Posts Tagged ‘kids’
I and my interviewer had just finished my interview for the rival White Kids’ Unified. My master teacher thinks I’d do well in that rich suburb, and she said so as an insult.
The interviewer must have been impressed with my by-then well-polished one-liners and my general spiel, and so she asked if I had any questions. Of course, I did. I took a dangerous turn: Why do teachers in other districts have it out for White Kids’ Unified, which outperforms every district in the county?
This is not transcribed, and is the essence of her response:
I’ve taught in four states. I was in Maryland, Texas and Virginia. I’ve been in a lot of school districts.
This school district is, hands-down, the best I’ve ever been in. I have never seen any district like this. They take care of teachers’ needs. If you need anything, they will take care of it.
Our philosophy is simple: Kids first.
At other school districts, you might need something, and the administration tells you, “Sorry, we don’t have any money.” Here, you don’t need to buy anything out of your own pocket. We take care of all of our students’ needs. We take care of our teachers.
Don’t you pay less?
Yes, we do, but we take care of all of our teachers’ needs, too, because they can also be extensions of students’ needs. Teachers don’t have to pay out of their own pocket for any supplies or anything. I know at other districts, some teachers shell out lots of money for classroom resources. You don’t have to do that here.
Why no union in this district?
The benefits here are great, and teachers get paid well. They don’t have to spend any amount of their own money on their classes. Why do you need a union? The district takes care of it.
Teachers in other districts ask why we don’t have a union. I can’t speak for your district, but in other districts I’ve taught in teachers’ unions negotiate for getting more things for the teachers. They’re concerned all about the teachers.
It isn’t about the teachers. It’s about the kids. That’s what White Kids’ Unified is all about.
She did not mince words.
On an unrelated line of questioning, I considered tenure. Do White Kids’ Unified teachers have it?
Yes. After two years, you have tenure.
At the time, I didn’t think of the better question: How does a district have a tenure system if there isn’t a union to reinforce it?
Part Four of Four in my series on my two master teachers.
My master teacher consoled a fellow student teacher, and I overheard him:
Never live too close to where you teach, especially when you start out. You sometimes need that drive back home to decompress.
I need the drive home, too. Teaching his classes is regularly frustrating. It’s an uphill battle against some students who never show up. Against some who do, rarely. Against those who are there every day, and immediately enter their 55-minute coma. Against those who are awake, but insist on avoiding work at any cost.
Against some of the rest, who know I’m nothing like my beloved master teacher.
He writes his lessons on the fly, and without much preparation. He knows which copies to make for which week, and he doesn’t usually put together handouts. He believes: Keep It Simple, Stupid; work smarter, not harder.
Students might do a textbook inventory, looking for people, events or vocabluary in the book and placing it in the appropriate spot on a timeline. Students might read from his copies of the TCI curriculum, and do the TCI activities. Students, given their parents’ permission, might watch Schindler’s List as half of the Holocaust unit.
These plans are easy to write, and they’re effective.
I don’t know if his compliments have any perspective: He hasn’t had a student teacher before. He did tell me me that I’m ahead of where he was as a student teacher, at least in terms of knowledge of the material.
Hanging out with the kids was the easy part for me. It was the subject that gave me trouble.
My skills are inverted from him, and so I have a long way to go.
Part Two of Four in my series on my two master teachers.
One master teacher is laid back. The kids love him. He quit last year.
One of our high school’s administrators lives near his house, and was, over time, able to con him into joining this year’s staff. He signed a new contract, in this new district, at the last minute.
Why did he sign? He loves kids. By itself, loving kids couldn’t and wouldn’t sustain him through a year of teaching. It made the difference when he had teetered between signing and not signing the contract offered him.
Back during his first marriage, there was a student. This student had a bad boyfriend, a bad father, a bad uncle. Read between the lines. He offered this student his couch; she took him up on it for months. Even after she moved into a stable apartment, he helped her get back on her feet, get her GED.
My theory: That’s why he signed.
This is his first year teaching at our high school. He had been frustrated from his ten years at his previous school, as a basketball coach, and in his fewer years as an athletic director. He does not coach basketball here, and he isn’t an athletic director.
In the classroom, he is still a basketball coach.
Raw charisma fills his classroom. When he’s there, students won’t notice the bare walls or broken desks or unkempt whiteboards. They notice him.
I knew he would be that sort of teacher as soon as I met him. It was the first week of December. I introduced myself. Firm, confident handshake. Bellowing baritone. His pastiche of adolescent humor.
When I teach fifth period sophomores, I don’t teach my class. I teach his. If he ever removes himself completely from his classroom, I supposed I’ll float around the vacuum he leaves in his place.
He told me once:
Two years ago, I decided that I was done teaching.
He came back.