09 June, 2012

Transparency


To celebrate Brooklyn/Queens day in traditional educator fashion, I spent my day at a Professional Development. For the first time since I’ve worked at my school, they decided everyone should attend a content-related PD. Fabulous! I’ll get to explore some things I haven’t looked at since completing my MAT. 

Or not. My supervisor let me know that I (along with the music and drama teachers) would attend PD with the ELA department. We would, of course, be looking at the CCLS.

Nursing a post-prom iced coffee on my way into school I found our guest presenter in the office and started talking to her as she set up in my classroom (freshly cleaned in honor of her visit). When I told her that I teach foreign language she politely informed me that she had no idea how this presentation about CCLS literacy standards might apply to my curriculum.

Finally, a refreshingly honest presenter. Once she admitted that this would be new for both of us I felt much more willing to participate in the discussion and challenge myself to relate the “staircase of complexity” to my own work. Part of the difficulty of being the lone foreign language teacher at my school has been learning to fend for myself in planning, learning, advocating and justifying everything that I do. It might not be the most riveting PD I’ve ever been to, but because my role was acknowledged I felt more interested. Do I do this for my students? Do I let each one know what their path in Spanish class might be? Do they know what I know about where our lessons are going? Should they know or would I be reprimanded for telling a student that I had no idea how our lesson might relate to their learning?

28 March, 2012

Teacher as Actor

If it's possible to lose your sanity multiple times in one day, that's what I experienced today. I am required to use Rosetta Stone, so is the other Spanish teacher. This is convenient for the other teacher as he is actually a music teacher. We are required to have universal midterms, meaning the same in all of our foreign language classes. So I designed a midterm that students can take on Rosetta Stone.
It's differentiated.
It uses technology.
It gives immediate feedback.
It's also a nightmare.
We use HP laptops and the most affordable pairs of headphones possible. Though I've picked up a lot of troubleshooting skills this year, I'm not great at fixing laptop/headphone issues, especially not 34 of them at once. I felt like my entire day was spent toying with computers, not helping students. This is not what I signed up for. To be fair, I do a lot of things I didn't sign up for: I am a disciplinarian, a counselor, an advisor, a tutor, all the things all good teachers try to do, and now I'm also an untrained, impatient computer technician.
The problem with this extra responsibility is that it is obvious to the students that I am frustrated or overwhelmed. I lose patience and calm quickly and am not as nice and helpful and caring as I'd like to be with my students. I can't fake my abilities with them, and all of my energy and acting skills go towards pretending I believe this software program is the best way for them to learn.
There's a lot of talk about revamping teacher training programs. Maybe they should include more theater classes to prepare teachers for days like this.

24 January, 2012

Uphill, both ways.

As I listen to President Obama talk about the auto industry and the types of jobs American companies are creating, I am thinking about the students who I will soon be sending out into the workforce.
We're working on bringing technology into the classroom. But only on shallow levels- they're learning to hit the right buttons on vocabulary websites but not how to create the programs or troubleshoot difficulties.
We have smartboards in every classroom but use them as whiteboards and rarely let students touch them.
We spend huge chunks of the budget on technology that no one uses or that malfunctions and we have to outsource tech repairs (see: entering 212 grades 4 times because of website issues).
I'm studying education politics because I believe in public schools and public school teachers. I complain about the focus on 21st century skills because I don't think it should take over the school. I want my students to be innovators of technology rather than using it at a menial job and I want school to prepare them for that.

10 January, 2012

There's no software solution to this?

Well it has been a minute since I've been here and like any job, my teaching responsibilities have changed quite a bit in the 3.5 years I've been working. Oh, no? In other jobs they don't change your responsibilities and tell you about it the day before you come back from a vacation? One more bonus to being a teacher.

Basically, I teach foreign language and like some of my colleagues around the city and other states I am now required to teach foreign language with Rosetta Stone. Never mind that I can't troubleshoot a not-very-good pc. Disregard that Rosetta Stone isn't aligned to state standards or ACTFL standards. Forget that I spoke with several of my supervisors multiple times to express the reasons I, licensed foreign language teacher and student of multiple languages, did not believe it was the best choice for our students. Ignore that the decision was made over the summer and I was informed, by the computer tech (who has been remarkably patient throughout this situation) on the Friday before the school year started. Yes, don't think about those things and the changes might seem manageable and even exciting.

Unfortunately, I do think about those things. Especially because this is my tenure year, round 2. I will be evaluated on my ability to be "highly effective" while spending the year creating a curriculum for multi-level classes in one class period that I was in no way trained for and am only minimally assisted with.

What brings me back is that I have reached out to teachers I know, teachers I don't know and classmates and professors at my previous graduate school and current graduate school and not been able to find many other people dealing with similar situations. This seems like an ideal topic to collaborate on and I can't find collaborators.