In her latest blog about teaching in a Bronx middle school, Laura Klein writes: "There’s a lot to criticize about the way special education works in this enormous system. It is cloudy and incongruous, difficult to define, and difficult to find any universal truths when you talk about it." The failures command more notice than the successes, she said. "What I have struggled with in the last few years is to define what aspects of it specifically fail the students — what is the problem that we aren’t solving."
A Bronx middle-school teacher writes: "Because of their impermanence, people often think of paraprofessionals as replaceable -- one may be substituted for another from day to day. But at graduation this year, Ms. Javier sat on the stage and cried while she watched the students that she had helped get there. “Do you think next year I will have a student like Allie?” she asked me, mourning the loss of one. To the students, she was not replaceable -- and certainly not to me."
A middle school teacher in the Bronx writes: What about the awards we don't hand out to students? "How about an award for my student who isn’t the best or the fastest, but who always helps her peers, and is kind when they don’t understand something? Or for the student who brightens everyone’s days with his sense of humor, and his perfect comedic timing in a tense moment? Where do I find the award for the child who has overcome the most this year -- who has been heroic in his or her personal survival?"
A Bronx middle-school teacher who blogs about her experiences writes: "My students don’t have it easy. But every year I go to prom, and I see them at graduation. They are happy, looking their best, feeling successful, cheering for themselves and for one another. I see their parents snapping pictures of them, and hugging them, and smiling proudly. And I realize that for many kids, that is a rare occasion." When some of the children can't afford prom and graduation, some people are happy to help, because "feeling for one day that they have done something worth celebrating is a cause worth investing in.
Laura Klein, a middle school teacher and blogger, writes: "Perhaps all teachers have one student for whom they are teaching. Sedina was that student for me. Even now, when I am no longer her teacher, she’s still the one."
In her latest blog post about teaching at a South Bronx middle school, Laura Klein writes about visiting a student at an in-patient psychiatric facility. As a teacher, she writes, it's easy to take comfort in knowing that her expectations for troubled students provide "simplicity in a world that is chaotic and scary." But when an incident occurs, she writes, it reinforces that, "We don’t have the solutions, and even if we did, we don’t have the power to fix the things that are broken in their lives."
Laura Klein, a middle-school teacher in the Bronx, writes that test prep is in full swing at her school -- as it must be, given all that rides on the results. But the problem is not in using precious school time to teach to a test. "Our failure is that we struggle to inspire them beyond the test," she writes -- and students have to be reminded why learning must continue in the sunny months of May and June.
Laura Klein, who teaches at a Bronx middle school, says she has had a tough time getting her students interested in current events. But the Trayvon Martin case practically walked into her classroom. When she gave her students an assignment related to the case, she writes: "They got right to work, quiet and focused, only pausing to discuss the issue with their peers. This was an issue with which they clearly connected."
For Laura Klein, a middle-school teacher and regular SchoolBook contributor, the tragedy of Kiara was not just that she was 17 and still in the eighth grade. The tragedy was that she was giving up on herself at such a young age.
A teacher who blogs about her experiences teaching in a Bronx middle school writes: Often teachers who pull the best out of a troubled student are considered to be transforming -- even magical. But kids who succeed because of us are not kids who have the tools to succeed in the long run. Relationships matter -- but they aren’t enough.
Eighth-grade public school students will learn their high school assignments on Thursday, and SchoolBook's teacher-blogger writes that many of her students have already forgotten which schools they requested. It's not that they're forgetful, she writes. "It's that they made their choices without a lot of thought or commitment. They didn't go to countless open houses or pore over the thick high school directory. They have also been told that many of the better schools are unlikely to accept them." Nevertheless, it usually "turns out O.K.," she says. "And 'O.K.' is what they've grown to accept."
A middle school teacher writes: 'In order to maintain sanity you have to accept the feeling of not being done at the end of the day. You have to grow accustomed to the to-do list that generates in your head as you lie down for bed -- a parent that needs to be called, a referral that you have to write, a retest that has to be administered. At the end of the day, you just aren’t ever done. But that isn’t to say that there aren’t wonderful moments of absolute satisfaction.'
A middle school teacher writes about one of her students: 'The true danger of bullying is the way that it changes kids. After weeks of feeling defensive and guarded, Rocky began to hide her sweet softness. Enough of this transformation in children, and the environment of a school is changed.'
In her latest blog post, Laura Klein writes: In the past, I dreamed of plucking my students from their miserable homes and finding solutions to their problems. I felt powerful and capable, as though I would be able to offer them something better. Now I know that the best I might do is to just be there when they return from their holiday break, offering them something steady and certain.
A Bronx middle school teacher says: We want to be understanding, and we don’t want to be the one who cuts off students' opportunities. But do excuses really provide support? At what point do these crutches become crippling?
Children's misbehavior and the use of suspensions can leave adults in particularly tricky territory.
A middle-school teacher writes: Often I read a child’s paper, or talk to him or her, and am startled at the interpretation of events in his or her life. It is as though no one has explained the world to these children, and so they try to understand it based on what they can see. We must remember to ask, or we will never know.
The mother had spent her summer dragging herself from one office to another, speaking in broken English, begging that her daughter be allowed to change high schools. She was sent away, time after time, told there was nothing that could be done. She felt confused, dismissed, helpless. A middle school teacher tells her student's story and asks: Why keep attempting to navigate the jungle that is the high school choice process when we should be creating a road?
After four years, a teacher has learned that the parents who are there at the beginning are still there at the end, and the parents who did not give their phone numbers in sixth grade still do not give them in the eighth. Her suggestion: Maybe we should stop trying to transform parents, when it is their children who still have room to change.
A fourth-year teacher in the Bronx writes about what draws her back to school each year. It's the list, she says. 'I have no control over who is on that list. Sometimes you get kids who are angels, and sometimes you get kids named Angel who resemble Lucifer. It doesn’t matter ... inside each of them lies a world of possibility and potential waiting to be unlocked.'