January 6, 2013
The Biggest Risk I Have Taken …

     On the morning of August 6, 2012 I had no idea the extent of the challenges I would face when being introduced to 70 seventh graders. That morning I discovered that 70 students had to be caught up on academic material on average of 3-4 years. The achievement gap was starring at me, with a huge, gaping hole and I had no idea if I would make it wider or be effective enough to close it completely. If that’s not a risk, I’m not sure what is.

     Before August 2012, I had lived in the same city for 18 years of my life – Athens, GA. I learned to communicate, socialize, and was educated in this music infused atmosphere. I knew of nothing else except for the meager 116, 000 populated city. When I graduated The University of Georgia and got accepted into Teach for America, I had to move to Memphis, Tennessee to become a factor in saving the education system in one of the most dangerous cities in America. Least to say, I was petrified.

     However, what drove me to take the risk was being a part of something much bigger than myself – a community of 300 other Teach for America corps members driven to save the education system in Memphis, TN. For that reason, my fears and worries were insignificant. Even though my parents, friends and mentors were not at a hands reach, I could be all of those for children who are growing up without many of those factors that are imperative for them to grow with strong roots.

     The risk was not for me to move to Memphis, TN. The risk was to close the achievement gap for 70 students who were not the least bit trustworthy of a system that has failed them over and over again. The risk was and is everyday to make up for the losses they have experienced and make them trust education will bring them success in any form they believe success is. I take that risk everytime I come to school, teach a lesson, write an assignment, talk to a student, choose a book for them to read, etc. What I do has so much consequence in their lives that it does not matter what affect it takes on me. I have their lives in my hands and I must make sure that my hands are strong enough to take care of their academic and social achievement. 

December 5, 2012
Finally have my tracker up!
My girl students check the tracker to see which boys are the smartest because they don’t want to go with “dumb boys”. I tried to tell them everyone is smart but then they replied, “Ms. Mehta quit trippin’, you don’t have to lie to us!”. 
Favorite quote of the week, “Ms. Mehta, you’re like half puerto rican, right?” 
Favorite conversation of the week was when a student tried to explain to me how boys in the 7th grade are like untrained puppies. Literally, this was an hour long discussion. I had to break it to her and told her most men are the same as 7th grade “untrained puppies”.  

Finally have my tracker up!

My girl students check the tracker to see which boys are the smartest because they don’t want to go with “dumb boys”. I tried to tell them everyone is smart but then they replied, “Ms. Mehta quit trippin’, you don’t have to lie to us!”. 

Favorite quote of the week, “Ms. Mehta, you’re like half puerto rican, right?” 

Favorite conversation of the week was when a student tried to explain to me how boys in the 7th grade are like untrained puppies. Literally, this was an hour long discussion. I had to break it to her and told her most men are the same as 7th grade “untrained puppies”.  

November 16, 2012
Some students can be such sponges. Everything that is taught in my room, they absorb COMPLETELY.
This student got EVERY question correct except for the questions that covered a topic that I did NOT teach. Isn’t that amazing? I find it astonishing. EVERY single question correct that I taught correct, and EVERY single question that I did not cover, incorrect. 
This is what I do now on Fridays, geek out about students’ work. 

Some students can be such sponges. Everything that is taught in my room, they absorb COMPLETELY.

This student got EVERY question correct except for the questions that covered a topic that I did NOT teach. Isn’t that amazing? I find it astonishing. EVERY single question correct that I taught correct, and EVERY single question that I did not cover, incorrect. 

This is what I do now on Fridays, geek out about students’ work. 

October 22, 2012

Sounds about right.

(via anditslove)

October 21, 2012

Hello friends!

Here are some more pictures. The first two are some of the colleges I have set up in my classroom. I’m trying out more incentive projects in my class and awareness of higher education. I even have some students wanting to go to the college they are a part of! Whatever college is best behaved and participatory gets 2-3 leaves EACH at the end of the class. And whatever student(s) chooses to act up, they get kicked out of college to some seats in the corner. As bad as the students are, they still like playing games. They always ask me “Who won?” and “Can I go back to college now?”.

My tree is filling up with leaves, how ironic since fall is happening and leaves are coming off the trees.

Teaching has become a rollercoaster. One day is good, then another is bad. I can’t seem to handle consistency. I’m trying, I really am. Teaching is more frustrating and emotionally tiring than I would have imagined. Most days I like to just come home and go to sleep by 9PM. Monday-Friday, I come to work, go home and work, and sometimes talk to boyfriend. That’s about it. Then I spend too many hours grading on the weekend. Wohoo! Such a great life. 

These days I’m just thinking about the future. I’m thinking about where I want to be and if my actions today are aligned to my goals in the future. Yes, my head is in the clouds, but that just seems to help me grapple with reality. 

Peace out!

October 2, 2012

"I want to live in a crimeless community. Where there is no shooting, stealing, or people trying to jump people. I want to live in a community where people don’t litter. Where people don’t fight or argue with the teacher. I want to live in a community with no crime at all."

One of my students wrote this in response to a Scholar Activity question, “What is your dream community?”. This student is probably one of my worst, behaviorally. When I read it I was so shocked. I stood there and smiled at him and gave him like 5 leaves (my incentive system). I stuck it on my door and the students probably saw me smile so big they were so confused. I’m pretty sure they think I’m a monster.
As tough as it is, I look back at this letter everyday and remind myself that this is my dream too. To one day live in a crimeless community — where people respect the teaching profession and the violence is cleaned out. This student, he wrote this in about 5 minutes. He sat there and thought of this beauty in 5 minutes. I wonder what he could do in 1 year. In a lifetime.
I come home frustrated very often. I cry, shout, ball my fists up. Mostly because I get disrespected and confused. One student told me today to “Shut up and quit talkin’ to me” because I told her to line up. I think I almost cursed at her before I calmed down and remembered where I was. Instead I wrote her up for “verbal harassment to the teacher”. I realized today I probably have an anger issue. I get so frustrated at the littlest of things. But, at the same time, I should sweat the small stuff. And when I do, I should have a team of people backing me up.
But instead the classroom seems so lonely to me. Memphis seems so broken. There are 7 different community centers on the street that my school is at. Did it ever occur to them to partner up together and create one huge community center? Why the heck are there 7 different ones on a small, little street? Memphis. That’s Memphis.
At the end of the day, I look at my classroom door to students’ work like this one. And remind myself, even though they do verbally abuse me— they have special minds in there. I can’t give up on them. I can’t. 

"I want to live in a crimeless community. Where there is no shooting, stealing, or people trying to jump people. I want to live in a community where people don’t litter. Where people don’t fight or argue with the teacher. I want to live in a community with no crime at all."

One of my students wrote this in response to a Scholar Activity question, “What is your dream community?”. This student is probably one of my worst, behaviorally. When I read it I was so shocked. I stood there and smiled at him and gave him like 5 leaves (my incentive system). I stuck it on my door and the students probably saw me smile so big they were so confused. I’m pretty sure they think I’m a monster.

As tough as it is, I look back at this letter everyday and remind myself that this is my dream too. To one day live in a crimeless community — where people respect the teaching profession and the violence is cleaned out. This student, he wrote this in about 5 minutes. He sat there and thought of this beauty in 5 minutes. I wonder what he could do in 1 year. In a lifetime.

I come home frustrated very often. I cry, shout, ball my fists up. Mostly because I get disrespected and confused. One student told me today to “Shut up and quit talkin’ to me” because I told her to line up. I think I almost cursed at her before I calmed down and remembered where I was. Instead I wrote her up for “verbal harassment to the teacher”. I realized today I probably have an anger issue. I get so frustrated at the littlest of things. But, at the same time, I should sweat the small stuff. And when I do, I should have a team of people backing me up.

But instead the classroom seems so lonely to me. Memphis seems so broken. There are 7 different community centers on the street that my school is at. Did it ever occur to them to partner up together and create one huge community center? Why the heck are there 7 different ones on a small, little street? Memphis. That’s Memphis.

At the end of the day, I look at my classroom door to students’ work like this one. And remind myself, even though they do verbally abuse me— they have special minds in there. I can’t give up on them. I can’t. 

September 16, 2012
Memphis Updates

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." 

My world has been flipped upside down, shaken, swallowed and then thrown back up. Yep, the life of a teacher in a bo-dunk city.

Administration decided three things for me: 

a. I’m a great teacher.
b. I’m going to teach the 7th grade heathens.
c. I’m the head softball coach..

While I don’t agree with any of the above, I’m stuck with it. I guess this is why TFA stresses it’s candidates to be exemplary in toughing out challenges. I’m not exemplary, because I sure have cursed and complained in my head all week about it. But, I’m trying to get through the challenges as best as I know how.

My children are certainly scared of me. And I am scared of them. I am scared of failing them. And they are scared that I may be the toughest thing that’s ever entered their lives. One kid literally said to me, “Ms. Mehta, I’m going to make you quit.” Isn’t that so sweet? You betcha I smiled and told that student that nothing will ever make me quit. NOTHING!

I’ve been lesson planning for about 8 straight hours now. In addition to moving me up to 7th grade they also added another class for me. How sweet. So now I have to prep for 3 classes as opposed to 2. And with these kids, every minute, every second has to be planned or they’ll go nuts. It’s tough stuff, man.

But, fear not, I did get a couple of city council people from Memphis to come to my classroom on the 27th of September. I am so excited to meet people who are dedicated to change this city. I’m preparing some of the SGA members to get to know their profiles and prepare questions for them.

I can’t say I love being in Memphis. I don’t. I don’t think I’ve cried this much since I was baby. But, I can say I love going to school and teaching. It’s just the coming back home part that’s depressing.

I’ll take a lot of pictures this week. My classroom definitely has had some cool additions.

Peace out.  

September 2, 2012
Donate to my children to read the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe! Every dollar will be MATCHED! PLEASE!!!!

August 29, 2012
Donate to my children for BOOKS!

August 19, 2012

Here are the AFTER pictures of my classroom! And a picture of me and Brandon on his birthday. I’m sure he’ll love that I posted the picture that he loves so much on here. But I have to brag that he’s such so great that he’s come twice to visit me already! 

I’m in Memphis with a big task. The previous elementary schools that these kids have gone to have handicapped my children. Most of them are severely bruised and tattered. But all of them have the potential to be anything they want to be. 

My theme this year is “CULTURAL SCHOLARS”. I hope you can see that from my room. They will be exposed to more than what Memphis has allowed them. And what they learn will hopefully never leave them. 

Work, work, work. I am determined to get this right. I don’t plan on being in the classroom for several years, but I do plan on changing it on a wider scale. If you could see some of my students and how gifted they are…you would be shocked. I know I was. Not because I didn’t expect it, but because some of them are probably smarter than me when I was that age. 

I have really surprised myself these past two weeks. I’ve had some setbacks but it’s been a blast going to school and giving kids knowledge. TFA people were right when they said it will be the HARDEST thing you will ever do, but also the most REWARDING. 

Quote of the week:

We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.”

— Ben Sweetland