Saturday, February 23, 2013

Make Your Own Luck - Work Hard, Get Smart

Way to engage your child, Mom.
Those of you who follow my blog know that any time I post about my job, I sound like an old curmedgeon.  I complain about "kids these days" and how they have no fire, no will to learn, no enthusiasm.  And, in the school I teach, this is mostly true.  In my career, I have taught at four different schools, all of them inner city, although the third one is in a nice neighborhood (my own) with a majority of motivated students and involved (often times overly so) parents, although even there around half of parents would rather just have the teacher deal with all issues than actually parent.  The other three were filled with children whose parents really didn't have a clue and mostly did not care.  In my attempt to motivate students, I ask for their parents to sign some homework, and they'll sign papers that their children did no work on.  I've had meetings where parents tell me that their child does their homeworks, and yet they have no evidence of such in their notebooks, nor do they even have anything copied in their homework log that the school provides for them and that I ask everyday for them to take out and copy the homework.  How are such things possible?  It really boils down to the parents just not bothering with their children or their education, and the children exhibit that lack of interest in the classroom.  It is challenging, to say the least. 

All the schools I taught in had a large number of immigrants.  My students have hailed from South and Central America, the Carribean islands including black, Latino, and Guyanese populations, China, Burma, Tibet, Bangladesh, Pakistan and from Eastern Europe.  If I were to generalize, I would say that the black and Guyanese islanders, Puerto Ricans, Asian and Eastern European parents tend to be involved, and in the case of Jamaican mothers, frighteningly so.  Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.  There have always been children who want to learn.  These are the students that encouraged me to become a teacher in the first place.  These lovely children will do everything you ask of them, and come to you for extra help.  I have students like this now.  And two of them, both girls, one Tibetan and the other Russian, are moving up in the world. 

I'd listen to her if she were my momma.
(I know, it's Tyler Perry, but you get my drift)

My school is "leveled", meaning that better students are in the lower numbered classes and poor students are in the higher numbered classes.  When you get a coverage, and the class is a "6" class, you're in for 45 minutes of pure hell.  When you get a coverage for a "1" class, you can expect easy money.  And when you get a gym coverage, you'll need to schedule an appointment with a therapist who specializes in post traumatic stress disorder.

Last year, as a new teacher to the building, I taught classes "4", "5" and "6".  The "5" class was a nightmare.  This year, having one year seniority, I teach a "2", "3" and "4" class.  The two girls that are moving up are from my "2" class, and they are so good, that I am trying to move them to the "1" class.  I would hate to see them go, but it is for their benefit and they can receive a better education in a "1" class.  Notice that I said they are good, not smart.  I wouldn't say that they're not smart, but intelligence-wise they are both just normal girls.  I have other students whom I would say are smarter.  But, as I always expound, brains are not a ticket to success.  Work is.  And, boy, do these girls work.

A teacher who currently has the "1" class stopped both girls in the hall and told them he is trying to recruit them.  Later, as they don't really know this teacher and may have been confused and even a bit intimidated by this conversation, I assured them that this is good news, because the "1" class is honors and is preparing for the Regents exam.  Another student overheard me, and said, "Honors?  Lucky!".  I told him that luck had nothing to do with it.

Whatever happens, I wish these two beautiful girls all the best.  But I needn't worry; no matter where life takes them, they will succeed, no luck involved.

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