Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 24 2011

How did you get here?

First, I must apologize for my lack of blogging.  It was on my to-do list for quite some time, but it had not made it to the top of the list until today… So to catch you up, I have been teaching 7th grade language arts for 4 weeks now.  It has been the hardest, longest, most exausting weeks of my life.  I have been busy (very busy) my whole life, but never ever have I been this busy.  On the first day, I was greeted by 87 12-14 year old students, and I thought I was ready to go, but boy was I wrong.

I taught my first week and did all the warm fuzzy things that I am suppose to do to learn everyones name and all that jazz.  It was fine.  My students seemed okay.  I definitely had a few characters (not necessarily good or bad, but definitely characters).  Then everything changed when I gave a little thing called a diagnostic.

I gave my reading diagnostic which helps me figure out where my kids are as far as reading levels.  The results were ASTOUNDING, shocking, mind blowing, and life altering.  I was blown away.

First block, I teach 24 kids, honors Language arts.  They scored an average of 11.2.  This means they are on an average of 11th grade reading level and they are 7th graders.  This is great news I guess, but the reality is I do not know how to teach them. I was not an english major.  These kids are basically as smart as me.  I was immediately intimidated, and wondered how did they get so far ahead?

Second block, I teach 19 kiddos, standard language arts.  They scored an average of 5.9 which means they are below a 6th grade reading level.  This means they are about 1 year behind where they should be with some kids scoring as low as 3.2.  I felt confident that I could change them.  I could teach them.  These are the numbers I was coming to Charlotte to fix.  Kids who slowly fell behind in a HUGE school system.  I can teach them I thought.  Minus their chatiness and occational hormones which give me an extreme headache, I enjoy their company.  This is what I was expecting to come here to find.

Third block is my planning period which basically means I run from meeting to meeting or copier to copier for 90 minutes until my next group comes to room 228 at 1:40.

Fourth block is what gets me the most… I am greeted by 29 scholars.  15 of whom are “special education” or EC as we call it in NC.  I can handle this I remember thinking… The remaining 14 are low level readers or ESL (English as a second language students).  Their scores scared me even more than my first block.  Their average score was 2.9.  This means that I have students who are on a THIRD grade reading level and they are in the 7th grade.  Holy smokes… One young man is a .6.  This means that he is on a KINDERGARTEN reading level. I honestly looked at him and said oh my goodness, we have a lot of work to do.

So, now I hope you can see why I was swamped the past few weeks.  I am trying my hardest to learn as a go, and teach all students exactly what they need.  It is my hope that at the end of the year, each student will grow at least 2 years in reading.  This unfortunately means that many of my students will still be behind at the end of the year.  But, I must do what I can now. I must hope that I will be the first teacher of many who asks the question how did you get here, AND most importantly is ready to change the path that they are on.  I know that all of my students are the same “kind” of student, and my first block is lightyears ahead while my last block is lightyears behind.  How does this happen… This should not happen.  All student should have the chance to be lightyears ahead, but this is not the case.  Because of what I have seen in the past 4 weeks, I have great conviction that I can AND MUST reach each one of my students.  They need me, and most of all I need them to know that this is the job I am sent here to do.

6 Responses

  1. Kim

    How have you adapted your lessons for students who are ahead? Do they give you any trouble, such as them saying “I don’t need this, I know how to do this?”

  2. Grandma of a TFA teacher

    It sounds like your first class contains gifted learners. To teach them at their reading level will be a challenge, but well worth the effort. Think of them as 11th graders and find challenging work for them to do. It will be the greatest gift you can give them. Too often gifted learners are bored and not working up to their potential. Don’t let them waste this year.

  3. Pastor Pat Snyder

    Don’t be afraid of the smart ones, Ashten, you still know more than they do. And God bless you for your dedication. They are lucky to have you!

  4. Kurt (Community Manager)

    Congratulations! Your post was featured on the Teach For Us homepage.

  5. Arie

    I don’t normally read random TFA blogs, but as a 2nd year CM who taught some heavily-tracked classes last year, I’d like to recommend the website to you. It really helped me differentiate material for my students–they also were 7th graders with reading levels all over the place!!

    Good luck!

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