Part two in the four-article series.
The veteran teacher attended new teacher orientation. She learned what would comprise her new student body.
She did not feel trepidation as she heard what types of behavior management was necessary at this school. No fewer than three security guards for 400 to 500 students. Horrendous attendance issues. An in-house behaviorist and two counselors. She didn’t worry, though she did run scenarios through her head for dealing with potential issues.
Sure enough on Day 1 a student ran out of her class when the lights cut out. Day 3 a student showed up under the influence. By Day 5, when she tried to implement the school-wide behavior plan, she got very negative feedback. Yet somewhere around Day 10 she fell in love with the students. The kids. These young toughs who slowly started revealing their stories to her.
She called them when they didn’t show up to school. She didn’t teach “bell to bell” – she chased her kids out the door trying to get one last skill in their minds. She taught them using all the techniques she had learned through 12 years of teaching and numerous experiences. Hers was one of only two Latina faces on the teaching staff. Only two Hispanic teachers among a sea of 80 percent Hispanic enrollment. She connected with the kids.
By Month 3 she didn’t even return a call for an editing job. Instead she spent her weekends devising lesson plans and grading papers so she could plan the next attack on lacking skills. She’d pair up certain student so she could focus on one who was straggling, a bewildering kid who showed up daily but produced almost no work… She’d help the former drug dealer slant his story and win a scholarship… She’d give some of her women’s magazines, with their articles of empowerment, to the beauty with negative body images…
By Month 3 she had 120 students regularly attending. Ask her about any one and she could list off a dossier. She knew their educational needs and some of their internal struggles.
She had the experience, skills and education – not to mention the personal dedication – to help them.