My experience with PG County teachers has not been that great. When I took a semester internship with a local elementary school to teach an after school science workshop for third, fourth and fifth graders, I took my students outside for the first ten minutes of class. They were an energetic bunch, so I liked to wear them out before I taught anything. Plus, when I found out that they only had 30 minutes for both lunch and recess, outdoor time seemed more important to me. Somewhere in the middle of the semester, one of the teachers next door to my classroom came out and raised her voice (/yelled) at me. She said the kids were not allowed outside. The principal got involved and she was pretty upset, too.
For the most part, I felt like I had control over the class (there were about ten kids) and I honestly felt as if they needed the time out there. I guess it was just my way of managing my class.
One semester, I observed a high school biology teacher once every week. He had gotten into teaching late, but had been teaching for many, many years. His class was pretty chatty and his lectures were made by someone else (presumably a book company). He was a nice man and I appreciated his time, but he was not a "great" teacher. When I told him that I was planning on teaching, he responded with a "why? (There are so many other things you can do with a biology major!!)" It was clear to me then that he did not love his job and the way he taught showed that (to be fair though, he does seem to love his subject). I felt like some students in his class really wanted to learn. They would ask questions during lecture and their questions sometimes went ignored. I was told from another student who also was shadowing him (and his AP bio class) that he was very engaging when he taught. I figure that he is just one of those teachers who love AP but "hate" on-level classes. He once told me that he was waiting for his kids to get older, because that is when they would actually appreciate science. I think some of them already did, though he assumed they didn't.
Another semester, I interned with another high school bio teacher (in a different school). Again, she was a nice person, clearly worn down from teaching, but her class was very chatty, little was taught during class, and her students' grades were terrible. What really strikes me was how little she believes in her students. (I think this is one of the things that really differentiate new and old teachers, while I'm not saying that all new teachers are full of hope and all old teachers have given up.) At one instance, she told me that she "hates [her] kids." I didn't know how to respond. Basically, she thought they're unteachable and she thought that she is doing all she can. My verdict? She's not.
I understand it though. She's the one who's been dealing with the "same kids" time after time. Where we come from, teachers teach (however they like) and students learn. It's your own (as a student) fault if you fail, because the teacher taught the material and you didn't make the effort to understand it. Teachers aren't supposed to convince, beg or force their students to learn. Those in school should want to learn. It strikes me that with the demographic of PG County students, most of these students 50 years ago would have been wishing they could learn, but today it's a hassle. But still, it's no excuse not to be an engaging teacher or to be the teacher that changes their aversion to school and learning.
And then sometimes, I am just shaking my head. The other day she was teaching genetics and referred to the gene for tall pea plants as Tt and the gene for short pea plants to be Ss. It didn't make any sense to me and I wonder if any students made sense of it. Another day, she pronounced "chromatin" as chro-mat-tin (literally: crow. mat. tin). I did a double take - ...did she just say chro-mat-tin? However, she did correctly write the alleles when doing a Punnett square, but she didn't explain that she was wrong before so now students might think both ways are correct.
But that doesn't mean she doesn't do anything "right". She keeps food in the classroom for when students are very hungry (she doesn't give it out at the beginning of class, which is something I'm contemplating doing) and she brings in supplies for labs or projects (self-purchased).
And to be fair, I've met some decent PG County teachers, too. I just haven't worked closely with them. The teacher whose room I used for my science workshop was very supportive (he helped me with classroom management and told me that I was doing a good job with my attempts to be innovative with my lessons by using multiple medias). Also, the teachers flanking the current room I'm interning in (to the left, a TFA first year bio teacher and to the right, the science department chair) seem like good, committed teachers - so it hasn't been all bad. But to be honest, my experiences make me very worried that there are more "bad" teachers in PG County than "good". And by that, I mean there are a whole lot of people who don't want to teach and few that really do and love it.
And then came yesterday. For our ISG we have to shadow a current Fellow in the program and write a running record of the class we observe. I observed a high school math teacher. She was fantastic. She taught slowly, gave examples, answered questions, gave a worksheet for her students to follow along with (they filled in the chart), and then she assigned some work out of the textbook. While her students were working, she walked around the classroom to help. When about half of her class had to leave for an impromptu National Honor Society meeting, she continued to teach and said that the present students could pair up with the NHS students and teach them what they missed while they were out. I had the exact same thinking and was so pleased to hear that we were both on point with each other. Her students were a bit chatty but definitely seemed to respect her.
After class, she chatted with me about the experience and when it all comes down to it, I can see that people like her in a program like PGCTF are working steadily toward success.
In other news, I have totally been slacking on reading my TfSA so thoughts on Chapter 1&2 on the way...