Break Every Yoke

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 19 2013

Second-year success stories

March is a long and relentless month. I would say it’s kind of like October, the other dreaded month, but without even the prospect of the holidays around the corner. March is about when teachers start to believe, whether they verbalize it or not, that there is truly no rest for the weary.

But it’s not all exhaustion and misery. March is also when relationships have developed enough that small successes become big successes, and big successes occasionally become transformational successes. These are what I want to celebrate, because three months from now, they’re what I hope to remember from my second year of teaching—not the times when I felt like passing out from lack of sleep or stared at a pile of grading and felt tempted to toss it all into the recycling bin.

  • My first/second block Geometry students are phenomenal. The class is small so the semester started off a little awkward/shaky; students who weren’t used to being cold-called would refuse to participate, and group work would typically devolve into individual work, or no work at all. But as they’ve grown comfortable with me and with each other, their engagement level has skyrocketed. There are days when they barrage me with questions based on the first vocab term I put up, until they’ve basically taught themselves the entire lesson. Differentiated station review is also a breeze, since I can stay with the students who are struggling and still be confident that everyone else is doing his or her work. I can’t begin to describe how amazing it feels to start off every day with these kids.
  • Parent communication is finally starting to pay off, after almost two years of unsuccessful attempts. I had a heart-to-heart conversation with one father whose son had been in my class maybe ten times during the first semester; the student obviously failed, and I still don’t know where he spent all that time, but he’s been in my class almost every day since that conversation, and he earned a 77% on the last unit test. Not perfect, but I’ll take it for now. Another student has historically been a terror to the administration at my school, but after making just one positive phone call to his mother, I’ve noticed a radical shift in his attitude towards work and his classmates. He even came in for optional after-school tutoring last week—though he did miss the test make-up the next day. Gotta keep at it…
  • Two of my former Algebra 2 students and their friend have been coming to my classroom every Monday after school to learn calculus and modern physics. Pause. Remember that my school doesn’t even offer AP Calculus or AP Physics, and read that sentence again. It has been surreal to teach students who voluntarily sacrifice one to two hours of their week to learn something they won’t see again until college—if ever. The coolest part is that they often come in with questions researched ahead of time, like “What does dx mean?” or “What’s a Galilean transformation?” If that’s not intrinsic motivation, I don’t know what is. The impromptu lessons have reached the point where even with all my physics training, I still need to refresh myself on certain topics before they come in. (Trust me, I don’t mind.)
  • My after-school “Jam Session” club is consistently the best part of my Tuesdays—not just because I love jamming with students (and extremely talented students, at that), but because of the conversations peppered throughout each session. All of the club members are Christian boys (assuredly not by coincidence, since D was the one who recruited them), and it’s awesome to hear how sincerely each of them applies the gospel to his own life. Take J, for example, who shared that he went around the entire school building one evening, long after everyone else had left, and prayed over each classroom. Or E, who struggles with certain sins but truly believes in the power of brotherly accountability to keep himself far from them. I feel like they’re my mini youth group, which I’m so thankful for since ministry is something that has been on my heart for a very long time.

And now… It’s very late, and I’m going to bed. But writing about my kids has made me excited about tomorrow. Hooray for blogging!

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    New city, same vision

    Rhode Island
    High School

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