Dear Undergraduate Pre-Service Teacher,
The purpose of this letter is two-fold. First off, I want to thank you for your participation in class. As I stated in our syllabus, discussion is essential to the social construction of knowledge and your insights into class readings and connections with your own experiences and what you are seeing in the field is delightful. I am looking forward to the rest of our time together.
In order to make that time run more smoothly, I feel I must offer a piece of advice and it is this: there are few things that piss me off more than the comment "You must be okay having no life" in regards to the amount of work, including readings, that are part and parcel of the education experience you are paying for. It is insulting on multiple levels. To begin, I am insulted that you fail to recognize the work that I have paid to the construction of our class time together. While you are reading sixty pages a class period, I had to read nearly five time that to come to our class readings. What are you reading is the best of the best, culled from a large body of research and practice. Additionally, I have spent time making explicit the connections between the readings and to educational practice so that you may benefit. Furthermore, while I have read the readings at least once, I will read them again in preparation for classroom discussion. For some of these articles, I have read them a dozen times or more. Yet I still manage to find new insight in them. I have worked diligently to provide you with quality reading materials and they may be many in pages, but we have sixteen total class meetings, at the end of which you will student teach. There is much to learn.
Furthermore, I am confused by your surprise that I am unwilling to bend my expectations to the lowest common standards. I expect you to be exceptional elementary teachers and will accept nothing less. The topics we cover in class are not my pet topics; I am not spending half the semester on educational technology or critical literacy, Rather, we are delving into topics that will serve your students well. Here's what you may not understand: while you are responsible only for the classroom of twenty-four or so students you will teach in the course of the school year, I am responsible for the instruction they receive. There are twenty four of you currently enrolled in my class; if, going with a conservative estimate, half of you find jobs, that is 288 students my current actions are influencing. I have high expectations for those children and, thus, I have high expectations for you. I will work you hard because I will not let those children down.
This, aside from plagiarism, is a sure way to raise my temper. You see, I have a life, one that I have dedicated to mentoring new teachers. I still find time to work with children, to teach reading, to work on my dissertation. To knit. To see my friends, although never as much as I would like. Yet I still find time to read and reread the course readings, to plan classes that are meaningful and interesting. I live correctly within my personal politics and I believe in education. I believe in teachers and in helping pre-service candidates become more than they thought they could be. So, before you question the quality of my life, question your dedication to your chosen profession. Do you want to be an informed, critical, savvy teacher or do you want summers off?
Honestly, I have to time to suffer fools and if your answer refers to summer, you may want to take this class with another instructor.
22 August 2011
I taught my first class at my new campus this evening. Teaching is such a ridiculous high. This is the fifth year I've taught this particular class and I love that I know it inside and out.
At the beginning of the class period, I had all twenty-five students line up behind a piece of painter's tape on the floor and pointed thirty paces ahead of them at another line of blue tape. I began rattling off terminology, things they will know by the time we are done. For each item they knew, they took a step forward. No one moved forward more than seven paces. "That," I told them, gesturing to the distance between them and the finish line, "is the intellectual distance we have to cover this semester."
I love using the space as a metaphor this way. They know that they will be inching ever closer to that finish line, class by class. It also keeps me honest. I know that they are reliant upon me to help them get there. I can't help but love the sense of urgency.
(Above photo from an installation at the Louisiana State Museum's exhibit Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond. Amazing exhibit.)
21 August 2011
19 August 2011
I think I've redefined my definition of lucky, having found myself on a plane three times in the past three weeks. I enjoyed the amazing city of New Orleans (I say amazing, having rediscovered the city after the last excursion out there) while visiting my Bestie in Baton Rouge. A few snippets from my time in Louisiana:
17 August 2011
Yesterday, I woke up to the sound of the beach, the cacophony of waves hitting the shore. I closed the evening on a plane headed back to the Hoosier state. It was a vacation that ended much too early. I would have gladly spent several more days on the beach, punctuating the space between book chapters with dips into the salt water.
Alas: the new semester starts on Monday and there were meetings to attend to.
It was a solid reminder, I thought, of the state of relationships. While they have the potential to be long-term, there is no guarantee it will last. The key to both relationships and vacation: enjoy it while you are there, in it.
11 August 2011
I've been away, experiencing and not doing too much documentation about those experiences. Returned from Louisiana last night after a week in the humid south. Amazing time - Baton Rouge and New Orleans are amazing cities, for very different reasons.
And now? Preparing for classes to begin in a week and a half. True to form, there are a multitude of last minute changes. More after I get caught up...