Although I have Dr. Farren-Eller’s login, this is Jessica Racine. I want to thank everyone for all of the interest they’ve expressed and work that’s already been done. This is incredible and awesome! I am so excited to connect you with what I do–either by reading these blogs, mentoring, or being apart of all of the things we are putting together.
As Dr. Farren-Eller has mentioned, I’m a Teach for America Corps Member. Essentially what they do is try to appeal to people who did not consider education as a career (i.e. seeking a graduate degree) and get them into a classroom to teach for two years. Teach for America certifies their members as teachers, gives them a teacher boot camp in the summer, then helps them find a job at a school in a high risk area. This is the jist of my story as well. I was bound and determined to go to medical school during nearly all four years of college at Michigan Tech (where Dr. Farren-Eller was my professor.) I was especially set after stepping into the school where I work. I can remember taking a deep breath during a time of absolute chaos and thinking… this is only for two years, you even have the summers off, you can do this.
Well, that thought didn’t last long. I got to know my students. I heard pieces of their stories. All students at my school are considered low-income and eat free breakfast and lunch. I would say nearly 80% of them are from single parent homes. Violence, especially gang violence, is a major issue. 80% of them come to high school with a 1st-6th grade reading level. Only 1% of my students are considered proficient (grade level) in math. One would think that this makes them absolutely unintelligent or lazy. This is incredibly far from the truth. One could say that their parents don’t care. This isn’t true either. The misconceptions about these kids are unbelievable. Before I lived and breathed it, I truly didn’t understand. I still am learning something different everyday about why things are the way they are.
Many people all over America aren’t aware that this is real. Some ninth graders really can’t read. Some ninth graders (or any age) don’t see their parents because their parents go to work at 3 when they’re getting home from school and come home once they’ve gone to bed. One of my personal missions of this project is to raise awareness that this is REAL.
I’ve done a lot of talk about statistics and things that they aren’t. It’s important to hear about what is true about them.
1. They are witty little buggers. Do you think I could get away with wearing the same dress twice in one week? Although they’re rarely rude about it, they always slip it in when answering a question. It’s all in fun, but there is no pulling a fast one on these kids.
2. They want to be good students. What I’m realizing is that they don’t know what being a good student means or looks like. One of my honors student told me, “Miss! I had the study guide but I didn’t know what to do with it.” (Students call all teachers/administrators/adults Miss or Mister. It doesn’t matter if you’re married or have your phD. It’s not a sign of disrespect, it’s just what they know.) I just changed one of my bulletin boards in my room so that I put up students who have an 80% or better in my class. “Miss, how do I get my name up there???” It is magical and awesome.
3. They are hard not to love. Nearly everything that comes out of their mouth is hilarious, even if they don’t think so. We’ve been talking about chemical bonding this unit. They’ve got a good grasp on ionic and covalent and so I asked them if they could handle one more layer (polar/nonpolar) because we had extra time. Alaysia, one of my most improved students, bursts out and says “Miss. You buggin! We is fresh out the 8th grade!” I still laugh when I say it in my head.
Please comment with any questions that you have. I would love to respond to them! Or, if you are interested in Teach for America, I’d love to tell you more about the process.