The Kid I Didn’t Kill (Ellie Herman)

Re-blogging this latest post from Larry Cuban as well…

Ellie nailed it. In my brief time teaching, especially this past school year, I lived these moments too often. So much so I sought respite from teaching algebra (where mostly freshman struggle behaviorally with their transition to high school) this coming school year. I broke under the stress and strain of too many students like Gio, Fernie, Tiffany, and Peter feeding off of each others challenges in a classroom, destroying the learning environment and nearly everything around them, metaphysically speaking.

The irony is I became a teacher with the (naive) hope of helping just these students but now realize I, as a teacher of many, am unable to salve the deep wounds of the few in any material manner as the staccato nature of their outbursts were too difficult to predict or to address while directing the learning of dozens of others.

Each of the following quotes from Ellie’s piece resonate deeply with me.

Once, I had three in one class, turning it into a Lord of the Flies situation with clusters of high-achieving girls taking me aside in a weeping, enraged circle and demanding that the three boys with extreme behavior problems be removed permanently from the class.

“Teaching,” Cynthia Castillo told me, “is an act of faith.” I remember. I hope to get there.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Taken from “About” in Herman’s blog:

My name is Ellie Herman.  If you want to find out what I’m doing here and why, click here on why I’m writing this blog.  I’ve been working on this project since the beginning of September….

As for my bio, I’m a writer and English teacher.  From 2007 to 2013, I taught Drama, Advanced Drama, Creative Writing, English 11 and 9th grade Composition at a charter high school in South Los Angeles.

Before that, I was a writer/producer for many TV shows, including The Riches, Desperate Housewives, Chicago Hope and Newhart.  My fiction has appeared in many literary journals, including The Massachusetts Review, The Missouri Review and the O.Henry Awards Collection.

I attended public schools in Winnetka, Illinois from kindergarten through high school and graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a degree in English.  I have a teaching credential from Cal State Northridge.  My three children attended Oakwood School, a private school…

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About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Secondary math teacher teaching math intervention, algebra 1, honors precalculus, and AP Calculus AB. I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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2 Responses to The Kid I Didn’t Kill (Ellie Herman)

  1. La Maestra says:

    It’s for kids like this that I’m thankful that schools like mine (an independent study program) exist, and why I wish they weren’t so highly stigmatized. We aren’t run out of a trailer behind the alternative school as so many independent study programs are–we’re in our own facility, with a full staff, specific programs for special education and ELL students, and staffed support labs where students can (and do) come to get help with their schoolwork.

    I frequently joke that I now have all the students I never wanted as a classroom teacher–they’re ALL Gio. There are days where I just want to go home and contemplate a career change. But damned if I don’t enjoy them, most of the time. And I love knowing that they’re finding a setting where they can be successful and connect with adults and get the attention that most of them so sorely need.

    Sadly, most independent study programs are looked at as an afterthought, and students who go to them are looked down on even more.

    While I do believe that a classroom setting is the ideal educational model for most students, I think 5-10% of students out there just don’t fit in that mold for some reason or another. That’s who we cater to, and I’m so very glad that our students have us as a choice. I just wish more students had this option.


    • I am glad that programs (and entire schools) like yours exist, especially staffed by thoughtful, caring teachers like yourself. In a one on one situation, I could relate to Gio et. al. To a one, they are charismatic, capable young minds. Yet they do not fit well into the “factory model” of public education. Good on ya for helping the Gio’s of the world! And yes, I wish more options like this existed.


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