One of the more disturbing posts I’ve seen recently on this site is one called ‘I CARE SO MUCH’ As some of the posts I’ve referred to recently have suddenly disappeared, here is the post:
“Ms. Barnett, are you about to cry?”
Yes, I was emotional yesterday. But no, it wasn’t because of management issues or the mountain of paperwork awaiting me. Yesterday, I felt the weight of years of educational inequity in my classroom.
We always toss out the term “critical thinking” as a skill for students — the ability to process questions, determine what the answer needs to look like, and create a plan of attack to get from the question to the answer. I remember hearing that term for as long as I can remember. I had taken it for granted; I had always been taught to think this way.
Yesterday, as I asked my students simply to read the question and determine which formula to use (distance formula? midpoint?), some of them stared blankly back at me. They didn’t know where to begin — which formula to use? How to apply the numbers to that formula? Yesterday, I saw the gap in their education, where this basic thought process hadn’t been drilled deeply into their brains.
I have heard it dozens of times, but it wasn’t until this moment that I felt it so completely: my kids need a teacher with a vision. They need a leader in the classroom. They need someone with a clear plan of attack for their success. They need me.
Somewhere between trying new management techniques and crying on the phone to my mom (yep, it’s happened) and cheering like a crazy person at football previews and seeing the blank looks on their faces as they took their benchmark exams, my kids have stolen my heart. I care so much about my students. I want them to succeed — to be in a place where they can feel success on the football field and in the classroom; where they are able to play football because they are able to apply mathematical formulas effectively. I cannot wait to see their faces as they take the benchmark again, as they see how much they’ve grown over the course of the year. I cannot wait to see those “aha!” moments.
So, yesterday, I told them this. I did it. I got all emotional & passionate & gave them a speech about how much I care about them. Which brings us back to where we started: “Ms. Barnett, are you about to cry?”
No, I didn’t cry, but something lit up within me. As I said before, I have shed tears over the past month…mostly, they’ve been out of feelings of frustration or failure. I felt like something was dying. Yesterday, my emotion sparked something new. My kids need me, and I need them. We’re a team; we’re in this together.
For new teachers reading my blog for advice about what to do / not to do as a teacher, I’ll say that this type of speech is not a good idea. It might get a few minutes of silence, but what the teacher loses far outweighs it. It is risky because it is ‘amateurish.’ No ‘real’ teacher would ever make a speech like that. It is a desperate act, and one that can only be used once. So if it doesn’t work — which it won’t — there won’t really be anywhere to go from there.
This teacher is realizing how far behind her students are, and she is assuming that this is because the other teachers that these students have had for the past have not cared enough: “my kids need a teacher with a vision. They need a leader in the classroom. They need someone with a clear plan of attack for their success. They need me.”
One thing that I would point out to this teacher is that it is extremely likely that many of her students were taught by TFAers in previous years. Most schools that hire TFAers have a bunch of them so it would seem likely that they were already taught by the kinds of teachers that they “need.”
What the students “need” is someone who knows how to teach. And anyone who truly cares about students would start by admitting that.