Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Quitters Never Prosper

This has been one of the most terrible months that I've ever had as a teacher. My class is extremely trying this year. The work is very difficult for almost everyone, so there is much work avoiding. Many students seem to have insurmountable difficulties: learning disabilities, family concerns, abandonment issues, self-control and confidence problems.

Today, I stopped for a second, and thought about career options. What would happen if I just left? How long could I pay my mortgage? Where could I work? The level of discouragement was unbelievable. Only 17 out of 33 students turned in a report that was recently due. This report was completed during class, and we worked on it for about a month. This afternoon, seven students signed up for a book club that was held at lunch. Only three students showed up, meaning that four of the students wasted slots that could have been filled by four willing students. Another example of commitments not met.

Luckily for me, we read a short passage in our reading book about Jaime Escalante. He was the teacher on which the movie "Stand and Deliver" was based. If you are unfamiliar, he taught advanced math, at Garfield High, in East Los Angeles. I played my students the following clip from the movie:

Mr. Escalante was able to have 80% of his students pass an advanced college placement test. Only 2% of high school students nationwide typically passed the test. So, of course, he and his students were accused of cheating. They agreed to retake the test, while proctors from the state observed, and almost all of the students passed again.

I like the word "ganas". It translates to "desire" or "effort" in English. I cannot truly control the ganas in my students, but I can control the ganas in myself. It is there and it is strong. I took on this job for a purpose. As I left the classroom today, I saw that the flag was up on the class mailbox. Usually, I just ignore it. But, today, I opened the box and saw this letter. 

Here is a student with true ganas. I decided that I'm going to talk to her about reading together during lunchtime, twice a week, after vacation is over.


  1. Karen, I was very touched by your blog post. You are a teacher who not only cares, but inspires.Next year will be different and hopefully better. Hang in there.

  2. Thank you Karen for sharing! I know your year is challenging, to say the least. You are an amazing teacher and I hope the years to come will be better than this one. There's always that one or a few students who are reaching out, trying, making growth.....you're awesome!

  3. Pick your battles--concentrate your efforts. Use me when I'm there--and I can come another day as well. And most of all, look for the real difference you're making--its there, you just have to see it!


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