Saturday, October 16, 2010

Waiting for Organization

I just came home from seeing Waiting for Superman (literally, I just got in the door) and though I know many people who have negative opinions of it, I liked it. At its worst, it reveals to unknowing viewers the tragedy that is our school system. At its best, it inspires viewers to want to do something about that tragedy.

The movie highlights several failing, "drop out factories" and offers up a few successful schools such as KIPP and Harlem Children Zone as suggestions for reform. And while I don't believe that charter schools are the solution, I think they are doing a lot of good work and hopefully will play a role ing leading us to a solution.

When I visited KIPP Gaston for a few days, I could feel that the school was different. Sure, there were some less than stellar teachers and less than enthused students, but the majority of the teachers were killing themselves over their jobs and that year, every student was accepted into a 4-year college. While I didn't agree with the idea of forcing students to apply to school, I love that they got the option of going to college and I hope that they gained perspective of their potential when they received their acceptance letters.

Most importantly, the movie added fuel to my new teacher fire. I am not a good teacher.

I don't suck, either, but saying "at least I don't suck" isn't going to help my students the least. Everyday that I fail to successfully teach my students, I am ultimately pushing them further back from reaching grade-level proficiency and widening that damn achievement gap. But what can I do? All I do is think about school (and admittedly, my lack of good sleep). Well, maybe I need to start doing more and thinking less.

So here are my thoughts in a bubble:

1. Bad teachers hurt not only their students, but the future of our world.

2. I don't want to be a bad teacher. I dread the idea of being one of the teachers who inspired me to teach in PG County.

3. For the most part, I am against tenure.

4. I think we need to start from the ground up. School-wide spring cleaning. Alternative governance or not, every teacher needs to reapply for their job. If you're a good teacher, it should be no sweat. You plan and teach a lesson well, you keep your job. Other school staff also needs to be reevaluated. So many schools suffer from a case of bad principal (who are good people who need another profession).

5. We don't need Superman. We need organization. PGCPS suffers from hoarding and chaotic disorganization. If you expect your students to be organized, prepared and well-planned for success, we must first model that. (I'm guilty.) Administration hardly ever seems as if they know what is going on, so how can teachers, and then, most importantly, students? It's the 9th week of school and students' schedules are still being worked out! Get it together, people. It seems as if our school is totally new and no systems for efficiency are in place.

6. This is going to take a while. Sometimes, well, often, it gets hard. I want to leave. I can't wait for two years to be up. But what is the point of me becoming a better teacher if I leave a place that truly needs better teachers? But at the same time, what is the point of me suffering in a suffocating school system? That is a rock and a hard place.

Monday, October 11, 2010

And onto Week 8

I can't believe it's only been 8 weeks since I started teaching. It feels as if I've been teaching for 8 years. But it's a good thing it really has only been 8 weeks, because I am certainly not the kind of teacher an 8 year veteran should be!

Everyday, I wake up with more appreciation for the teachers who taught me and supplied me with the knowledge to grow into the person I am today. Everyday, I make my students search for appreciation within themselves for the teachers in their lives. No, I'm not being vain (thank me, students!), because I still don't feel like a teacher. I still feel like a volunteer or a substitute, just hangin' out until their real teacher comes back. It's not that I haven't immersed myself fully in the being a teacher thing, it's just that everyday I feel that the role of a teacher grows more and more and I can't possibly imagine myself holding such an important position. I wonder if this is how Barack Obama feels.


So, as you can tell, it's nearly 6 am and have been awake since roughly 11 am. I really don't have this lesson planning, aligning to the standards thing down. That is one thing I wish our training would have stressed more. And thinking about it, there's a lot I really don't have down. My students took their first unit test and did not do stellar. However, the pretest scores were abysmal (22%) and at least they didn't fall below that. We are beginning unit 2 and I must be a better teacher. Many of my students have the potential to go to college and I want to help them get there.

If you wake up everyday with the reminder of what is on the line, it gets much easier to perform at your job.

So good morning, educators. Let's shape the children who shape the future today.