Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Good Advice for College Students

I am currently working on my 3rd college degree. If there is one piece of advice that I can offer to students everywhere it's "be proactive" with everything.

That advice is a no-brainer when it comes to school work. If you procrastinate you only hurt yourself. But the one place you might think you are safe is with the administrative part of your college experience. I know when I first started my journey toward higher education I thought professors and administrators knew best. After all, I was just a mere minion in the grand scheme of things right? Wrong. I have lost count of how many times my files (paperwork, registration, grades etc) have been screwed up because of simple incompetence. What blows my mind is that often the incompetence is because of a professor with a doctorate and years of life experience. My latest fiasco is thanks to my college advisor who never approved my student teaching registration for the spring semester. Although I registered early and reminded her several times to please sign off on my request she still neglected to do so. During the winter break she is conveniently "unavailable" until the start of the semester. This doesn't help me or the other students left in a lurch.

Thankfully we have a dutiful teaching supervisor (retired high school principal) who works part time at the university. He happened to flag several of our accounts and brought it to our attention someone else needed to approve our requests or we would not be able to begin our assignments next week. Unfortunately those of us who needed approval had to schlep to the school and speak personally with a dean to have them over ride the approval.

I can't speak for the rest of the world, but the reason I want to be an educator is to help kids learn. That doesn't just mean that I have to be a lifelong learner myself. It means the whole kit and kaboodle: being technically proficient, grading promptly, keeping students, parents and coworkers well informed as well as looking for ways to help students succeed. If you do not possess that passion and take the necessary steps to ensure things get taken care of, maybe you should not work in education. You can't force someone to have a moral compass, but you can evaluate poor performance and take the necessary steps to correct a problem. This isn't brain surgery or rock science. It's common sense.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Student Teching in the Suburbs

I met my cooperating teacher yesterday. We were set to meet at 2pm. He was 15 minutes late. I think I have voiced my opinion on lateness before. Coming from the business world where it is not tolerated, I find it not only annoying but rude. As I move into life as an academic I find it's the norm for most teachers, professors and administrators.

The teacher (Rob) walks in the classroom (with a Starbucks cup), looks at me in horror and begins to apologize. I accept his apology (because I love Starbucks) and we begin our meeting. He's a laid back nerdy kind of guy. He admits freely that he lets his students get away with more than he should. He also confesses that he really likes them and finds them both entertaining and challenging. He's been teaching at this particular high school for 5 years. Prior to this job he taught English at a Catholic school for 3 years. He is married and has 2 children (a boy and a girl). I also learn is wife used to live in my hometown and they currently live not far from where I grew up. He gives me the details on the problem kids he has: 2 boys with temper/attention issues and a group of four girls with typical teen attitude problems. It doesn't sound too bad, but I will have to judge for myself. As we were talking he was writing notes on which classes the kids are in and what each class is working on.

Halfway through our meeting he says he has books for me. We take a sort walk to the "book room." This is where is understand the difference between a district with good funding and a district with no budget. The "book room" is about 10x30 and is stocked floor to ceiling with literature. Mostly new books, some classics and some contemporary. Walking into this room is like having a religious experience. Well, at least for an English teacher. I get copies of The Crucible, 1984 and Daisy Miller by Henry James (which I have never read). We walk back to the classroom and he gives me an AP English book and answer key.

We conclude our meeting as he must get to a tuition appointment. He offers to walk me out to the parking lot. It is dismissal and there are students everywhere. He put on his coat and scarf. His scarf is a replica of the same scarf that Harry Potter wears at Hogwarts. I thank him again and we make plans to meet again next week.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dead Poet's Society

I am finding my winter break a bit too long. I am grateful for not having to travel in the horrid weather, but I still wish I had a job. Thankfully I have been in contact with the teacher I will be working with this semester for student teaching. We are meeting this Thursday to review what he is currently teaching.

Yesterday I was happy to find "Dead Poet's Society" on television. It has been years since I had seen it. I was all too happy to crash on the couch and watch it in its entirety without interruption. Now that I am working toward a teaching degree I saw the film through a different set of eyes. The impact was much greater now than I remember the last time I saw it. I related so much more to Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) now. I could understand his creative teaching styles and his desire to want his students to think for themselves. I could also understand the impact his students had on him. When student Neil (Robert Sean Leonard) commits suicide, I once related to his side of the story: coming of age, self-discovery, overbearing parent, etc. I still found myself mad with his parents for not listening to him. But my heart ached even more for Mr. Keating. It's so interesting what time and experience can do in altering how one views the world. I think I can build a lesson out of that somewhere.