My first week of the new schoolyear has come and gone! I have to say that despite the hardships my district is facing with cuts in State funding and the larger class sizes we are seeing because of teacher layoffs, I am hopeful.
I am teaching 7th and 8th grade ELA. My classes so far have all gone well and I’ve been able to actually TEACH! Last year was a bit of a rough one for me. Probably my hardest year to date. My students were facing so many challenges and were emotionally in crisis. It’s tough without any counselors to have support regularly and larger class sizes made it difficult for us to really be able to reach the kids we needed to reach. We did the best we could.
I have them again as 8th graders. They seem to be responded to more structure as a whole on my team and even though they are complaining that I’m making their hands hurt from taking notes (What? We have to WORK on the FIRST day??) they are working. I really love getting to know my new 7th graders. They are a sweet group of kids!
Having completed my TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at the end fo the year, I am excited to really get to put it to use!! I have so much diversity within my classrooms. I have students from Burma, Iraq, Palestine, Puerto Rico, Mexico, El Salvador, Vietnam, Jordan, Cambodia…just to name from the top of my head. I love the diversity. I love watching my ESL kids make leaps and bounds in their acquisition of English. I am filled with such hope for a successful year despite all the challenges I as a Cleveland teacher will be facing.
My first assignment this year, I wrote them each a letter introducing myself. Students who knew me as “Miss Stull” have to get used to “Mrs. Rados” and they loved reading about me. I talked about what I like to do, where I have traveled and where I would like to go, my favorite books etc. I then asked them to write me a letter back.
I have read all their letters. Some make me laugh and some brought tears to my eyes. They are so eager to share with me what they feel defines them. One student talked about how her substance addicted Mother had her prematurely and she was born with drugs in her system. She talked about how she feels lucky that her Aunt adopted her and then went on to write about the things she likes to do outside of school. Another student asked me to please give the office his correct address because he wasn’t receiving any information and his parents don’t speak English well enough to call the office. I hope they continue to share with me. I hope they feel they have a safe place to learn, and I hope they realize their upmost potential this year. I hope I get to make a difference in their lives in a positive way. I hope those students who have been involved with gangs leave it behind…I hope they see they have a different choice…a better choice.
I have been asked more times than I count count, “WHY do you teach in Cleveland? Don’t you want to try and get into a better district?” My answer is in the paragraphs above. While I have more pitfalls than most, while my students mostly rely on their teachers for school supplies, while I usually feel more frustration than glee….it is those moments of glee that make it all worthwhile because my student’s successes are more joyful than any. They have to work harder just to reach an even playing field. I love what I do, even in the darkest of times when I doubt myself….I love being a teacher. I love teaching these kids.
I am hopeful.