Why I Call This Year a Success

Last week in the midst of turning in grades, watching soccer games, and cleaning out my classroom, I also had my end of year conversation with my Teach for America program director.  The end of year conversation is a time to look at how my kids did data-wise, talk about how they did qualitatively, and reflect on what I’ve learned as a teacher and leader over the past two years.

Obviously, I’ve learned a lot.  One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to not let the quantitative data make me lose sight of the things my kids and I have accomplished that may not show up on a multiple choice test.  Is quantitative data important?  Yes.  Do I want my kids to be successful on paper as well as in real life?  Of course.  But is the End of Course test the end-all-be-all measurement of me as a teacher?  Absolutely not.

So here are some of my measures of success:

1. Students receiving their high school diplomas.

Say what you will about the value of a high school diploma these days (particularly one from Memphis City Schools), but for many of my students this a true achievement.  For many of them, they are among the first in their family to successfully complete high school.  And don’t they look fabulous in their caps and gowns?

IY, a former student from Somalia and soccer player
CK, a former student who reminded me way too much of myself
KT, another former student who will probably regret that hair choice at some point
RM, one of my best students from this year.
LO, one of my sweetest former students and another soccer player who worked his butt off to graduate early
CL, a former student who totally turned it around this year and graduated early
I’m not supposed to have favorites, but if you knew EG, he would be your favorite too

2. Students reading books.

LM read a book cover-to-cover for the first time since elementary school, I got DS completely obsessed with Orson Scott Card’s Ender series, and a bunch of my girls fell in love with Simone Elkeles’ books.  I didn’t get all of them, but it’s better than nothing.

3. Students are sad that I’m leaving.

Pretty much more than anything else, this is a sign of success to me.  I know they won’t miss me the way I’ll miss them (I already miss them, and I doubt they’ve thought of me since summer started), but they didn’t want me to leave.  My students tend to be brutally honest; if they don’t like a teacher, they make it abundantly clear.  So when they tell me they wanted to have me for English III or ask if they can go to Collegiate too, I know I’ve done a good job.

4. We made it through TWO long works.

Last year, we did not read a single long work of literature in my class.  I just wasn’t good enough and ran out of time.  Going in to this year, one of my priorities was to expose my students to at least one full, complete novel, something many of them have not experienced since late elementary school.  Not only did we get through The Outsiders first semester, but I also stood strong against the test prep pressure and got through A Raisin in the Sun second semester.  And praise the Lord I did, because I think it ended up being my favorite unit this year.

All in all, I don’t particularly care how TFA ended up classifying me.  Since the end of my two-year commitment is not the end of my teaching career, it just doesn’t seem that important.  I know that there are areas where I need to improve.  I have a pretty good idea of what changes need to be the highest priority.  The bottom line is I Still love my job, and in my book, that makes this year a success.

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  • A collection of ramblings and musings on Jesus, life, education, family, and anything else that pops into my head.

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