That Goofy Math Guy Is at it Again!

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 23 2012

The Realities of a Border Classroom

The sluggish sun struggles to ascend as I enter my school building each morning.  As I approach the padlocked doors on the south side of the school, I see students wondering around aimlessly, looking for someone to reach out to them, for someone to care why they are at school hours before required time.  I head down the freshman corridor, sliding my feet on the chalky residue blown in from the outside.  As I enter my classroom, I can see the pests scurry into their daily hiding spots, my classroom just as I left it the day before: distinct rows of desk, bulletin bare and lacking any concern, disoriented stacks of binders – the height of dust growing by the day.  I climb behind my desk and begin getting materials ready for the classroom, pumped up and excited because I saw the sun rise, and with each new sunrise comes a brand new day, and maybe, just maybe, today will be the day.  Maybe, just maybe today will be the day that I have students that are excited to learn.  Maybe, just maybe, today will be the day that I have students turn in homework.  Maybe, just maybe, today will be the day that my students will be able to stay awake because they got a good nights rest.  Maybe, just maybe, I will get support from my administrators encouraging me for the relationships I am building with my students, not abandonment because my students are passing assessments at rates in the low thirties.  Maybe, just maybe, today will be the day that I can successfully engage my students in a rigorous mathematical discussion that relates to their lives.  Maybe, just maybe, today I can make a difference, today I can have an impact, today I can live up to the vision and goals that I have laid out for my time in this classroom.  We will see…

Last night I was speaking with my mother on the phone with the Presidential debate running cyclical in the background, hearing the same thing over and over again…blah blah blah…Nothing they said seemed real, nothing they said seemed sincere, and my mother and I come to agreement that nothing they said would impact our lives for the better.  I joined Teach for America to become that person that would fulfill his promise, to satisfy his mission, to actually accomplish what it is that I set out to do.  It was while watching this debate last night that I realized that I am no different than a politician.  I moved to the Rio Grande Valley with bold dreams and an elaborate vision and a strategy to change the world.  However, when I got here I realized just how difficult my task was going to be.  I have never been a settler, I have never been one to roll over and take the blows.  I have always been a fighter, but more importantly I have always been a believer.  But the harsh realities that I face here every day in this small dungeon of a classroom, make me doubt not only my abilities, but the overall vision and dream of Teach for America is not only up to us in the classroom or within our organization, but it is up to the students we teach, the families we serve, the communities within which we live, and leaders that make our decisions for us.

The realities of my classroom are as follows:

1.  60% of my students are DIAGNOSED LEP or SPED populations.

2.  29% of my students passed with a 45% the first assessment

3.  Less than 23% of my students feel that they have what it takes to make it to college, while only 11% of my students feel that they can graduate college.

4.  The average of the percentage of students that pass my standardized assessments is 30%

5.  The total number of parents I have been able to contact – 14

6.  The total number of parents I have tried contacting – 40

7.  The number of parents that have reached out to me – 5

8.  The number of observations done by administration, faculty and staff in my classroom – 0

9. Percentage of students taking AP Calculus – less than 1%

I don’t have statistics for all of the harsh realities of my classroom, but I can say that my job to provide an equal education to my students here at Rio Grande City High School is not going to be an easy task and is going to be difficult enough that it has already made me reconsider my ability to teach and the legitimacy of the Teach for America vision that one day all students will be provided an opportunity to receive an excellent education.

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