Summer in Rome

So I’m teaching summer school again — in Rome, NY — and the more things change the more they stay the same. Last year they cut way back on both staffing and on programming, but this year things are back to some sense of semi-normalcy. Instead of having just 2 teachers and 2 subjects for … Continue reading Summer in Rome

EDU 524

Well, I am officially a student again, 10 years after I thought I had left for good. It’s funny how the future comes full circle back into the past and then forward again. It all started (again) a few weeks ago when I realized I hadn’t done any sort of professional development for nearly 3 … Continue reading EDU 524

“I’ll Take the Zero”

illtakethezeroWhen I was in school there was the rare student who wasn’t frightened by the threat of a zero. It didn’t matter how hard a subject was, or how much homework was given, there was at least an effort given by most students to make sure they didn’t get that zero. Remember “the dog ate my homework”? That was an excuse meant to try and get more time to complete that homework and get at least some points for it. And parents supported teachers in their efforts to get students to take their work seriously.

But now, I’m not really sure what’s happening at home, but more and more students come to school with a different type of mentality, one that embraces only those things the student already feels comfortable with, and fights off anything else. That means if the student is good at English, he/she will do allĀ  the work for English and get good grades in the subject. But if it’s math, and the student despises math, and/or has decided it’s too hard, that same student will give up and stop even trying. Regardless of the threat of the zero.

Then there’s presenting. One of the biggest parts of the new curriculum for teachers is speaking and listening for content, for information, and for understanding. Which means having to speak in front of the class on occasion. But too many students these days have decided they don’t want any part of presenting in front of their peers, for whatever reason, so they pull out the phrase that has gotten all too familiar of late…

“I’ll take the zero.” Continue reading ““I’ll Take the Zero””

I Did What?: My Sordid Job History, Volume 9

warning_substitute_teacher_postcard-p239009390332992021qibm_400They took my fingerprints, and the only thing I could think while they were doing it was, “Damn, it’s going to be really hard to get this ink off my hands.” But it was all necessary, I knew, the only way to start the occupation I knew I wanted for the rest of my life. Even if the fingerprinting was merely to be a substitute teacher instead of the real thing. Everybody has to start somewhere.

A substitute teacher has to be malleable, to shift from day to day, quite unlike most other professions, which are rote.

I decided to substitute teach when I was in graduate school because the classes were mostly in the evenings, and I wanted to get my feet wet in the profession I was going to school for, which seemed smart at the time. What no one told me, however, was that substitute teaching is so different from actually having my own classroom and set schedule. I learned pretty quickly, though, once I got that first phone call to sub.

First off, the calling system was automated, so I had to set up my “profile” in the system before I could even be called to sub. Once that was set it was all about waiting. Usually the calls would come ridiculously early in the morning, and I would have to re-map my whole day around it. Since I didn’t know the area very well, I would have to ask my wife how to get places, then leave very early just in case I got lost getting there.

I learned pretty early on, too, that it mattered which position I was going to substitute for, if just to help my choice of attire. Once I got the call and it was for P.E. but I didn’t realize the difference until I arrived at the school in a full suit. My shoes weren’t even allowed on the gym floor, so I ended up walking around in my bare feet for most of the day, and I ditched the jacket about fifteen minutes into the first class session. Continue reading “I Did What?: My Sordid Job History, Volume 9”

The Dumbing Down of Language

127192508_640When I first began teaching ninth grade English I remember thinking about the language I was going to use and whether or not the students would understand the way I normally convey language. And the thought process was all tied up and twisted together with the zone of proximal development I had learned in my education program in school, the process of learning that forces kids to stretch beyond their normal reach but not so far that they get frustrated. It also provides for some scaffolding to help kids reach that level instead of letting them flounder out there. But I think for ease’s sake, too many teachers, nay, too many parents, participate instead in the dumbing down of language.

My mother used language that I didn’t understand all the time when I was growing up, but she also encouraged us to ask questions, and the same was true when reading books. One of the biggest issues most kids have when it comes to tackling large words when reading is that they want everything given to them. As a parent it’s hard to watch your children struggle with doing anything, much less trying to tackle words that are a bit too big for them, but one of the worse things you can do is to make it too easy for them. They won’t learn the glory of perseverance and the satisfaction of achievement, and they will take too much for granted. My mother believed in that philosophy, making sure she never gave me or my sister those words, providing us with support with letter sounds and blends, but never handing it over pre-packaged. And I appreciate her for that. Continue reading “The Dumbing Down of Language”

Paper Work

Now, why exactly did I bring this schoolwork home? I honestly have no clue. Maybe I thought I was going to find some time this weekend to actually get it graded so I could get it back to the students on Monday. But I think from the start that I was really totally deluding myself, … Continue reading Paper Work