Turn it Around

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 16 2008

Realization and maturation after close to a month of teaching

I’ve been MIA on posting my experience lately because life got very hectic and confusing lately. To start off, I have been through a roller coaster of emotions, especially the last few days since my last post. The amount of joy, excitement, sadness, frustration, guilt, determination, surprise are randomly popping and it had finally take a toll on me. But I have finally made some MAJOR change that I will stick to it:
After weeks of being flexible with my school’s administration, my classes finally level off and I officially have exactly 175 students this year. As much excitement I have shown when I taught them the past few weeks, I also grow worry day by day on where they are academically.

I noticed that a lot of my Algebra II Honors kids are fairly rusty with the most fundamental skills in math such as what is -3 + 3, the square root of a negative number is what, how to solve for x in a simple linear equation. I thought, that’s ok, I can teach them and I can assign them review packages. I was naive on it, what they really are is not just those skills, but majority of the skills they learned in Pre-Algebra and Algebra I. Some of my kids already expressed how they were being taught in math through worksheets without much of teacher’s lectures, guided practices; some have demeaning teachers who had no time to tutor them when they were in troubles.

My Alegebra II regular are in the same situations. Yet, my kids’ learning schedule are already 3 or 4 days behind compared to the standard and we are even more behind because the county wanted me to test my kids on standarized tests that would create no much of a value on diagonis their skills/abilites for this WHOLE WEEK! Yes, I am anger and frustrated (still are but not as much as I was yesterday, I have not been that emotional for a long time, yea, I would say it has been at least 2 years ago when I was reach the point where I thought I am completely done). The reason why the students are being tested because the administration need to use these tests for “pay-for-performance” to see whether I will eligible for the bonus and a pre-test for the subject. I would say this is a waste of time because I looked at the test and it is fairly out of alignment!! What’s more royally screw up our kids’ educational opportunites than overtesting and losing instruction days when we already 3 to 5 days behind!!
All these administration problems have made my decision that I need to jump on the wagon of consulting and policy so I could change the way top down . I could be a great teacher that impacts my kids, but to make a greater impact, I need to go beyond my role of teacher. It frustrated me so much yesterday that I couldn’t do much other than powerlessly letting the tests run over my class…I fight the battles, but this is not a battle I could pick to fight at this point.

Of course, I was not yet reach to my teacher potential. The fact is, I worked a lot more hours and usually is one of the last few person to leave schools from work; but I also have been trapped in my guilty chair. What I am talking about is the master of art in mathematics program through Jacksonville University that I (was) enrolling. I’ve got kids came to my room everyday for tutoring, and sometimes they do stay there for a good two hours, but on Tuesday and Thursday, I had been trying to juggling the graduate work that I have not able to wholeheartly tutor them and to do more planning. I am kinda like an overly perfect parents who will do whatever do make the best for my kids but not able to do that. I have never had this feeling in my life in the past. Especially when I was in college, I could handle 18 hours and internship or fellowship or whatsoever and I can say to myself “well, I contributed a lot, earned good grades, and learned too, job well done Simon”…

Well, not anymore, I found out that this job requires than just satisfy the basic goals, my students need are so urgent that the faster they catch up, the better the chance they will have in their life and opportunities, I just can’t watch them not improving when they show up to the class…This job had made me a wholehearted person, I am not a kid anymore…I have completely changed my lifestyle lately so I could wake up at 3AM to jog, workout, then work on my computer until 5 am then get ready to be in school by 6 and stay there at least 4pm (usually around 7-8pm lately) everyday. I took things more seriously too…God, friends, family, moral principles…I would have never thought I could mature this quick in a matter of one month and have been through so much emotions.

I used to thought I care big pictures issue a lot such as economic policies, government’ human capital reform, education policy, federal-budget, healthcare policy…etc..you name it…I did things to involved…until now when I actually in action providing education to my kids, now I felt what I thought I was “deeply involved” is not as much as I am involved with what I am doing now…it was easy for me in the past to say and do “there is sense of urgency to do…”, “we need to assess this policy by using…”, “Let’s think of a plan on how to tackle these…”..but now, when I use the same phase, it is a completely different idea. I’ve this mindset which nothing here in a success unless I gave myself completely into it and give out EVERY resource I can…

So with that said, I dropped graduate program with JU so I can reclaim 6 extra hours/week to do tuturing/planning.

I have surprisingly very very strict on waking up early on-time instead of staying in my bed for a good 5 to 10 minutes after the alarm like I did in institute or college or for most of my life.

I have also repriotized what’s important to me in my life – it is still family and friends, but with more detailed way…

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