Friday, August 20, 2010

A Small, Controlled Burst of Optimism

In the past few weeks, I've been back at my school off and on for the following reasons:
  • Planning curriculum with my department (which usually just means we're doing Beavis and Butthead impersonations all day)
  • Helping grade the August Algebra Regents (there were only 6)
  • Showing my younger brother where I work (he was here for a week!)
It's been weird, but every time I went back, I left the building with a small, controlled burst of optimism. Small because I'm now fully aware of the physical and emotional demands the school year will make and I'm a bit scared. Controlled because, well, I don't want to get too excited - last year my students started the year strong but by the end of the first trimester, a majority of them went back to their old ways. I suppose this year I will beat myself up less about it. Not.

At one point this week, my fellow math teachers (I have two colleagues now, as opposed to just one) and I were discussing the upcoming school year when a few students who were in the building (for summer school and other random reasons) saw us through the glass window in the door. They got super excited and rushed in to greet us and chat. One of them, who I can't help but admit is one of my star-studded students (let's call her M&M), said she was extremely excited to come back to school next year.
"Life is just boring now, I need to do something with myself. I miss everyone here too." - M&M
M&M is a senior now and will likely graduate early in January. Her comments made me smile and feel proud. Then, they made me worry: she's not the only one in this position. A lot of our students who truly changed and worked their asses off last year will soon enter their final trimester/half-year/year at my school. This means it's college application time.

I immediately stopped working on our curriculum and secretly started making a check list on what my kids need to know, do and accomplish in order to get into college. I had to make sure students like her would have all the tools necessary to get accepted. This is what I came up with in about a minute:
  1. Did they even take the SAT? (some haven't yet because they're scared...argh!)
  2. Stay in the city, in-state, out-of-state?
  3. Community, Liberal Arts, or National?
  4. Have they done their research on schools?
  5. What major? Or apply undecided?
  6. Financial constraints - Fill out the FAFSA
  7. Teacher recommendations - which teachers?
  8. Downloaded the common app?
  9. Essays???
  10. Are their grades good enough?
Ah, crap. I'm sure there's even more I can add.

I remember last year, my wife and I (yep, she did more work than me on this!) worked hard with JR to get him accepted into a community college (he's an undocumented student, which made it even more difficult - I wrote about it here). This year, I'm not sure how the hell I'm going to juggle the upcoming school year and read a bunch of students' essays. Essay editing blows: there's a lot of back and forth and quite frankly, people can start getting irritated when you are constantly criticizing their writing. I know I can get supremely irritated sometimes when I get criticized, but I try to keep it in check as best as I can. I'm not quite sure how my students will react. A thought came to mind:
Is Yo Mista going to have to choke a student?
Clearly, there's a lot of work to be done and quite frankly, I don't trust my school administration to lead superb workshops on the college application process. What's getting me worked up is the fear that I'll have to do a lot of the grunt work in helping my students with their applications. I just hope they're willing to put in as much as I am. Otherwise, I'll be pissed. And they will be too, in about five to ten years.

Even with all of this going on in the back of my mind, I can still relate to M&M's excitement and optimism for the upcoming new year. I never thought I would feel excited after seeing ads everywhere for back to school sales.


Anonymous said...

yayness. i feel the same, except the opposite.

regarding the college stuff, dont try to tackle it on your own. We are all here to offer support. and frankly, whenever I approached the "college team" about stuff they were pretty responsive. Seeing as most of us are still rookies at this, feedback, encouragement and cooperation are always appreciated. I suggest you share your list with them now, as well as suggestions as to how to help our wonderful kiddies get through their senior year, trimester, or whatever it is

But you rock mista and i'm controllably excited to work with you yet again. arg.

Yo Mista said...

Thanks, anonymous... ;)