Thursday, December 29, 2011

Education and Social Networking

During the winter break I have been trolling Twitter looking for people in the educational world to follow. I have come across some fascinating individuals: teachers, union leaders, writers, students, reporters and professors. It's been quite interesting. I had no idea that people actually argue back and forth on Twitter. There seems to be an unending discussion about education reform, which I think is a good thing. The educational system in our country is definitely broken. I am reading a lot of great ideas and theories. I still consider myself a bit of an outsider in the world of teaching. I have a lot of experience as a student, but I only graduated with my Master's in education in May of this year. I have been working part time as a substitute teacher since September. In my "former" life I worked in corporate America. Being a part of the business world was an education itself. It taught me responsibility and accountability, which were not completely foreign in my life, but let's face it: If you don't do your job you risk losing it. When you have rent/mortgage, a car payment and various bills you learn very quickly the importance of being accountable. Why is accountability an issue in education? Parents blame teachers, teachers blame parents, administrators blame budgets, teachers blame administrations, unions blame everyone but teachers. When does it stop? When I was growing up we didn't have the information overload we do now. If there was an issue within a school or education as a whole, we often didn't hear about it right away. There was the newspaper and the nightly news on television. Maybe there were school meetings our parents or guardians attended. Today students learn about almost everything in real time. I wonder how they feel about the adults who make decisions about their educational well being. As an adult looking in I see a lot of embarrassing stuff. I don't know all the answers, but there has to be a better way.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Another Month Gone....

Once again I have not been keeping up to date on my blogging. Thankfully, December was a very productive month for me. I was busy substitute teaching almost every day! It was very exciting and I feel very grateful for the opportunity. I only hope it continues. Each day was a new experience. I was asked to sub in virtually every subject. During the first few months of the school year I would get an occasional call to fill in for an English teacher (my certified area). These calls were few and far between and disappointment started to set in. I am guessing as the year progressed, the substitute pool began to dwindle. It's not an easy job: I basically have to wake up every day, get dressed and ready as if I am going to school, and wait for a phone call to come in. If I am lucky I get a call the night before, but most of the time it is last minute. When I get the call in the morning I drive to school, meet with the sub coordinator for my assignment, hustle to the subject's department office for lesson plans and find my first classroom. Hopefully it is unlocked. If not, I have to find a custodian who can open it. I review the lesson plans and class rosters. God willing, everything will be included (lesson plans, handouts, rosters, class emergency instructions, seating plans,anything else the teacher wants me to deliver)and I will have time before the first bell to write instructions or notes on the blackboard or smartboard. The bell rings, the pledge and morning announcements are broadcast over the p.a. system, I take a roll call, send any absences to the attendance office and deliver the lesson. Anything can and does happen during class: bathroom requests, locker runs, passes to the nurse, one on one instruction, group reading, test prepping, handing out work, collecting work, taking notes for the teacher on what went well, who misbehaved and what could have gone better. Substitute teaching is not for the faint of heart. It's definitely not easy, but it's a good way to learn the inner workings and atmosphere of a school. It's like taking another student teaching course, except I am getting paid instead of paying tuition to a university. One Monday I subbed for an eighth grade social studies teacher who had a doctor's appointment. He was only gone for three periods. His eighth period class was an absolute nightmare. There were over 30 students and several of them decided "we don't have to respect the sub because she isn't our real teacher." When the bell finally rang to end the period several of the boys began turning over desks and chairs as they ran out of the room. I was stunned. I also had to leave the class to teach a ninth period class on another floor. The regular teacher came in and was upset. I thought he was mad at me for not being able to control the class. I left him a quick note with the details of what took place during class and apologized because I had to run to my other class. I figured my subbing career was over. The following morning (Tuesday)I was called in to sub again. While waiting in the front office for my assignment the teacher from the day before approached me and apologized. He called the parents of the students who misbehaved and had the whole class write apology letters to me. If they misbehaved they had to detail their actions in their letter. If they did not participate they had to apologize for allowing the other students to carry on in a disrespectful manner. I was dumbfounded and thanked the teacher. The next morning (Wednesday) I was called in to sub for a third day. Waiting for me was a folder with the letters from the eighth period social studies class. I was floored. I read each and every letter. I don't think I have ever witnessed such accountability in an educational setting. This teacher knows what he is doing. I learned a very valuable lesson as well. I guess this is an example of the on the job training that I have been waiting for! I can't wait for the holiday break to over so I can go back to school.