I have a few things I want to say. But, as a teacher, I’m not sure if it’s the best thing to voice things onto a “public blog” (which is partly why my blog has been so quiet lately). However, I just want to get some ideas out there.
1. It’s humbling teaching after graduate school. I realized a lot of my peers used grad school as the launching point for an education-related sector jump or to take that next career step. Although I’m sure that with the name and the network (and by not being picky and moving to any random state) I could have gotten a “prestigious” position, if I learned anything at grad school, it was that I wanted to have more hands-on experience before I began to make decisions or give advice to others. Also, during graduate school, I realized I’m happiest when I’m with little people teaching.
So. I went back. But now that I’m back, it’s hard to balance what I “know” with what’s happening. I suppose that’s just the reality of the public education system. In a sense, I’m glad that I am mainly positive about my school, and I do get to see that it’s true - not all charters are alike. But I do feel that charters reflect the tenor of our nation and this really “assessment-based” curriculum kills my soul a little. Although if anyone is teaching in that environment, I’m glad that it’s me and not someone else who heart-and-soul buys into it.
Another area where it’s difficult to balance the knowledge with reality is in the area of leadership. I took classes and read books. I’d also venture to say that I have a streak of leadership and a desire to hone that. SO it’s always fascinating to learn how to engage people and lead and collectively effect change. It’s also really easy to feel entitled. Perhaps entitlement isn’t the right word since it seems to imply a sense of deserving something huge when really what I feel that I deserve is occasional positive reinforcement, some warning, clear communication, and psychological safety. I see myself shutting down and getting nervous every time my site director comes in because I’m not sure if she’s leaving me a note or if she’s going to observe my class (and eventually give me a write up or a recommendation to “tighten up my class.”). I always assume the worst and when I see her, I always try to assert my best attitude. Frankly, I’m just a wuss. But then again, what can you do? It’s your first year, you don’t want to make waves.
From their point of view, I can understand that it’s important to be really tight and tough because of the constant influx of weaker teachers who don’t deliver. But also, if the delivery is packaged in the form of standardized tests… …
But THEN… it’s not the charters’ faults for being so score-heavy. It’s their only way of assuring renewal and assuring that students come. If CA demands it, how can you ignore it?
and AMIDST all this, there are DEFINITE issues of race politics that gets brushed under the carpet. I’m glad that I can still stand behind my leaders and that I have some great coworkers. I’m glad that we can commiserate together. I’m glad that I respect the people I work with. I’m glad that I have my kids (but even THEY get so tough… this week was so tough..).
Anyway, I guess I got carried away.
Here are some points:
1 – psychological safety is important in the workplace
2 – encouraging teachers to SHARE resources / lesson plans / pacing guides just makes sense. I don’t know why nobody gives me their stuff from last year. I always try to give out an extra copy of the tests and quizzes I create. Why not? (On another note: ed resources should be SHARED; ie FREE).
3 – I don’t see the benefit of write-ups. Even rhetorically change the name. Call them reminders. OR if there are write-ups (ie negative feedback) then have positive feedback systems in place too. And no, giving me a few hundred dollars for value-added score improvements or perfect attendance (impossible) is not what I mean. Just a kind word or two. Or an acknowledgement that what I’m doing is good. I start to feel insecure. And then it makes me become a less effective teacher. You can’t really put all that blame on me (I’m not trying to write my way out of my mistakes/issues, I’m just saying there’s lot of factors involved).
4 – Happy hours are crucial.
5 – Positive encouragement is honestly the BEST for kids. Even “inner-city kids who don’t need sympathy but people willing to expect much from them.” I think only a select few (namely the few that have ACTUALLY EXPERIENCED everything negative that they bring up) can inspire kids with their horror stories of what will happen if they drop out of school. I would say that the founder of my school is one of them. Probably because he came from their very neighborhood and has been local for a long time. For the rest of the cases, it’s pretty condescending AND many of these students don’t need added fear stress.
6. Our PD was a little laughable. It consisted of directors swearing and telling us how hard our school would be. Maybe to scare the new folks in being too soft? I was directly told that if a student ever said, “F*ck you” to me, to “Say ‘F*ck you right back’.” (That was a bit hard to swallow since I don’t like that word at all). Last week, I snapped at a student for his “crappy answer” and my whole class became deathly quiet. I felt so remorseful and I saw my student’s face drop. Basically, my students, even if they come from pretty harsh areas (from what the other teachers tell me and from stories I hear randomly from my kids about their lives), they’re still really soft.
7. The whole reason I even came to my blog was because I wanted to capture this really funny thing that happened in class yesterday. I tried to remember it yesterday, but I forgot. Today, I remembered!
[While trying to get students to use a linking verb with a noun.]
Me: Bob, what will you be when you grow up?
*Bob: I will be a player.
Me: Um, what do you mean by “player”? (Surprisingly nobody laughed except for one older boy who definitely knew what a player was).
Bob: I want to play video games.
Me: Oh! You mean a “gamer”!
Bob: Oh! Yes. A gamer. I will be a gamer.