Mirrors into Windows

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 06 2011

“Miss, can you help me?”

Institute, Week 2

This week we have KIDS! which is the best thing in the world. My students are 7th graders in summer school because they failed or performed poorly in math, reading or both. This week has been full of diagnostic assessments, and many – but not all – of the students are definitely behind grade level. We have four weeks to make as much academic progress as possible (we have specific, targeted goals for each student).

This week I’m teaching math – we’re on a rotation, so next week I teach a literacy block. I’m remembering how much I loved math back in middle school! I like the logical sequencing of algebra… it was the calculus that threw me for a loop in high school. Today the class was pretty attentive during their order of operations lesson, although I did have to push them to raise their hands more and speak up. It’s throwing me off a bit that they’re quiet! A bit of a change from my classroom last summer!

Our class is small but we have boys and girls at a range of reading and math levels, several Special Ed kids, and a bit of a range in ages (and of course a range in sizes – it is puberty time, after all!)

Touching, heartbreaking, stomach churning: “Miss, can you help me? I don’t remember how to divide.” This from at least three of my students, who could understand that the order of operations meant exponents would come before division but couldn’t all tell me the square of four or twelve divided by three. How did they get to 7th grade without those basic skills? I love that they are asking for help, realizing their areas of weakness, feeling comfortable speaking out already. But we all have our work cut out for us.

Some are speeding through, though, and I need to watch the kids who seem to get it just as much as the kids who seem to be behind. And the ones in the middle! And the clock – the summer school day is shortened and we’re all pressed for time.

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