Blue Suede Shoes

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 05 2011

The [First] Final Stretch…

My algebra students took their end-of-course test on Tuesday. Naturally, I’m very interested in seeing the results. Several students told me they thought it was easy, but I don’t necessarily believe all of them. We shall see. ¬†One of my strongest students told me today that she didn’t finish, which really frustrated me, because the test is untimed, and so she had all the time she needed, if she had just spoken up. I couldn’t believe that she had just let it go; I know for a fact other students who hadn’t finished went to another room to complete the test after the designated testing period was over. One thing I really wanted to develop in my students was that sense of ownership, that drive to fight for themselves and their success, and I definitely did not do that this year, or else J. would’ve been banging down doors to get her test back on Tuesday.

As far as the results go, I am hopeful, but I am also realistic. While writing up my list of failures for algebra to give to the counselor who is entering course selection for next year, I felt incredibly disheartened. Several students are too smart to be on the list… except they are not smart enough to come to class on a regular basis. All of them did take the test, though, and so it will be interesting to see how far their intelligence gets them without the benefit of hard work all year.

In geometry, my students will take their summative next week, schedule permitting (right now, I have no calculators because of testing, which makes it a little more challenging to structure practice and review). I am concerned about their retention of the material, particularly from early in the semester and even some information from last semester. Of course we will review, but I was in school long enough to know that cramming is not an effective way to learn. So am I really setting my students up for ACT success? I don’t know.

Overall, I feel like I have not been setting most of my students up for success because I’ve lacked strong investment. I can name maybe a handful of students in each class who are setting themselves up for college; the rest merely think they will get to college while doing next to nothing (or just enough to get by, which might be even more irksome, because the potential is totally there). I will say, though, that I am proud of the gains I have made with students, especially in this last quarter. A couple students who had been consistently absent, including one who is pregnant and due at the end of the month, began showing up regularly, turning in extra credit, and staying after school for tutoring. Some of my algebra students finally woke up about doing well on their end-of-course test, and many came to the Saturday tutoring the school offered. Unfortunately, it may have been too little, too late.

I am looking forward to the end of the school year for several reasons, not the least of which is the start of institute. Back for my third tour – and second on staff – I am pumped to implement all the great ideas Sam, a fellow Memphian SOM, and I have come up with (actually, most are just Sam’s brainchildren). I also cannot wait to meet the new corps. My roommates are TTLs, and I’ve been living vicariously through their phone calls to their incoming corps member teams. There’s already a rivalry brewing! But seriously, we are so excited to introduce people to our wonderful city. This is time, Memphis is the place!

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