Tuesday, March 24, 2009

the job search goes on and a few frustrations...

i've been looking a lot at where i'd like to be when i grow up, er, when i graduate from the umass program. so far, i've been extremely interested in going back to DC; going to philadelphia to be close to my girlfriend and friends; and new york, which is a curiosity but isn't high high on the priority list. naturally, my fall back is springfield, which i think i will apply to in the district, and, if there is an opening, then at my school.

well, after looking at lots of DC schools, i've decided to head down there and take a look for myself. i'm extremely interested in seeing what things look like down there, and have already contacted one public school. i'm looking to see at least one or two more schools while i'm down there (one more public, and a charter school), and also maybe a school in NOVA (northern va) and also roaming around alexandria a bit to see what that's like.

anyways, i'm trying to find out about the different neighborhoods of philly, seeing as i've been there on visits for about 8 years now, and still know barely anything about the area. i mean, no surprise there--it's not like i've been on outings to the outskirts besides where my friends take me, which is usually center city or six flags (our amazing tradition). and i'm not complaining--center city is amazingly rich (historically) and cool and i'd love to explore more of it, actually. mm...walks. anyways, if i want to teach in philly, i should know a bit about the areas, and how the education works there.

what frustrates me is the idea of what's "good" and what's "bad." my friend a. says that usually when people say bad, they mean violent. north philly is violent. southwest philly is violent. apparently. but what about when we refer to good and bad schools? what makes a school good, what makes a school bad? is it performance? is it level of invested students? is it professional development? is it technology? how can someone say, there are no good schools in an area? if that were true, then no one would be teaching in those places, right, and only teaching in suburbs, where the "good" schools are--which, by the way, i was a product of and, although the education there is prized highly, and success, like all suburban cultures, is tantamount to godliness, the school is a pile of shit: lead in the paint (probably), and terribly corroded pipes that put the school on probation for several years. so then, is my high school good by that standard?

i'm teaching in springfield. a supposedly "bad" place to teach, because it's urban. there is lots of violence, and the kids (most, not all) come from homes that are not always the best of situations. sometimes school is often the safest place to be. so why, then, is my school environment and culture so much more improved and pleasing to me than the other schools i've heard about/been to? performance-wise it's not fantastic. in fact, i'm sure our MCAS scores (state tests) are gonn' be not so fantastic this year, either. and yet i consider it to be a great school--it fosters an amazing environment where good character is top priority, and becoming self-reflective is a requirement of all students in learning and behavior.

so what's good? what do you judge by? how can you judge a school?

these are some of the questions that frustrate me as i look for jobs, but also frustrate me when people pass judgement on certain schools. i know, in the end, good for me means professional development, a good student-to-computer ratio, and a supportive administration that knows its students and is not too big for its own britches.

the search continues....

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

some ideas for the new unit

so i've been trying to find some sort of angle to place upon the reading of our new book, the memoir A Long Way Gone. and by trying i mean ideas have trickled in and out of my head when i've put my brain to it, and now that i'm trying to rest in my bed and plan for tomorrow, i've begun to think about the book as a whole, and the unit as a whole.

i had originally titled a lesson plan with my unit as "the struggle for voice." a bit of a play, as ishmael beah's struggle is about escaping the war, joining the military as a boy soldier, and eventually coming to grips with his emotional scarring and past after having been "rescued" of sorts by UNICEF (i will never know what that acronym stands for...until i look it up). the voice part is that, according to my mentor teacher, J, his ultimate purpose in life is tell his story, and that's why he wrote that book. it's the one way he can come to grips with his past and get some reconcilliation.

there is a scene in the book where he applies and gets accepted to this UN conference of many different children from countries bound by terrible conflict. the children share their stories, cry, and comfort each other with all this. then ishmael goes back to freetown, the capital of sierra leone. the war suddenly comes into the city; he must escape again, and he does, and though the story ends before he goes back to NYC, we know that's where he ends up. points of it all, is, so he escaped, but how does he deal with his past? storytelling, aka finding his voice.

thus, "the struggle for voice." i hadn't thought much of it til now, nor what i wanted to do with it. i always had this wonderful idea of bringing in some speakers to help me out with finding voice, but it was more of a pipedream than anything else. now, i think it might work with some planning, which i'm getting a bit better at doing.

here are my ideas for the unit:
  • name is "the struggle for voice." filter the book through two themes: struggle and voice. introduce the idea of theme as opposed to main idea (something they'll be struggling with a bit, but i think we'll figure it out) (mass standard/power standard 11.3)
  • link the previous unit on empowerment to struggle and voice.
  • since we're doing the talent show fundraiser, have all the kids work on their reading fluency and performance (mass standard/power standard 3.8)
  • bring students each day to the auditorium to hold class...it'll be a nice break from the classroom environment, plus a fantastic way to use space in order to read passages.
  • work consistently on reading fluency (3.8), performance of passages in the book, and enforcing the idea that good readers focus on the whole text, not just the words. the question is, though, how? any ideas?
so that's that...if anybody has any ideas, i'd love to share them.