Blue Suede Shoes

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 23 2011

The End of Days…

Well, the apocalypse came and went, and I’m still here, finishing out the school year, hanging on to my perfect attendance record, even though I would love to take a day off or two just to sort out my life… I need to prepare for institute! Shopping, packing, completing pre-work, the list goes on. There is not enough time left in this week that I have before heading to Atlanta! I’m also looking around my classroom and thinking about how long it’s going to take to clean. Dreadful.

Algebra 1 end-of-course test scores were released, and there are few surprises. Some students I thought would get “proficient” only scored “basic,” and vice versa, but everyone pretty much fell into the categories of his or her year-long mastery. One of my worst-behaved students was one point away from proficiency, and we had a discussion about how if he could get an 84 the way he’s been all year, he could have done much, much better had he just chosen to focus. The test validates his skills, to be sure, but his grades are abysmal because he refuses to take tests – or talks during the ones he does take and just guesses random letters – and refuses to do work 90% of the time. He is the textbook case of “a mind is a terrible thing to waste”: full of potential, but also very low on drive.

I attended commencement yesterday – four of my seniors walked; one did not – and it was such a joyous event. The students could not keep smiles off of their faces. Neither could I. The mantra of the speaker, a local reverend, was “Dream big. Soar high. Accomplish much. Always believe,” and he made the crowd repeat the parts over and over. I hope that those words do not go in one ear and out the other for them, but it’s the reality of commencement addresses that no one’s really listening because everyone just wants that diploma in hand. In any case, the auditorium went wild when it was announced that the valedictorian had been offered over $1 million in scholarship money this year. Talk about dreaming big, soaring high, accomplishing much, and always believing. He will be attending Washington University in St. Louis. I don’t know him, but I am certainly wishing him all the best, and I am certainly going to work hard to make sure my freshmen and sophomores can be like him two or three years down the line.  I am already planning to return for commencement ceremonies in 2014 (and 2013, if I can swing it time-wise and money-wise); it will be so, so satisfying to watch them walk across that stage, collect their diplomas, toss their caps in the air.

Good things are happening all the time here. Yes, they may be overshadowed by more negative stories, but they exist and are not as rare as others presume. I have faith that my students – my freshmen in particular – will make good things happen next year and in years to come.

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