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A few good things...

Since my previous entry was kind of a depressing one, I thought that I would share with you some of the good things that have happened to me this year as a teacher. Some days are filled with all sorts of gems that really pick me up. Some days are just so much fun as my students and I laugh and joke about the things we're learning. They have fun and ask great questions that show real enthusiasm for the subject. I love those days. There are also some little specific incidents that make my heart glow. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Early in the semester, a teacher reported to me the following student comment, "Mr d'Alessio's class is so boring, but for some reason I think I kind of like it."
  • One day I got a note from the principal's office asking, "Is this student really attending your class?" Attached was a copy of her attendance record for the last few weeks. She almost never attended her first block class. Second block, she was late almost every day. I have her third block, and the record showed that she had been present and on time every day of the semester. She almost never attended her last class of the day. The administration was wondering if I had made some sort of clerical error. I wrote back saying, "There is no error. This student is always in my class on time and ready to work. She has the second highest grade out of all my students." Talk about voting with her feet! This was one of my best students, and I found out that she never even attended most of her other classes. I must be doing something right!
  • An update on the student who skipped detention and stuck her tongue out at me. Every time she made some disparaging comment about how much she hated the class, I would tell her how much I enjoyed having her in the class. I'm slowly starting to wear her down because she has been coming to class regularly and has even started treating me with respect. Her recent travel brochure to Mars ("Your home away from home") was one of the best in the class.
  • The student with a GPS ankle monitor also made improvements. The day after I wrote the previous message, the vice principal went out and bought the student a backpack. You should have seen the smile on his face when he walked into my classroom wearing that shiny new backpack. That week, he went from sitting in the back of the room silently to total engagement. He even raised his hand and asked three questions in one day! It was fantastic to see. Unfortunately, he recently had his GPS tracking device removed and he stopped coming to my class regularly. He still has the backpack, but the spark is gone for now.
  • Things are definitely getting easier. I still have problems, but I've mastered a number of things. I know that my students are full of energy on Mondays, so group work is out of the question. But by Friday, they are usually tired enough that they don't have as much energy to argue and we can do a lot of creative things. I have a classroom routine where by 10 minutes into class, my students are all quietly working on the "warm up exercise." Some days, it's even so quiet that you can hear a pin drop -- though one of the students usually notices the quiet and breaks the silence with something like, "man, why'd it get so quiet all of a sudden?"
More stories will come soon...


Hi Matt,

I'm a friend of Loraine's from Prin. Now I'm teaching ESL in Salinas, about 2 hours South of SF. I also left Japan to start teaching public schools. Last year I was in Long Beach, in an urban setting much like the one you describe. It was hard, leaving all of the well-mannered people and groomed cityscape for some tough neighborhoods. I hope in the long run it will be worth it.

I keep a blog of teaching reflections and also a personal blog. Check them out when you've got the time.


My cousins went to El Cerrito High and both of them made it to Cal and graduated. I had no ideas the situations were so dramatic in that high school.

Hope you have a nice break over the summer. Come visit us when you come to Asia.

The school is actually kind of bimodal -- there are a number of really high achieving students that go on to top ivy league schools. Those kids, typically, come from white and asian families that live in the El Cerrito hills. Kids from the flats of Richmond and El Cerrito tend to be black and hispanic, and tend to have much lower academic performance. The school overall provides a really nice education to everyone, but it's kind of like two schools in one. Earth science, which is all I taught, is not a college prep class. That means that students planning on attending a four year college of any sort will NOT take my class. So while some teachers saw the whole range of students, I saw only the lowest academic achievers. For example, I can almost guarantee that your cousins did not take Earth Science.

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