Teach Houston

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 28 2013


Knee-deep in a full week of testing, I am grateful that my kids finished their English exams today, meaning the pressure has been taken off (for the rest of this week at least).

We got our preliminary scores back already. Both my co-planner and I beat the district average for the multiple choice section – the free response sections are graded later. I’m pleased with the results. I’m especially pleased that one of my lowest students, who is repeating a grade this year, did particularly well.


It hurts my heart when I think of the fact that I am only allowed to put objectives-based things in the gradebook. As in: no homework, no participation, no projects. The projects thing is what gets me the most. I know my kids are intelligent in dozens of ways – particularly artistically – and yet I give them no chance to show me that. With my actions, I am perpetuating the notion that intelligence is the same thing as filling in test bubbles, and I ache when I realize I am slowly becoming that sort of teacher.

I’m trying to push back on the status quo. My independent reading program has taken off and I think the bump in test scores is, in part, because my kids are just plain reading more. I’m angling for the Poet Warriors Project to come to our school in the spring. I want my kids to love English and that is never going to happen unless it helps them feel things. I feel so beholden, though, to what I am evaluated on. I’m not part of a union. I can be fired at will. I know that would likely never happen because I’m a good teacher for a first-year-teacher (or so I have been told by others) and I follow the rules and I try to be a good person. But the fear still hangs over my head. Constantly.


I went for a long drive tonight. Far, miles and miles, til I could see sky and stars and something beyond Houston’s light-polluted, air-polluted, people-polluted skyline. When the sky extended forever I felt like I could finally breathe again.

2 Responses

  1. houstonheart

    I got accepted into an independent reading fellowship at TFA, which helped me fundraise for books and start a program. My kids range in reading level from 3rd-10th grade so I am slowly amassing a library to reach all my students. We spent 18 minutes in class every day on independent reading (I teach for 110 minutes total each class, so it’s not a huge commitment) and the kids read for 15 minutes at home every night. They track their progress – not for incentives or competitions, just to feel proud of themselves – and are allowed to switch books at any time if they’re not absolutely in love with the book they’re reading. A few times a month we have authentic book talks and twice a week I do one-on-one book conferences (over hot chocolate). I will also sometimes read excerpts of particularly good books in class as a sort of “fashion show” for books. I’m mainly just trying to build a love and value of reading for reading’s sake.

  2. D

    What’s your independent reading program? What level and how does it work?

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

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