With Struggle


I know that the wind has been knocked out of the sails of my blog posting. I’m finding it hard to justify setting aside time for self-exploration; much of my energy and thought and emotion, even when I’m sleeping, goes towards my students. I have dreams about them, and I lay awake thinking about them. It’s not like I want to.

I have a new student (I jinxed my luck in my last post), who I haven’t gotten a chance to get to know at all because he showed up yesterday, but there seems to be something going on in his home life that may make him a difficulty in class.

I made my first report cards this week, and I had my first parent-teacher conferences tonight, and two moms showed up. Which is one more than I expected.

I also broke up my first fight today. Fists and feet were flying. One part of me was angry for my student who began throwing the punches, but another part of me also recognized her need to stand up for herself. She has been getting picked on everyday, and she just couldn’t take it anymore.

So I am going to have to find a way to resolve the situation as a class. We will have to have a conversation about bullying and about the fight that happened.

I’ve realized that I can no longer ignore the way students in this class are treating each other in the cafeteria or in the schoolyard. Because they will bring it into class with them and then I spend the whole day trying to keep a lid on it.

So I have to teach them how to interact with each other. How to be friends. How to show kindness. Right now they think that picking on easy targets is “playing.”

So teaching is not only about meeting the standards. It’s about reaching your students where they need you in their lives. With material that will guide them and shape them. And that’s why I don’t have time to write much on my blog anymore. Every free second I have, even when I’m wasting it on Facebook or whatever, I always have it in the back of my mind that I should be writing lessons, planning units, writing goals, brainstorming activities. Many of my lessons at school just plain suck. I’m doing a lot of lecturing. I’m in survival mode as a teacher. But the faintest taste of success–knowing with certainty that I am making a difference in their lives, even when all that means is that I am keeping them in their seats–keeps me motivated to see it through. I’m not perfect, but lord knows neither are they. We give each other second and third and fourth and fifth chances.

Until one day, with hope, with struggle, we get it right.

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Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

2 thoughts on “With Struggle”

  1. I anguish for your battle and am certain of your success. The fact that you care enough to think about this and talk about it shows just how much you care and WILL make a difference. I am not sure I would be strong enough to keep going on. I commend you! I think that the hardest job of a teacher now, in this day and age, is the fact that BEFORE you can even teach them, you must reach them. In today’s society children have no fear of authority OR their elders. Without a healthy fear, there is no respect. Without respect, they do not pay attention. I grew up very poor in the 70’s and 80’s. In inner city Cleveland Ohio. Bad neighborhood. Mrs. Anderson, my “Think” teacher for troubled students used to covertly find the addresses of all the “party” houses where we would cut classes and drink, show up and threaten us with “I LOVE you ALL, and YOU will NOT fail while there is breath in MY BODY. YOU have a future if YOU take control and stop making these stupid mistakes that only an idiot would make. You have 2 choices: Stay here and I’ll call the cops, or come back to school with me and no one will know about this. Some of us went back. Keep faith. You WILL reach some of them.

  2. Yes, thank you for your insight and compassion. It is true that you must reach them first before you can teach them. Or as one of my teachers said, “order precedes learning.” If I don’t have my students’ respect, then there isn’t much that I can do for them. And to earn that respect, I have to show them that I care enough to reach through into their world.
    It kind of makes me wonder sometimes at the lengths to which the educational community has immersed itself in data and research and academic theory, yet often seems to pass up some of the most essential tenets of effective leadership: integrity, empathy, and pragmatism. To be an effective teacher, you have to be a leader first, and a research-driven facilitator of learning second.
    Thank you for your kind words.

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