Category Archives: Uncategorized

A day in the life – told in pictures.

IMG_5885This morning, a boy delivered this awesome map that a parent at my school blew up for me on his architectural printer… it was beautiful. I enjoyed it for 90 minutes until a certain child, in his haste .. to do whatever, spilled it out of the tube, and pushed it out of the way and crumpled it. I yelled. I definitely yelled.. when I discovered it.  Even now, my blood starts to race a little.  He denied doing it. But later when I approached him and asked him to iron it, he said he would. And later-later, when I asked him how.. he told me it was an accident. The closest admission of guilt I’ll get.

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This morning I opened a box from Amazon. Amazon usually never fails me. I got supplies through DonorsChoose!  And I was excited! Was going to put everything away for our art project. Unfortunately, the spackle had cracked and gotten all over everything and so I spent the morning cleaning off my hands and jacket.

IMG_5891I found this in my pocket when I got home. *sigh*  I have such big pockets. Pens, post-its, and pokemon cards. All in my left pocket. I leave my right pocket for my car keys, cell phone, and apparently, a crumpled up receipt.  There was a hole in that pocket, and I sewed it up. Unfortunately, I forgot to check if anything fell through that hole. I now have 1 binder clip, 1 plasticky thing, and 1 paperclip sewn into the lining of my jacket…

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Ms. Kim is a FISH? 🙂

The boy who wrote this (yesterday morning) had a GREAT day today. We finally had a conversation with his mom yesterday. Good thing I didn’t find the note he wrote me until today… lol.  (Aside: I sent him out to write an explanation of his feelings with an aide. Now, I understand the need to help a child get out his feelings, but REALLY? As the adult, you couldn’t steer him to see beyond himself? smh).  He was upset on Monday because he couldn’t find his rough draft.  I suggested that maybe I misplaced it.  Then when we really couldn’t find it, he felt that I only cared about myself and that I hid the essay from him. (His words, obvi).  Honestly though, it must be so hard to be him.

 

IMG_5888To you this might look like a normal chair.  It did to me too. At the end of the day, I sat down so that I could do some mini-grading. As soon as I sat, there was this weird sound – like velcro. And when I got up, I realized that yes, some sticky substance was now on my butt.. because a bunch of sticky stuff was all over the chair.  Great.

 

 

But honestly. Today was a GREAT day. Besides the incident in the morning (what do you do about a kid who is extremely difficult and pretty smart?  Nothing much since their parents think that it’s your fault anyway.  Oh well!) where I yelled, things were really smooth. Thursdays are my favorites because they have dance in the morning and they come in really ready!

It’s kind of funny because our behavioral specialist came in to observe some of my kids at my request…. and everyone was SO WELL BEHAVED that… nothing stuck out. Go figure.

Some memorable moments from this week:

-C sidles up to me and I lean in so that I can hear him, “Ms. Kim, word in the halls is that you have some pencils up front?”   LOLLL

-I had a great convo with a parent who is now agreeing to get my student tested. (Previously – very adversed to anything that might apply to special ed).

-When kids were getting in line, one girl punched another girl and then went, “Oops!” and looked at me.  Baby steps!  I told her she had to hold my hand.  Then we walked down the halls, while I held her hand. Usually in elementary school, you know a kid’s in trouble when they’re holding the teacher’s hand. But this was a super big victory because in the beginning of the year, she wouldn’t even let me TOUCH her.  And I think she felt giggly about it. This girl makes my day… the most stoic, ornery, stubborn, little feather of a girl… she’s basically a cranky grandma in a little girl body. I love her so much.

-For some reason, one of my very bright girls has started to complain a lot but as a joke.  She gave me a backhug and I said with a straight face, “That better not be XX,” which then made another girl and another boy come over to do a group hug.

-Speaking of hugs, I got a few random ones today. and I am NOT a hugger.

-R ran out to recess with a fart noise maker. I was just super proud and impressed that he waited until recess to pull it out!!  He has been spending most of his recesses chasing people around with the fart noise maker.

-T kept trying out jokes on me from her new book from the library. I told her that if I didn’t laugh, she’d get in big trouble.  She kept trying to give me jokes. I kept not laughing and frowning more. I had a good time.

-4th and 5th graders LOVE getting excited about history and reading and etc. It’s really sweet.  There are definitely sweet moments.

– One boy hugged another boy with this deep, loving, eye-closed embrace ….. because the second boy was about to get a video game and the first boy was SO happy for him.  They’re my two loudest boys, but I couldn’t get them to be quiet in the halls because I was cracking up, because it was just so sweet (and ridiculous).  The second boy has a hard time getting along with people, so my heart was just warmed up to see the first boy hug him.

– OMG. A BOY BROUGHT ME DAFFODILS AND I LEFT THEM AT SCHOOL!!!!!

SAD!

I’ve also had this pimple for a week now. It’s horrendous. It’s like all the pimples of the year decided to band together to become one pimplón. It’s ginormous. You can see it on my snapchat.

Why I Didn’t Participate in the Women’s March

This is a blog I wanted to write on Saturday. Unfortunately, I split my hand open (never use Wusthof while discussing the inauguration) and went to the ER instead.

For TLDR folks, you can skim down – to the purple part. 

So, I grew up in CA. To be specific, I grew up in many parts of California – from LA to the Central Coast to the Silicon Valley, and now I live in the East Bay.  I find it mildly amusing that given how in high school, I was the “conservative one” (comes from a typical Asian-religious family upbringing), so many of my current peers consider me as someone with more of a “liberal bend.”

I benefited from a rich, liberal education in Palo Alto. I loved it!   Well, middle school, of course, sucked (I moved in 7th grade and had to deal with kids who were dealing with their own personal demons… I guess I just was an easy target?)… but high school allowed me to branch out with different interests and I’m still super fond of my memories and friendships from there.  Honestly, where else would a poor pastor’s kid get to try rich kid sports in a fancy pool, blow glass, study film, and do labs of the same caliber as an intro college class?  Also, Paly let me have a diverse (read: not Asian-only) group of friends.

In college, God saved me.  I always knew of the hypocrisy of the church, and in my own blindness, I sought to melt into a large congregation so that I could “do my duty.”  Through people that He placed in my life and through the Bible, the clarity of what it means to be a Christian (trusting in Jesus Christ’s finished work when he died for my sins and resurrected — not in any of my own actions or my own thoughts of who He is) … finally became clear. And in His mercy, I came to learn the beauty of the word, submission.  Of course, I learned other things too — but that’s my favorite part about college.

In graduate school, I finally realized how “minority” I was.  I began to be able to put vocabulary to elementary playground experiences.  And, the Internet had evolved to the point where I saw firsthand black and brown men being killed for being loud rather than docile.

When I began working, I began to learn what people might mean by “school to prison pipelines.”  How segregation still occurred via zipcodes and high school “accelerated tracks.”  I answered questions that I didn’t even know were allowed when I was a kid… questions like, “Why don’t they mention Korea in Asian history?” or “Where is Asia-America within US history?” or even “Wait, am I black or white?” because growing up, during that weekend where we talked about Martin Luther King, there was no other.

That’s me.  What else is me?

I’m a teacher. In the last 5 years of my life, I’ve worked with groups that I think may have more of a need for me than groups who have access.

I’m a reader.  I love books and blogs and news.  Never grew up watching TV.  I love satire, I love wit, I love intelligent reasoning, I love pathos.  I graduated from college, so now I have time to read whatever I want.  (I think while I was in college, I only read books of choice between June and August… oh wait, except for when the final Harry Potter book came out and the Twilight series. Don’t discount this blog post because of this confession).

I support public radio.  Grew up with KQED programming on TV (if we were allowed).  NPR is my jam. I just discovered KPFA (more local-er news).

I am Korean-American who grew up in a rural town.  This means that as a kid, I knew what it meant to be a victim of childish racism. This means that I know what it felt like to receive only one version of history.  This means I thought I was white but was the unattractive, flat-nosed, “chingchangchong” oriental on the playground.

I am a Bible-believing Christian. I believe that the Bible has truths that transcend our current social lenses. I believe that as a created being, my God, the creator, knows more about who I am than I can on my own.  I can go into the logic behind this — but that would derail. I only include this because it’s a huge part of …

Why I did not participate in the Women’s March.

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Why I did not participate in the Women’s March.

Minor Personal Reason 1: I don’t know what we’re protesting.  Protesting a man makes no sense to me.  Protesting the voting system also makes no sense to me.  Historically, marches and protests were in tandem with asking for something specific, and then also using the provisions in place (which I don’t deny people are doing – with the internet, it’s so easy!).  I did not vote for DT. Seeing him makes me cringe.  But who a person is isn’t his policy (although…. listening to the confirmation hearings… okay, won’t go there).  I think he’s just the first president we’ve had where we can actually see who he is.  I realized, MOST presidents have decorum.  Until now, it was almost a given that you had to have a good facade to be president.  This man is ridiculous.  But quoting Aziz Ansari, “Change doesn’t come from presidents.”  We

Minor Personal Reason 2: The Popular Vote vs. Electoral Vote issue.  Okay, I get that lots of people feel angry/annoyed that their vote “didn’t count,” and I also get how there are different views on why/how the electoral college was created.  I think what people in large cities are ignoring is the fact that if the popular vote was the only thing around, our country would be driven by policies favored by urban areas.  Major Cities-driven politics is one very likely cause of why people rallied to DT.  Sure, gerrymandering may have something to do with it — but how many of us have actually paid attention to working-class folks prior to 2015/16?  I know at least at HGSE, everyone’s all up in urban education – ain’t no one setting a foot into rural ed.  So yeah, I don’t agree with the “2 million strong” thing either.  It would suck if counties of SF, NYC, Denver, and LA were driving politics for the whole nation, no? Even if they had more people?  Groupthink is real.

Aside: Here are the older links regarding the county votes:

Major Political Reason: Women’s Rights Are Human Rights is misleading.  As a young, female teacher of Asian descent, I agree that women deserve the same rights as anybody else and that we get to make decisions about our bodies.

But, you know, given education? … you don’t get a free pass for irresponsibility especially if that free pass includes, you know, killing a person.  No thank you.

Why am I claiming that it’s irresponsibility (and dare I say, selfishness?)

A very teeny number of abortions are due to rape or incest or health of the mother. The last actual percent fact I could find on the Internet was from 1989, so I’m ignoring that… but I did go to the CDC site (to check how many are done by kids <19) and AGI (reasons for abortion) to confirm that anywhere from 75%-95% of abortions are due to personal choice, or “a woman’s right to choose.”   What was super interesting is how people aren’t asking about the rape/incest cases after the ’90s.  My conspiracy theory? It’s because we don’t want to know / acknowledge that the “must” situations don’t actually exist.

By the time we realize they exist, they’re a mini-human.  At this point, we know that an egg is an egg, and a sperm is a sperm.  When they come together, they actually make a little fetus. A fetus that, by 8 weeks has fully functioning organs.  They react to painful stimuli at 24-26 weeks (jury’s still out on whether they fully “understand” that it’s pain though). They’re genetic makeup is completely their own.  And, the earliest preemie ever to be born was at 22 weeks (rounded up).. you can abort a kid at 24!.

I teach kids. A lot of them are unwanted by society – I know this because of the reluctance to spend money on them, the reluctance to look at research to see what’s best for them, and you know, how a lot of them are being killed.

I don’t know where you would draw the line on “This is where I stop advocating for unwanted people without a voice.”  Is it when they graduate from your class?  Is it when they drop out?  Is it when they’re “only in kinder” (nevermind that their brains are probably way spongier than when I actually get them).  Do I not advocate for them because they can’t speak words?  Because they’re small?  Is it because they’re in the womb?  Is it because it’s 3 days before they have all their complete organs?  Is it when they’re only a “blob of cells” (nevermind that if you give it a few weeks, it changes?).

I mean, is it only if it will affect me and my life that we’ll advocate for them?  People are now advocating for Bumblebees.  A bumblebee is smaller than an 8-week old fetus and is less complex. Come on now!  (PS: Also, I think people are substantially more important than animals – God made them in His image. Yup! I believe that! Obvi, this doesn’t mean abuse the earth – y’all know this girl is green.)

Again, choice, to me, sounds like, “If you’re wanted, you live; if you’re unwanted or , you die.”  

I think it’s SO interesting to me to hear my friends argue in favor of IDEA and working SUPER hard to make sure that all of our students get their plans and have their needs met, when the hidden elephant in the room is that in 5-10 years, as technology increases and as we clamor for abortive rights  …. we probably won’t even have children with special needs because they’ll probably be aborted if found with an issue.  Just google that – it’s no secret. (we might also lose females and minorities – because given world-trends, they’re the main victims of infanticide anyway).

 I feel like our solutions are ultimately, not out of a care for people, but out of what holds most utility.  This is why we have a tendency to overdrug kids rather than offering support in the form of people and time.  This is why the way we care for our veterans is so horrible — all the “new” innovations to help people overcome PTSD by engaging with other people is not new. It’s just time consuming.  Back to abortion – I know, it’s easier to terminate a pregnancy rather than deal, as a society, with unwanted children or low-income families.  But imagine if we spent all our time and money on that rather than on killing.

Planned Parenthood? Please. This is a HUGE money-making industry.  Out of every 8 people they serve, 1 gets an abortion (in addition to their other services).  They count abortion (with its cost) as equal to giving someone a pregnancy test.  That 3% number is a myth… and this was where I got SUPER disappointed in the reporters I follow… how they are willing to get into the nitty-gritty of other facts, but not into this area. They know better – it will tank their careers because PP has a huge lobbying group.

Anyway, at the end of the day, we have science – we can see the craziest 3-D ultrasounds ever. Doctors have been prolonging life and saving life in times and places that our grandparents never even dreamed of.  So, this issue? Is mainly an issue of “my body mine” without concern about the risk you take.

How does your body make a baby? Sex.  There is a risk involved. There are also PLENTY of ways to mitigate that risk.  If it doesn’t work out – don’t just kill the baby because it’s smaller than you or an unwanted responsibility. 

Lastly, I don’t need to hear from people telling me to then put money into safe-sex programs because that is not the only other solution.  There are SO many things that affect this issue… and also, it’s again, really condescending, to assume that I’m not.

PS.  I did not know of any of the “exclusion” things that happened with the march until a few days later… I’m trying to sort of.. pause on my news intake until they calm things down over at the white house.  smh…. just saying this isn’t a response to that.

Turning Over a New Leaf

It is November 17, 2016. And tomorrow, on Friday, November 18,2016, I’ll be walking into a neighboring district’s HR office and signing the paperwork to be a teacher for a 4/5th grade combo classroom.

It’s interesting.  I feel positive about starting at this new place because the adults seem great and the kids are sweet and diverse.  I’ll also get to teach all the subjects (except science, which is my weakest area anyway), and I’ll get to really have some autonomy since I’ll be in my own self-contained room.  Lastly, the school itself is just lovely. It’s been the smallest school in Berkeley for the past 100 years and it smells woodsy and fresh.

I think the difficulties of the job (combination, coming in mid-year, first time in elementary) actually will provide me ways to really test my theories regarding classroom management, organization, and ultimately, pedagogy.

Things I’m excited to return to:

  • Kohlberg’s Levels of Moral Development
  • Social Studies
  • single-classroom culture
  • developing classroom ownership
  • reflective conflict-resolution

Things I’m excited to expand on:

  • thoughtful blended learning roll out in math
  • Growth Mindset

Things that are new, but I’m excited for…

  • Morning Meetings (a la Responsive Classroom)
  • Guided Reading / Reader’s Workshops
  • Calkins-esque Writer’s Workshops
  • having LESS instructional time and MORE enrichment

 

It has been a strange school year. I’ve taught straight, from 2012-2016 without taking summer breaks.  Then, this past year, I took my first summer break (which was AMAZING — new teachers should try it!  I think I found the key to sustainability!).  And yet, instead of moving, I ended up staying.

It was definitely a drift-y period, and even now, I need to remind myself not just the generic “God is in control”, but speak to my soul: Yes, my God is sovereign. Yes, He knows my desires. Yes, He knows every minute detail of my heart. Yes, there are ways I can glorify Him and ways that can throw all this in His face.  At the end of the day, even though I have been whining, I don’t want to get into a habit of complaint.  After all, this was in His timing, and how can I know all the workings of an infinite mind?

CA Charters (+ regular public schools) Need Real Accountability

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I’ve seen this petition floating around on Facebook, and I was planning to sign it. After all, why not? I work at a charter school, 4 out of my 5 years teaching have been at charter schools, and I believe in the charter philosophy of giving teachers voice, families choice, and using a “free market” idea to effect such agency.  Yet when I saw this message that I would be sending to my state assembly members and senator, I couldn’t help but scrutinize it.  Interestingly, Diane Ravitch just published a blog on Bernie Sander’s comments on charter schools and she just neatly outlined some issue with charters.  Anyway, below is part of the message that I disagreed with.

…I believe that charter schools are an integral part of our public education system… Hopefully you are well aware of the incredible things that charters are doing for students in communities like mine. If not, I urge you to visit our campuses, talk to teachers, meet with parents and students, and observe the classroom instruction and extracurricular programs. You’ll find a level of caring, a belief in every child’s potential and strong academic results that will inspire you. I can’t imagine ever losing my charter school. I hope and expect that public officials like you will do whatever it takes to protect great public schools like mine.

I don’t think charter schools are necessarily an “integral” part of our public education system. I think it makes public schools think and scramble, it allows us to try things more quickly than we might in a district school, but at the same time, if our public education system were functioning well, we wouldn’t need charters.

I wonder what this petition exactly desires.  Do we want more “support” from our State senators and assembly members?  What does that exactly entail?  What I would like is actually more scrutiny on charter schools.  After working at an especially heinous one, why can’t there be more surprise visits, more deep probing questions of students and their families?  In CA, charter schools gets their charters renewed every 5 years.  At some charter schools (like more current one), they take the opportunity to revisit their vision, recalibrate with the whole community (teachers, admin, students, families), and figure out why and how to move in a specific direction.  In other charter schools, they make teachers sign something (without specifying what the teacher is signing, and the teacher doesn’t really have a choice), they pause distasteful practices during the walk-throughs and visits, and shmooze with local politicians… and voila, a couple visits + high test scores and it’s given the CA stamp of approval.

That sucks.  And if that’s the continued way that CA is going to keep “supporting” charter schools, then I think they should just stop.  They should shackle down our system and slow everything down if it means that all students can be somewhere safe.

Actually, I take that back. Because it would just be horrific to send my kids to some crazy, huge high school instead of a small charter high school.  Yet at the same time, there area really awful charters out there!  And the worse part is they have very LITTLE scrutiny because they’re a charter — district schools have way more hoops to jump through!  I mean, why can’t we just carefully provide more resources, continue the small-schools movement (a la Oakland), and maybe even go that hybrid-charter route (like ASCEND), and just.. grow?  Why can’t CA stop being lazy and giving lip service to kids and give an actual hoot about their wellbeing?

Okay fine. Support our charter schools. But maybe also have some sort of hotline that we can call for when schools are heinous.  And then drop by randomly and watch it all unfold.  And ban schools that pride itself in giving students 1 hour of homework per subject and promote teachers to principals in 2 years.  Oh wait, our whole nation’s doing that? And we think it’s promoting bright innovation into school leadership?

Just great.

 

PS: I realized these past few years, as I continue to keep up with my students that part of the reason why few parents and students ever complain at these  really awful charter schools is because they have nothing else to compare it to.  To them, it’s normal for them to not have any say in the school’s decision to not observe MLK day, or have Spring Break school, or make kids wash the floor with toothbrushes, or take shoes off of kids, or not let parents talk to the teacher.  And coincidentally, most of the teachers at such schools are really new to the state or to teaching… so they don’t realize what’s up until they leave too.  I’m looking at you, Amethod Public Schools and American Indian Public Charter Schools. Seriously. Makes my blood curdle.

“Every child needs a caring, thoughtful, purposeful adult in their lives.”

After 4 years, I’m returning to Boston during my Spring Break!  I thought it might be nice to see if I could meet up with some of my old professors, and while emailing Kay Merseth, I came across this video that she had linked to her signature.


Around the 2:00 mark, she states, “Every child needs a caring, thoughtful, purposeful adult in their lives.”  It got me thinking, and I ended up writing this huge email that definitely ran too long.  Rather than sending it to her, I’m posting it here.

Dear reader, do you have any ideas?

If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to check out Teach To One  (TTO) from New Classrooms (http://www.newclassrooms.org/reimagine.html) because although it allows students to learn within their ZPD and get daily feedback on their learning goals, that whole piece of teacher-student relationships is not there.  The founder of TTO has been super receptive to our issues (especially since we’re piloting its first pilot in California), but I also realized this year that a lot of the structures that make this program hard weren’t necessarily TTO-mandated but were choices made by our administration.

I wonder if in urban schools, I should just get used to the idea that my position as “teacher” is changing into that of “coach” and “manager”.  I like that we can use technology to differentiate in ways that students weren’t able to go in before, and I like that as a school, we train students to take charge of their learning, but at the same time, the reason why I became a middle school teacher in particular wasn’t because of my love of for the subject, but because I wanted to work with kids at this prickly age.  I didn’t want to simply teach them academics; I wanted to teach them self-regulation, build in them intrinsic motivation, and work on helping them pose questions to each other.  Our kids are making fantastic progress on the MAP tests — is it wrong of me not to care that much about it?

At the end of the day, I’ve never felt so small — and my school is huge on teacher voice and leadership.  I understand that the nature of a pilot means that things are going to be very uncomfortable for a while, but I’m having a hard time seeing this direction as “best” for my students.  Some days, I get it.  I’m wowed. But there are just so many days, where life is hard simply because this structure is really hard.  Even if I get materials provided for me, I still need to take time to edit them.  Even if kids are learning at their ZPD, it doesn’t help that I don’t have much of a relationship with them so that some kids come in and refuse to even try because they don’t like me.  It’s also hard because I’ve never been a teacher that was hated just for being unfamiliar — I’m used to power struggles within the classroom that never exists outside of the classroom just because we have relationships.  With 300 kids, it just doesn’t work.  Will it work when I just have 150?

Is it just that at the end of the day, for urban schools, because we can’t always ensure that there will be quality math teachers year to year, we need to control for that by replacing teachers with a program where students will make satisfactory growth?  Is that why in Fruitvale Oakland, we’re piloting this  effective but joyless program while across the bridge in Palo Alto, kids aren’t taught by computers but by people?

 

lunch.

so, it’s raining outside. it’s lovely.  i have takeout chinese food sizzling on the pan in the kitchen… it was leftovers. it was supposed to be my lunch.

lunch. I spent that time talking with my principal who wanted me to do a conflict resolution conversation with a student, with whom, I was just fed up.

fed up. i’m fed up with this sad excuse of a “social-emotional/wellness/all-in” outside program that we use to intervene with our kids. they work set hours, while we work into the night. they make huge promises and deliver very little.  i don’t understand how in writing, they could email out a plan, and the very next day, not follow through.  (it’s in writing with stakeholders cc’d!).  they give students voice while taking away ours. it’s disempowering.

and disempowered is how i felt after 3 days of constant confrontation.  and with my principal, I felt defensive. and uncooperative. and discouraged. and unpleasant.  and i said a silent prayer of repentance to glorify my God and then returned to the conversation that was taking place as my lunch minutes ticked away.

A way my principal has supported me is through her patience and pushing back at my negativity.  In our conversation, I realize that I’ve been burned in these “conflict resolutions” not by her but by this outside program.  She sat there giving me ideas for how to approach the impending restorative conversation.  I took out a post-it and wrote as she dictated, because at the moment, I had no headspace to think of how I could help this child.

“What are classroom expectations? What part of this is difficult? How can I redirect you? How can I help you?”  Tears stream down my face as I begin to write these down verbatim. Humbled. doubtful. broken. Kids are slated to come back in 3 minutes and I keep breathing in and out but I can’t seem to stop sobbing.  I thankfully get to take a break, but there is still no privacy.  I stand in the playground, my back to the school, and tried to get the red out of my eyes.  Four minutes. and I’m back in the classroom.

In my classroom, there’s a slight respite.  Yesterday, a student asked me if I was angry, and I apologized, and exhaled, and smiled – it’s not their fault.  Today another asked me how I was doing.  I said that I didn’t want to be here, but it’s not because of them.

They are sweet. I saw a bunch of them after school scrambling for cover or running into the rain. it was lovely. i think my chinese food is done reheating. i’m going to go eat my lunch.

When You Try Your Best but the ship still sinks

I had a smaller group today of about 8 7th grade boys.
After they finished making fun of at my saying “dude”, we talked about which classes they felt “grounded” in and which classes worried them, and then talked about why they felt each way, and then about what they could adopt from the “good class” to the “bad class.”

They love humanities (because it’s fun, they ask questions, they try their best, and complete their work).  From a teacher perspective, I also see that there is a real community and within the structure and expectations, students know what to do to succeed. They feel successful!

The class that the boys were most “worried” about was (surprise, surprise), TTO, our math pilot.  They brought up things like…
– not wanting to be laughed at
– teachers not able to answer their question right away and then their session is done during the “independent zone” time
– teachers not explaining why but just how (CM was referring to our recent project, and all I could do was nod sympathetically, because it’s true!)

And I’m just nodding.. because I *totally* get it. And yet, what can I say? I’m the teacher in this program. I can’t honestly bash it with a clear conscience because we are still working at fixing it.  They did ask me why I was teaching TTO, and I did honestly respond that I didn’t have much of a choice.  I told them I didn’t want to teach humanities and that I wanted to teach math, and this was the choice of our school.

My question is… why do we want to keep tweaking and fixing it? What does it offer that we so desire?

  • Honestly, were our students pretty behind when they started? yes.
  • (Are we setting the curve in Oakland flats schools? yes).
  • Are kids learning math? yes.
  • Are kids learning more math? sure! possibly!

But what about considering these other questions:

  • Are they happy? maybe that’s a nonissue.
  • Are they getting opportunities to work deeply with math through inquiry, pauses, wonderings, and struggle? no. And maybe that’s our fault. we’re “just not leveraging the tasks and small group collaborations to their full potential.”
  • Do they understand expectations? Maybe.. but again, that’s our fault too, because we could have better management.

With TTO, our students might be learning more math.  But is it at the rate that it’s worth the opportunity cost of happiness and … just.. kiddo noises?  I think I’m actually fine with them slowing down if it means we can have a better relationship, and they don’t leave thinking math is boring and online programs suck (because if used in moderation, it wouldn’t be bad).  During the short transition period between schools, I like to visit other classrooms.  These past 2 weeks, this is what I’ve seen:

  • 1 humanities class pausing before starting the day because kids have been working so hard, they did 10 minutes of theater games before getting started
  • science class finishing up their lab reports, color-coding their drafts, and listening to music and staying focused and walking around to get the supplies they needed.
  • another humanities class doing a jeopardy review game before a test
  • another humanities class spending earned time outside on a Friday
  • classes starting to gear up for their expeditions

Basically, the more I’m with this pilot, the more I realize that I came to teach middle school so that we could get excited and learn to be fine with struggle and pause and reflect (for real — I mean if you do reflections like every 3 weeks, how do you even measure growth?  how do you grow in 3 weeks???) and stop being motivated by external factors so that the kids could become super pre-adults who have creativity, assurance, and communication skills………. I didn’t come to teach middle school so that my kids could become testing automatons a la Korea and Singapore. Been there. Done that. Left that. Leaving this.