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[personal profile] marathoner452
As much as I resent how Chicago has treated us this year, as much as I resent what working in that environment has done to my hope and idealism and mood in general, as happy as I am that it is FINALLY summer vacation, it still hurts me so much to think of not working there next year.  Say what you will about the school, we had a good thing going.  Teaching city kids, damaged by Katrina and chronic undereducation the depths of which I could not imagine until I had to confront it daily, is challenging work, but it's also what I signed up for when I chose to become a teacher in New Orleans public schools.  I love those kids.  As a team of teachers we had so much energy, so much dedication, so much support for each other.  I doubt I'll find that wherever I'm teaching next year.  What we had was special, and I hate, truly hate, that Chicago had to screw that up and then they still have the nerve to get up at 8th grade graduation and pat themselves on the back for helping these poor backwards Southerners, these poor Katrina victims who can't help themselves and must need Chicago to rescue them.  The level of paternalism, the level of condescension they showed all of us continues to anger and frustrate me.  They had no right to treat us like that.

New Orleans has enough problems of its own without Chicago importing its own.

It wasn't until the last few weeks, since my sister and neice came to visit, that New Orleans really became home for me.  I have a stake in her future.  I am no longer the wide-eyed idealist I was when I first moved here.  I've learned a few things about myself.  I've learned I'm stronger than I thought and that it's okay to ask for help.  I've learned that teachers often learn more from their students than they teach them.  I know that whatever doesn't kill you does make you stronger.  I have no idea how I survived this school year intact, but here I am and in 3 days I'm out of here 'til the end of July.  Maryland to New Brunswick to Maryland to Michigan then back to New Orleans.

I'm rambling now and Lakeview Brew actually closed 20 minutes ago.  Suffice it to say that I wouldn't give up this school year for anything but I wouldn't want to go through that again either.  We survived.  'Nuff said.

Date: 2009-06-27 02:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks for posting this. And congratulations!

Date: 2009-06-27 02:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
they still have the nerve to get up at 8th grade graduation and pat themselves on the back for helping these poor backwards Southerners, these poor Katrina victims who can't help themselves and must need Chicago to rescue them. The level of paternalism, the level of condescension they showed all of us continues to anger and frustrate me. They had no right to treat us like that.

I'm sure you know this, but that particular sort of attitude is not even remotely isolated to your own school or even "education" in particular in New Orleans... ugh. :/

Date: 2009-06-27 08:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'd rather work for a thoroughly screwed up school run by people in New Orleans than a thoroughly screwed up school run by people based elsewhere who think they know what's best for New Orleans. I'd rather work for the Recovery School District than work for Chicago.

I had to console myself many times this year with the knowledge that no matter how many mistakes I made as a new teacher I couldn't possibly mess up these kids' education any more than it already had been. Amongst my special ed. students was a 5th grader who wasn't identified for special ed. until December 2005 and who still can't read, can't spell want or with or could or write a complete sentence on his own and a 14 year old 6th grader with a learning disability who reads at a 2nd grade level and a 5th grader who missed at least 60 days this school year to get her hair done and because the bus didn't pick her up directly in front of her house. It breaks my heart the way these kids have been left behind.

*end essay*

Date: 2009-06-27 08:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, I know. Also, I know I must have told you the story about how, when I was volunteering at New Orleans Outreach, we had a group of 6th-8th graders who couldn't do more than one-digit subtraction, and after about a week of trying to figure it out it became clear that they had just been told that subtraction was "taking the difference" between two numbers and had just been applying that principle for everything as best they could (so, e.g. in a column where you have "1-8" the answer is always "7")? There was a lot more than that, but for some reason that one thing was just appalling to me, I guess because of how obvious it was that the kids had even been trying and doing everything right and being able to even make it to school in the first place and so on and so forth and the system still failed them simply because of careless teaching...

Date: 2009-06-27 08:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That same 5th grader who couldn't read or write also had to use tallies to figure out 7 minus 3. Yet for the first half of the school year he had a teacher who had them sit facing the front of the classroom reading silently out of math and reading textbooks, essentially learning nothing. I never saw him teach except when he knew he would be observed that day. We all knew what he was doing but knew until something drastic (physically hurting a student, cursing out a student) happened no one would do anything about it. They couldn't get rid of him because they wouldn't be able to hire anyone else and at least he was a warm adult body in the classroom.

Back to your subtraction observation, I had a student who would complete a subtraction problem like this:


4-1 is 3 and 9-7 is 2, right? They had no concept of how to check their work, no concept of the meaning of subtraction. I spent an inordinate amount of time this year trying to teach kids that math is more than numbers on a page, that math has real world applications. I hope some of it stuck.

Date: 2009-06-27 09:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, that's exactly what my kids were doing -- we had to basically teach them subtraction from scratch, but (amazingly) they were very capable and eager learners, and were just amazed with themselves when they started getting answers right. The key seemed to be to communicate to them that they weren't getting it wrong to begin with, they were just doing the wrong thing, and so we were going to teach them how to do the thing that would get the right answer (with tallies and counting on fingers or with objects and stuff whenever helpful in order to check/prove work). But yeah, it was just blindingly obvious with these kids that it wasn't that they didn't care, it was that someone -- years in the past -- had just told them something like "subtraction means taking the difference" (to the point of several of them quoting that line back to us) and so of course 47-19 is 32, since the "difference" between 7 and 9 is 2, etc. I mean, I even remember being told that when I was a kid, and I remember things like "you take away the smaller number from the bigger number" and so on.

Date: 2009-06-27 09:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I told the kids all the time that I didn't care so much whether they got the answer right or wrong, I wanted to know how they got their answer. I'd rather have them get a long division problem wrong because of an arithmetic mistake than get it right by accident, because if they understand the concept they're good to go and they have the skills to do higher level math.

Same for reading. I loved to get inside their heads and I told them as much. I loved to figure out why they mispronounced words, misinterpreted a passage, spelled a word incorrectly. I loved to teach them that they were not "mistakers," they were kids who made mistakes sometimes like we all do but the important thing was not to get hung up on that mistake.

Date: 2009-06-27 03:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Congratulations! Have a safe trip. It's a pleasure reading about your love for NOLA.

Date: 2009-06-27 09:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Even when it's 104* plus humidity. A high of 83* in Maryland is going to feel downright frigid. :P

Date: 2009-06-27 12:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You should feel very proud of what you
accomplished this past year. Don't
imagine you are taking the easy way
out. Your new position will have
different, not necessarily simpler
or less challenging hurdles. I'm sure
you will make the most of them.

ps The shoes are great. Lost 13 lbs in the
last month. Call me during one of your
MD visits and we'll go for a jog.

Date: 2009-06-27 09:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Leaving was the hardest decision I've ever had to make. Even now, were I to find out before I signed a contract with Jefferson Parish that Chicago had given up control of Esperanza...I might just have to go back.

*tiny voice*

Marathoner452 hasn't run in almost 3 months, unless you call chasing kids on the playground running.

Date: 2009-06-28 03:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Whaqt that tells me is, I actualy have some small hope of keeping up if you open up and switch to "run"
Up for a conversation pace?

Date: 2009-06-27 10:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If you have time, you should come visit my new house in MD! I promise you comfortable summer weather AND Abita at the same time!

Date: 2009-06-28 04:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Congrats, you made it! Have a nice summer, sounds like you've got one all planned out.


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