I found myself Googling for help this morning. The search was something like "teaching inner city middle school students." I have no idea how to narrow the search to make it more relevant. I want to help these students but have no idea where to start. I had a big fat fail of a lesson yesterday with an 8th grade class. It took about 12 minutes to get them in the door and a call to the security guard to help a few stop blocking the door for other students to get in to get them settled. As I think back it was about 4 that were the issue. I feel awful for the the majority who were sitting in front of me ready to learn and listen. Let me rephrase that- I FAILED the majority of those students. However, I have no idea how to start teaching a class when the four or so disruptive ones are so disruptive the others can't listen. I am not afraid to admit I need some help. My school is very focused on Content Learning Objectives along with the entire district. Let me say clearly that I understand the importance of these objectives.
However, these 7th and 8th grade students can barely sit in a chair for a lesson/directions/instruction/discussion of no longer than 10 minutes. It's not that any of the middle school teacher's aren't working hard to create engaging and meaningful lessons. We all are working extremely hard trying to look at curriculum maps, objectives, standards and have them guide our designs.
I want to know how to teach a class of 30 8th graders. My role in the building is to connect with teachers to create lessons students can complete using technology in my room. I started the first few weeks getting them to realize my room would not be the place where they came in and played coolmathgames (a website that has the title 'math' in it but has very few true math games). We started in MS Word so they can get some functional word processing skills. This is so NOT how I want to teach these kids but many are so concrete that I have to so we can possible move forward.
However, I spend my 45 (well by the time we settle and actually work it's about 25 minutes) minutes pacing behind their work stations making sure they aren't on PhotoBooth (which I've deleted off all machines and is a bummer because who knows what kind of fun assignment I could create with that!) or coolmathgames or looking up random pictures or changing the settings on the computer so the Internet no longer works.
I am admitting I need some serious support with Middle School students in this population. They are students that are coming from broken homes where Grandma is raising them, or their dad was shot on the border in a drug deal gone bad, or Grandma is raising them but doesn't speak English.... my list could go on and on and wouldn't sound much different from a lot of other inner city schools. So how do I tap into other schools that have been here, are here and seem to make progress?
So I try every day to breathe and find some simple things that brighten the day. Yesterday the smileable moments were: A Kindergartner walking in my room and saying "You're pretty teacher." A student at the end of the day who has stayed a little longer to help me get all the computers logged off. Having a delicious shredded pork burrito with my parents at Lucero's. A chat with a coworker at the end of the day realizing I am not the only one struggling for these students to succeed. And as always the highlight of my every moment- my dog Jeeter.
So with a cup of Peet's coffee this morning, I am headed in to school to keep on keepin' on.