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....