I came into education through a slightly less traditional route. In my senior year of college at the University of Illinois, I was recruited into Teach For America, and less than a year later found myself in charge of teaching American history to around 120 eighth graders at John B. Stetson Middle School in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Those two years were a grueling experience, but one I am grateful to have had. Though I left the School District to teach at Mastery Charter School, I still think of my time at Stetson every day. It's what drives me to perform, deliver, and grow as an educator, and to continue to be an agent of change.
Though I am from the Chicago region, I've come to be very attached to Philadelphia--no doubt because of all the hours I've spent educating its youth!--and think of it as a second home. It's an acquired taste, but one of which I've grown particularly fond.
I write in order to capture those "slices of life" that occur every day in and around the classroom. That might include anything from profound statements made by my students to particularly humorous incidents; from steps I'm taking to further my personal development as a teacher and leader to my own observations about the classroom as a metaphor for the greater society around us.
I thrive on respectful feedback and love to get a good discussion going, so please feel free to leave comments or send me email.
A week or so ago, I clicked on a link on a teacher friend's Facebook page and ended up on a New York Times article. The article was informing me of something very strange. Apparently, working in education is no longer a civic duty!
When I was in 7th grade - about the same age that my own students are now - we moved to a new school district. My new junior high, while perfectly serviceable, was not as elite as my previous middle school, and my mother was already nervous for my sister and me. She asked me after the first week how things were going.
"It's okay," I said tentatively. "But I think I'm in the wrong class."
"What do you mean?" answered my mom, whirling around in the driver's seat.
It's the old familiar refrain: "Oh, you're a teacher? It must be nice to have those summers off." Or, the more sneering version: "You know, those of us in the adult world have to work the whole year."
Although these comments are frequently dripping with condescension, I'm personally more offended by their sheer untruth. I personally didn't know a single teacher on my 7th grade team who truly had the summer off. We were all either teaching summer school, leading youths on service learning projects in Costa Rica, participating in professional development sessions, or, in my case, coaching new teachers.
I believe in the idea of quality public education.
I believe that the opportunity to attend an amazing school should not be dictated by how much your family makes and where they can afford to live.
I myself am a product of the Chicago suburbs' excellent public schools, kindergarten through high school. When sticky divorce proceedings put a crunch on my parents' finances, my canny mother moved all over the suburbs, chasing after acclaimed school districts in the same way that Plains Indians tracked the buffalo.
"Until the lion tells its tale, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." This African proverb hung at the front of a colleague's classroom my second year of teaching. His room was a calm, orderly oasis in a considerably more chaotic environment.