160 minutes – that’s what 3 years’ worth of science education culminates to.
This past Tuesday, my students took the statewide science assessment. Since August, I along with my school administrators and other teachers have drilled into my students’ minds the importance of this test. Passing this test means getting Biology in 9th grade. Getting Biology in 9th grade means you’re on grade level. It means you’re on the college-readiness track. It means you’re one step closer to a college education. It means you’re one step closer to freedom, to self-fulfillment, to achieving your dreams.
At this point in the year, they could recite these reasons verbatim.
When it was time to read the directions, I took one last look at my students, doe-eyed and brimming with hope, anxiety, curiosity, and determination all at once, and I stopped myself. I see students whom I butted heads with in the beginning of the year, but now we are on the best of terms. I see students who grew beyond the capacities of their own imagination—but not mine. I see inquisitive students who told me how they are interested in careers in science because of this class. I see 100% of students who have shown growth from the beginning of the year to this moment. In a few seconds, they were to be assessed on everything that they knew in science from 6-8th grade, and none of these things would matter on paper.
On paper, it was all about “mastery.” Did the student who have aspirations to work for NASA scored a 70% or above on the test? Did the student whom I butted heads with remember the difference between mass and weight? Did the student who grew 20% from the midyear to the April diagnostic remember the correct phases of the Moon?
So I spontaneously told my students that I loved them and am proud of them. I told them to remember that I was with them all year, and I am so proud of how much they have grown. Despite the importance of the test (because it’s still important) who they are as people is not quantifiable. Their test score doesn’t define their character.
When I think about my students, I cannot help but think about Teach For America Jacksonville, and when I think about TFA Jax, I cannot help but think about my students. When I heard the news tonight that the Duval County School Board is about to cut funding for Teach For America, I was heartbroken.
If it weren’t for TFA Jax, we would have vacancies in all tested subjects—that includes ELA, Reading, Math, Science, and Civics. Our school has one of the largest populations of TFA teachers. We have strong relationships with our administrators and our community. We are coaches, we do after-school activities, we work Saturday school, we continually go above and beyond, and we always stand alongside our veteran and non-TFA teachers. We support each other and we look to each other for support, TFA or not. That’s what makes my school great, that’s what makes DCPS great, and it’s what inspires me to continue my work in education beyond my TFA commitment.
If it weren’t for TFA Jax, 100% of 8th graders at Jefferson Davis Middle School would not have had a science teacher.
If it weren’t for TFA Jax, Duval County Public Schools—a county with 200 teacher vacancies annually—would have been short 600 more teachers since 2008.
If it weren’t for TFA Jax, I would never have met my 121 Naturally Selected Scientists who have taught me more than I could ever teach them.
If it weren’t for TFA Jax, classrooms in Jacksonville will continue to be missing teachers who otherwise would have had a transformational impact on its students.
Although the implications of the budget cuts would not affect me and my corps as much, it would impact the future of TFA Jax, the incoming 2017 Corps Members, and most importantly our kids. Currently, the School Board proposes to solve the classroom vacancies with marketing strategies to recruit teachers and retain new teachers—without Teach For America. Knowing the incredible staff at TFA Jax, the caliber of teachers that TFA Jax has recruited, as well as the people and community whom TFA Jax has built relationships with, students in DCPS—especially in Title I schools because that’s where 100% of us work—are at an extreme disadvantage.
At the end of 2016, I made a commitment to be uncomfortable, to be proactive, and to always keep going in the face of adversity. I never thought that it would hit so close to home, but the fight has begun.
#SaveTFAJAx. For my Naturally Selected Scientists. For One Day, All Children.
Please help me spread the word to Duval County School Board members by sharing this post. If you live in the Jacksonville, FL, area or have family, friends, and/or connections in the area, you can help us #SaveTFAJax by contacting a school board member:
District 1: The Honorable Cheryl Grymes 904-390-2371
District 2: The Honorable Scott Shine 904-390-2386
District 3: The Honorable Ashley Smith Juarez 904-390-2239
District 4: The Honorable Paula D. Wright 904-390-2374
District 5: The Honorable Warren A. Jones 904-390-2372 (my school district)
District 6: The Honorable Becki Couch 904-390-2373
District 7: The Honorable Lori Hershey 904-390-2375
My kids, school, and Teach For America – Jacksonville thank you in advance.