Learning As Leadership

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 29 2011

The Show Goes On

Note: This was written on October 17, 2011.

After a tumultuous first eight weeks at my new school (understatement), I decided I had to recommit to TFA, to my vision, to my school, and most of all to my students.

I also realized that not only did my students need a fresh start, but so did I. Where’s a reset button when you need it?

Even though mentors within my school district warned me that it was past the point of no return, and if I didn’t have perfect classroom management now I never would, I decided to, in my new teacher ignorance, respectfully and internally disagree with them. It’s NEVER too late.

I keep repeating to myself every single day “I AM THE CEO OF MY CLASSROOM”. It’s not too late unless I say it’s too late. I am in complete control of what happens within my classroom (well, I am in complete control of my own actions in my classroom, which impacts what happens in my classroom), and if I want to restart, I’m going to restart.

So today was our relaunch. It wasn’t some big grand woopdy-doo. It wasn’t perfect. But part of this relaunch is doing the best I can do with the time that I have and realizing that things don’t have to be perfect.

Since a new quarter began today, I told every student that they are starting fresh in my class. The gradebook starts over and they basically all have A’s (I will argue with you that 0/0 is not an A, but I’ve decided that for the sake of my students, I will call it an A).

Next, I posted the results of a student survey I gave last week. I wanted to prove to students that I read each and every one of their surveys (even the ones that suggested the biggest improvement I could make in our classroom was to lose weight…), and showed them how I could incororate their feedback into our class.

Then I had students write about how THEY were going to incorporate the feedback and how they were going to keep their A.

We reviewed the class mission. Not one single student in any of my classes could explain what our mission was. I was SHOCKED! It was a major moment for me to realize wow, I have work to do. By the end of the next three weeks, my goal is that every single one of my students will be able to explain what our mission is and how the work we are doing every day in class relates to the mission, and what the mission will mean for their life.

After this, and a brief lesson on summarization, I gave students a copy of a “poem”. Do you see where this is going? HA! YES, I finally gave in and had them analyze song lyrics. Kids respond so positively to music in my classroom, and I knew music had to be part of my classroom relaunch. Students are so uninvested in reading and Communication Arts, but so many of my students are extremely talented at singing, dancing, rapping, and poetry. I wanted to harness this, teach a skill, and also reinforce a positive message to motivate them for our new unit.

The song plays almost every day in my class on a CD that I play during work time. It is Lupe Fiasco’s “The Show Goes On”. Most of my students love the song, and sing and dance to it every day.

When I handed out the lyrics, most students did not realize it was that song. We read the words as if they were a poem, and students gave the most in-depth analysis of the figurative language, audience, and author’s purpose I’ve ever heard from them. I was ASTONISHED by the level of observations, engagement, and participation. Next, I showed the music video, and afterwards we continued our discussion of the song and students wrote very good summaries of the main points of the song. It. Was. Amazing.

I actually have hope today that things will turn around this year. I have so much work before me to truly invest my students, teach every single one of them, and help them realize their full potential.

One student in my class yelled out, “Ms. W., you just like this song cuz it be talkin’ about dem teachers.”

I looked straight at him and said, “Yup!”

Sometimes as teachers we need to reinvest and reinspire ourselves. So if YOU ever wondered when YOU would “see the sun up” in YOUR classroom… just remember when you come up… THE SHOW GOES ON! You can do it, it’s never too late, and often times what feels like a management problem is actually an investment problem.

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    a Teach For America teacher’s blog

    St. Louis
    Middle School

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