Tuesday, March 27, 2007

YES you can

I had the opportunity to observe at a YES College Prep school recently and I have to simply say: wow. Yep, that about covers it.


I had sixth graders come up and in the most articulate manner introduce themselves and welcome me to their school. This is coming from a world where I have seventh graders I've been teaching since August who still won't look me in the eye. It was amazing. And that's just the glossy stuff.

I've been struggling with motivation recently. I think it is because I see so much I would do differently "had I only known... (fill in any number of things I was clueless about)." Because I feel like it would be so much easier to correct this error by starting fresh I think I've been reluctant to pretty much try anything.

I was kind of thinking my visit to Yes would be depressing and make me wish I was teaching anywhere but my school. In fact, it had quite the opposite effect. I went into my visit with a little bit more background knowledge than some of the corps members who were with me. I knew a few folks who worked there and understood a lot of the routines. I'm also fascinated by charter schools and would love to make it part of my research focus whenever I find myself back in school. The concept of charter schools is a hot topic in my apartment as well, so we've ended up looking up some articles and stats and such. Since I already knew some of the stuff that was part of the Yes routine, I wasn't really blown away by it all. More so, I just left feeling like i have to do something more.

I have to give my students a chance to have something like that at McReynolds. What choice do I have? Yes is a growing movement, but small in idea. They have to raise money for their own buildings. They cut a lot of overhead to do what they do. They don't take on 600 kids a school, so my kids can't just transfer in whenever they want. My kids deserve that kind of environment as much as anyone. I feel like I can't control the stupid things my administration does, I can't control the environment outside my door, but I can be the positive force in my room. I've been letting myself off the hook a lot lately.

The thing is, the teachers at Yes aren't these amazing fantastic teachers plucked from the Columbia School of Education (though they are cool). They don't have kids who were certified geniuses at the age of two (their demographic is the same as mine). They don't even have a real school building (it's an old church). They're just dedicated people in a better work environment. Yes, they do have better organization and focus, but that doesn't mean I can't do more in my own classroom. Does environment control everything? No, it doesn't. If it did then I'd be wasting my time with most of my students.

Today when I returned to McReynolds to find that my kids didn't have a sub and then did have a sub who fourth period decided to terrorize, I sat down at my desk amidst the chaos left in my room and took a deep breath. Frustration isn't getting me anywhere but tired. I'm going to focus on a couple of main problem areas, bite the bullet and really revamp my motivation system and have a very long conversation with fourth period about the way they treat strangers. Yes, tomorrow will be a new day.

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