Sunday, October 4, 2015

Everyone's an Advanced Student, Not Athlete

schools to kids who don't know science: of course you can take AP bio! you can do anything you put your mind to! schools to kids who can't catch a ball: sorry, you are not good enough for the team. catch up and try out next year.

Monday, June 8, 2015

How I Show I Care and How My Students Show Appreciation

"It's none of my business." - most people
"There are two kinds of evil people in this world. Those who do evil stuff and those who see evil stuff being done and don't try to stop it." - Mean Girls

So I thought that the latter quote was from Albert Einstein, but I just googled it to find that what he said is a little bit more serious than what I was going for (though I don't disagree and Einstein - you are awesome, clearly). I'm not ashamed to be quoting Mean Girls, it is a classic film of my and today's youth.

This year I've thought a lot about these two quotes. My parents, and I think America, have steadfastly and successfully lived their lives staying out of situations and explaining that it wasn't any of their business to get involved. I haven't really questioned it; staying out of certain situations seemed like a good way to not come off as being rude or intrusive. I have a need for people to like me, so of course I followed this life philosophy as to not become unlikeable. However, this year I began to wonder if "it's none of my business" really meant "it's not important enough to me to get involved."

We had a new teacher at my school this year and she began teaching AP and Honors Biology with our team. (Full disclosure: I wanted to teach AP Biology and I do teach Honors Biology. Her AP students were my Honors students two years prior and I felt a responsibility for their learning of biology.) Within the first quarter, it became clear that she did not intend on teaching the AP Biology curriculum, and to a lesser extent, the Honors curriculum. In terms of AP, she actually completely stopped teaching for almost the entire second semester by way of daily computer webquests.

I'm embarrassed to say that it took me until April to speak up. I just felt and still feel that this is one of the reasons our schools suffer - there are people teaching who have little desire to teach. I know that the students in my school are bright and little lasting damage will be done by having an absent teacher. But it just didn't feel right. It felt like my silence was saying "I see what you're doing - which is nothing - and I'm okay with it (or worse, I support it)." I spoke to my superiors about my concerns. Two weeks passed and there was no change. Students inched closer to their AP exams. Then I felt that it was time to speak to my coworker. No change.

So my students and I decided to schedule some after-school study sessions. We met maybe four times and honestly, they weren't always productive, but I wanted to do what I could to help. I don't know if I handled the situation in the best way. But I think it was important to do something, even if it came off as nosy or superior to my coworker. I think I would feel a lot worse about myself, had I stayed silent.

My students left me a thank you card in my mailbox. They said it was nice to know that someone in the school cared about their learning. Today was the last day of school. They brought me a thank you lunch of sushi and cake.

I'm not saying to teach for the cake. I'm saying to do what you can, where you can and that your students are your students even if they're not on your roster. I think it's important to speak up when you see something is wrong. I don't think it was none of my business. I think our students are literally every teacher's business.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Truth About Schools

I became a teacher, because I believed that education was the great equalizer for all individuals from all sorts of walks to life. I believed that you might have a bad life, because you might have had a bad education.


If students are lucky, they will have one or two teachers a year that they will really connect with.

If teachers are lucky, they will have a handful of kids a year that they will really connect with.

(Class size is one factor.)

If you do the math, in high school at least, I see my students for less than an hour a day. (Going back to class size, this means that after a beginning of class introduction and end of class closing, I could talk to each student for about one minute a day - but wait - I have to teach stuff too, so that's not actually how a teacher's life goes.) How could I have naively believed that education could defeat every other sucky thing going on in a kid's life? Yes, students spend 7 hours a day in school and yes, that's a lot of time. But where are students for the other 17 hours of the day? Yes, many students spend an additional 2 or 3 hours in extracurriculars, but still, where are they for the other 14 hours of the day? It's arithmetic. We simply cannot expect to win over the majority of kids who have unpleasant things going on the other ~2/3 of the day.

Yes, we can be the difference for some students. But we cannot for the others. It is just impossible. And it sucks, but that doesn't change the situation.

The biggest difference maker, I think, now having taught for 4.5 years, is having parents that want to have you and raise you the best they can. So don't have kids if you don't want an 18 year  lifetime commitment, don't have kids because of societal pressure, and don't have kids if you're not convinced you can make them your biggest priority.

Because then we all pay the price.