Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Another Teacher Bites the Dust

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Another Teacher Bites the Dust

Article excerpt

The new teacher is having a meltdown. During her first week in an urban high school, she had felt confident teaching Honors Algebra to the freshmen in her classroom. By the end of the second week, however, the situation had shifted dramatically. Her three sections of math had been reduced to two, and the number of students in each class had jumped from 23 to 34.

Suddenly, her classroom was noisy, the students inattentive. Many of the students were not prepared to be in Honors Algebra ("How do you divide four into 78?" asks one student). By the end of the third class period on Friday, the new teacher had run out of ways to keep students focused and began sobbing in class, alarming her students, who clearly had not intended that result.

Meeting with the principal and the district's math coach, she is tearful and apologetic. She wants very badly to teach math and to do it well. She had decided to reconnect with her dream of teaching math once her own children were in high school. She deliberately sought a job teaching in an urban environment because of her belief that these students needed to excel in math in order to succeed after high school.

The principal and the district's math coach express confidence in her skills and pledge their support. Even the superintendent pitches in. Attracting this teacher who had exceptional math skills had been a real coup for this district.

But, by Monday morning, the teacher is gone.

What went wrong? "We failed her," the superintendent told me. "She knows her math. She wanted to do the job. …

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