Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reality Check

At the end of every summer, I have a recurring nightmare. It is the first day of school, the kids walk in, and I realize I have planned nothing. I freeze, no syllabus, no roster, nothing. Kids get restless, and the year is over for me. I hate that dream. Not only is it unrealistic and annoying, but the fact that I can't get rid of it despite knowing how bogus it is. Perhaps it is merely a reflection of the anxiety I feel going back to work.

Today, summer is officially over, the first day back at school. As usual my next week is taken up by 36 1/2 hours of meetings, and 3 1/2 hours of working. Perhaps I won't get a syllabus done. I don't mind meetings if they are productive, but so far the meetings have been preaching about how teachers can make a difference, and if you only did this, this this, and that, you too could be teacher of the year. I find speakers and topics like that to be quite insulting. What is this amateur hour? Wait, you're selling a book... I understand. The next week will be sit, share, sit, share, eat, sit, leave. I will have to stay late to get any real work done, but how is that any different than the rest of the school year.

This year we have 20% more work, and 33% less plan, plus extra duty. I feel like we should have more time to prepare our lessons before students come in the door. The stress is hitting me already. However, I am reminded by the 14 bullets shot into my neighbors house last night, and the pulsing rotors of the flight for life helicopter skimming our roof that some people don't have it so good.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Teach for America

I have been following the conversations and debates raging around the value and contributions of Teach for America to the public education system. Like all teachers, they are a mixed bag of success and failure. I discovered that my school participates in the program, and has a number of TFA teachers. What I don't understand, is how my "poor, urban, and needy" school developed a shortage of qualified and motivated applicants. Quite to the contrary, I've never worked with a better staff, and for every opening we have numerous applicants. We don't need TFA, but the program is billed as putting teachers in schools where teachers don't want to be.

This New York Times debate sums up the arguments pretty well. I havn't been terribly impressed with what I've seen from our TFA teachers, that is why I happen to agree most with Patrick Welsh. I also somewhat resent the thought that Ivy League graduates think they can take a short course on teaching, and outperform more experienced and serious teachers. However, it is a mixed bag, and each TFA graduate should be evaluated independent of the program.