Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive

The year is over. It is done. I will not have to deal with IPS students in a formal teaching capacity any time soon (and the plan right now is to not have to deal with them in such a capacity ever again, but I don't want to give fate a chance to throw me a screwball).

I know it seems as though I have spent much of this year complaining about my situation, venting about the numerous frustrations I have had to deal with in the last 180 days. And that can make it seem like I have nothing good to say about my career the last four and a half years. Despite the sometimes overwhelming negative I have felt this past year, my experiences with IPS have not been universally nor wholly terrible. In fact, there have been some great moments brought about by some great people I have had the pleasure of knowing, working with, and yes, even teaching. Thus, I will take Clint Eastwood's advice* and take a moment to first recognize some of those positive moments that helped me remember why I wanted to do this in the first place:

*The Letters: My first semester of teaching, some students in one of my Spanish classes at Arsenal Tech. anonymously left a letter/note in my classroom that was supposedly from a Mr. Armbruster, a fellow Tech teacher I had not yet met. The jist of the letter was that he had seen me and was interested in getting to know me better and wanted to me to meet with him in his classroom after school. The fact that no teacher had entered my room to drop it off as students were leaving aroused my suspicions even more than the fact that it was written on looseleaf, in pencil, with several spelling errors (Mr. Armbruster, as I found out, is an English teacher). Still, I investigated the matter, only to discover that he had received a similar note, supposedly written by myself. We concluded that his students, who had been reading Much Ado About Nothing in his class, had decided to try that experiment on their own to see if it could work. It was actually rather cute and sweet. (Sadly, those letters, which had been put into my journal, got lost when my car got broken into the next year. :( ) (Spring Semester 2007, Arsenal Tech.)

*Playing vocabulary games in Spanish class: I don't remember all the games we played to try to review, but most of my classes managed to have fun (and to be fun) on those days. (The candy prizes may have helped... :) (Fall/Spring Semester 2007-2008, Arsenal Tech.)

*My first period Spanish class first semester during the 2007-2008 school year: it was a small class with good rapport- we had some fun times in that class before they changed it all up second semester. (Fall Semester 2007, Arsenal Tech.)

*Will and Brandon telling me how they appreciate the way I treat them and talk to them like human beings, not like ignorant, inferior teenagers (as at least one teacher in particular apparently did). (Spring Semester 2009, Arsenal Tech.)

*Making cupcakes for Calvin (as a sort of last-minute, on-a-whim going away party the small class all agreed to). (Spring Semester 2009, Arsenal Tech.)

*For that matter, that whole class (all 3-4 of them that actually showed up) was one of my favorites- fun kids who at least made an effort to be creative and to participate and get involved in the activities. (I did love the Title I classes because they were required to be small per the Title I funding...) (Spring Semester 2009, Arsenal Tech.)

*Galumphing for my 4th period students as I did a unit on the language of "The Jabberwocky." (It kind of became an inside joke with us, something that would always get them laughing, and laughing in a good way, not a mocking way...) (Spring Semester 2009, Arsenal Tech.)

*Teaching elementary-level ESL: I worked with only a few kids at any given time, and most of the kids I got to work with (ranging mostly from 3rd grade to 6th grade, with a few kindergartners thrown in) were so much fun to work with. I really enjoyed those few months! (Spring Semester 2010, School #71, Carl Wilde Elementary School)

*Seeing several students in each of my Tier 1 reading classes actually getting into The Hunger Games, some of which were even so hooked that they read ahead of where we were reading as a class. It was especially validating to have a few of those students ask to borrow my copies of the other two books in the trilogy. (One of them even bought her own set of the books and according to her mother, will get to read the other two when she finally cleans her room...) (Spring Semester 2011, Gambold Middle School)

*Getting various thank-you/appreciation cards over the years: though they may have been few and far between, it is always nice to know a few students care enough to say so.

I also feel like I should acknowledge some of the people that helped make my experience more positive than negative in the long run:

Travis Y. - We always had amusing conversations as I waited for him to tuck his shirt in (per the IPS dress code) before allowing him to enter the room. (Spanish, 2007-2008)

Daniel D. - One of the few students that year who could get an A on his own effort and merit- I think he actually learned some Spanish that year, unlike so many of his classmates... (Spanish, 2007-2008)

Stella B. - An exchange student from Germany, she was pretty much awesome. She also did her work, had a pleasant attitude, and was very sympathetic to all I had to deal with as a teacher (she didn't hold a lot of respect for the kind of kids she had to go to school with every day...). Before she went back to Germany, we got together at the mall and had lunch and enjoyed an afternoon of friendly conversation. (Spanish, Spring semester 2008)

Will B. - A very bright (and highly unmotivated) kid whose unique brand of humor could always make me laugh (mostly because I knew he wasn't saying those things to be disrespectful or shocking...) (Diploma Plus GQE Prep, 2008-2009)

Toni S. - One of the few of my Title I Language Arts students who made an effort to do the work in the first place, and when she missed a lot of days due to various things, made the effort to do the make-up work. She passed with flying colors, and was a positive presence in class. (Title I Language Arts, Spring semester 2009)

Nicole P. - Despite a rather rocky beginning, we ended up getting along really well. I enjoyed her contributions to the class, her intelligent comments and questions, and her effort overall. (Reading Tier 1, 2010-2011)

Emily S. - Although sometimes caught up in the melodrama of the age, she was bright and intelligent, and showed marked improvement (i.e. actually doing her work) the last few months of school. I feel we had quite a bit in common, and usually enjoyed conversations with her. I was also impressed with how she matured over the year. (Reading Tier 1, 2010-2011)

Jennifer L. - She was often quiet in class, but she was consistent with doing her work, with putting forth an effort, and was always a pleasure. I enjoyed talking with her both in and outside of class. (Reading Tier 1, 2010-2011)

Marques G. - Though a pretty average student (as far as actually turning work in), he was such a pleasant person to have in class. He was one of the few that could still bring a smile to my face by the end of the school year. (Reading Tier 1, 2010-2011)

De'Monte Y. - He was goofy and fun and helped make class enjoyable, even when other students made it rough. (Reading Tier 3, 2010-2011)

Honorable Mentions:

Jessica L. - Though never in my Spanish class (she was much more advanced than Spanish I), she was fun to see on a daily basis, in part because I already knew her through her mom (who works retail at Cracker Barrel). After graduating high school that year, she also started working at Cracker Barrel while going to school, so it has been fun to continue to develop a friendship with her over the last few years.

Diana M. - She also was never one of my students (her reading level was too low, so she was in the special ed. reading class), but she remembered me from all my Cadre bouncing around last year, and was always so polite and friendly and sweet, I couldn't ever really tell her "no" to anything she might request.

Title I Language Arts classes: Two of my four Title I L.A. classes that spring semester of 2009 were just a lot of fun. It was still frustrating that many of the students never turned in work, but at least my 4th and 5th period classes made an effort to participate in class. As a whole, I enjoyed both those classes very much and had a lot of fun trying to teach them something about language and literature.

Wow. This ended up being more epic than I had originally thought it would be. I guess there was more positive than even I initially remembered. I think I'll stop it here for tonight- (I'll save the list of positive colleagues for another time...)

So, at least you know that even with all the frustrations over the last 4.5 years, there were still some good memories created. Hopefully, those few will outlast the many bad in the years to come.

(*Yes, I realize Clint Eastwood is not the original singer; but he was the one singing it when I heard it for the first time, which is why I choose to attribute the advice to him.)