Back to School Bonanza #10: The Rocky Mountain Mama

Today is it.  The final installment of my Back to School Bonanza Guest Post Series.  Today’s post is brought to you by the Rocky Mountain Mama.  
I love this post so much.  It is the perfect way to end my series.
She taught in Title I schools.  I teach in a Title I school.  Many of you know that my school is amazing, but does not have near the funding they need for the students we have.  We have classes that are too big, not enough supplies, not enough resources all due to being “at risk”–which means no money for us.
Don’t get me going on how warped that is in this country.  Punish the needy districts by taking away funding.  Grrr.
Anyway, this post touches my heart. 
I believe in Public Schools.
I believe in kids who are considered “at risk”.
I devote a HUGE chunk of my life to both.
And so did the Rocky Mountain Mama.
I hope you enjoy this last post in my guest series.  Please visit her blog (she is doing  PPD awareness week right now that is AWESOME…and I am there!).  Oh, and of course show her some love.
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Hello!  I am the author of Rocky Mountain Mama.  I am so glad to be joining Sluiter Nation’s Back to School Bonanza!  I am blogging as an educator and I will be discussing my school experience, some of my teaching experiences and how they may or may not relate to each other.
I attended parochial school from kindergarten through high school.  I really did enjoy my school experience.  I had many great teachers and I liked the small environment of a parochial school.  My K-8 school had 2 classes in each grade with each class only having about 20 kids in it.  There were about 10 of us who started school together in kindergarten and graduated from high school together.  Attending parochial school definitely kept me sheltered, but I was definitely prepared for my future.  I understood the meaning of hard work.  From an early age (1st grade) I had hours of homework.  Yes, you read that correctly…hourS. 
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I didn’t always know I wanted to be a teacher, but I did always enjoy working with younger children.  After I graduated college with a useless degree in English, I decided to go back to school to get my license in Elementary Education.  While participating in all my practicums and student teaching I thought I wanted to teach at a charter school – it being very similar to my own background.  The thought of a “regular” public school frightened me…and don’t even get me started on Title I schools.  Scary!  I was so used to the sheltered feeling of a parochial school that working with kids with disabilities or hard backgrounds freaked me out.
I did my student teaching in the fall and subbed from January through November of the following year.  Subbing was hard.  I went from school to school and was scared nearly out of teaching when I found a student who attempted throwing tables at a Title I school.  Then one day, midyear, a friend called and told me about an opening at her school – a Title I school.  I really wasn’t sure, but I decided to interview.  It wouldn’t hurt, right?!
I got the job as a full day kindergarten teacher to many English language learners who came from hard, unstable backgrounds.  I loved it.  Hands down, loved it.  These kids were great and the families were so caring and just wanted the best for their children.  The following year I switched districts and found myself at yet another inner-city Title I school, but this one was different.  This one was rough – in the heart of the inner-city.  These kids had rough lives.  Some were homeless.  Many had parents in jail.  And many didn’t have enough to eat or shared a room with more than one sibling.  This school had 97% free and reduced lunch – that should give you an idea of the area.
This job was tough.  Oh my gosh, it was tough!  I cried daily for almost two weeks when I first started.  I had a student who peed on the floor, wrote curse words all over the room, threw things and a handful of students who refused to work.  Think Dangerous Minds with 2nd graders.  And parent support?!  Forget it!  But once I established relationships and gained control I fell in love with every.single.student.   Even the one who peed on the floor and called me the F word on many occasions. They challenged me daily.  They pushed my limits, but I learned SO much from these kids.  I valued every moment at that school in spite of the tremendous amounts of stress.
There were many days I left crying…not because of stress of the job, but because of the situations many of these children lived in.  I had high expectations of these kids (just like when I was younger) but how do you maintain high expectations when some of these kids don’t have a place to sleep or don’t have enough to eat?!  The answer…you give them a loving, caring and structured environment.  That is what they crave….what they need.  I still think about those kids and wonder how they are doing now.  I still worry for them.
When I was pregnant with Christopher I decided to change districts to be closer to home.  I am now teaching in one of the top districts in Denver in one of the top elementary school as a kindergarten interventionist.  I do love it…I really do, but part of me misses the struggles of Title I.
So how does this all tie together – my parochial schooling with my teaching experience at a Title I school?  Attending a parochial school kept me very sheltered.  My parents made a good choice as the public school system where I grew up was not the best, but I am now a firm believer in the public school system.  Yes, it has its “issues” but everything does.  I digress…   Growing up I kind of had a negative warped perception of public schools ingrained into me.  
I always thought public schools = bad education.  Quite the contrary.  There are many, MANY public schools who are providing an amazing education for today’s youth.  My current school is a good example.  My previous school may not be the best example if you pull their test scores, but I can tell you the teachers there are working their butts off to provide a well rounded education and more importantly, a safe place for those kids.
I couldn’t pull from my life experiences to understand and empathize with my students at the Title I school, but I do understand the value of education.  No matter what setting I am in, I have always strived to provide my students with the best education while maintaining a caring learning environment.  While my schooling experience was completely different from many of my teaching experiences, I have valued both.
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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. Great insight. I have tremendous respect for you and everything you put into your job! Keep it up and THANK YOU!

  2. My daughter teaches in an inner city school, so I understand this completely! Thanks for sharing your concerns. molly

  3. This is great! Thanks for sharing 🙂