Wayward Journalist

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 23 2011

Coming clean

My school doesn’t have co-labs – instead, I teach 2nd period reading, and another teacher (I.), teaches the same students for 1st period.

I don’t play favorites, but I imagine every class has this student. The one who sits at the front of the room even if you don’t have assigned seats, who is shy to answer questions, but knows every answer. The girl or boy who is the only person to get the obscure quiz bonus question correct, which was mentioned for 2 minutes the day before. I haven’t gotten to know any of my students well this summer – I know I will this fall, but I was hesitant to form any bonds at summer school because of how short the time is that I will be working with them.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when I. told me this afternoon why this student is always in class. The student’s mother works cleaning houses, and if the student doesn’t go to school, the student has to tag along — and potentially help out.

This made me feel horrible in ways I can’t describe. This student is so determined, and deserves so much better than being at the worst middle school in Houston. And it’s the kind of thing that, when I think about it, in my room here at Rice, I don’t even have to take out the trash – someone comes into my room every day and takes care of it. Maybe it’s another of my student’s parents, I really don’t know. Then again, if nobody was taking out the trash for me, I have absolutely no idea where that person would be.

TFA stresses empathy, not sympathy. But when you experience this kind of thing as the teacher for the first time, it’s really hard to follow those rules.

3 Responses

  1. parus

    How did you make it to this point in your life without previously realizing janitors exist?

  2. Justin

    It’s not about janitors “existing” – it’s about knowing that one of my students is a 12 year-old janitor who wants to be a doctor, and taking on the responsibility to get him/her there without becoming emotionally invested.

    • His/her mom has a job, doesn’t leave the kid unattended, and the kid already knows what hard work looks like. If anything, that kid has an advantage over much of the population in this respect.

Post a comment

About this Blog

Houston Institute '11 alum. Now a rural E/LA teacher.

Rio Grande Valley
Middle School

Subscribe to this blog (feed)