From now on, my resume will read “Nation Builder.”
Posted by newbie-tchr at 4:25 pm in 1

The day before last I watched Obama’s State of the Union with my fiance, and could not help being extremely excited about all the amazing things he was saying about teachers. Regardless of party, it’s pretty humbling to hear the President of the United States talk about your profession in such a manner.

My favorite part was actually where he told the story of teachers in Korea, and how they are instead called “Nation Builders,” because of their impact on the nation’s youth. It always strikes me how much the US takes education for granted when you compare it to countries, like Korea, that haven’t always had the access and availability we’re so accustomed to.

Even in the US though, I’ve seen the discrepancies in the school systems that Obama was calling Congress to notice. As a military brat, I’ve lived pretty much all over the US – or at least that’s what it feels like. Excluding one year of private high school in Alabama it was all public education. Moving around let me experience some amazingly advanced school systems, like Fairfax County, VA and Eagle River, Alaska. Unfortunately, there were some not so great ones…which will go unnamed. My own experience of hopping through the school systems led to a lot of gaps and discrepancies in my education, which can be immediately blamed on the lack of consistency in state standards of education. Embarrassing as it is, I never learned fractions, because Alaskan schools were two years ahead of Alabama schools in math. (whoops) I learned cursive two years in a row because of the difference in Ohio and Alaska school systems, AND didn’t learn the confederate capitol was Richmond (not Montgomery) until I was a junior in high school. (This led to an extremely embarrassing situation where I asked the teacher if the textbooks were printed incorrectly in front of an entire class)

Clearly there’s more work to be done than getting more teachers. Standards need to be aligned, and made universal, and we need to help some districts and even states catch up to the more advanced ones. But, as Obama pointed out, the place to start is with teachers – especially well-educated and trained teachers with a will to help make it better.

Comments Off on From now on, my resume will read “Nation Builder.”
The Curse of “Freedom Writers”
Posted by newbie-tchr at 3:27 pm in 1

I’ll put it out there – I’m not the biggest Hillary Swank fan, but even I thought Freedom Writers was a good movie. I think what made me like it more, is the fact that it’s a true story. (Look here for the true story and Freedom Writers Foundation) Anywho, during my student teaching I quickly came to realize that I wasn’t the only person who saw & liked it. My non-AP kids, ESPECIALLY 5th pd, had seen and loved it. Not only did they love it, but they wanted to know why school couldn’t be like that for them, and they wanted to know all….the…time.

It was a given, anytime they had to work on something that was the least bit uninteresting to them I’d get this question: “Man, Ms. Berry, why can’t school be like freedom writers?” Not because it meant they loved education, or anything so sweet as that – but they wanted school to just have the cool stuff. Why don’t we go to the Holocaust museum every day? Why don’t famous WWII heroes pop in on the regular? Why don’t I spend my non-existent cash flow on sparkling cider so we can make a toast to new beginnings? Well, children, because beyond the cool things that I want to do just as badly – sometimes you just have to do the basic stuff first.

Blame it on the system, blame it on the testing, blame it on the fact that no activity can possibly please all 120 students. Of course the real teacher from the movie incorporated the basics, but no movie’s going to waste time on the boring class lessons like “how to write an essay.” As a result, my students saw these movies and start to question what’s wrong with the education system that it can’t be just like what they saw in the movie.  I agree, more cool stuff would be awesome, and I’d love to do it every day, but unfortunately the reality is that they have to master the basics too. I just wish a big movie could mention that next time…

Comments Off on The Curse of “Freedom Writers”

Fun Fact I learned today…anytime anyone hears I’m a hopeful teacher, I’ve apparently just told them that I love to hear their opinions about education. Not only that, but somewhere in that statement I’ve also volunteered to serve as a representative for the Education system as a whole. My advisor in grad school actually warned us about this when we first started, but I thought she was kidding. Like, oh funny – people not involved in it want to talk about education…ha ha?

Tired of the same old thing, I left my apartment today for a local coffee shop, hoping to get some work done in a new environment. In line, I got into a conversation this with polite elder lady, told her what I do and BAM.  I’m not saying her points were bad at all, because in reality, they weren’t. But I’ve never met any other profession where people feel as though they are total experts due to their experience as students, and don’t hesitate to share it with the person whose perspective they’ve never had – the teacher.

The comments that crack me up the most are those almost PTSD in nature. Someone had the teacher from hell in elementary school, and want to make sure I know all the bad things this person did so I don’t repeat the same mistakes. As long as they’re not rude at all, it doesn’t bother me – but I am starting to wonder if this is something that happens to other teachers, or if my advisor was warning me alone because I give out an inviting vibe for education criticisms.

Student Evaluations meets Portfolio Making
Posted by newbie-tchr at 3:29 pm in 1

In preparation for the progressing job search, I’ve started to make portfolios that I plan on bringing with me to job interviews. Portfolios were a requirement in my student teaching seminar for graduation, but for people not familiar with them – Scholastic has a great article here about them.

The standard portfolio should be more like an interactive resume – it should have letters of recommendation, teaching philsophy, sample lesson plans, sample student work, copies of certifications, etc. What I’ve decided to also include in my portfolio are some copies of student evaluations they completed on my teaching at the end of student teaching.Initially this means a happy little walk down memory lane…I really do miss my students. After that little journey, there’s two common themes I’ve noticed in most of the evaluations – either they’re wildly inappropriate for a portfolio, or the students opinions contrast with what educators allegedly want to see. The inappropriate is at least comical – a bunch of 17 year old boys letting me know they’re single. Great. I’ll definitely keep that in mind the next time I want to go to jail or completely ruin my teaching career.

The interesting evaluations are the kids telling me they don’t like the activities my grad school in particular preached they would love. Learning Centers? My earliest and latest class hated them. At least one student was honest and said, “I didn’t like learning centers cause I’m too lazy to get up and move.” I did unfortunately discover this during teaching, and we resolved it by making it something they could all do at their desks…without having to get up. Their wish, my command.

Learning centers aren’t it – pretty much any activity where movement (not rewarded with food or candy) is required was not well looked upon in the morning or during the food coma hours post-lunch. One funny thing is that a few kids warned me against activities I didn’t even use – but other teachers of theirs had overused them so much, they despised it all together. The lesson from this is that just because you find an activity that works, it doesn’t mean you should stop looking for more that get students interested. Education programs or pundits may praise webquests or RAFT writings, but don’t just cling to the same activities or lessons time and time again. Any game or activity can get boring if replayed a million times.

As for my portfolio, I actually might include one or two evaluations that decry against activities I didn’t even use. With explanation, I think I’ll be able to work it to my advantage – just “look at how I incorporated student feedback into diversifying my curriculum. ” Something along those lines should work, but the point is still there – teachers who rely on only one tool or trick end up taking any usefulness away and replacing it with boredom in the students. Not only that, but they’re taking away any effectiveness that activity could have for teachers who have these students in the future. AKA – this could have something to do with the 36 evaluations I got (no lie) begging me to never do a webquest because they did too many sophomore year. If I had these kids two years later and they’re still sick of webquests – maybe that teacher needs to consider toning it down just a wee bit.

Comments Off on Student Evaluations meets Portfolio Making
Hello Real World
Posted by newbie-tchr at 3:30 pm in 1

Now that the holidays are over, and I’ve returned from my two week stay in California…One of the perks of having military parents – home can be some interesting places…the job search has officially commenced. As in, I’ll do more than work on my cover letter and resume and start subbing/praying for a job!

I got a big kick in the butt this morning when I got a call from an Assistant principal this morning in a high school 30 minutes away. I have no idea how, but someone amazing, passed along my name and number to her, and she wanted to know if I could send my resume in for a sudden job opening at the HS. Yes, it’s awesome – there’s only one catch. The position is a Special Ed Govt teacher. Government is the easy part, I’ve got practice there thanks to student teaching. The catch is Special Ed. The position has two self-contained classrooms and three team taught sections, and while I’m pumped about the team-taught, I’m a little nervous about the self-contained. I have NO experience in self-contained, and I’m wondering if they can even hire me for it without certifications in sped.

If I even get an interview, I’m wondering how honest I should be about my inexperience. Balancing desperately needing a job and the need to be good at it is not fun. Interview tips anyone?

Of course I sent my resume to her within 5 minutes, but even if nothing comes from this, it’s a reminder that I got to get moving quick on getting in the sub system in my new county and making connections! I’m also going to try and figure out how she got my name and number so I can thank that person…

Comments Off on Hello Real World

Take One. Pass it on.