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Teaching English in New Orleans

September 13, 2011
New Orleans Education Chicken Plate

Journal Prompt: If someone gave you $20, what would you spend it on?

Well well well, where do I start?

This summer in New Orleans, I embarked on a journey that I could not have even imagined. I quit my job, completed a summer intensive training through teachNOLA, and got a teaching job at a first year school in New Orleans. To protect the weak, I’ll refrain from publicly announcing where… doesn’t really matter. It’s New Orleans. We’re infamous for tits, hurricanes (the drink and the storm), and bad education.

I teach a group of about 55 kids, ranging in age from 14-17. All middle schoolers. That’s right. Sixth through eighth grade. Think of how old you were in 8th grade. We’re working on English. The good stuff. Homophones, commonly confused words, how to write a sentence. It’s intense. Especially when the culture down here doesn’t, let’s say, encourage being educated.

I’m talking 15 hour days, almost every day, spent planning and teaching, struggling to reach the lowest student and the highest student, the student whose parents didn’t put her back in school for 3 years after Katrina, the student who has been in 8th grade for 3 years already. This is his 4th time.

I’m not just a teacher, I’m a social worker, a mother, a father, a friend, a confidant, a soldier in the battle of complacency.

Old life of evenings off and weekends spent taking short trips to the beach, please don’t forget about me. Someday I’ll be back. Until then, I’ll be reading journal entries like the one above, smiling at the insanity that is being a teenager, wishing for my own chicken plate.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. julie permalink
    September 14, 2011 12:16 pm

    Wow girl! you have been busy! I’ve missed your blog – you are doing great work!

  2. Marshall permalink
    September 16, 2011 10:32 am

    Good post. You all do have some delicious chicken.

  3. catherine permalink
    September 16, 2011 6:29 pm

    I am so proud of you. You are making a big difference in the life of these children.

  4. September 20, 2011 5:37 am

    I have been re-reading this post at least daily. It cracks me up but the truth stings too. I am so glad you are getting a taste of being a teacher and experience the mess that is our education system. It’s nowhere near as good as a chicken plate. I taught third grade in inner-city Chicago and had a 13 year old in my class because she had failed so many times. I love that you have embarked on this mission and I will do anything I can to support you. Please let me know!

  5. Ann permalink
    July 18, 2013 9:28 pm

    Do you ever think about all the teachers who lost their jobs in 2006?

    • July 18, 2013 11:21 pm

      If you’re talking about post-Katrina, yes. Things changed a lot in New Orleans after the storm. I wasn’t here yet, hadn’t been here before. Mostly I think about what happened to our kids between kindergarden and now and how they all got left so far behind.

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