14 June 2006

Two Hats, Ten More Days

I feel such relief about the end of the school year. Next year will be so much better for me, since I will be teaching a full 25 period load. Yes, the irony. I am walking away from a position that kept me out of the classroom for all of last year and the better part of this year (I had one class, two periods a day).

Being a literacy coach has been the biggest mistake of my career. In part, it's because I'm just not cut out for it. I definitely have the knowledge, but I'm not enough of a hard-ass. And I decided that I would be happier not trying to change who I am. In another circumstance, with other teachers, I may have done really well. But I realized that some people will succeed under any conditions, and some people will succeed when they have conditions that are favorable to them. I belong to the second group, and I've accepted that.

I've learned that I prefer working with kids to working with adults. Kids are much easier to motivate. Many of my co-workers are whiny and just want to complain, and many of them are thisclose to retiring. And some of them have seen a long sucession of chancellors and mayors and programs and philosophies, with little to no REAL change. I understand their frustration. And I know that I did myself a disservice by being too accommodating, and trying to do things that really weren't my responsibility, because I tried to be sensitive to the demands that are places on the classroom teacher.

I also feel good about the fact that I didn't get sucked into the cult that is Teacher's College/Balanced Literacy/THE REGION, etc. Ironically, I finished a master's in literacy a few months before becoming the coach. I had been really impressed with the quality of the program I finished; it was pretty rigorous and I learned a lot. I confess that I chose the program because the degree was free and I wanted another certification; I didn't care if it was a good program.

But anyway. From the beginning I've been frustrated by the expectation that I must get teachers to teach the way THE REGION wanted them to, and I just had such a problem with that. Yes, I know about research and I do believe in balanced literacy, but I just can't buy into the idea that there's only one way to do things, that if your whole class is reading the same book you're evil and should be shot, that if your mini lesson is two minutes over that you're depriving your students of their much needed student-centeredness.

And if there's one other thing I know, it's that if you shove something down a person's throat, he or she may simultaneously smile and gag, and spit it out immediately thereafter.

We got a big shipment of Perma-bound books today. I know have 30 copies of Fever 1793, Greek Myths, I Sing the Body Electric and Other Stories and Hoot safely locked in a classroom closet, to be used next year, along with a class set of Elements of Literature. I can't wait for a ReBot to walk in and promptly keel over at the sight of 30 kids reading the same book. I'm such a rebel.


Pissed Off said...

You sound like my kind of teacher! The principal of my school likes all these new fangled methods too--teach in a horse shoe, let the kids teach each other. I've been teaching for over thirty years and what I do works! Why change what isn't broken.

jd2718 said...

When I started I was horrendous. That first year I relied on 5 or 6 senior teachers in my department. I went to them with questions. They dragged me into their classes to watch. They called me over to look at tests, to look at worksheets. They listened at lunch and gave me ideas.

Their authority came from experience. (And I learned a lot. Slowly, but a lot)

It's a bad thing they've done, getting Fellows and beginning teachers to coach. (This is not directed against you; some of my best friends...) They put you in a bad position. Your authority came from the clipboard people, the principals, the rebots (you really call them that?).

It can't have been easy, giving up a "position." But I think you've chosen right.


Chaz said...

I agree 100% with Jonathan. To have new teachers telling an experienced teacher how to handle a classroom only results in cold stares, snarls, and lack of cooperation.

You did the right thing in going back to the classroom.