On hope, ctd.

You may– I suspect it’s unlikely, but you may– recall this August 2021 post about Makyi Toliver, a former student of mine and one I was quite fond of, who had been sentenced to 45 years in prison for felony murder. I don’t know if you know what felony murder is, but it’s a wildly unjust fucking crime. Makyi and a sixteen-year-old friend attempted to steal a gun from a third person, a bungled theft that led to the gun’s owner killing his friend and shooting Makyi at least eight times. This, somehow, led to Makyi being convicted of murder. 45 years. At 20.

I’ve corresponded with Makyi a couple of times– not enough, to tell the truth– since he’s been locked up. Yesterday morning I checked my messages and noticed that his account was marked as inactive. I didn’t initially think much of it; maybe he’d been transferred or the prison was changing providers or something.

At 8:00 yesterday evening I got a text message from another teacher who had also had him in her classes. Makyi was dead. As far as we know right now, he died from suicide. Why “as far as we know”? The jail and the coroner are refusing to give his mother any information, which means we’re relying on– wait for it– rumors and secondhand information from other former students at Parchman.

Makyi was a good kid. He was a good kid and he had an immense amount of potential and he didn’t fucking deserve any of this.

I hate it here, and I’m not okay.

And … done

Undeniably my most successful and fun year of teaching… well, sixish months of teaching, at least … in at least a decade. Quite possibly my most successful and fun ever, since there are kids from that 2013 year I still look up occasionally hoping to discover they’re in jail, and there’s no one from this class I’m going to remember negatively.

So, naturally, I came home and took a nap on the couch, and it took half an hour at least of staring dully at the screen before I was able to muster up the willpower to type even these few sentences, and I have to get up at regular time tomorrow to go to a thing at my son’s school, so it ain’t like summer’s starting just yet.

(10 more minutes of staring)

… yeah, I’m going to bed early tonight, aren’t I?

And now one more

Oh, man, I made so many of them cry today. It was awesome.

I said more or less the same thing to all of my classes today, and I said it today because I expect a fair number of them to be absent tomorrow: that this was the first year that teaching was fun in a very long time, and that the last class of kids that I remember with the level of fondness that I suspect I’ll remember this class with was ten goddamn years ago. This is the end of year 19; seven months ago I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to 20. Now I’m back to thinking I might actually retire from teaching whenever that magical date rolls around, as opposed to quitting in disgust and going to do something else.

Tomorrow afternoon is a field day, and the universe has rewarded me for these heartfelt thoughts by putting me in charge of monitoring the inflatables, which means I am going to spend four hours tomorrow stuck in a gym with several dozen seventh and eighth graders at a time, all of whom will be sweaty and, because I’m working with the inflatables, none of whom will be wearing shoes. I cannot imagine what my world is going to smell like tomorrow. I am not sure that I want to.

Grading: DONE!

Well, mostly. My Algebra kids had their final today and today was the last day for 8th grade Math kids to turn in late work and expect me to grade it. Tomorrow is the last day for the Algebra kids to turn in late work, so I’ll have to grade whatever that is, but that will get done during the day and not at home at my desk. So I’m done, but I’m not done-done, so to speak, but I will be by this time tomorrow.

The final went pretty well, all told. They didn’t all pass, although the large majority of them did and the kids who bombed it weren’t huge surprises. I’ll take it, especially after their performance on NWEA.

And now, to finish reading a book before bed.

Two pieces of undeniably good news

I got my evaluation back from my assistant principal today. We don’t really need to go into the details of how our evaluation system works; suffice it to say that my final score was 3.88/4, which is the highest final score I’ve ever received, and my third or fourth year in a row at Highly Effective. I will probably never manage a perfect score for various reasons so only losing twelve hundredths of a point over the course of the four classroom observations and two official goals is pretty damn good.

I also spent parts of sixth and seventh hour crunching NWEA data. I’ve talked about the NWEA before; it’s one of the standardized tests I at least kinda like– it’s over fast, it’s given multiple times a year (but still eats a lot less time than the single administration of the ILEARN does) and it focuses on measuring individual student growth and doesn’t bother with a pass/fail cutscore. It also does this thing where everybody is measured on the same scale– it goes up to like 350 or something like that but a 230 or so is about what an 8th grader is expected to get on the Math test at the beginning of the year, where a first grader might be shooting for a 180 and a high school senior a 270. Two of those numbers are made up but you get the basic idea.

Long story short, my numbers were phenomenal. I got an average of a year’s growth out of these kids between the test that was administered the week before I got there and the one I gave them a couple of weeks ago– a year’s worth of growth in basically one semester. My two Honors classes in particular posted huge gains. This is probably getting too far into the weeds, but check this out:

This is my first hour class. The plus signs are Math and the squares are LA. Now, you’d expect everybody to be to the right on the “achievement” part of the graph, since they’re honors kids, but there’s nothing about honors classes that guarantees high growth, and compare how high the pluses are to how high the squares are. It’s even more stark in sixth hour:

Only four kids from that group didn’t manage high growth. That’s outstanding. And by comparing my kids to their own LA scores I know I’m not running into any statistical bullshittery; they flat-out improved more in Math than they did in LA, and by a pretty good margin once you pull all the numbers together. That’s as clear a teacher effect as I know how to demonstrate.

“But wait, Mr. Siler!” you might point out. “Didn’t your kids have a month with no teacher, and therefore possibly score more poorly on the second administration than they might otherwise, thus leading to high growth as they get back what they lost?”

A reasonable question, and while I’m not going to post the graphs, I also looked at how they did against the first test of the year, when a missing teacher wasn’t a problem, and the gains are still as stark. My other classes don’t look quite this good– again, the honors kids really came through for me– but they still look pretty goddamn good.

I may just have my mojo back, y’all.

Remind me of this post in three days, when I’m drained by the last week and never want to teach again. 🙂