Shy Town

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 10 2012


Today was rough. The A/C was out in our classroom (AGAIN) and so in an effort to keep kids from getting sick we got moved into the smallest classroom in the basement of the school. And when I say smallest, I mean 1/4 of the size of our normal classroom. There isn’t enough room for all the students to have chairs to sit at tables, and we also can’t all sit on the floor in a circle. This kind of makes it impossible to stay consistent with any of our teaching or behavior management tactics that we’re supposed to use. All that gets thrown to the wind and we just do the best we can in the space we have with the restrictions put upon us.

Here were our results:

-1 write up for a kid kicking another kid in the head

- 1 girl tried to spell “rainbow” with a “k” and a “g”

- 5 kids had to go to the bathroom in the middle of lessons

-6 kids reminded me that they hadn’t been on the field trip the day before.

-3 kids counted to 16 (SUCCESS!)

-1 kid counted to 10 and then started over again at 1.

-3 kids tried to make me wear different hats (I probably have lice now)

There were little successes throughout the day though.

The boy who never speaks looked at me and said “Ms. Olivia I already washed my hands!” ¬†when I kept telling him to wash his hands. When that happens I want to grab him and squeeze him and hold onto the words and the sound of his voice because I know it’ll be days before I hear that again and I never want to let it go.

or the little girl who usually hides behind her best friend who played me in tic tac toe today and showed proficiency in patterns and the ability to comprehend simple game rules. Later in the day she also told me she loved princesses and then we zoomed around the playground in her princess car.

I got home today, tired and stressed, but after a 2 hour nap and some reflection about my day, I thought about all the successes of the day and it made me smile and realize I’m totally ready to go back tomorrow.


(Well after I internalize all this writer’s workshop)

6 Responses

  1. Megan H

    Re: Robin and Morgan,

    Robin, I don’t think Morgan’s intent was to attack anyone. If anything, we can all agree that not having A/C (especially if you have experienced Chicago in the summer) is unacceptable. That being said, a lot of schools and centers with inadequate building conditions continue to operate because of a lack of accountability.

    I worked for the past 3 years on the South Side of Chicago in a child care center that would consistently have no A/C, or they would turn it off, or during the winter the heat wouldn’t work, or we would be so short-staffed that one teacher would have 16 students. These things happen every single day. Does that make it OK? Absolutely not. I would never, ever allow my child to attend a school that wasn’t capable of creating reasonable conditions (read: adequate room temperature, staffing, etc…) And most certainly, when the parents of my students were informed of these atrocities (not by the administration of course, but by myself and my co-workers) they were equally appalled. There is most certainly a lack of quality in the world of Head Start centers. However, I want to make sure everyone understands I don’t mean a lack of quality teachers; quite often the lack of quality rests on the shoulders of the administrators who run these centers and the bureaucrats who are supposed to check in on them to make sure they are meeting standards.

    I went back and forth for a long time with whether or not my participation and subsequent acceptance of these terrible conditions was helping or hurting the situation.

    Ultimately, I left my center, because I cannot support an organization like the one I worked for. It did not treat its employees well nor did it take care of the children and families it supposedly served. Yet whether or not I like it, that center will keep on running.

    I agree with Morgan and I am equally outraged. I agree with the writer of “Shy Town” that despite the terrible conditions learning can and will take place, and I applaud your efforts.

    What bothers me is this comment in Robin’s post: “If you cannot do the serious work of educating children in poverty while simultaneously working to change the very circumstances that engender its existence, by all means, remove yourself. It is doubtful that you will be missed.”

    There are so many assumptions and accusations ridden in this response, and I don’t have the energy right now to go into it. All I will say is, what’s with the hostility? I don’t agree with much of what you said, Robin, but I would never silence your voice. I know you don’t work for TFA, but that attitude is what makes people believe that TFA is not interested in hearing a variety of perspectives.

    I know this can’t be true.

  2. Robin Bowser

    It is NEVER unrealistic for a competent, dedicated teacher to expect–nay, insist–on learning, regardless of the conditions. The relentless pursuit of greater opportunity for our students and their families is the crux of our commitment to underserved communities, and if you are unable or incapable of meeting the challenge without complaining bitterly about its hardships, you are most definitely invited to excuse yourself from the company of those of us who do, if you have not done so already. None of us compete for acceptance to an organization such as Teach for America with the expectation that the situations we will encounter will sometimes be anything BUT horrendous, and it is selfish and egomanical to believe that what goes on in your classroom revolves around you. We work for our students, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. I want all children to have excellent facilities, materials, resources, and instructors, and I will not compromise my belief that the ideal is possible, regardless of how difficult it may be to attain. If you cannot do the serious work of educating children in poverty while simultaneously working to change the very circumstances that engender its existence, by all means, remove yourself. It is doubtful that you will be missed.

  3. Morgan Tranier

    Oh yeah, “dont give up!” Teanslation: just suffer and show up!!

    We should be disgusted that American classrooms are so hot that children need to be moved to the basement. My own room was so hot, 50% of the time, that I advised the kids, “if I pass out, please don’t stare. Call 911.”

    How can those who respond just brush it off like it is no BIG deal. It’s horrendous to teach under such conditions–and unrealistic to think learning is going to happen in a classroom during a heat wave . Would you want your own kids to have to learn under such conditions? I know the answer.

  4. G

    These things happen in regular classrooms as well. One of the greatest skills a teacher can have is the skill of improvisation. You did great!

  5. Robin Bowser

    Don’t you EVER give up. Being there every day is incredibly important, both for your kids and for you. You WILL get better at teaching, and they will learn.

  6. Jaraka

    I know just what you mean… I come home from school and I’m just exhausted and disappointed. Then, I take a nap and when I wake up the successes are a little clearer and tomorrow sounds like a great chance to do it again. Good Luck!

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Little kids, big city, one me.

Early Childhood

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