Confessions of a High School Teacher…

First, let me start off by saying that this is not intended to be a political post.  My plan not to try to voice my feelings for education reform or anything of the sort.  Secondly, this won’t be some woe-is-me teacher rant either.  That’s not my style and it could get me fired, so we won’t be going there…

We began our Colorado standardized testing today.  As many of you know, I teach at an alternative education campus that serves at-risk and minority students.  I only had a handful of students that I was responsible for, so after three hours of being together and testing, I got to see what these kids are made of.  And let me tell you, I was impressed.  I was pretty annoyed at first–I’m not gonna lie.  They moaned and groaned and told me how awful I was to be testing them for three hours straight and for two days in a row.  Perish the thought!  But then as they moved into the writing portion of the test, something amazing happened with three of my students.  They exhibited bravery and strength in ways that you and I could never comprehend.

Even though these students have only been attending school in this country for, literally, a few months, they are required to take this test–in English with 15 extra minutes.  My guess is that the only words they could recognize were perhaps and, or, the, write and maybe sentence.  After I instructed them to plan in the book and then write the final in the draft book, they stared at me.  They expressed frustration and some of them slammed the books shut in anger.  I’m not allowed to do or say anything else.  I have to repeat the instructions verbatim and not add my own flare.  As a teacher, that goes against every bone in my body.  And I’m sure you’re wondering where I am going with this…

After that, something pretty great happened.  They picked up their word-to-word dictionaries and started figuring it out.  They worked to decipher meaning from our strange words.  They figured out what we were asking and came up with a response.  Sure, their essays weren’t fabulous or even coherent.  In fact, I cringe when I think of the poor suckers that have to grade them.  But they tried.  For like an hour.  I’m sure you’re thinking, God, Marisa what is the big deal?  But imagine yourself in school for the first time at 16 years old and surrounded by people who don’t speak your language.  Then imagine if these people gave you a test in this other language.  I’ve never experienced it and I don’t want to.  It seems terrifying.

When I teach, I draw pictures on the board, create hand-outs for everything, show video clips, read books to my students aloud, and sometimes I go so far as acting things out.  In high school.  It’s tough and exhausting.  And I’m not fishing for compliments or wanting a pat on the back.  I also know that there are a lot of people out there that don’t think students like mine deserve a free education in this country.  And that’s ok too.

Today, my students demonstrated bravery and strength–2 human characteristics that bind us together as one race.  You may not see it like I see it, but I think they deserve a little praise today.



4 responses to “Confessions of a High School Teacher…

  1. Marisa,

    As you know, I’m one of the few people who knows exactly the situation you and your students were in today. And I things the way you do. Kudos to your students for their bravery. I’m glad they stepped up and tried at this daunting task. We both know there are many more challenges ahead of them in this country, but if their behavior today is any indication of how they’ll embrace those challenges, I believe they’ll be okay. Thanks for sharing with us!

  2. Sometimes I get really frustrated and don’t understand their apathy. But on days like today I remember that it’s not apathy.
    Miss you, Suzanne! I think we’re onto some good things within our organization next year.

  3. I’m crying 🙂 Sounds like you are the perfect teacher for your students right now… so relieved that you are teaching and changing these lives in some capacity!

  4. Thanks, Kristy! I don’t always feel proud and some days I want to pull my hair out, but they were pretty great that day.

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