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Sunday, April 10, 2011


Tomorrow I begin the fourth academic quarter of my first full year teaching. Hopefully, by the summer I will have been offered a continuing contract with my district, acquiring at least a small measure of security. In a profession that has been much denigrated of late, it will be nice to have some verification that I am doing the job to someone's satisfaction. Over the last year, I have received a lot of praise. My graduate cohort leader holds me up as an example to her current students, inviting me back to give presentations from my pedagogy. New teachers come to me for advice, believing I must have answers to some of their questions. Administrators write glowing reviews. Students praise me in the halls.

And I don't deserve any of it.

I have been doing this for a grand total of 14 months, counting the past summer where I had no students, but carefully modified hastily constructed lessons from the year before. In June, when I celebrate the end of my first full year, one of my closest colleagues will mark the end of a career spanning decades. She is the one who deserves praise, not me.

Don't get me wrong. Nobody who knows me personally would accuse me of being modest. I believe very much in my own potential for greatness. I just know I haven't made it there yet. Outside of a few memorable lessons and a willingness to experiment outside of accepted norms, I am a pretty typical teacher. There's really no danger of my story being adapted into a screenplay.

But I have promised myself that my best is yet to come. I vow to constantly grow, to adapt, and to evolve into an educator that students never forget. I doubt Disney will ever come knocking at my door. I doubt I'll ever even get much in the way of a thank you. But as long as I can look back someday and know that I fought the fight even when others said it couldn't be won, well then I'll be willing to accept any praise.

Because then I will know I deserve it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Counterintuitive Discovery

Today I taught a lesson that went horribly wrong. I was being observed by my cohort leader, so I was already nervous, but some additional time constraints made me feel very rushed. As the lesson progressed and time slipped away, I started talking faster, pausing less between questions, and taking the first raised hand that presented itself. Needless to say, the kids were completely baffled.

After class, I had a couple of postmortem conversations with my mentor teacher and my cohort leader. I came to the surprising discovery that you can actually go faster by slowing down. Had I spoken slower and paused more, I would never have gotten so far ahead of my students. It's as though I was racing them to the end of the lesson. What purpose does that serve to get to where you're headed before the students do?

In the future, I am going to make a concerted effort to linger. I believe that by doing that, I will actually cover more information in less time.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Everything's in Motion

Today we had an assembly sposored by Honneywell and NASA about Newton's laws of motion. The presenters used hip hop, humor, and interactive displays to keep the kids involved. I'll give a more detailed critique later, but for now check out the handsome sumo wrestler in the blue trunks.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Excuse Me..But Your Question has an Open End

I inadvertently sat in on what turned out to be a rather clever little lesson on open-ended questions. While I still think that name could be retooled a bit, the demonstration itself was quite useful, and surprisingly, it was aimed at students in a 7th grade health class.

As teachers we need to get into the habit of asking questions that probe just a little deeper. If your question can be answered with a single word, you probably aren't delving all that deeply into the subject. In the lesson I witnessed, the teacher challenged to students to ask her open ended questions. She made a game of answering with as few words as possible. At first, she was able to deliver yes and no type answers, but gradually, some of the students started to get it. By the end, she was getting a lot more "why do you like that?" and "what do you think about that?"

The teacher may not have known I was eavesdropping, but I am thankful that I did.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Let the Testing Begin

Three days into the first week of school and already we're talking about state testing. Within the first two months of school, our students will spend 5 days, a full school week, taking norm referenced standardized tests. That's five days right at the beginning of the year, before they've even brushed of the summer malaise, where they won't even have an opportunity to learn new thins.

I haven't had the opportunity to ask kids what they think about all the testing. They are probably used to it by now, since evidently it has started in kindergarten. Still, it seems excessive to me.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Teacher Colleges Beneficial in Only in Theory?

I just read and interesting article in the New York Times debating the relevance of teacher colleges and education degrees. Sure, getting that Masters will raise your salary, but how much does that degree really help your kids? I am going to take the easy way out and let the article speak for itself, especially since my own school cohort leader peruses this blog from time to time.