The Good, The Bad and The Motivation: Tales of a Teaching Fellow

Destiny Waggoner is a Second Year Teaching Fellow at Sharpstown Middle School in Houston, Texas

As a Teaching Fellow, you'll have good days and bad days. You'll have days when you love coming into work and days when you really don't want to, but you do instead. These are stories from the days I loved, the days that made me not want to come to work and the reasons why I still did.

The days you want to come…

There is an apprenticeship called “What about me?”  It is an all girls’ apprenticeship, which allows a safe space for girls to open up about their experiences and learn about female development.  As I’m sending off my girls to “What about me?,” I have a young gregarious male student stand-up and say, “This isn’t fair, why isn’t there a class for all boys, we have questions too you know.  I have hair growing everywhere, why is it growing you know where?  These are questions we need answered Miss.”

I lead a Law and Order apprenticeship and students are preparing to present their case in front of a real judge in a real courtroom.  I remind them that they need to dress professionally and I attempt to explain to them what this looks like.  I ask them, “What will you wear to the courtroom?”  The response by two boys is, “A tuxedo!”

It was one of my student’s birthdays, so I decided to bake a cake.  After we had enjoyed some cake and music, I wrapped up the leftovers and put them in the corner of the room.  When my apprenticeship class entered the room, I noticed a student in the corner next to the cake.  I asked him what he was doing, and he turned around and said, “Nothing, I’m just looking, I’m not doing anything!”  I had trouble believing him since his entire mouth was covered with white frosting and a guilty smile.

The days you don’t…

  • The monotony of saying, “sit down, be quiet, do your homework, put your feet on the floor, put your shirt back on, stop making paper airplanes, your desk is not a drum and your pencils are not drumsticks.”
  • Students telling you that “you don’t know anything” and “if you were smart then you wouldn’t be a teacher.”
  • “Citizen Schools sucks, I hate it and I hate you!”
  • “If one more student interrupts me while I’m trying to explain how to add fractions, I am going to scream.”
  • Spitballs flying and boys farting while you’re talking and the occasional chair flying across the room
  • Girls crying because a boy didn’t say hello to them

Why you still do…

  • Building trust and students’ confidence in you

  • At the end of a year, one of your most “troubled” students writes you a letter that says, “Miss, you changed my life
  • A student who was involved in gang activity last year, now comes to program everyday and has risen his grades from F’s to C’s
  • A student who had difficulty speaking in class, can now deliver a speech in front of an audience at their apprenticeship WOW!
  • A parent giving you a hug and saying, “thank you for helping my child.
What drives you to show up everyday to your job?