This article at Education Week echoes something I’ve been saying for quite some time:
A call for national standards ensures that we continue doing what is most wrong with our bureaucratic schools (establish-prescribe-measure) and that we persist in looking away from the largest cause of low student achievement: childhood poverty.
A call for national standards is a political veneer, a tragic waste of time and energy that would be better spent addressing real needs in the lives of children—safe homes, adequate and plentiful food, essential health care, and neighborhood schools that are not reflections of the neighborhoods where children live through no choice of their own.
Well, it has certainly been a long time since I updated here! After finishing the long-term position last January, one of my contacts at that school led me to another long-term position, also in 8th grade. I finished out the year there, and had an overall very positive experience.
Flash forward to August, when another long-term position in that district was posted. This one is for the entire year. I called the principal, met with her, and landed the job. Gainful employment is once again mine!
I will be teaching 9th and 10th grade English, and I’m *very* excited about this opportunity. I get to teach Shakespeare! To Kill a Mockingbird! A hip graphic novel!
I’ll be slowly but surely making some updates around here, and writing about some of my educational experiences. This is my first *full year* position in one place, and it’s overwhelming and exciting all at once!
Look for more updates soon.
Last Friday, I finished up a long-term job. It wasn’t my first long-term job, but it was the first one that felt “real.” Maybe it was because I started at the beginning of the year, which gave me the chance to set up a classroom. Maybe it was because it was longer than any of the others. Or maybe it was because it was in a district that felt like home to me.
At any rate, it was a wonderful experience. My coworkers were kind and helpful. The administration and support staff were as well. And my students? Well, see for yourself. This is just a taste of what they did for me on my last day:
I am touched and honored beyond words. And while I’m sad that it has ended, I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything.
I’ve been hired as a long-term sub, teaching 8th grade English language arts. I’ll be working until the end of November. Here’s hoping something else materializes in the meantime.
I don’t agree with everything this author has to say, but I do think that this was an excellent point:
We have both a challenge and an opportunity before us. We cannot continue to fail children because recruiting and retaining new teachers is too hard. The key is in the support — America doesn’t treat teaching like a profession.
-Mark Lampkin at Huffington Post
I’m searching for some good websites I can direct my students to, for help in finding good argumentative essay topics.
In my travels, I came across a site called Best Essays, one of the many, many “buy an essay from us” sites out there. What I find both amusing and troubling is that they pledge that their essays are “plagiarism free!”
I suppose that’s sort of technically true. They’re promising students that they essay they’re purchasing is an original work and hasn’t been taken from somewhere else. Except that as soon as the student turns it in to their teacher, it’s plagiarized.
What they should be saying, I suppose, is “there’s no way your teacher will catch you!”
Over at Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch a few weeks ago, they “reviewed the reviews” of Freedom Writers. I really want to see this movie.
Some backstory. A few years ago, I took a job in public relations at a nonprofit agency in WNY. For the most part, I hated this job. I won’t get into why. But while I worked there, I got to do a few really, really cool things. One of those things was meeting Erin Gruwell, the teacher behind the Freedom Writers Diary.
Ms. Gruwell, and several of her students, signed my copy of the book. And even though I could never accomplish the things she accomplished, meeting her and reading this book was a large part of what inspired me to become a teacher. So I found snippets of reviews like this completely annoying:
“And not that she needed a crack habit, but Erin herself is so unbelievably saintly — and her fellow teachers so snivelingly evil — that she’s impossible to believe as anything more than an inspiration-bot. Every student is fundamentally good and easily taught and reformed, and the eventual triumph of the human spirit is so predetermined that it’s not particularly satisfying. The music swells, the tears well up, Swank smiles lovingly, and the crack pipe starts to look rather appealing.”
Hm. Mr. Josh Bell of Las Vegas Weekly seems to completely ignore the fact that Erin Gruwell is an actual person. I don’t know how true-to-life (or to the book) Freedom Writers is, but, well, this just seems like an utterly ridiculous thing to say. Erin Gruwell’s story is one that seems made-for-Hollywood, too good to be true. But the thing is, it IS true.
I hope this movie does well. I hope millions and millions of people see it, educators especially, and are inspired to change the world in both large and small ways.
“Those of us who are interested in improving education have a habit of paying too much attention to schools and not enough to children.” -Harold Howe II
I started reading this book quite a while ago. I’d started reading a library copy, and then decided to get a copy of my own. I thought it was excellent and a must-read for anyone in the education field.
A memo, to any classroom teachers who might be reading…and to myself, should I actually get one of those coveted full-time classroom jobs.
Some of you may have forgotten what it’s like to be a substitute teacher. Many of you probably never had to be a substitute teacher. It’s not an easy job, for a lot of reasons. Here are some things you can do to make our lives just a little bit easier.
- Leave seating charts. Calling roll is tedious and just a little bit annoying. Seating charts make taking attendance a breeze. They’re also good for when I have to leave you notes about a student who may have given me trouble. There’s nothing worse than having to ask a student his or her name so that I can write it down.
- Don’t assume I’m going to know what I’m talking about. I have no problem with giving students assignments and making sure that they complete them. I also have no problem giving notes…but I’m an English teacher, and if I’m out of my area of expertise, please keep in mind that I might not be able to communicate to the students what you need them to know. I subbed for a social studies teacher last year who left a bunch of overheads with sketchy notes on them. I bluffed my way through it, (not even sure if I was going in the right order) but felt very out of my element.
- And for those teachers who are in the school that day…try and make us feel welcome. Some of us are a little shy, and eating lunch in the faculty room can be intimidating. Smile. Say hello. Ask me my name. Anything you can do to be friendly to a sub will be remembered and appreciated.
That’s just off the top of my head. I’d be curious to see if anyone has anything to add to my list!
I’m a big fan of Anna Quindlen. I just came across this column, from last fall, and thought it was worth a link here:
The Wages of Teaching
Unfortunately, the current fashionable fixes for education take a page directly from the business playbook, and it’s a terrible fit. Instead of simply acknowledging that starting salaries are woefully low and committing to increasing them and finding the money for reasonable recurring raises, pols have wasted decades obsessing about something called merit pay. It’s a concept that works fine if you’re making widgets, but kids aren’t widgets, and good teaching isn’t an assembly line.
She mentions Frank McCourt’s book, “Teacher Man”. I haven’t read it, but it sounds like it’s worth a look.