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Year Two
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Year Two

The ACT

 donate to deez kids here

If you asked me why I chose to stay a second year, the answer is simple. There’s a handful of members of the class of 2016 that I adore and I want to help get them into college. I would do anything for these kids – short of physically showing up at the test site to take the ACT on their behalf.

Last year, in October I wanna say, but it may have been December, there were about 6 members of the senior class who took the ACT. I don’t remember exactly, because I think I’ve tried to block out first semester last year, but I do recall this feeling of disappointment when the star of the football team didn’t show up to take his ACT because he forgot his ticket.

HOW STUPID IS THAT! HOW DUMB. But he didn’t have internet at home, let alone a printer, so he was outta luck. Another kid showed up with his ticket, but forgot his ID so he was turned away.

This year, on October 23rd, twelve of my students were registered for the ACT. For the majority of the 12, I had helped them register, reminded them to get a fee waiver, taken and uploaded the photo that was on their ticket, held onto their ticket until test day, passed out calculators on the Friday before, and texted at 7 a.m. Saturday morning to make sure they were awake.

I did everything I could.

Two of them overslept. They both know I’m upset and that they broke my heart a little.

Another pair was supposed to carpool, and they were both up and ready to go at 7 a.m. However, the brother who was supposed to pick them up never showed, and wasn’t answering his phone.

8/12 showed up and took the test (assuming everyone’s telling Ms. Abram the truth). 66% when I did everything I could except physically wake them up and drive them there.

I think we underestimate the role that privilege plays. My kids don’t have their own car to take themselves. Their parents work on Saturdays so they can’t drive them, and they leave too early to wake them up. There’s no Uber (and no credit card to pay for the uber) or public transportation and it’s not within walking distance. The closest place they could take the ACT was 45 minutes away. Sometimes the electricity is off at home, and then there’s no way to charge your phone, which doubles as your alarm clock.

It’s stupid shit like that that gets in the way for my kids. They want to succeed, to go to college, to take the ACT, to do well, but it’s the simple things that we are too privileged to recognize as advantages that are the obstacles for my kids.

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Year Two

Jokes

hint hint please donate to my super duper kiddos here

I’m basically a 14-year old boy when it comes to my sense of humor. There are times where I genuinely have to stop myself from saying, “that’s what she said,” or something else that’s likely to derail my lesson.

However, I have a weakness. Sometimes, when kids ask are asking something they know they shouldn’t be (probably when I’m in the middle of introducing new material) I have a tendency to give a sassy response.

“Ms. Abram, what are you going to be for Halloween?” Your mom.
“Ms. Abram, what’s the answer to #4?” Your mom.
“Ms. Abram, what’s your number?” 1-800-your-mom

I know it’s not the most adult response, but it makes them laugh and it makes me laugh and then, we can (typically) keep going without my lesson getting horribly misdirected by me going into a speech about what I had for dinner last night.

EXCEPT there’s a problem

A pretty significant portion of my students have mothers that passed away when they were young, or don’t have custody of them, or an assortment of other horrible situations that break my heart daily.

It’s unintentionally painful when you say “your mom” to a kid who knows you adores him, but doesn’t have a mom.

So, I’ve changed. Instead of saying your mom, I say deez nuts. HAHAHAH. Deez nuts.

Ok that’s your slice of humor and heartbreak for the day. xoxo.

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Year Two

Anxiety

shameless plug: donate to my wonderful magical kids here

I don’t know if you’ve seen these BuzzFeed articles, the ones that detail what someones says to you, in comparison to what you hear.

I’ve never so acutely identified with these as I did a few weeks back. I had some special visitors coming to observe me, and I was super nervous.

The morning of the observation, I received multiple “GOOD LUCK!” texts.

What you say: “GOOD LUCK”
What I hear: “You’re probably going to fuck this up, and luck is the only thing that MIGHT prevent you from falling flat on your face.”

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Year Two

Awkward

So this is blog post makes me super uncomfortable. I mean almost everything makes me horribly awkward, so I guess this shouldn’t surprise anyone.

This is me asking for money (for my kids).

In this whole journey for transformational change and making waves and long-term impact, I have run up against the metaphorical/literal financial wall. This year, I’m teaching a class that includes robotics, but our school lost $100k in Title I, sufficiently taking out Ms. Abram’s robotics budget. We need 21 LEGO Mindstorms’ kits, which run at $350 each.

If you’re an easy sell, click here to donate. If you want more info, keep reading for the rest of the story.

Ms. Abram ~ art history major turned computer science teacher

I ended up teaching computer science by accident.

On Wednesday, December 3, 2014, I sobbed uncontrollably in the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot at 6:30 a.m. because I was anxious about going to school (and y’know, 4,213 other things). I called my dad, then called in sick, then crawled in bed.

The next morning I got an email about participating in the Hour of Code during National Computer Science week. I think I read a sentence about it being a 100% self-guided tutorial, which I read as, “you won’t have to talk to the children,” and I was sold.

Two months later, I got an email from Donors Choose and Khan Academy, offering up to $3,000 if your students complete an introductory JavaScript tutorial. It would take about 8 class sessions to finish the tutorial, but that meant EIGHT whole classes I wouldn’t have to prep for, AND I would get $3,000. I was sold.

In May, we were making scheduling changes, and needed new elective classes, and they turned to me.

“Hey, you seem to know your way around a computer lab, wanna teach a computer programming class? Yes? Cool. Just write a curriculum for it, send it over, and you’ll be good to go.”

OH LOL you want me to write a curriculum for a computer science class. You know I studied art history, right? You know I have no education background? OK cool.

Like all good teachers, I immediately turned to Google. I searched “computer science curriculum.” I looked at the second site that popped up, did a quick read through, and hit print.

Now, here I am, six months later, teaching Exploring Computer Science to 41 of the most loving, irritating, dedicated students at my school. They’re the best/worst kids in the whole wide world. I go from wanting to strangle a kid to wanting to adopt him in a 15 minute time span.

I’ve been trying to teach them problem solving skills and binary and algorithms, and we’re doing the web design unit right now, but everyday I get the same question.

“WHEN DO WE GET THE ROBOTS??????”

“NOT UNTIL APRIL SIT DOWN AND DO YOUR WORK”

My kids don’t get a lot of opportunities, but I think you already knew that. I want them to be excited about school. I want them to be excited about computer science and maybe going to college for something STEM-y and maybe being an engineer and maybe ending up making more money than their corny math teacher.

So, we’re learning computer science (yes literally me and them), and we need these robotics kits to learn how to implement our programming skills and strengthen our analytical and problem solving skills. I could go on for days about how meaningful these kits would be for my students’ educations. This, right here, is where you come in.

Do I know what I’m doing? No. Is that stopping me? Nope.

(also, if you actually read all the way to here, thank you)

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Year Two

Clear Eyes, Full Heart

I’m not a sports person. When people say something like, “we’re gonna win this game tonight!” while referring to a team like the Gators, or Red Sox, or whatnot, and I tend roll my eyes, and offer a snarky comment at their use of “we.” “Really? I didn’t realize you played for the Lakers!”

I just don’t get it. I don’t like playing sports or watching sports, and I’m more dedicated to finishing season 5 of the West Wing than I’ll ever be to a sports team. I consider myself a Steelers fan, but I didn’t lose any sleep when they lost to the Jaguars.

However, I have soft spot for my students, and they ask me to attend their sporting events, and I do. I even pay attention (ok I try), but really only because I worry about them getting tackled and dying on the field.

I can’t remember the last time I watched my students win a game – baseball, softball, football, volleyball, anything. I think we won some basketball games, but I’m not confident that that happened too often. It sucks, and they’re always disappointed, but I don’t get sports so I’m pretty indifferent about the whole thing.

Except, so, on Friday, something hit my heart. I’ve taught every player on the football team, except the quarterback, but we share deez nuts jokes so he’s got a piece of my heart anyways. We played “the only school in SC that’s sorrier than us.” If we were going to win a game this season, it was going to be this one.

It stayed scoreless through the half. The second half was plagued with interceptions, and halfway through, the other team scored. Then they scored again. From the stands I could see their frustration building. With about 5 minutes left in the game, one of my boys punched another player, and was ejected from the game. The clock eventually ran out, they shook hands, and I sat in the empty stands as I watched the boys huddle for a post-game pep talk.

I watched one of my kids rock back and forth as he sobbed. I watched them walk back to the locker rooms with arms around each other and their heads hung low. I watched my kid lie on the grass, the last on the field, while coaches consoled him as he broke down.

And something in my frozen heart cracked a little. I sobbed the whole way home. It had been a bad day in class, and maybe a bad couple weeks. I’ve hit more road blocks this year than I expected, and I’m super anxious about my kids applying to colleges. I am tired, and hungry, and my heart hurts.

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Year Two

Round Two

Year two is WEIRD. Let me tell you.

I expected year two to be smooth sailing. I’m teaching algebra 1 and 2, both of which I taught last year, as well as computer science. It’s new to me and the students, but I was and am excited to learn it together. I have 113 students, at least 2/3 of which I’ve taught before. I know the ropes. All of the unfamiliar from last year – what to bring for lunch, what to wear, who to ask for help, where the bathrooms are, which kids not to sit together – I have that down this time around.

I remember having no idea what I was doing the first four weeks of my first year. I remember being incredibly optimistic about their futures, and setting high expectations. It was about the fourth week that reality hit. I couldn’t do everything. I couldn’t complete 3 meaningful preps, and grade, and call parents, and manage behavior, and get enough sleep at night. I started hitting walls with my students. I would ask them to do something, and they’d tell me no. The high expectations I had set for myself and for my students started to feel impossible. Everything became a battle, internally and externally. Why am I putting all of this effort in for students who don’t want to learn? How do I get them to care?

This time, there was no honeymoon. Day 1 of school felt indistinguishable from any other day. We had been refreshed by the summer, but every activity felt like pulling teeth. I’ve had to build investment, build classroom procedures, build structure from the minute they first walked into my room. Last year, I feel like I had a few weeks to get my grounding, and to develop a plan that would fit my students. This year, I felt like I was struggling on day 2, while last year that feeling didn’t kick in until the end of September. Yes, this year I have a better idea of what to do, but that doesn’t mean I feel confident that it’s working.

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