So to my knowledge my kids (students) learned things galore last semester, especially considering I treat them exactly like I treat Dallas in terms of teaching them new things and helping them understand how to apply those things to their lives. That’s definitely one of the benefits of being a mommy and a teacher. Every day as my kids walk in, I greet them in a very high pitched, disturbing for sure “hello, hello, hello.” I think it has become my signature considering my kids sometimes say it before I do and other teachers are beginning to say it now too. As they file in I hug each of them and tell them how much I love them. My logic: What if I’m the only one who does it daily? So yes, that three to five minutes is so worth it.
Below is a list of skills I taught during the first semester. I think we did a pretty good job. We made this list in each class and the students received extra credit for taking it home, getting it signed, and getting a parent to write a one-sentence statement in response.
The Most Startling Conversation
I teach four classes and an enhancement class (8th Grade, 8th Grade Pre-AP, 7th Grade, and 7th Grade Pre-AP). With each of the four classes, I made it my business to have a conversation about the achievement gap. At first, I did not think it would really matter to a group of twelve-year-olds to fourteen-year-olds. Turns out I was wrong. I started the discussion with a simple stand and sit activity where I posed statements similar to this one: Stand up if you have a mom, dad, brother, or sister who is a teacher, doctor, lawyer, professor, principal, engineer, etc. We went through several professions that require at least a bachelor’s degree. In each class I had maybe a total of four or five students stand. Next, I displayed the following statistic courtesy of TeachForAmerica.org.
Students wrote individually what the photo meant to them and then we discussed what the photo meant to them as a group. Next, I showed the following video and asked my students what they thought of the content.
“A Tale of Two Schools”
I had many students who simply wanted to make it an issue of color, but I pushed them beyond just skin color to the more deeper issues like drive, commitment, motivation, and focus. It wasn’t until I got to my last class of the day, my 7th Grade Pre-AP class, that I realized the magnitude of the conversation I was having with my students. After the lesson was over, paragraphs had been written, and discussion had ended, I had one student raise her hand and ask: “So Ms. Beck, if a person lives in the projects, are they living in poverty?” I immediately thought about the question itself. It was in that moment I realized my students envisioned poverty as what they saw on television commercials with people raising money for children in foreign countries as opposed to a single parent with two children making less than $18,000 per year or a two parent household with two children making less than $23,000. As I was thinking, I could see curiosity peeking in the eyes of most of my students. Thoughts were rapid on my end too. I can remember asking myself, do I crush what these children know as their everyday lives or do I allow them to stay in the dark forever? I could not do it. I could not sell them a dream. So I responded with a simple, “yes.” Of course my response sparked another discussion with that particular class that carried well over into the next day.
I can honestly say I think they got it. I think that last class truly understands that poverty is a cyclical thing and education is the only way to end the cycle. Their work reflects their belief in themselves and their hunger to gain more education. My final verdict is that there have been some good days and there have been some not so good days, but I love my job, I love my kids, and I love everything about what I do every day. In January, I’m going to start with another achievement gap conversation and present a few other statistics to ensure that my kids truly understand why we do what we do every day.
Anywho, until next semester,