A Public Service Announcement! ;)

A Public Service Announcement! ;)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Parable for Early Career Teachers

After a student of mine who is graduating this week adamantly informed me that she was a good teacher (though I hadn't suggested otherwise; she was sore because I have not been grading her work as highly as others have, apparently) and knew it because she has been in the schools -- "I just completed my internship!" she demanded -- and did well, I started to reflect on what it means to be a success in certain school districts. I came up with this parable for early-career teachers with the caution not to get too haughty and to always reflect on the micro and macro issues that define one's successes.


4 comments:

Sean said...

Well done! I will share this with our student interns who are, IMHO, a tad too giddy about "finishing" this week as they pepper me with questions about what their ending portfolios "should look like."

Bucky C. said...

Thanks. I think some of my students think I need to teach them only how to do well in Texas' schools, not how to actually be a good teacher.

Sadly, many of my students will encounter standardized curriculi and even scripted programs, so the standard for "success" in the schools really isn't that high to begin with when it comes to being a true professional, not everywhere, anyway. Indeed, one doesn't really have to be particularly skilled to do well in some districts; one only needs to be able to do what one is told and manage kids.

I tell my students, "I'm teaching you to be a good teacher anywhere, not teaching you to only do well in Texas." Some can appreciate that, though I am sure others see what it's like in the "real world" and probably think "Why is this guy working us so hard? This is a cakewalk."

For those, hopefully maturity will bring a greater sense of urgency for change. I don't give in to flawed systems; I work to teach future teachers how to change them one baby step at a time, and my greatest fear is that students get into the classrooms in the area and become comfortable with how little they have to think...... They don't always realize it, but I'm fighting for them, their rights and agency and professionalism, and for their future students who deserve knowledgable,trusted teachers.

Sean said...

One of my interns was struggling against a workbook driven scripted curriculum this semester, mandated by an administrator who felt that daily exercises in three unrelated reading, writing and grammar workbooks was the solution to stagnant MEAP (our version of TAKS) scores. Sadly, the administrator is gone, but the mandate still stands.

Back when I taught Humanities at a Texas high school that shall remain nameless in this comment, I came back from serving as a Master Teacher at the Folger Shakespeare Library's summer institute with a gigantic binder full of lesson plans that combined performance-based pedagogies with technology-rich primary source investigation. These were some fine lessons crafted by some of the most talented teachers in the country. I organized them by play and shared them with my department, hoping that some of them would get implemented. Well, each day I went into the department office to make a copy or get a cup of coffee, I noticed the layer of dust on top of that binder get thicker and thicker. The final straw came the day I noticed on the cart of one of our newest teachers a carefully arranged sequence of fill-in-the-blanks worksheets for "Romeo & Juliet," ready for deployment that week. They were the same damn worksheets put out by the textbook publisher that I slogged through when I was in 9th grade! That was when I knew I needed to get out of the system and into teacher education if I ever wanted to see that system evolve.

Bucky C. said...

Amen!