so many things happened this week that have me conflicted.

I love my job.

I love my kids.

I believe so strongly in what I do.

I believe that I can make a difference.

I feel powerless.

case studies:

1.  we finished testing this week.  my foundations kids did so good.  I was so proud of them.  They raised their scores by 20 points.  By 30 points.  On Thursday morning, I saw two of them walking down the hall together, two girls, that if I am honest, I thought would not pass.  But they did.  I stopped them, and told them the good news.  “We passed?!?!?”  “YES!  You did awesome and I am so proud of you!”  *screaming, jumping up and down, hugging each other.*  so cute.  but….so tragic.

2.  J, a kid I had last semester, only needed half a math credit to graduate, so was dropped from my class at semester.  he frequently stops by to tell me he thinks that was a mistake, and he wishes he had stayed in my class.  on tuesday, he and his girlfriend B (who was in my advanced class last year) were outside my room, telling me how much they loved my classes.  B told me how easy college algebra has been this year, and that she was so prepared because of my class.  she was thankful for how much I had expected of them, and how many tools I gave her to be successful, and that now math was easy.  J (who was in one of my low classes, and had never gotten above a D in math) said “You opened up a whole new world for me.  I never knew I could do math.  I never knew math could be fun.  or easy.  I wish I had had you as a teacher a long time ago.  thank you.”

I am “happy” about both of these things, but which one am I truly happy about?  J is it.  He is the reason I teach.  there are too many k ids that are afraid of math. there are too many kids other teachers ignore, and think they can’t learn.  his words are so life-giving, and I am so thankful that he has the maturity to say them; that he saw it fit to let me know.  thank you, J.

the two girls.  I adore them.  but I did not think they would pass.  they have so many holes, so many shortcomings, and I had them for two and a half months, and then had to shove them in front of a white screen and say “This is it.”  they had three math teachers and two principals talk to them about how important this test is.  and you know what?  they are not smarter.  they are so low, and so ill-equipped with skills they will need when they get out of school.  they come from broken homes, abuse, poverty, and total instability.  nothing on that test is going to break any of those cycles.  they are not better prepared to deal with any of those things, or to break free from them, because they know how to find the median of a double stem and leaf plot.  now that they have passed the test, we celebrate, we are thankful, we tell them “good job.”  and they think they are better for it.  they are not.  but I play along.  because I will take what I can get.  this class is the only avenue I am given to reach these kids.  and if they do not pass, the district will cut the class.  and I lose what little opportunity I have with them.  I have learned that it is a gamble with me, a game of balance.  how much real life, social skills, and useful skills can I cram in, and still get them to pass?  how much time can I spend loving them, and still get them to pass?  how much can I show them they are valued, and still get them to pass?  so I play along. I know those girls are better for being in my class, but not because they can perform on something that’s not a good indicator of anything.   I KNOW that I can do more.  sometimes I daydream about what it would be like if I got to just….teach.  teach math.  and not teach test. I have six more weeks with them, and you better believe I will use every minute of that to do something good.  to do actual good.

lastly,  3.   G is one of my foundations kids that did not pass.  he did not even improve his score; in fact it went down.  he doesn’t come to class much, and as a result I haven’t gotten to know him very well.  I hate that.  he wanted to know why he hadn’t gotten a bowl of cereal like most of the class.  we went out in the hall and I asked him what happened with his score.  shoot kim.  I had assumed that he was like one of his classmates (that I do know, that refuses to work, that is willingly earning a 1.2% in my class, who failed the assessment on purpose, who I am so frustrated with because I have been unable to get him to care).  I had assumed he just didn’t care about school or anything.  shoot.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  it became very obvious in very few minutes that this kid has way bigger issues in his life than the freaking state math assessment.  and it makes me SO. so. mad. that my forced allegiance to the test gave me blinders and I didn’t get the chance until now to love this kid.  to help him.  to be someone in his life when he has nobody.  yes, G, you can have all the cereal you want.