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Thursday, April 03, 2008


I'm feeling rather down... Yesterday was yet another sad example of my wondering how much of an educational impact I'm having on my students. While I am not their history teacher, part of my job is to ensure that they are academically successful in all subject areas and so I provide additional tutoring on all topics during my small-group time with them, including history.

As I'm mentioned previously, we have been going over the major events of WWII ad nauseum. We've discussed it, looked at pictures and posters, watched movies, and filled out countless notes and worksheets on the topic. The unit culminated in a test.

One of my students could not tell me if Germany was on our side or was one of our enemies during WWII. She also answered the question of "Who became president after FDR?" with "Hitler". She couldn't tell me which country Hitler was from. She suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which doesn't really justify blanking out a whole month's worth of going over this again and again. Had I overestimated her? Had I assumed too much and so failed to reach her? Had I somehow failed to see she might suffer more than what she has been diagnosed with?

Another student couldn't identify which countries constituted the Allies, so I gave these clues: "They're famous for eating frog legs, snails, and their capital city has the Eiffel Tower."

I got no response. I really believe that these kids suffer tremendously from having such limited general knowledge. It's so enriching to be aware of so many wondrous things in the world, and if nothing else it helps to figure out the answers to questions they may struggle with on our infamous standardized tests.

What is depressing me even more is the thought that maybe I'm just some glorified babysitter rather than actualizing interventions in terms of their disabilities. Now, I'm fully aware that negative behaviors may be related to their disability and their frustration at being unable to entirely overcome it, but there are so many, many factors beyond my control.

So one of my ex-students is learning disabled, which is the least pervasive disability I work with, but most of my time was spent trying to get him to stop trying to sell stuff illegally at school and stop talking about how much he makes selling drugs back in his neighborhood. Another is learning disabled too, but I'm trying to get her to find a reason to even want to wake up in the morning because her family life has gone to hell. She puts her head down in all classes, so I approach her and try to distract her from her thoughts with algebra or science and gentle coaxing. It's like handling a ticking time bomb.

I worked with this other girl any spare moment I had because she was never formally identified as having a disability but she had issues. I gave her enough help to get her to pass her classes, but the following year she tells me she's pregnant. She will be the first of three girls I will lend my "butt pillow" to ease the pressure on their little pregnant bodies.

This other kid with a learning disability comes to school and sleeps all day because he spent last night sleeping in his bath tub for fear of getting shot by a stray bullet from a fight going on outside.

The fact is, I'm depressed because I know there's no where I'd rather be than by these kids' side and there's no way I could do enough to help them make their lives what they should be.


That Guy said...

what you do is commendable and you should be proud of it. Your job, as apposed to most people in the world, has potential for impacting others positively every day.

But you have to admit, you picked a tough one that will tend to get you down every now and then. Most people in life do their best to shield themself away from negatives thoughts, from the misery of others, from injustice, etc.

But u've chosen a tougher but more humane route and it sounds like you really are doing your best to try and help these kids.

I dunno, i first wanted to write and tell you not to be depressed, but now that i've read the post im sorta depressed too...

TeacherLady said...

Oh crap... Okay, my next post has to be something totally stupid and silly... I didn't mean to spread the misery!

Tala said...

well if that helps you to know that others feel the same as well, me too.

reading what you wrote, you are trying your best and even you are writing about them in your blog which means you care enough, sometimes we get too engaged that we stop seeing progress or we want to see results faster than its natural pace and sometimes we just get tired and sometimes stuff are out of control and are beyond us.
but you are positive and funny and wise im sure you will find a way to put them back on track again.

thanks for answering the tag, that was a nice read, take care of yourself

Sam said...

dont be depressed...u do your best and that is all u can do...they will eventually learn...just keep on trying:)

'liya said...

I think you're trying the best you can and should just keep doing what you do. These students will work slower than others and it's hard not to compare them to others because that can make you feel like they haven't accomplished much when really the little steps as they appear to us are very big steps to them.

kinzi said...

Teacher Lady, you are probably making more impact with the way you love them than the detail of information you impart.

Soon, you will be getting letters from these kids (well, or they'll FB you!) saying how much you blessed their lives and even a few details about how you made history relevent.

May God empower you with an extra bit of strength and cast a vision for how you ARE helping their futures. :)