Pretzels and Pencils

Today marked exactly six months since my first day of teaching. I got to celebrate this auspicious occasion by proctoring the New York state math exam for my students. Six months of learning, including almost two weeks of intensive test "sophistication" (we in the education community are creative with our euphemisms), and it all comes down to 30 bubbled letters. Of course we have two more days of short answer questions, but those aren't really weighted heavily enough to change today's outcome much.

I was doing my usual laps around the room. I was trying to peek over students' shoulders and get an idea of how they were doing. I saw there was some success with my estimation blitz and my work on multiplication. Still, plenty of silly mistakes. And then there was the fact that most students finished in twenty or thirty minutes. Now when I used to take tests like these as a student I often finished really early. With my students, I'm not so sure I can take it as a good sign.

In any case, I knew that today there was nothing left for me to do. I just tried to create as positive an environment as possible for them to come into in the morning. Nothing but smiles and praise. I knew that a lot of my students would forget pencils and most would not eat breakfast. So I had gone out and bought pencils and pretzels. When I was walking to the subway with the supplies in my hand it struck me that these are really the essence of my teaching this year.

Yes, I want my students to learn all the content and to succeed on their exams. Yes, I want them to know 8 x 9 = 72 or what heredity means or how to make a text to self connection. But, when you're teaching in a high-need school, you're also trying to provide some basic support that's obviously missing for a lot of students outside the classroom. So I put a pencil in their hand and some food in their stomach and hoped for the best. At this point that's all I can do.


Marcy said…
Congratulations on reaching a milestone! And, I know that many of your students appreciated your kindness and thoughtfulness for providing pretzels and pencils.

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