Northerner In Nashville

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 18 2011

Feeling Defensive

Coming out of my teacher bubble to interact with adult people sometimes feels like yet another culture shock. Many want to hear the stories. Some, as I’ve documented here previously, as quite hilarious. However, a majority of them want to hear about the “bad” stuff and how difficult my school is. I always get conflicted when people push for those stories. Sure, I’ve got some up my sleeve but what kind of picture does it paint? How well does it portray the day-to-day rather than the extremes? To strangers and mere acquaintances, I often find myself being defensive as they share their perceptions of what teaching in a low-income school must be like.

One of the impressive points to many people about my experience is that I’m taking graduate school classes on top of working full-time. It’s not so much an admiration of rigor as much as an appreciation of sheer time and will power spent to just keep going. Nashville is home to the top Education school in the country — however, due to scheduling, it’s not where TFAers take classes. For the most part, the classes are fine — not always inspiring or revolutionary for people already in the classroom. The reading I’m working on over break is about “What Makes A Great Teacher?”

I find myself feeling riled up and on the defense as I sit in the coffeeshop.

“Classrooms in schools with few economic resources are less pleasant and may send negative messages to children”

Granted, my school recently completed a large renovation so our facilities are quite new. But I’ve seen many classrooms in schools that haven’t been lucky to be renovated and the teachers have done a great job making it a welcoming environment. Even though later on the author concedes that with effort, teachers can create strong learning environments in these facilities, my toes curled at this absolute.

“If the room in which you teach is too crowded, if it is too hot or too cold, or if the air is stale, try to find another space.”

What space is the author referring to? Several of my fellow TFAers teach in pods since the school has too many children for the building space. During one episode where my room was the temperature equivalent of Antarctica due to a temporary heating issue, I moved my class to the detention room (not equipped as a classroom). After the miserable experience, my 4th graders voted that they preferred to wear their hats, gloves, and coats until the issue was solved but stay in our room.

Perhaps my response is too much. The authors are well-intentioned and certainly more credentialed than I am. I can’t help wondering — is this book setting them up to see the low-income classroom as many teachers experience it?

One Response

  1. Stephanie

    Finding space isn;t limited to low income schools either. In the middle class suburban school here, every inch is in use.

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