a look at my first year on my fifth year

http://www.latina.com/lifestyle/our-issues/achievement-gap-widens-latino-african-american-kids-public-schools

http://www.latina.com/lifestyle/our-issues/achievement-gap-widens-latino-african-american-kids-public-schools

I’m back! From a hiatus I took mostly because I’ve uninspired to write anything new. I have TOO MANY unpublished posts. BUT ALAS I’M HERE, INSPIRED, AND READY TO SHED SOME LIGHT ON MY TEACHER ENDEAVORS AND THOUGHTS.

I’m IN my fifth year of teaching and this year has been UNLIKE ANY OTHER. The confidence and clarity I’ve gained this year has made this a magical year thus far. I’VE questionED EVERYTHING. I’VE useD every opportunity to tap into the knowledge of MORE EXPERIENCED teachers. I HAVE A NEWFOUND respect FOR VETERAN TEACHERS. THIS SHIT IS TOUGh. I empathize with brand new teachers and I often reminisce about my first year.

I’M NO LONGER A CLASSROOM TEACHEr but I was one for 3 years. I EXPERIENCED so MUCH TOO SOON, especially in my second school. I’ve sat in many PDs (though not as many as you’d think and not nearly enough), I’ve had numerous conversations with parents and with students. I’ve worked with many different teachers. but AFTER 3 YEARS IN THE CLASSROOM I WAS READY FOR A CHANGE OF SCENE. Correction: I needed a change of scene.

Naturally my first year was hectic, difficult, AND downright depressing at times. IN RETROSPECT teaching 8th grade Social Studies and English in East New York, Brooklyn WAS A DREAM, AN OFTEN DREARY AND DEPRESSING DREAM, BUT a dream NONETHELESS. I GAVE THOSE KIDS MY ALL. AND THOUGH IT’S CLICHE AS HELL TO SAY, they taught me so much ABOUT MYSELF and for that I’m forever grateful. *SIGH* so young, so naive.

My second year teaching I taught English and Social Studies, 7th and 8th grade. In my 7th grade class OMAR* COULDN’T READ. In fact a lot of my kids weren’t reading at grade level. But Omar* seemed to not know how to read. HE SAT IN MY 7TH GRADE ENGLISH AND MY SOCIAL STUDIES CLASSES, DISINTERESTED, UNWILLING TO PARTICIPATE IN DISCUSSIONS. I TRIED EVERY TRICK TO ENGAGE OMAR*. every. single. trick. BUT OMAR COULDN’T READ. I later learned OMAR COULD READ… AT A 2ND GRADE LEVEL. he WAS IN 7TH GRADE. WHAT?? WHO could let this happen? It baffled me.

fast foward ALMOST 7 YEARS LATER: I still THINK ABOUT OMAr, ABOUT THE LIFE HE WAS CHOOSING (OTHER STUDENTS WOULD TELL ME ABOUT HIS LIFE OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL) AND HOW I COULDN’T REACH HIM. I spoke to Omar’s mom who refused to work with me. I spoke to my school’s leader about Omar.

oh, omar. yes, Omar can’t read. It was common knowledge that omar couldn’t read and understand texts at grade level. or even slightly below grade level.

Can we get a remedial program? anything to help him? Someone? CAN we SCHEDULE in TIME in my schedule TO MEET WITH HIM AND WORK ONE-ON-ONE?

no.

I learned that I HAD CHOSEN THE CLASSROOM LIFE BUT THE CLASSROOM LIFE DID NOT CHOOSE ME. AND SO IT chewed me up and SPIT ME OUT. IT WASN’T FOR ME. and AFTER HAVING that TOUGH CONVERSATION WITH LEADERSHIP about Omar* I realized the truth about public education in this city or at least in that school: Kids like omar* slip through the cracks and no one’s concerned.

You reach some.

you lose some.

But I couldn’t handle that in my classroom. I couldn’t cope. I decided I didn’t have to come to terms with that reality of classroom teaching and so i left the classroom and I set out to help kids like Omar* and so here i am. But i’ve seen omars in every school i’ve worked in and i continue to see them fall through the cracks. but now i work with the omars. and the quest to help the omars of NYC schools has led me to where I am now: as a K-5 reading specialist at a small, stand-alone charter in the South Bronx.

So yeah, I’ve experienced a lot these last 5 years.

THERE’S SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT YOUR 5TH YEAR. THIS YEAR HAS BEEN SPECIAL, THE VISION AND MOTIVATION IS CLEAR. THERE’S A LOT TO BE DONE TO continue to HELP THE OMARS OF Nyc public schools though I often wonder if omars are inevitable. Will we ever bridge the gap? I have some ideas…

*name has been changed