"Education is not a product: mark, diploma, job, money; It is a process, a never-ending one." -bel kaufman

Saturday, April 24, 2004


rising up...

i don't like how this online journal has primarily turned into a space for me to vent about my frustrations and doubts as a teacher. i wish this journal had more stories and less introspective thoughts. not that the thoughts aren't important, i just worry that i'm complaining too much.

tonight, i was just about to quit trying to plan for next week, frustrated at my low attention span and lack of focus on my lessons for next week. i was empty handed. ready for bed and it was only eight thirty. then i read an article on No Child Left Behind in Hasta Quando and found a link to Chicago's Teachers for Social Justice. this lead me through a variety of links to other teaching articles and resources, and i eventually found an influence for my assignment this Monday. what i found was a book called Reading, Writing, and Rising Up by Linda Christensen. i find that my primary focus in teaching my students is to use the written word. one thing that every one of my students has is creativity. and their stories are amazing. if there is something i can always do with my students, it is writing. i don't think i'm great at teaching, and so i look to teachers like Linda Christensen to pave the way. thank you.

Monday's assignment: Where you're from.
begin your story, "I am from..."

Thursday, April 15, 2004


so i said, "teach me something."

mid-terms week has been the usual rollercoaster ride. two of my classes share the same curriculum, mostly a writing course, and so i had two independent groups on which to experiment an exam assignment. the essay topic was a result of one of the reflections in this journal: teach me something. i explained to my class that everyday they come to school with the idea that they are the student and i am the teacher. i am supposed to teach them "English" and, at the end of the year, they are supposed to move on with better language skills. i told them i wanted to formally flip the roles for once. "you are the teacher and i am the student." using the skills we have learned in essay writing, they were to write me an essay on something from their own experience, something they knew i would know nothing about. seemed like the best deal for them: write on what you know.

but i received expressions of shock and confusion. some just plain didn't understand. some thought i was crazy. mostly, i think my students didn't feel like they had enough knowledge to teach others. but i was here to convince them that they are full of experience, culture, and history to fill books. all i was asking for was two pages, front & back, double spaced.

i discussed my expectations and them words of encouragement. slowly, a few kids shouted out their ideas: how to cook a Puerto Rican dish, my job at navy peir, how to play basketball, how to do spots (graffiti). i had to guide a few along, for instance one girl who couldn't come up with any ideas. i glanced at her clean white sneakers and the coordinated reds and whites of her outfit. i told her, "what's the difference between you and me?" pause. then i looked down at my clothes, "do you think i have style?" she smiled, definitely on the verge of laughing at her unspoken answer. she began writing.

since then, i've read a few and discovered the most moving lessons, like how to be a supportive boyfriend to your pregnant girlfriend. one of my students, who has resisted class work almost everyday, wrote how he really feels deep down about school and how he truly has respect for his teachers despite how he acts. i couldn’t believe it.

once each one of my students had found their topic, they began writing and the room was silent, most writing right up to the end of the period. they worked hard and were completely engaged. i still smile when i think back...

Wednesday, April 14, 2004



my bedroom is in a state of disorder and i'm missing one cat. the black one is sleeping at the vet tonight, his second night away from home and two more to go. once his bloodstream is clean and he's urinating normally again, he'll come back home. this is his second urinary tract infection and he's only one year old.

but despite the problems at home, i'm back on top of things at school. i've been convinced that i shouldn't even consider part-time. with the help of a few close colleagues, i will make it through this semester and become better organized. i'm convinced that my self-doubts are stemming from the fact that i am disorganized and naïve. poor lesson planning at it's best. it will be a difficult road, but i am headed up.

oh, and pray for adventure kitty. and my bank account.

Sunday, April 11, 2004


teach me something.

don't get me wrong. every person on this earth has the capability to be a teacher. it takes no training, no formal education, no certificate, and no prior experience in teaching. it only takes a heart and a mind. (to all reading: remember this when you question whether or not you can be a teacher.)

april 3-11, 2004: i spent eight days away from school and traveled Mexico. i paused once or twice questioning the job i would be returning to on monday, april 12th. it's true, the responsibility scares me. today i finally put pen to paper:

i am coming to the realization that i cannot yet act the role of a professional school teacher. and i am very close to forfeiting my position as English teacher at Antonia Pantoja High School. i have been a teacher for just over three months -- a professional teacher with no prior experience. how did i get the job? i was recommended to substitute teach, then recommended to teach full-time based on my dedication and my immediate connection with the students. but i have made many mistakes and i have doubted myself countless times. how have i made it this far? i have had tremendous support from my fellow teachers at APHS and inspiration from our current principal, Daisy Lopez. in addition to support and inspiration, i have had the most amazing experiences with my students. they are the reason i rise each morning at 5:30, and they are the fuel for my body and spirit throughout the day. i recognize that i am the type of person who needs motivation and a push every day in order to press on in difficult situations. the faces and voices and laughter of my students are my motivation.

i will continue on in my position as professional teacher for now, believing in those who have told me that i am a great teacher no matter what. i give myself many reasons (excuses) to quit. i have so many other dreams to fulfill. but i will teach for my students and for everyone who told me not to give up.

postscript: i want to mention that the idea of forfeiting this job only comes with the idea that i would move into a more suitable role: i would work either part-time as a teacher or as a tutor and mentor until i return to college in order to aquire more skills for professional teaching. running away has never been an option. i only want what is best for my students and what is best for my happiness. we are all teachers and we can never quit.


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