Back in the Trenches

Today I was thinking about all the compliments and praise I got from friends and family while I was home. What struck me was how much it says a lot more about teaching, especially in high-need areas, than about me as a teacher. Nobody at home in California, even those reading my often dismal blog, really understands how much I'm struggling as a teacher.

When I discuss my shortcomings and challenges the response is usually some variation of, "I'm sure that's not true!" or, "You're doing great just by being there!" Is that how low the bar has been set for the educators of our youth? Or is it just that low for students living in areas like the Bronx, East St. Louis or South Chicago? These kids deserve the same quality of teacher as any other students in this country. These kids need teachers at least as qualified as those in Scarsdale and Mamaroneck.

It's not that I don't appreciate the support of everyone at home and my friends here in NYC. I don't think I would be able to get through this year without them. I just get frustrated with my own incompetence at times, and I wish that everyone else shared that frustration. Because I know I'm doing the best I can, and I know I genuninely care about the kids. But in a game as high-stakes as education under No Child Left Behind, is that really enough?

I'm not so discouraged with my own teaching as I may sound. Today was a relatively good day, and the winter break gives us teachers almost a second chance to reinforce rules, routines and procedures. Kids and teachers alike had something resembling a clean slate when we came back to school today. I did my best to take advantage of that, and hopefully it will pay dividends and allow me to get more actual teaching done than I did in the previous three months.

I also noticed today that I've improved at "calling audibles" as a teacher, instead of sticking stubbornly to my lesson plan. For example I had planned to teach a writing lesson this morning based on writing a response to literature. When I thought about how hyped up the kids would probably be, eager to talk about vacation and Christmas, I decided to channel that energy into a writing assignment about their Christmas day. I know I'm not winning any Teacher of the Year awards, but thinking back to my panicked confusion of September 4 it feels like a decent accomplishment. Not a bad start for the new year.


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