But I wish I could.
I recently got placed at a CPS elementary school to do some clinical work with 2nd graders. It is on the far south side of Chicago. I carpool with 3 other classmates and it’s about a 45 minute commute from Lincoln Park. I have to be honest, after all that’s what a blog is all about (right?). I was terrified going there for the first time.
If you have been with me for awhile, you remember a post I did awhile ago, about another CPS school that I volunteered at doing an after school math tutoring program and my horrific findings one day after I was done. With that school being on North Side of the city, I couldn’t imagine what the south side was like.
I must say that I was happily wrong. We were greeted with such big smiles, excited teachers to work with us, and a resource teacher that could run an army... that’s how determined he was. One of the first things he said to us was, “I teach here to make a difference and I hope you are as well. These kids need a positive role model in their life and they ARE eager to learn!”
A white, red haired teacher greeted me outside the classroom. As the student’s lined up one-by-one to come into the classroom, I saw faces of children who were happy to be there and eager to learn. As the morning began, the Teacher introduced me to the class and giggles poured through the room. I could tell they were equally as excited for me to be there, as was I.
The morning consisted of no direct instruction, but rather 2.5 hours of state testing ON COMPUTERS! (Don’t get me started on state testing). As we walked into the computer room the teacher told me that they would be testing in Math today and that I am not allowed to help them with any of it. Well, the first question popped up on their computers and 23 kids raised their hands. The question was something along the lines of, “If yesterday was Wednesday, what is today?” Well, none of them could even read the question! It was heart wrenching. I knew if I read it to them, they could answer correctly, but I couldn’t. It upset me greatly. That’s how the whole 2.5 hours went. Students asking for help, not knowing words, not knowing what a graph was, how could this even be OK!!! These students may be way behind grade level, but they ARE smart and it is NOT their fault. This is one problem I have with the public education system, at least in Chicago.
I don’t fault the teacher either, she is just doing what is required of her, but these poor kids aren’t even receiving the proper time for instruction in the first place, to answer these test questions. I asked the teacher if she had a change to look at the test before they took it, so she knew what TYPE of questions would be on it and she said they’re not allowed to. I DON’T GET IT!! So if they don’t know it, don’t take 2.5 hours of instruction AWAY from them!
After about 2 hours the majority of the class was done. They were allowed to play around on Word making sentences and playing with colors and fonts, which all of them had to be shown where the color and font choices were. (Doesn’t it put thing in perspective? ) One little girl said, “Ms. K, how do you spell 20?” I answered her and then said, “I want to hear your sentence you made. Can you read it to me please?” She said proudly, “Of course! I love my mom. She is nice and fun. She is twenty years old.” As I try to close my mouth as fast as I could, I say, “Wow! Awesome sentence her name! Now keep writing.” I go back to the front of the class where my chair was and did the quick math in my head. Did this child in second grade just tell me her Mom is younger than I am?
As the students hugged me bye and begged me not to leave yet, one little boy came up to me and said, “Ms. K, you better come back next week, I like having you here!”
The whole drive home, I thought about how I could change that class? Or if I even could in the short time I’m there? I want to make an impact and I’ve always wanted to, but taking on the challenge of 23 below grade level students might take more than one of me. I give the teacher so much credit in trying to change these little students’ lives in such a massive way!!
If only I was capable of changing such a large, extensive problem…
But, one day… I will.