Teach Houston

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 02 2013

“I believe in you.”

I guess progress comes in baby steps. It’s messy and uneven and heartbreaking all at the same time. On one hand, I want to celebrate the little progresses in my classroom, because I have to have something to give me hope. But on the other hand, I’m scared of getting too attached to these little progresses, lest they regress and leave me feeling hopeless again.

I had a really intense meeting last night with two individuals. They are two adults I hugely admire and respect. The purpose of the meeting was a general check-in on my teaching, but it quickly became an emotional sharing-of-feelings about what’s going on my classroom and what’s going on in my head. This is one of those chats that’ll stick with me for a while. Maybe I’ll look back at this moment someday and mark it as a turning point, or maybe it’ll be inconsequential among the shifting tides of life, but for now it’s given me renewed hope. I don’t think I can adequately describe all that was said and felt and shared but one of the adults asked me point-blank: “In your worst moments, when you’re in front of your class and about to cry, what are you thinking?” It was such a relief to finally be able to verbalize the awful thoughts that had been running through my head for so long. It felt like sharing them kind of de-toxified them, took away the venomous nature that comes with keeping a secret away from the people who can truly help. At the end of our chat, when I finally finished crying, one of them looked me right in the eye and said, “I believe in you.” I know it seems like such a simple concept but it’s stuck with me ever since then. There are a lot of times I don’t believe in myself, especially over the past few days, so knowing that someone else believes in me is something that can keep me going through the rough patches.

Today was a bit better. We reorganized the seating, started off the morning with a lot of positive classroom-culture-building thanks to the help of one of the other CMAs, and I ended up co-teaching with my CMA. If nothing else it’s such a relief to be able to have my CMA know exactly what I’m dealing with. What the issues are, what are the foundational causes of those issues, where my students are academically, where they are behaviorally. For the longest time I felt so completely alone. and now I don’t so alone anymore.

Tomorrow we’re doing a whiteboard activity in the hopes of hammering home the basic formulas of radius, diameter, area, and circumference. My students are slowly getting more engaged. This morning in Academic Intervention Hour I took a small group of girls into another room and talked about life. One of them point-blank said to me, “We’re so bad in class because we don’t like looking at the board and listening to you talk.” I could’ve hugged her right then. I’m glad they feel comfortable enough with me to provide that sort of feedback, and I let her know that.


I try to never take myself too seriously, and though I’ve been struggling at that over the past week or so, I really want to embrace the fun & crazy of life. So here’s the story of the day:

At 1:38 PM, a boy told me I was the best and most helpful teacher he’s ever had & that he likes my smile. At 1:43 PM, a group of girls told me I looked pregnant in my dress. Middle schoolers are brutally honest in all the best and worst ways. Here’s to the maddenly frustrating, weirdly beautiful journey of teaching (and believing in) middle schoolers.

4 Responses

  1. houstonheart

    Thanks for the tips! I’m definitely excited to branch out and get more creative. I want to get stronger at the foundational elements, but I see the kind of teacher I want to be someday. And that kind of teacher does not solely use whiteboard activities as engagement :)

  2. dcchillin

    This would be an example of what I’m talking about.

  3. dcchillin

    Here’s some advice for when you become a more experienced teacher.

    TFA will have you believe good teaching is when the kids are quiet and listen to you tell them exactly what the formulas for circles are, and then do “guided practice” in some fun, engaging way (like whiteboards), and then have them practice in silence, and then demonstrate on exit tickets that they “mastered” the objective.

    That’s not good teaching.

    It took me awhile to get there, but good math teaching is about questions, patterns, insights, etc. Just like that girl said, learning math by listening to someone lecture is boring, and the only way you can get the average kid to learn that way is by love or fear.

    Kids should be exposed to pi by measuring circles’ circumferences and dividing by their diameter. It should be cool, because it is cool (at least to me) that the same relationship exists between every circle’s diameter and circumference. While you should be guiding discussion, students should ultimately be able to articulate the formula for circumference for a circle.

    I’m not saying you’re ready for teaching this way so early in your career, but it’s something to aspire to.


  4. M

    I too, believe in you!
    I am always here for you.
    Love you!

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Journeys, challenges, & writings of a first-year teacher.

Middle School

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