Tuesday, March 20, 2012

To Kill A Mockingbird

There’s a young sophomore boy who I got off to a very bad start with early in the year when he was in our workroom pushing a female student so I intervened and asked him to leave.  When he wouldn’t I stepped in between the two students and he bumped into me and almost fell over (he’s very small). So he stood up and started cussing me out leaving the room in a huff. It turned out he and the student he was pushing were very good friends and just playing around.  At this point I wasn’t used to how violently the play and thought a real fight was breaking out (it can still be hard to tell the difference between a real fight and a play fight).  I apologized to the young man but tried to explain that we can’t allow that kind of playing.
For months and months this boy hated me. He would make fun of anything he could about me. My hair, my nose, the way I spoke whatever. I couldn’t stand him! He would come to our workroom every morning before school and come every day after.  Sometimes it seemed just to harass me.
In the past month and a half things have gotten better, his insults are in a much more joking fashion and not nearly as brutal. I can joke back with him without him getting offended or mad.  He talks to me all the time now and is always pretending to steal from me.  Don’t get me wrong the kid is still extremely obnoxious but on days when I would get annoyed with him I had to remind myself that he must feel safe with us because he spends all of his free time in our room and will even try to skip class to hang out with us. 
This student has been jumped a few times and feels threatened very easily because of his size. He used to always try and get me upset.  In our training we were told this behavior is very common among some students because they want to test us and see if we will leave them or stop talking to them, a lot of trust issues with our kids.

So I started to read To Kill A Mockingbird once again, it’s one of my all time favorite books.  I guess that this same student saw me reading it because today he came up to me and said “hey Mr. Vinegar” (another way he teases me) and pulled out of his backpack a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird.  “Are you reading that in class or on your own?” I asked. “On my own, I’m finna start reading it tonight”
I have not been this touched in a long time.  Our students never read; especially if it’s not even an assignment.  I don’t know if he will read the whole book, it may be a bit past his reading level. But the thought that he went out of his way to check out a book from the library because I was reading the same book is bringing tears to my eyes. This guy hated me, and now he’s copying me in the best way he could, by educating himself.  What a great day.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

great day

ok so I spent the last blog complaining, but this time it's all good news! So just as a refresher here is part of what I do with this job...
I have a list of 11 students (everyone's list is different ranging from 5 to 13) and it is my job to keep these students on track to graduate or at least to pass the algebra class I tutor in.  To do this, corporate has asked that we log 15 hours with each student before May 18.  I didn't get my list of students until late November and I still have dozens of other kids who ask for my help. So to try and get 165 hours has been daunting and my entire team is behind on meeting that goal so it's been frustrating at times (i.e previous post).
today I was pretty nervous when the TL (team leader) asked to speak with me about some things including my students.  It was all good news, of my team I am the only one who currently has 0 failing students. I was not expecting that to be the results
2 D's
4 C's
1 B
3 A's
 With 6 students under a B I have my work cut out for me, especially those D's. In Chicago a D is still passing, and with these particular two all they care about is going on to sophomore year. If a D is good enough for CPS its good enough for them.
Also one of my C students should easily have an A, his confidence in his work went up so much that he just stopped working in class, not realizing that 3 or 4 zeros in the grade book is going to rapidly drop his grade.  So I had a chat with him and we are going to make up all his missing assignments and I'm going to bug him to death everyday until he does his work!

Now for the success stories- the student with a B!  At one point this year she was failing almost all of her classes and I have been working my tail off to get her to behave.  If you'll remember one of my posts from the beginning of the year about a student who ran across the desks in the middle of class...that was was her.  In the past two months I have had multiple conversations with her trying to get her to not: cuss out teachers, get in fights, throw things at people, scream for no reason etc. etc.
Well something has happened because this crazy kid is passing all of her classes, I will probably tell you more about this 360 turnaround later, I just hope it keeps up.

The other success story is 1of those 3 A's, another female who is very nice...if she likes you.  If she doesn't than watch out, because if she doesn't fight you her older brother will.  This student got 10 days of out of school suspension and I figured it was a lost cause because she wasn't doing to hot in algebra to begin with; she was caught up in the wrong crowd and just didn't give a care about anything.
However when she got back from her suspension I worked with her for a couple hours to get her caught up in class.  I can't take much credit because she was so self motivated she did a lot of it on her own.
In fact I can't take to much credit on any of these good grades because when it comes down to it, it's these kids putting in the work, I'm just the guy who nags them.  I say it all the time, but there is so much more going on in their lives it's amazing when they put school high on their priority list.  I am so very proud of these guys and I tell them everyday because I will never understand what it is they go through.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

doing the best i can

Well I’m probably not going to finish the day I started to describe, I know it was going somewhere I just don’t remember what happened that day anymore.  Whenever I feel inspired to write something on my blog I’m way too busy and then I forget about it.
I must admit I have reached the point where I am over this job. Not the students, but with the organization.  This year they have tried all these new initiatives and some of them are simply not working.  I am going to do what is asked of me and do my best to help them fulfill all these initiatives, but it is simply impossible.  I’m not going to go into great detail because I’m not about to bore anyone with that, just know its ridiculous.  Normally when it comes to judging myself I’m pretty harsh but I know that I am giving this job my all and my company isn’t going to make me feel otherwise just because their initiatives aren’t working out the way they wanted.  I’m more qualified to come up with a template on what students need to be tutored and how because I’m actually doing it!
Its crazy how headquarters thinks they can come up with how my teammates and I should work in this school. Headquarters is in Boston and they think they can come up with a plan that will work with all non-functioning schools across America? Honestly, all the schools we work with in Chicago alone change drastically from school to school.
While I’m frustrated I have reached a point of contentment, I’m working harder than ever and seeing results, I’m done stressing myself out over situations that are out of my hands.  And what’s more is that the weather is getting slightly warmer and the days slightly longer…who doesn’t enjoy that?!