I accepted the challenge of teaching three years of material in 45 days! I knew I was either going to see my teaching career go down in flames, or I was going to succeed and stick it to the man! These are the continued trials and tribulations of my teaching career. This is the eighth part of the story of how a military veteran, failed rock and roller, and single dad became a successful inner-city schoolteacher. This will become a book in the near future and I hope Steemit will help me strengthen this and prepare it for my co-writer and editor. Please comment if there is something you think I can elaborate on more, or if you think I am missing the mark, or if you have a question.
I have rewritten a lot of my entries to make them better up until now. I read entries 6 and 7 in this series and feel there is not a lot I can do but change words here and there and add a couple stories. Any rewriting of them would simply be recycling my own work and would not be fair to you the reader. So if you want to go read them before you read this one, I will provide you links at the bottom of this entry. To catch you up, I have accepted the challenge of preparing a group of students for a major standardised test in 45 days. I know I am taking a calculated risk since I am on a plan of action, if I fail I am likely to be fired. The director of the corporate side of the school made the decision, not the school's principal. So I unknowingly had allies in the administration, I was unaware of it at the time. So here it is, the gauntlet of challenge has been thrown down, I picked it up and accepted the challenge. Now it is put up or shut up time.
We hit the street running. I used presentations and videos to get the material to the students quickly. We had discussions about the theory of government and the history of America. I also promised them that after the test, I would teach them the history of Rock and Roll. At first they wondered why, in their minds rock and roll was music listened to by White people. When I told them I would make it worth their while they trusted me. Students were taking notes and studying between classes. During my planning and lunch, we played Jeopardy. My morning homeroom spent their time playing all of the social studies and history games I could find at the local teacher store. The class was dedicated to passing the test and knew I was doing my best to help them succeed. It was a lot of work but the students stuck with me.
I was demanding and I challenged them. Please understand, not every student appreciated my style or was thriving. While most were and responded well to my teaching style, I was still teaching as “the sage in the stage.” Out of what I thought was necessity, I was the center of attention leading the class. Their desks faced my desk and I was the focus of their attention. While this is a tried and traditional way of teaching, there is a percentage of students who cannot learn this way. I was woefully ignorant regarding differentiated teaching or brain based learning. I was teaching the way I had been taught. Those students (probably out of respect) let me teach the way I wanted to teach but I probably lost a few of them when I should not have.
In early June my students took their standardized test. When their test was over, I introduced them to the history of rock and roll. I taught them about the roots of rock music and let them listen to songs from the 1930s through the 1970s. After two weeks (there were three weeks of school after the test) I had them write about an artist who interested them. My goal was to provide my students with the knowledge that music is colorless, and that rock and roll was originally the music of Black America. It was the beginnings of my ideas regarding self-selected and culturally relevant learning, but more on that later. I do recall one of the custodians coming by my room and hanging out to listen to Ike Turner’s Delta 88 (arguably the first rock and roll song). She later told the story at the next staff meeting about how she laughed the rest of the day when she walked by my classroom and heard James Brown’s 60s self-empowerment anthem playing and my call and response with my students (more on that in a moment).
At the end of the school year, Eastend sent their 8th grade students to the local high school (these would be the last students that went there). So we had a graduation ceremony. I attended and I will never forget stepping up to the podium and saying, “Say it loud!” In unison my students responded, “I’m Black and I’m proud!” Then I shouted, “Say it again!” They replied appropriately. Their families went crazy. It was a great day and I got a lot of positive feedback from my students and their families. The next day I had to pack my room because we were moving to another school building, about a dozen of my students came to school to help me pack and move. I look back on that and realize that I had built the relationships with those students that would be the cornerstone to my teaching career in the future.
At that time standardized tests were taken on paper. So each test had to be scored at a central location in the state. Results were not instantaneous as they are now. In mid-July, the Principal called me and said “your SOL scores came in, Mike over 90% of your students passed the test, you were number one in the district.” I thanked him profusely; I also remember tears running down my cheeks as I heard the results. I turned to my wife and said, “I can teach,” she replied, “I always believed in you.” The problem until that moment was, I did not believe in myself. Victory was mine and I knew I had won, but I also knew I had to change as an educator. While 90% is good, that meant 10% of my students (6 of them) did not pass. I found that unacceptable.
When I reflect on that year I see it as a turning point in my life. After the trying year before, it solidified me as an educator. I saw it as an answer to my prayers and an affirmation of my vocation. I decided that the only way I could be successful was if I smashed the walls and went beyond the textbooks. I had to do my best to ensure I was an innovator. If I was not challenging my students to be the best in the city, I would fail as a teacher. My job was changing and I was embracing the ideas of my hero, Jaime Escalante.
Peace, love, and rock and roll!
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Hello! I am Mike K. I am an educator, lifelong student, military vet and wannabe musician. I have a love of history, economics, philosophy and motorcycles. I am quickly moving from minarchy to Christian anarchy philosophically and want people to stop meddling. My debut CD should be out soon!
Riding in Tennessee with my son on the Green Eyed Snake