Friday, May 25, 2007

A Year's Reflection

Courtney and I are part of the "Sponsor A Teacher" program in Teach For America, where the organization gets corps members to communicate with important supporters and donors. It doesn't require much, just sending a couple of reflections during the year. I wish there was more contact, so that we could really engage in discussion about our experience, but this at least allows us to put some of our reflections down on paper. Here's the recent letter I sent to my sponsor.

"May 21, 2007

Dear Sponsor,

More than 300 days ago, I landed in Hawaii with an inimitable mixture of excitement, curiosity and trepidation. I had no idea what was in store, and still, after nearly an entire school year, can’t fully quantify the ways that this experience has affected me.

What I can quantify, however, are some of the ways that I’ve been able to impact my own students. I’d be remiss to say that I moved every one of my students the elusive two grade levels of growth, but I have collected my share of success stories.

Angelica, one of my smallest, shyest students, has made incredible gains in reading fluency and comprehension. She’s been able to recognize her own progress, and has seen how much her relentless hard work has paid off while moving from a fourth grade to a sixth grade reading level. Ka’au, who had a difficult last year, spending much of it in the principal’s office, has become a leader among his fourth-grade peers. And Jewel has steadily matured into a bright, compassionate young lady, all the while grappling with the disbelief that her father murdered someone in September.

The challenges that I’ve faced, and there have been many challenges, pale in comparison to some of the inherent challenges and roadblocks that my students face in Nanakuli. What I try to do every day is equip my students with the capacity to make the decisions that will steer them in their own direction in life. I recognize my shortcomings in accomplishing this, and will make many changes in the upcoming year; but I also recognize the modest differences that I’ve been able to make in my students’ lives, and I cherish that opportunity.

Thank you sincerely for your support of Teach For America."

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