Tuesday, August 28, 2007

teacher in-service days

Ah, professional development. We kicked all the kids out of school for a day to let the teachers play student with teachers from another school. I ended up in the back of the cafeteria (or as it is called here, the cafetorium) with the librarian, one of the 1st grade teachers, a 7th/8th grade teacher, and a couple others. We doodled the whole time, didn't do our assignments, cracked jokes, and were generally the type of students that we do not want our kids to be. It was awesome.

Our principal is such a rock star too. He is simultaneously all business and all charm, both hard-working and a huge goof. It's a brilliant combination. While all the teachers do what they do he runs around school giving out kudos, giving hell to problem kids, making announcements, playing with the little kids, enthralling the older kids, or (as today) serving lunch. You can't help but like him. You also can't help but wonder what magic pill he takes every morning to be so damn cheerful and energetic all the time. I needs me one of those. The principal alone makes it worth coming to work in the mornings especially on a really rough day. He always says thank you, great work, keep it up. He pops into class and sits at a desk in the back and starts asking questions. Then he'll turn around and pull a kid out of class for being disrespectful to a teacher.

For various reasons, I have chosen not to disclose my school's name (though I suppose anybody who really tried could figure it out eventually). Mostly because I don't want to get into any trouble or have some creep stalking my kids because I drew the X on the map in giant red marker. Sometimes, though, it is tempting because I want people to see what's going on at this school. It's far from perfect. But people are working hard and turning a school that last year was a catastrophe into a place where people want to bring their kids. It's slow and it's tough but already there are kids saying that this is their favorite school, parents who are pleased.

It is a sharp contrast, even with all the difficulties, to the crap I am seeing come out of the RSD. Which isn't to say that there aren't some good things going on at some RSD schools. But the shear magnitude of the bureaucracy and the lack of autonomy my peers have in RSD schools compared to what I have is ridiculous. I need something done I deal with my principal. I have colleagues who will be in the classroom next week who don't know what grade or what subject they will be teaching and are not allowed into their classrooms yet. Their schedules are being dictated by the central office, not their individual school administration. Chemistry teachers are teaching biology and biology teachers are teaching chemistry - in the same school. Their school or their assigned courses change constantly. I personally find it outrageous that this is how our school system at large is being run.

The 1st grade teacher and I had a conversation about the Louisiana Comprehensive Curriculum today, mainly about whether to follow it. Apparently, we're supposed to whether we like it or not. I think that's crap and I'm not doing it. My math book corresponds to state standards and Grade Level Expectations but does not correspond the the state mandated curriculum. Frankly, I think the book is better organized and the LCC is only useful as a reference for activities. Even then, I'm not following the book from Chapter 1 on. My kids would riot if I made them do half the stuff the LCC wants me to do - they may not be doing well on state tests but that is partly because state tests do not speak their language. Even though they have huge gaps in their education, they still know more than the tests tell. So I'm trying to do what I should be doing: teaching to their needs and appealing to their interests. Not to some cookie-cutter crap curriculum (hooray for alliteration). The state of Louisiana doesn't know my kids and does not take into account the environment they come from. I can't, in good conscience as a teacher, just follow blindly.

Which is not to say that I'm brilliant and perfect. I'm making a million mistakes everyday. That's a pitfall of a new teacher: I'm learning as a go and I stumble often. But I'm still smart enough to call bullshit when I see it.

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