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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Chaos: I tried to teach for America, and I failed

"Too many teachers mistake the generally sound advice to not provide a stand off with a student during class with "don't assert authority ever," tweets Daniel Buck. "A classroom without healthy teacher authority is a toxic classroom, guaranteed."

One season of "The Wire," set in Baltimore, features a policeman turned teacher and his students.

In I Taught for America on Wesley Yang's Year Zero, a former Teach for America volunteer describes his two years teaching fourth grade in a very poor Baltimore neighborhood, starting in 2008. "Andrew X. Evans," which is not his name, describes himself as a white male from a privileged background who'd hoped to "save" the poor. He failed, utterly, because he couldn't control his classroom.

He recalls an anecdote from his first year. He stands in the classroom door trying to block Deandra, who is in the hallway, screeching insults at me (“White motherfucker!”) and repeatedly trying to force her way back into class so that she can continue pummeling Justina.

Deandra takes three steps back until her back is against the opposite wall, and then launches herself into my torso. She does it again. She balls up her fists, screams, and runs at me again.
This was actually Deandra’s third fight of the day, each with a different student. It’s late January in my first year and fights are now so common in my classroom that the administration no longer sends help.

Teachers have been told it's against the law to "break up fights without a specific certification," and also that we are legally liable for injuries sustained in our classroom," Evans writes. He worries about Deandra because she's much bigger than his other fourth graders -- she's 12 -- and able to do serious damage.

While he bars the door, his classroom is in chaos with only three or four out of 31 students working on their multiplication tables.

Deandra’s shoulder thumps into my gut again, with less force than before. She is getting tired. There are dark sweat spots on her arm pits now. It seems to be registering that she cannot force her way through me. She tries to wiggle under my arm but I push her back. Tears start streaming down her face and she begins to scream even louder than before. Soon she’s sobbing, spit dribbling from her lips to the milk stains on her Hannah Montana t-shirt.
She’s a child. I’m a 24-year-old man. And this is a normal day.

TFA's training in pedagogy was "excellent," writes Evans. But "nothing matters if you can't control your students."

Inspired by "The Wire," which showed an ex-policeman succeeding as a middle-school math teacher, Evans thought he was prepared for Baltimore's inner city. He

His students lived in violent neighborhoods. Their parents believed they had to be fight back to survive. A second-grader's grandmother, his caregiver, sent him to school with a gun to defend himself against bullies.

In his second year, Justin was the largest and most disruptive student. When he disappeared for six weeks -- his family had moved away -- Evans began to think he was getting the hang of teaching. Then Justin returned.

Students who had never had behavioral problems began acting out. Destiny was a bright and cheerful girl from a very religious household. Her greatest offense up to that point was humming gospel songs too loud during lessons. If I asked her to pick up a pencil, she’d say “Yes, Mr. Evans” and smile. A month after Justin’s return, when I yelled at her for interrupting a lesson, she yelled back, “Who you talking to white boy?!”

Evans stuck it out for his two-year commitment, then left.

He rewatched the season of "The Wire" that features "Prez," an ex-policeman who becomes a middle-school math teacher in Baltimore. Prez's classroom was so quiet, he marveled.

"A few years ago, someone texted me a news story from the Baltimore Sun about a 17-year-old boy who had shot two people to death as they sat in their car," he writes. "It was revenge for a robbery. At the top of the page, staring back at me, was Justin’s mugshot. He looked the same."

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3 comentários

22 de jul. de 2023

The same was written before.—and-got-sued-20-million-12393.html

according to Richard Whitmire, this saviour should have swallowed a bee as Michelle Rhee did in 1995.


19 de jul. de 2023

I've volunteered doing the same type of afterschool homework help at a couple of different places. Unless you see it, it's hard to understand the differences in how the kids behave. At some places, you are in charge just by virtue of being an adult. The kids come in to the room and ask permission to do things or sit in seats and raise their hand when they need something. I spend my time moving between kids answering questions. Sometimes you have to shush kids when their chatter gets loud. In other settings, even one-on-one help is more challenging. If you are the adult in a room with several kids, you are lucky to fit in bits of …

21 de jul. de 2023
Respondendo a

"The kids come in to the room and ask permission to do things or sit in seats and raise their hand when they need something"

Im going to go out on A limb and guess that all these kids are white and Asian ?

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