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Saturday, May 31, 2008


OK, Lets Enjoy Reading Today.....This picture really shows what my students think of when you tell them to "read for pleasure!"
Hey all,
I am crazy busy but its all good! The job interview that I had last week went well, and the principal that I interviewed with knew one of the previous principals that I had worked with when I was a teaching assistant. I was a Teachers Aide....actually more like Teacher's Maid; way back in the day of Magnet Schools. Magnet School here focused on speciality areas and were at one time the solution to forced busing back in the day. The alternative education school that I worked at was one of the best in the state that I lived in and really taught me how to teach. (TA's taught their own classes under a teacher because well, they were "alternative!" Back in the early 90's, there was a big push for "Project-Based Learning" and use of materials that were high interest and related to student's real life and interests. Fast forward to 2008 and most schools are pushing the No Child Left Behind mandates, including the school district that I work for. More and more schools are pushing "standardized curriculum" to get students to grade level. Much of the curriculum is "softly scripted" to make sure pretty much anyone is capable of teaching it. I spent a lot of time in the interview responding," Of course I am able and comfortable teaching to the standards," and " Of course I know how to analyze periodic assessment data." Its sad to say that my biggest challenge is not being "Highly Qualified," it is the need to convince school administration that I am able and willing to be on the same page as the district....in other words they want someone who will "get with the program" and not complain when they teach the state adopted "Concept Lessons." From what I can see, schools do not want teachers that think too much or give into my own needs to be creative or stimulate student interest. There are a lot of teachers who feel that they are professionals and should have creative freedom to use their expertise to select what they think will work for their classes and student population. Administrators are definitely looking for foot soldiers and not generals. They do not want to hear about how creative or engaging a teacher is. They want to hear that you are comfortable with doing as you are told. I am really going to have to think about this. In all honesty, I am really used to being able to do whatever I want to do.

Back to the interview, the panel and I discussed two potential jobs:
Option One: 1.) Teaching the bottom 20th percentile scoring students to read in a two hour block using a program called READ 180.* Lets discuss option one for a moment....maybe you guys can give me some feedback. I have no problem teaching the lowest skilled population and never have. I just don't know if the program is any good. I was trained to do the same thing using a program called "LANGUAGE!" and I just about wanted to kill myself! It was horrible! A lot of phonetic drills sounding out words like F-A-T and C-A-T. My eighth graders were definitely not impressed! They did have fun making fun of the program by rapping their way through the phonetic drills. I will need to do some additional research on Read 180 before I can know what I think. I do know that Read 180 has a big computer component and that part definitely sounds good.

Lets go on to option #2:
2.) Teaching Grade 9 or 10 using "Concept Lessons" and then an elective teaching Yearbook. Teaching Yearbook would use a computer template driven program and so that would be interesting. The Concept Lessons are well, the Concept Lessons and are OK. I would still be able to supplement them to make them more interesting.....They would also need to be supplemented as the reading selections are too difficult for most students as they do not have the necessary academic vocabulary to read and comprehend them. DOESN'T ANYONE READ IN AMERICA ANYMORE?? A quick survey: Moms out there from other states, do your kids read and how much? Its amazing, most kids here are AT LEAST two years below grade level in reading AND writing and we are not talking about the bottom 20th precentile either...I'm talking "regular" education!
Anyway, I know that the school is interested in me and I need to decide if I am interested in Read 180. In any event, I need to write the principal, English Department Chair and the Literacy Coach a thank you letter. I will do it tonite and see what happens. I must say they did seem relatively impressed that I am going on a paid fellowship to Harvard University. Speaking of Boston, who has been there? I need some ideas of fun things to do. In conclusion, I will definitely be more prepared for interview #2 which is on Monday. I am still not sure what type of that position that school is looking to fill. I know to really stress understanding of the Concept Lessons.

BTW, Yes this is a Chantix quit smoking blog. I have 193 days off cigarettes today! Thank God I don't have to worry about how to delouse myself of cigarette smell after smoking just before the interview because I was nervous! I used to think those body sprays did the trick but have come to the realization that I was fooling myself. All the body spray did was make me smell like cigarettes AND Vanilla or whatever I happened to be spraying all over myself.

Gotta Run,


maggie's mind said...

I applaud you being a teacher the way things stand. I loved teaching in Japan (without an actual teaching certificate, so it was different) and considered doing it here, but you all are in a really tough spot with policies and politics. Thank goodness there are people like you willing to shape our future. I'm not sure which would be the right choice, but I'm sure you will make the right choice. Good luck!

Jude said...

I never thought about the system much, but I can see how that would be the case where they are only wanting foot soldiers. I bet there is a lot of politics in the public school system.

I taught comp 101 at a community college for a while. Even at that level, the students' understanding of grammar was not there. (Not that my grammar is perfect now...I'm just too lazy to cap or comma most of the time...another bad habit I got into, lazing out of proper grammar.)

Anyways--both of them sounds challenging, which one do you think you will go for?

spiderjugs said...

I teach Read 180 and it does get a bit monotonous. The students either love doing the computer, or hate it. You have 3 groups going at a time: one silent reading (yea, right), one on the computer program, and one small group that you instruct in their problem areas. Every 20 minutes you rotate. It is all ok most of the time, but we are not given much freedom to teach much of anything interesting, and when we do, we fear that we could be in trouble.

This year I deviated from the proper way to run Read 180, becuase students were not getting much reading done. We did several novels whole group style, which they loved, but I could get into trouble for that, because then we are not rotating groups and they didn't get to choose the book we all did together. My school district is very insistent that we "stay on model" to get the results that Scholastic promises.

We also had to add incentives sometime after February to keep students going on the computer

It also depends on how they choose the students to be in Read 180. I do get students with real reading difficulties, but I also tend to get students with very bad behavior, who have trouble working at the two independent stations, which makes it difficult to teach small group sometimes.

A plus is that there is very little grading to do, but many reports to be run and analyzed.

I guess it is the end of the year, and I am just sick of things here, and because of all our snow days, we are still in school unil Friday the 13th!! ARGH!!

If I was you I would do the concept classes and Yearbook. But who knows what would be best for you?

Mz Diva said...

Thank you SO much for the information on Read 180. Who knew there were other teachers out there reading my blog? Anyway, I did not get the job as they did not think I would "be a good match for Read 180" meaning they thought with 20 years experience I would get bored! They really wanted to hire me for yearbook/Concept Lessons 9-10 but the district froze the positions and they will call me if they are allowed to hire and not wait for a "shuffle" from another school. Oh well, back to the drawing board! I wanted that job too!