Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mr. J, The Hero!

The perfect gift on the last day of school! And I missed it!!

So I have a vast array of different kinds of students. That's no secret. I have some regular ed, I have some special ed, I have some gifted, and I have some who don't speak English all that well. I have them all in one classroom, and I and my co-teacher, Mr. Johnson, are charged with making sure ALL of them get what they need and learn the content we're teaching.

So this is how it works, I usually present the lesson, then somewhere along the way, Mr. J makes his way around the room checking to see who's getting it, who's not, and who might need a little extra help. This is what we've done in every class all year long. He's been an incredible co-teacher. Believe it or not, some co-teachers have been known to kind of blow off their assignments and use their co-teaching periods as bonus planning periods to just do whatever they want. Some of them show, some of them help, and some of them play on their iphones most of the class period.

I lucked out this year. I got to have Mr. J in my class every single class period of the day except one where I only have one special ed student. He showed up every class period ready keep the kids on their toes and ready to help them learn when they needed that little extra push. So when it came TAKS time (the ever-important holy grail of state achievement tests) our student's scores reflected the extra work he put in in the classroom this year. Last year, without stellar co-teachers, my SpED passing rate for TAKS was 66%. This year, it jumped to a whopping 75%. That is HUGE. We're talking about kids who came into our class this year barely being able to read or write. And now they're passing state tests with flying colors.

Before the test, Mr. J told our kids if any of them scored a 2600 or above (perfect is 2630- and I've never even seen anything above a 2481 in my classes), he would give them $100. The scores came back. And I had two special ed kids score off the charts. One scored a 2590 and the other scored a 2584. That was good enough for Mr. J. He printed out and framed certificates for both of the boys and presented each of them with $100 in front of their classmates.

One of the boys teared up as his classmates cheered him on and he was presented with the certificate and the money. This kid is in special ed classes and has a two year old little girl that he takes care of full time. And he told me at Christmas he was planning on dropping out of school because he needed to get a job to take care of his daughter and help make ends meet. And yet there he stood, accepting a hundred dollars for making a near perfect score on the biggest test of the year. My sincere hope is that he's realized he's capable of making the grades and that hard work will pay off financially if you just stick with it.

And for me, it was a reality check. It does my heart such good to see teachers like Mr. Johnson who care so much for students that he would sacrifice $200 out of his already low teacher salary to give to our kids for their grades. There are so many burned out teachers in inner-city school districts. I know teachers who refuse to even spend a dime to put posters up in their classrooms. And here's Mr. J going way above and beyond to help our students achieve.

And I think about the certificates he made and framed for the kids. I get probably twenty certificates a year for completing trainings, for completing classes, for taking on volunteer positions, etc. They all end up in the trash. To me they're just silly pieces of paper. I forget that to some kid who's experienced only failure and never achieved anything in his life, it could mean the world. It's the little successes that count and that should be celebrated. I can't forget that.

It's why I teach. And it's why I'm so completely thankful to be surrounded with teachers like Mr. Johnson who every day remember why they're here and don't get caught up in the he said/she said drama and red tape of it all. It's about these kiddos-- teaching them and giving them HOPE.

That's been done in my class this year, and I'm just glad I got to be a part of it.


The Panhandleman said...

freaking awesome man!

Julie said...

That's awesome. Mr. J may have just changed the course of those 2 kids lives for the better. Enjoy your summer, you've earned it!