Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 26 2014

#89: Five weeks into year five

Oh, hey. This old thing. At this rate, I should be finishing up post #100 by about summer of 2019 or so.

This is year five. I’m teaching math still, but this time it’s remediation for the state end-of-course exam for Algebra 1. After five weeks, I really like it! I have small classes for the first time since my first year, nothing larger than 20. I have five classes of students who need some combination of more review and more faith in themselves, but they’ve been incredibly gracious this year. It helps that I worked with a lot of these students last year in some capacity so we could expand on an existing relationship as opposed to starting ones from scratch.

I have done a complete about face on curriculum for the time being. I still think standards-based grading was worthwhile and I think I put together some decent materials last year, but the amount of prep time needed to make that successful was causing some quality of life/mental health strains that I’m only recognizing this year now that I’m out of it. This year, I’ve made some peace with the fact that I’m using some pre-made curriculum resources put together by one of the regional service centers. It’s not bad stuff, really. I can prepare chunks of materials in advance so that when I come into school, I can actually finish all the IEP Progress Reports and actually write the correct date on the board every day. And I’m not running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

I’m also teaching debate and newspaper(1) for the first time ever! These classes are such a joy, each providing a unique perspective on developing citizenship.

We’ve been practicing extemporaneous speeches in debate, and as an introduction I’ve had them spend time researching topics of their choice and building their speeches more methodically first so they understand how the speeches iare structured. This is a beginner’s class and I am a beginner teacher in this area, so I might be going about this in an unorthodox way, but I want to them to have some ownership of their speeches early before I start throwing all manner of current events topics at them and having them speechify on the fly. But in the interim, holy cow there have been some great topics covered: body positivity, ISIS, immigration reform, abstinence-only education, death penalty, Ferguson, police brutality, cannabis legalization, paying NCAA athletes, animal cruelty, China/Japan conflict. That’s just off the top of my head.

This week, after they presented their first persuasive speech, I had them switch topics with a partner and create a speech arguing the opposite side. They walked out of class buzzing. It’s unreal. I’m telling you, electives are amazing and you should try teaching them some day.

Oh, and the newspaper! We’re poised to start publishing some stories next week. Until we get our website up(2), we’ll be posting stories on the front page of the district. We have a staff of 19, nearly half of whom are students whose first language is Spanish. We’re going to be (I think) the only bilingual student newspaper in town. I’m so stoked.

I guess that’s a good way to end this: stoked. This is the best start to a school year I’ve had. I have no designs on school administration anymore because I’m enjoying teaching too much.

Ahem, so if you’ll give me a minute to climb on my soapbox…and this could be you if you stay in teaching longer than two years okay that’s enough of that, get me down from here.


(1) Talk about burying the lead.

(2) This is pending campus approval of our budget of which the website is a drop in the bucket. The real expense is the software for producing print issues. WOOF, Adobe is running some kind of con.

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    San Antonio
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    Special Education

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