Sunday, April 01, 2007

Musings


Reservations were made yesterday.
Same place, same floor.

48 days and counting!

I can't wait because I need some fluff reading time and I won't allow myself any this year except during vacations and holidays.

By the time 48 days passes, I hope I have secured a teaching position for next school year. My application is for the currently available 4th grade position. That was the only position open besides 2nd grade. Until this week. I hadn't checked the current openings posts for about a week and when I did late Thursday evening, I found that an upper school humanities (history and literature) position was now available.

So, I have asked that my application be considered for that position as well. I would really like that class. I love the opportunity to combine literature and history. There are so many connections between the two.

All week long, situations have crossed my path and my mind about teaching next year and where the place I would be the most useful in the whole scheme of worldly affairs. After a day of teaching in an English class this week, I see the lostness, almost the hopelessness, of many of the kids. At the same time, I see the aimlessness and callousness of the regular team teacher with me.

Indulge me as I tell this story. This English class has 28 tenth graders with two teachers, one the English teacher, the other is a special ed teacher. The week before, both these two teachers had to attend a workshop and I was the sub. For both of them. Though the class was a handful and could easily have gotten out of hand, I stood my ground and demanded their attention and respect. They gave it too. That day was a very hands on day, constantly monitoring, encouraging, admonishing, directing, suggesting. But, I did not have to send anyone out. That's a good day.

The next week, the special ed teacher was out, and I was called to fill in for her. So I was in this class again for two periods. Since I wasn't the main teacher, I did what I could to maintain order when I felt it necessary and help and encourage students as they worked on a poetry poster project. The order in this class with the regular teacher, a man who has taught for a number of years, was awful. It was loud. It was disorderly. The kids didn't seem to know what direction to go in for this project. Many didn't bother to do anything.

I couldn't believe the difference in the order, or lack of it, this day compared to the day I had them all by myself. I positioned myself in one corner to maintain a presence among some unruly girls and found one quiet young man struggling with his project. He had chosen Shakespeare. Oh my, I thought. He's bitten off more than he can chew. I talked to him a bit about Shakespeare and saw that he had chosen three sonnets to include in the project. I asked him about sonnets and it was obvious he knew what a sonnet was. I was surprised and encouraged that maybe he was a diamond in the rough.

Later toward the end of class, the teacher who told me that most of the kids in this class would probably not graduate; most were even going to fail this class. He said they had just given up. They would wait until they turned sixteen and drop out of school. I was surprised because the teacher lumped the Shakespeare-boy into the conversation as one of those who had given up and couldn't do anything in class (because he was LD). I was taken back.

Forward two days in an Earth Science class. I was the special ed teacher again, but this time I was with a regular teacher who I know very well. In walks Shakespeare-boy into one of the classes. He was very engaged in class and the activity that followed. Afterwards, I asked my regular teacher-friend about that student (without saying anything about the previous English class) and he readily responded, "Oh, yeah, he's a great student--A student--very nice kid too. Always attentive and engaged in class. Good student." He saw my shock but did not know the discrepancy.

Cautiously, I related my experience in the English class but careful not to name names. I didn't have to name names though. My friend knew where I had been. He said that he had had to go into that class a couple of times for something and that "the kids are all up and around--bouncing off the walls." The lack of discipline bothers me greatly, especially when it can be different.

But what really bothers me is the attitude of the teacher that the kids had "given up" and were just waiting to drop out. Maybe much of that student attitude has to do with the teacher attitude. I know how easy it is to influence the attitude of others. Attitudes rub off. Has the teacher's lowing of the bar (or maybe more accurately, his use of no bar) or his own given-up attitude rubbed off on the students? I think so.

After days like these, part of me wants to be part of a good and positive influence. The other part of me realizes that there is much administrative red tape to endure to do this in the public system. And I'm left in a conundrum.

So, for now, I'm just waiting for the positions at the private school to be filled. I hope I am one of those chosen to fill the vacancies. If not, and I should know by the first of May, I may apply in the public system. Or at least I'll be sub-ing next year.

2 comments:

Carol in Oregon said...

Oh what a story. I've experienced the same thing with unruly children in my home. When they are alone, sans parent, they are well-behaved and toe the line. I don't give them food until they say please, etc. When the parent is there, they pull all kinds of stunts and, sadly, get away with so much.

I'm praying for the humanities position. That would be TOO MUCH FUN to teach!

desert mom said...

I always enjoy hearing about your teaching experiences and your impressions of classroom teaching. Other than the English teacher's attitude, which is obviously a big factor, what methods did the teacher use to direct, teach, and discipline? How did you differ in your methods. I know you are not one to toot your own horn but I would love to hear how you handled the class.

Melissa