Miss Bennett in the Bay

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 16 2008

Mental Health Day

It is 9:30 am and I have only been awake for about 30 minutes.  It’s Friday, and after a grueling week of Open Court Police and an intense heat wave, I decided to give myself a mental health day.

Granted, I do have to re-take a section of a stupid technology exam for my credential today.  But, it will take about 20 minutes, and then another corps member (who also has to re-take the test) and I are going to get pedicures.  It will be fabulous.

I managed to survive the gamut with the OCR Police.  On Monday, it did not go so well.  I was extremely defensive (just like all the other teachers, because we’ve been trained to be defensive since these people are always critical.)  The lady was a little hostile, and I walked away from the debrief on Monday dreading the rest of the week.  But then, during my next debrief on Wednesday, the lady apologized for us “getting off on the wrong foot.”  Then, she proceeded to actually be helpful.

I didn’t know how to react to this situation.  I can count the number of helpful people employed by my district on one hand.  I am not exaggerating.  Maybe there are other helpful people out there and I’ve just never met them.  But for me, over the course of the past 9 months, I’ve met more critical, passive-aggressive people than I had ever previously known- and the only helpful ones I encountered were not employed by the district.

And they wonder why our district continues to fail.  (Let me guess- to them, the reason has something to do with teachers not implementing the program faithfully.  Right.  It doesn’t have anything whatsoever to do with teachers not being supported by anyone in our district.  Of course not.)

So when this lady gave me resources I could actually use in my classroom, I was blown away.  She did something similar with the rest of the second grade teachers, and from what I heard of the other grade levels’ experience, we certainly had the most positive one.  I am eternally grateful for that. 

Last night, we had our spring Open House.  It was thrown together at the last minute and poorly executed, just like everything at my school.   Only about 6 of my students showed up with their families, but at least they seemed to be enjoying themselves.  S, my student who grew so dramatically in math, showed up all by himself.

Me: S, where’s your family?

S: My dad’s at work, my sister’s in her (5th-grade) classroom, and my mom’s out on the blue benches.

Me: Why don’t you go get your mom and show her around?

S: No, she doesn’t want to.

Me: Why not?

S: She doesn’t speak English.

Me (in my head): Yeah, neither do 70% of the families around here.

Me (out loud): That’s ok, you can explain the stuff to her.

S: No!  I don’t want to speak in my language (Indian).  The other kids will make fun of me.

Me: S, the only other person in here is G.  She won’t make fun of you.

S (points to some of the math stuff I have put out):  No.  She doesn’t know about this stuff.

It breaks my heart that so many of my students have families like this.  S’s behavior lately has been absolutely abysmal.  Now, seeing how embarrassed he was about his mom, it makes sense.  I’ve seen her after school before and attempted to say hello.  She doesn’t even so much as acknowledge my presence with a smile.  Maybe she’s afraid I’ll try to start a conversation in English that she wouldn’t be able to understand.  I hope for S’s sake, though, that his family gets a little more invested in him.  Because I don’t see him making it without their help.

2 Responses

  1. Elizabeth

    What makes me really sad about this entry is that he is ashamed of speaking his language in front of the other kids. Are there not many other bilingual students in your class? :( Can you maybe have a talk with him to let him know that being bilingual is a huge asset to him so that he won’t be embarrassed about it? I mean, people spend lots of money learning languages to become bilingual in many languages for business reasons… Plus the awesome advantage of being able to have a secret conversation… lol

  2. chrisb

    The problem is not so much that he’s ashamed to be bilingual. He’s ashamed to speak Indian in a community that speaks Spanish. Of the English Learners in my class (14), only 3 speak a first language other than Spanish. It’s hard for them to be so different.

    The reality for this student is that if his family doesn’t start supporting him academically, he’ll never be able to use his 2 languages for monetary gain. That’s true of most of my students, actually. It’s the product of teaching in the kind of places we teach in.

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About this Blog

"All that is gold does not glitter, not all who wander are lost." -J. R. R. Tolkien

Region
Bay Area
Grade
Elementary School
Subject
Elementary Education

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