“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation” -Walter Cronkite
The chaos of my classroom would have never worked for the girls I taught because once again; boys and girls learn differently. However a lot of my superiors were not impressed by my antics with these boys. And to be fair; it went against everything I knew as an educator. We didn’t stick to a strict curriculum, we didn’t build slowly, we didn’t follow a routine, we just jumped in blindly and flailed around until we figured it out.
A few weeks into this venture I got called to sit in front of a board and explain what the hell I was doing. I was horrified. I had gotten a pretty bad review from a lady from the board of education. She said I wasn’t disciplining enough and that my classroom was unorganized. She was right about both. But she didn’t understand that it was working. I’m not an authoritarian figure. I couldn’t yell at these kids and be stern with them. Then I’d just be yet another in a line of adults telling them they were fucking up. I needed them to want to be in my classroom. Besides that; how could I yell at them or discipline them? They weren’t doing anything wrong, they simply had energy. And her thoughts that I didn’t have complete control of the classroom; these kids were leaders. I let them lead, I just guided. They took control, and I had no desire to say to them that they couldn’t do that.
I sat in front of the board as they interrogated me and all I could do was mumble an occasional; ‘but the other way isn’t working either…’ ‘no, I understand, I apologize…’ It’s not like I could defend myself and say ‘This will work, it’s worked in the past for me’ because I had no proof that what I was doing was working.
I walked away from that feeling very small. I fought with staff the rest of the year, I was critiqued at every turn, as I explained previously two students stopped showing up, and I couldn’t get much help in the way of resources and assistance. But my students and I had fun. We laughed a lot, we talked a lot, we read a lot, and we got through an impressive amount of material.
At the end of the year my numbers were decent. Decent enough that some of the staff that had given me the hardest time apologized. I of course accepted their apology. They were really just doing their jobs. It’s sad they couldn’t understand that doing their jobs the way they knew how was what had been hindering some of these students to begin with, but they had been trained to do so.
I started with 12 students; two eventually dropped, 2 tested at the same level they started, 3 had moved up one level, 2 had moved up 2 levels and the other 3 were above the level they were supposed to be at, meaning they had moved up more than 2 levels. I’m OK with those numbers, and I produced one of the most well-read groups of boys in the country.
I’ve since taught in a few different school systems with a few different age groups and I continue to love it. I also continue to see glaring problems with the education system and it’s hard to stay in this field knowing all the problems and the lack of gumption most people have to fix the problems.
When I can edit it, I’ll post about my time in Deerborn teaching the near functionally illiterate how to read and the problems I faced there which were quite different than the ones I faced this time around and I’ll get the resource post up soon as well.