Year One

Lost & Found

Hi, Thoreau? It’s me, Rachael. Your quote (see below)- that’s why I came out here. I wanted to get lost so I could genuinely figure myself out, without any distractions of someone else telling me what my life should look like.

But now I seem to have gotten myself totally lost and I’m still missing your acclaimed “find/understand ourselves,” half of the bargain.

If anything, now I understand less. Some days it’s clear why I needed to get out of DC and move on, but guys, other days I just miss it. I have no idea what I want to do with my summer off, let alone the rest of my life. I believe in plans and I have none right now except, “pray you make it through the next day/week/semester/two years, then you can go wherever you want!”

I found this cool job in LA doing special events for this cool museum and if I wasn’t so in love with my kids I would be there tomorrow. Except I have this thing called a conscience that pulls at my heart and yells at me:

You have students who don’t have money for dinner every night and what you want to do with your life is plan million dollar galas that require twenty-five thousand dollar tickets? Your kids can’t afford a binder for your class and you’re lusting over a Jenny Packham dress? What’s wrong with you?

I know, HDT. I’ve been here for two months. I shouldn’t expect clarity to come so quickly. I’m not a very patient person, but I’ll wait, okay?

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Year One

Kids

Three quick stories re: my children and how on a daily basis they make me 1) cry 2) pull my hair out and 3) LOL.

1. I teach juniors Algebra I. They struggle with the basics, and I’m often frustrated because they seem to lack an understanding of the fundamentals that I had mastered in 8th grade. How do I teach them Algebra I, when I don’t think they’d pass 6th grade math? On Thursday I talked to them about their progress so far, and how they were feeling about the class. They asked me to slow down, and shared that this was because while they’d taken math in ninth grade, they didn’t really learn anything. They said they’d had a variety of subs for the whole semester and everyday they were just handed worksheets and told “here do this.” Therefore, they were behind on the basics, and wanted me to just slow down and teach them all that they’d missed by missing a year of math. Cue heartbreak.

2. I gave my seniors a quiz on Friday. 45 minutes to do 15 multiple choice questions. “You can use your notes, the book, your calculator, each other, me, the computers in the back – anything. All of you should get 100’s on this. I’m giving you all the resources possible to get every question right!” Average score on the quiz? 62. -___-

3. One of my freshmen girls on the senior boy who wears skinny jeans to school instead of baggy cargo pants like everyone else: “So, is he gay, or is he a model?” Because yes, those are the only two possible explanations.

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Year One

And Other Concerns

I read listened to Mindy Kaling’s book over the weekend. She talks about how she’s terrible at Frisbee, but nonetheless her friends relentlessly try to teach her how to correctly throw it. She further analyzes this distinct quality of Frisbee fans:

“Unlike other athletes, Frisbee people won’t let it go. My theory is that this is because there’s a huge overlap between people who are good at Frisbee and people who do Teach for America. The same instinct to make at-risk kids learn, which I admire so much, becomes deadly when turned on friends trying to relax on a Sunday afternoon in the park. They feel they have to corral me into learning this useless sport. The afternoon becomes ‘unlocking Mindy’s passion for Frisbee,’ instead of letting me lie on the grass reading my chick lit book.”

I can confirm that this quote is 100% accurate.

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Year One

Hmm

I don’t know what to write because I don’t know where to start. I arrived at my first day of professional development (PD) exactly one month ago, and I haven’t stopped working or thinking about my kids since. I take breaks to sleep for 6-8 hours every night, but pretty much every other second is spent trying to figure out how I can be the best possible teacher for my kids. 

There are 37 that I teach this semester, but there’s another dozen who just stop by my room to chat, and another batch of 40 new ones waiting for me for next semester. At least 93% of them qualify for and receive free or reduced lunch. I teach a 17-year old mother of a 3-year old child. I’m sure I have more parents than that, but honestly, I’m too afraid of the answer to ask. Three of my 37 have already been suspended this year. Most of them have never been on an airplane. They laughed when I told them I’d been to Paris but not Myrtle Beach. I have a dozen seniors, and none of them have taken the SAT or ACT. I teach Algebra I to a class of juniors. I have two students who don’t speak English. A significant amount of my kids don’t have internet at home. They don’t understand the concept of fractions (to them, 1/2 plus 1/2 is 2/4) and negative numbers are even more foreign.

I love them with the whole of my heart and I want to help them see that the world is their oyster. But some days I just don’t even know where to start. 

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