m not becoming just another piece of the problem.
Note: I’m not a crier… especially in public. That may help you understand the severity of some of the things I saw.
*I don’t intend to ever name my students. Instead I’ll use initials so you can possibly make connections if they are ever mentioned more than once.