Hasta La Vista, Prized Pupil

A moving post from Mr. AB in the TFA Trenches:

I certainly don’t have a favorite student, but M— could easily make a case for the title. She’s one of those students who does what I want even when I don’t explain it well, who buys into the class goals even more than me, who would do 100 pages of homework just because that was what was assigned.

M— is one of only a few students who attends all three of my not-an-extended-day programs, she is with me from 7:20 every morning, and stays until 4:10 three days a week. She’s a low ELL, but she’s clearly a smart, smart young lady.

How do teachers pick favorite students? Usually these two criteria are involved.

She gets my strange jokes and she has worked her way to being one of top math students in the class.

Raise teacher salaries by $5,000 per year? GGW predicts little effect on urban attrition (remember, Boston teachers earn a lot more [$69,000 average], not less, than all the nearby suburbs – has not stemmed teacher attrition).

Bad teachers leave urban schools because their classrooms are chaotic. Good teachers leave because of the heartbreak, i.e.,

M— was absent on Monday. Tuesday, she came in at 7:20 like usual. We worked on math skill-building games; when the rest of the kids went to take their break, M— asked to speak to me privately. She began talking normally, explaining that she was absent because her family had a problem. They “weren’t, you know, from here.”

As the story went on, M— stopped looking at me and started to look sad and scared. She struggled to explain what I gradually came to understand was a day spent pleading for mercy in immigration court. It wasn’t until she got to the point where her father was arrested and there was no money coming in and she admitted she was “so scared” that she really broke down.

He doesn’t call it The Trenches for nothing.

– Guest blogger Michael Goldstein

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