My first year had been ending on a very negative note–crazy students, absent administration, low investment on my part and that of the students. And yet this week, I had 15 students in my room during their lunch period re-taking their test. I was beaming with pride!
My students took their end of year assessment last week and I gave them their scores back on Monday. I was disappointed. Is this acceptable to talk about in TFA? I did not meet my Big Goal. I failed. Yes, I failed throughout the year, and TFA talks about that, but the understanding is that you will prevail in the end and make a difference. My class averages were in the low sixties, with one class at a 78%. All of them short of the 80% bar we had worked towards all year.
Behavior and bullying has gone off a cliff at my school. I hated coming to work, hated having to be patient and work so hard for so many students who didn’t care. I handed back their scores and wearily told them that they could do better, and that I was proud of those who did do well. Before I could finish my speech I had hands in the air asking when they could re-take it. I had students asking if they could skip the project in class and study for the test instead. I was barraged with questions about what they had missed and spent most of my time working through all those problems with each and every student.
I gave them two days to come in a re-take it, either during their lunch or after school. My class was full of students! We have gender-separate lunches at my school, and when a student comes in it’s usually halfway through, or only for half the time. But ten minutes into the lunch period I had both boys and girls sitting at desks with their lunch trays in front of them. They worked diligently through the entire period, and asked immediately when they would know their scores. I sat there with such pride, watching these students care so much about improving their grades.
I had a handful of students that went from failing grades to grades in the 90% range. They worked THAT hard to do better and I was beyond excited to see the improvement! One of them took a picture of her score sheet with her cell phone to send to her parents and friends. I teared up giving those scores back, individually showing each student that they ended the year proficient in 8th grade math.
My class averages bumped up a little due to these students, and my 78% class went up to 80% because of one failing-to-passing young lady. I got goosebumps when I told this class that they had made the Big Goal. I straightened my always-curly hair for them yesterday and we had an ice cream sundae party, both things they had requested.
I did not meet my Big Goal. I may have failed as a corps member and failed my students. But what I will remember more are the students who DID pass and did improve, and even more so those who failed but came in to keep trying until they passed. I will remember the students who wrote on their “goal summary” sheet that they will never forget me, that they loved my class, and those that apologized for misbehaving and thanked me for preparing them for high school. I choose to be optimistic about the end of the year, and optimistic about next year.