Kung Fu 5

Last Friday was graduation for Match Teacher Residency.  Our fifth small cohort, self-named Kung Fu 5....39 future teachers in total.  They spent a long, challenging year with us.

Orin, our director:

The last education you got, the last degree you received, was a testament to your ability to read and write and speak and think critically. But this education, your teacher education, is be a testament to how well you could get OTHER PEOPLE to read and write and speak and think critically....a teacher’s job is not to say smart things, but to get their students to say smart things.

David Blitzer, an MTR alum, returned to say:

It’s easy for us to tell our kids that we care about them at the beginning of the year.  It’s much harder in January when we’re exhausted and stressed out and things aren’t going well to come into that classroom and make each of our kids believe that there’s no place we would rather be.  And there will be days when you don’t feel like being there – there are days that I still feel that way.

But it’s important to remind ourselves – and I try to remind myself of this every day – that we have the best job in the world.   Nothing compares to walking into a classroom and knowing that our students want to be there, not because of us, not because they have to be, but because they genuinely want to learn.

If that dream keeps the light on in your darkest of hours, you’ll do just fine.  As we say at MATCH, I do not wish you good luck, but I will tell you to do your best – you and your students deserve nothing less.  

David recalled a battle.  Kids weren't trying hard, weren't using some reading strategies he'd taught.

I couldn’t just rely on some of our stock phrases, such as “you should do this because it’s going to make you successful in college” that when used too frequently feel inauthentic and perfunctory.  It had to be more affecting and, ultimately, more personal. 

While I had tried to motivate them in the past, I had been too scared to try to inspire them.  What if they laughed at my attempt?  Would I lose all credibility in the process? 

It felt like a make or break moment for me as a teacher.

...Believe it or not, I was actually scared to do that.

Much of the policy conversation around teaching is the country does not touch on teacher emotions.  But it's an emotional job.  At least if you do it right.  And fear is a powerful, often unspoken, aspect of the job.  The acceptable thing for teachers to describe is fear from above: of principals, of regulations, of tests.  It's not often okay to talk honestly about fear of children, their judgment, their reaction. 

I showed them a clip from Friday Night Lights (the Being Perfect speech) then called them out for not trying hard enough. 

I made a cheesy sports metaphor about how our class was like a football team and how we were on a three-game losing streak and we needed to turn it around if we wanted to make the playoffs.  I told them how disappointed I was in them and in myself that we were in this position.  I told them that the only way we were going to win again was to work our absolute hardest in class, to “be perfect” with our effort.  That after every class, after every test, they should be able to look at themselves in the mirror and be able to say to themselves that there was nothing more they could have done to succeed.  I essentially stopped being their teacher and became their football coach for the rest of the year.
...This same strategy would not have worked for all of you.  It didn’t work because I showed them a film clip; it worked because when I talked about my disappointment, my students felt my pain and felt my sincere belief that they could do better.  When I demanded that all of us “be perfect,” they could hear how much I cared about their success in a way they couldn’t before.  After that class, interim assessments became a challenge that we had to overcome together and the idea of “being perfect” became a rallying cry for us the rest of the year.
I could tell you our results on the next interim assessment.  But I’m more proud to tell you that when I looked through their test booklets on that next assessment, their pages were covered with reading strategies.  My students were no longer too scared to try to their hardest and they knew that, no matter what their scores were, they gave everything they could. 

Authenticity.  Has a way of working. 

So the 39 MTR grads are now off, many to teach in other Boston schools, some to NYC and beyond.  All of them were aggressively recruited as teachers this past spring.  Congrats to them, and a huge note of appreciation to all the teachers this year who mentored, coached, and taught them.


JB Riffle Alma Del Mar Charter School
Kyla Brown Arlington Elementary School- Lawrence
Rebecca Whitley Arlington Elementary School- Lawrence
Christina Correa Community Day - Lawrence
Amber  Lakin Community Day - Lawrence
Cheryl Ruggiero Community Day - Lawrence
Chelsea  Bakalar Ivy Prep - Atlanta
Sheina Prince Match Community Day
Ben  Paly Success Prep Academy
Erica Vuolle University Prep Denver
Kathryn Feder UP Dorchester
Lindsay  Jacks UP Dorchester
Will Devon-Sand Achievement First - Crown Heights
Hannah  DiCocco Boston Prep
Gaby Diller Boston Prep
Lucie  Torrey Boston Prep
Chase Ferree Cambridge Community Charter School
Army Dickerson Chicago Collegiate
Betsy Kellander Excel Orient Heights
Che'Risse Aldave KIPP Lynn
Leanne DeRosa KIPP Lynn
Adam Perry KIPP Lynn
Sam Seldon Liberty Prep (Nashville)
Chloe Carden Match High
Jackie Gareau Match High
Kate  Gasaway Neighborhood House
Miriam Friedman Phoenix Charter Academy - Lawrence
Katie  McCabe Phoenix Charter Academy - Lawrence
Katie  Parent Phoenix Charter Academy - Lawrence
Alex DeGenova Propel Schools (Pittsburg)
Allison Kramer Uncommon Lucy Stone
Dylan Kane Uncommon Mission Hill
Emily  Richey Summit - CA
Adelaide  Giornelli Summit- CA
Rachel Coffin Uncommon Charter HS
Rueben Henriques UP Boston
Alex  Johnson UP Boston
Anna Tachau UP Boston
Lauren Eckler UP Oliver

Also, here's the clip from Friday Night Lights, in case you're looking for some midweek motivation.