Learning As Leadership

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 26 2011

When You’re Hardest Hit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

- Author unknown

Author’s Note: I edited this post to remove my commentary, but left the poem intact.

4 Responses

  1. Zaretta Hammond

    If you choose to stay, it can’t be business as usual, you know that, right? You are acknowledging that you need to do something different (remember the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results). The solution to getting more learning happening for kids who are so far behind it seems like they will never catch up is to “go slow to go fast” or “go small to get big”. Sounds counterintuitive, but if they are missing foundational skills you gotta fill that gap — quick or else future learning is impossible. Delivering the current grade level curriculum will not lead to learning ’cause they don’t have the core skills to process the information. Instead, adjust the curriculum so it is in their ZPD (about 1 grade level down) and focus on key skills that have the power to help kids accelerate their own learning like mastering the ability to decode multi-syllabic words using word parts, mastering long vowels (if reading skill is a problem — you will be amazed how many kids don’t know their sound spelling correspondences/phonics), aTier 1,2, and 3 vocabulary and building background knowledge. What does it take: working on decoding 15-20 minutes a day religiously in fun and engaging ways. Using formative assessment to ensure they are learning it and finding a new way to reteach if they haven’t. Making sure every lesson emphasizes vocabulary development in multi-sensory ways. For literary analysis and reader response, match required text with what Dr. Alfred Tatum calls”enabling texts” that are relevant to the kids and you will be on your way to seeing the gap narrow, not widen.

    Do something different, even radical with instruction. What do you have to lose? Remember if you are working harder than the kids, no learning is happening! The student is the driver of his own learning. He must make the moves to let information and turn it into useful knowledge for himself. You simply need to give him the tools at the right pitch and pace. Here are some practical “teacher books” worth reading (ain’t no theoretical BS…this works!):

    Kylene Beers — When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Grades 6-12

    Alfred Tatum — Reading for Their Lives

    Rober Marzano — Building Academic Background Knowledge

    Fisher and Frey — Background Knowledge: The Missing Link

    I’ve never been in TFA, but have done some professional development for TFA in the Bay Area. Forgive me if I am telling you what you already know. I am sure they shared all of this with you at Institute. In case they didn’t, here it is. Hope it’s useful.

    Good luck. Keep the faith. Remember, teaching is still a subversive act. Everyday you are with your kids is a blessing to them in ways you cannot even see right now.

    From one English teacher to another.

  2. A

    I am an alum, teaching for a 3rd year at my placement school and I just wanted to say thank you for writing this. My school and its administration has gone rapidly downhill since I started teaching, and this year alone, I have changed rosters 6 times. Right before break, I was given my hardest teaching assignment yet, which will start when we get back. Without details, I feel like this new classroom is unsafe and brinking on impossible. Like you, I may THINK about quitting, but I have not actually considered it as an option. Yet, I don’t have answers. I don’t know, even with 2 years of sig gains behind my belt, how to approach this situation. And frankly, it sucks. Not just for me, but for my students. I sympathize and wish you the best of luck.

  3. I was just thinking about this poem the other day! Not corny at all- it’s really powerful. Friends of mine had to memorize it for their fraternity induction in college, and every time I hear it repeated, it reminds me that struggle is the name of the game, all the time. I thought 2nd year would be easier, too- couldn’t have been more wrong. Some things run more smoothly, but in general, it just seems to HURT more. Does that make sense? It’s the only way I can think to put it.

    Thanks for pushing forward. And for saying that six months is a long time. When it’s over, it might feel short, but I doubt it. Each day is a lifetime.

    The rest of 2010 is right here with you. And your kids are so grateful for you, even when their actions demonstrate the opposite.


  4. Wess

    My second year is better, but I’m with you– it’s gotten better mostly because I’m teaching a very different group of kids a very different curriculum than I was last year.
    Placements are definitely definitely not created equal, and that’s why you can’t let yourself be so disappointed in yourself. You can’t let the expectations you had when you thought you’d be somewhere not-nearly-as-difficult debilitate you.
    I learned from my first year that you have to trust that you know yourself and your situation better than anyone else thinks they do. You have to tune everyone else out for a while (even emails from your MTLD), until you can believe that you ARE doing the best you can, you ARE constantly working within your constraints to improve, and that IS admirable.

    Also, that poem is great–I’ve never seen it before!

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