Friday, January 05, 2007

middle schools

The condition of our country's middle schools continues to amaze, startle, disgust, and worry me. This article from the NYTimes Magazine mentions the problems with middle schools.

For Raechelle Ellison, 11, transition was marked by tears, nightly pleadings to her mother that she did not want to return and the composition of poetry with verses like, “Life in despair/I don’t really care.”
“Being in middle school is just like a bird being kicked out of its nest by its mother,” Raechelle mused in the cafeteria one recent morning.

A friend from college is doing Teach for America in a middle school in Houston, TX and hearing his stories of classes full of failing students, no students on task, arrests, and death threats make my mouth fall open most of the time. I don't know how teachers stay motivated in that environment, especially the inexperienced TFA ones. Based on what I've heard from 2 people I know who've done TFA, it seems the program is only discouraging young, motivated people from becoming permanent teachers by scaring them away with these poor schools, as opposed to the opposite, which is the intent. More thoughts to come on TFA later... I'll have to get my friend to chime in on that.

1 comment:

That Houston TFA Teacher said...

I don't know if TFA aims to lure and retain recent grads into the teaching profession as much as it wants to directly implant the importance of education/an effective education system into some of the minds of (potentially) the future's most successful/powerful people. Whether we become doctors, lawyers, policy-makers, politicians, artists, social workers, or whatever-- we're all going to come away from this experience knowing what goes on in some of these lower-income, lower-scoring schools. Like scientists trying to find cures to a disease, we're at the front lines trying to figure out how we can right a lot of the wrongs that we're finding.

And that's not to say that we're Jesus Christ for these kids. We're not miraculous saviors by any means; we're simply people who have been recruited and trained to give our 110% even when everything else is working against it, and when we're not giving our 110% best, we know that we're probably at least as good as any other four-year college-trained teacher out there. We're simply filling in spots in understafffed environments, and while that's temporary, at least it keeps us from getting too jaded by our situations. TFA's corps members of the future will pick up where we left off and keep the teaching fresh and alive; it's like replacing (upgrading?) batteries rather than building new machines. We'll hopefully keep the machines in mind for overhaul when we take over the world in our respective non-teaching occupations...