My name is Tyiesha, (Ms. Moncrief if you’re a student!), and I’m originally from Chicago’s West Side. I attended Austin Polytechnical Academy before I graduated with a degree in Biology from UIC.
My focus lists have me work with many students, and I challenge each of them to be as consistent as they can in their work and behavior. Two students in particular, Javon* and Dynnae*, stand out to me because of the impact that consistency has had on their performance.
They each struggle with different challenges, have opposite attitudes, and have contrasting views about math. My approach is different with each of them, but that approach relies on consistency.
Dynnae would come with me to work on math, only to crack jokes during the lesson. I wasn’t sure why she would want to “work,” if she was only going to distract other students, but then I noticed something.
Dynnae thought her behavior would force me to work with her 1-on-1, giving her more attention. I also learned that, as an 8th grader, she was grasping math at a 3rd grade level. This explained why she’d constantly crack jokes – in order to hide her lack of confidence in the subject.
Javon, on the other hand, refused to even talk to me for 4 weeks straight! You see, a City Year member mentored Javon last year, but his corps member was unable to complete their service at O’Keeffe. This is a tough year that could challenge any corps member’s commitment, but this lack of consistency hindered Javon’s progress and the confidence that had been built.
Every time he saw me coming Javon would put his binder over his head, forming a tent, and ignore me. At one point he wrote a note that read: "You just gonna leave like the one last year did." My heart sank.
I started by building their confidence; encouraging and congratulating them for solving even the simplest of problems, and then challenging them with more difficult ones. My goal is to get them to the point where they'll maneuver through this subject without my help.
Right now the results are smaller. I catch Dynnae working on math problems in the hallway, and we’re working towards mastering the basics she’ll need. Meanwhile, Javon is more talkative and has abandoned his binder-tent, and we’re working to establish his goals for the year!
Getting these students caught up is a long process that depends on consistency, but I am committed, and we are on our way!
* Javon and Dynnae's names have been changed in order to protect their respective identities