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Two Difficult Truths of Teaching

Posted: 2009-08-09

This is taken from Ask Ms. Class.

Dear Ms. Class:

My students come from a huge inner-city housing project. They are surrounded by drug dealing, prostitution, gang warfare, thievery, and death. How can I be expected to teach them to read and do math?

--Brooklyn, NY

Dear Brooklyn:

What you need to remember is that for many of your students school is an oasis of relative calm, order, and predictability. You cannot protect them from drugs, disease, and violence. What you can do is teach them.

One of the hardest things about being a teacher is you so seldom know of the positive effects you have. Ms. Class can only tell you that she recently heard from Shari, one of the most incorrigible of her seventh graders, a girl who dropped out of ninth grade some ten years ago. Shari wrote Ms. Class recently because she wanted her teacher o know that she takes her children to the library every week, that she can't wait until they are old enough to read them some of the same books Ms. Class read to her.

Ms. Class tells you with tears in her eyes that Shari's listing of the names of those books and authors that continue to enrich her life makes Ms. Class proud to be a teacher.

Ms. Class is not given to handing out absolutes, but please remember these two difficult truths of teaching:

1. No matter how much you do, you'll feel it's not enough.

2. Just because you can only do a little is no excuse to do nothing.

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