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October 27, 2005

27 Outubro 2005

I’m away-sick for Brazil right now (I can’t really write homesick because Brazil’s not my home).  I just read Maia’s weblog about her exploits in Porto Alegre, which brings saudades to my heart.  Sigh.

But that’s not what I set out to write about this evening.  This evening I’d like to write a bit about my students before they are no longer mine.  Another sigh.  As anxious as I am to get out of the second-grade classroom, I will miss the adorable (and devilish) smiles of my youngsters.  Today I yelled at Siani for flailing her arms around and making noise while she should have been listening, but when I glimpsed the innocent regret in her deep brown eyes as my face hovered close to hers, I immediately wanted to take my harsh words back and offer her a kinder reproach for her behavior–so I reminded her of what a good girl she had been recently and told her to show me how well I knew she could behave. 

And how can I stay mad at Ricardo when he offers such intelligent answers to my problem-solving questions, and when he offers to help a troubled student put his coat back on at the end of recess after the other student was ruffled by a fight (even though Ricardo was part of that very fight)?  And when he confidently reads a whole page in a book to me but stops to ask “What this word is?” as if he had known every other word on the page except that one?  (He didn’t and doesn’t–he reads pictures, an impressive skill of its own.)

They are all so fragile, my students.  They are too young to be saying, seeing, and doing some of the things that they say, see, and do, and their innocence shows through.  I constantly have to remind myself that they’re just kids when I am tempted to yell at them for their disruptive behavior.  Like Mr. Solomon noted the other day, How can we expect them to behave in class when Philadelphia produces a core curriculum that could fairly be called the bore curriculum? 

The thing is, they DO behave in many of the other classrooms at Cayuga.  There are many wonderful teachers at my school who seem to keep their classrooms running quite smoothly.  I am thoroughly impressed when I walk through the halls during my lunch break or prep and see students–all students–quietly doing their work.  There are, of course, disruptions, and countless other obstacles such as the critically low reading levels of at least half of the students at the school–but I see many myths about urban schools being broken here–except, I suppose, the one about the white, non-urban new teacher quitting partway through her first year.

I hate the fact that I fit that stereotype.  Even though I am not quitting because I can’t handle the kids (although it’s true that I can’t always handle them), I imagine that many parents and teachers will assume that is why I am quitting–that I can’t handle the urban environment and need to teach in a suburb where the students are well behaved and want to learn.  I will try my best to erase that image before I leave and to share with the staff and faculty my honest reasons for leaving–that teaching second grade, regardless of the setting or obstacles, is simply not for me. 

But my kids?  I hope I can leave them with the impression that I loved them and will miss them rather than with the feeling that Miss Thatcher quit because we were bad, because they’re not bad, they’re abused–abused by society’s neglect.


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One Comment
  1. Hey Cori,
    Please never worry about what other people might think. Anyone worth half a grain of salt would recognize your courage both for embarking on such a difficult journey as TFA, but equally for recognizing that it was not a good fit. While diligence can be an admirable trait, pushing through for the sake of “finishing” is cowardly. I really respect you for what you have accomplished, both in the classroom as well as through your numerous other ventures. I feel privileged to consider you a friend and frequently look to your example when I am unsure myself. I am sure that whatever path you choose to follow over the next couple months and even years will bring you to amazing places. Please stay in touch! I want to hear all about it!

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