Monday, August 9, 2010

Teacher Questionnaire (Yes, I Took it Seriously ... Mostly)

My school has a new principal starting this fall, and he recently mailed out a questionnaire for all teachers to fill out so he could get to know the teachers and staff. I thought this was a really neat idea, actually, so I did it right away (because I'm just that on top of things ;))

It occurred to me that, while I write a lot about thinking and family and writing and that sort of thing here, I tend to keep my life as a teacher a bit more distant. Here is a glimpse at the "teacher-me".

And just to be clear, I've changed the name of my school and the other districts I've worked at. After all, a workplace deserves a pseudonym, too.

Ahem ...

Why I am here:
I became a teacher because I love showing students how to look at the world in a big-picture kind of way. If kids are able to make connections between their own lives and, say, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, I feel like I have been successful. It’s often a great challenge for students to see how virtually everything connects, that the greater the body of knowledge and thinking strategies you can amass the better off you are, but it is incredibly rewarding.

How did I get here?
Growing up, I was the one who wrote plays and organized productions featuring all of the neighborhood kids. Starting when I was in second grade, I was asked to go read to the special education class twice a week, an event I looked forward to greatly and continued doing throughout elementary school. I started babysitting at a young age and continued doing it even after I got slightly more lucrative jobs such as lifeguarding at Water Country and running birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese’s. This is my ninth year teaching; I spent two years in the JONES (lol) School District at the middle school level and four years in the SMITH (haha) School District. However, my two years at DOE HIGH SCHOOL have unquestionably been the most fulfilling of my career.

My education and certifications are:
B.A. in English (cum laude)from the University of New Hampshire and M.Ed. (Secondary English Education with a Reading Concentration) also from UNH. My teaching certification is Secondary English (Grades 5-12, and yes, I passed the Praxis II) although my coursework and trainings also evidently qualify me for alternative certifications ranging from Reading Specialist, Special Educator, ESOL, and some sort of computer teacher certification.

What I like most about DOE HIGH SCHOOL:
DOE HIGH SCHOOL is full of decent people, both students and adults. I can’t think of a better word than “decent”, although that seems to fall short. I liken it to my M&M theory … if I was carrying a giant bag of M&Ms down the hall at DOE and dropped it, scattering little pieces of candy everywhere, probably 95% of the school would be running to help pick them all up. This is not true of any other school I’ve worked at or volunteered in nor of any other workplace outside of education I’ve ever experienced (especially Chuck E. Cheese’s ;)).

What I would like to see improved most at DOE HIGH SCHOOL to improve student learning:
There is an unsettling sense of apathy among a large percentage of our students. Many of them do not see the value of education and will quietly and respectfully fail a class or settle for a D-. One of the greatest things I’ve seen happen is students responding to connections made with staff that have allowed faculty to personalize instruction, to put the individual needs of each child into their teaching, and to strive to intentionally create authentic learning experiences that will allow the highest level of student buy-in. I would really like to see all teachers (myself included) work more on knowing who students are, how students learn, and what we can do to ensure that every student will succeed.

Who am I outside of school:
Most importantly, I am the mother of two amazing daughters. Addie, a musician and a scholar, will be a junior at YET ANOTHER HIGH SCHOOL, and Belle, the only kid in America counting down the days until school starts, will be starting first grade. I have a part-time job as a writer for a women’s issues website, which has been a great opportunity to hone my journalism skills as well as to get my name out there (since my ultimate goal is to be a novelist … I’ve written one book and three-quarters of another, although they are sadly unpublished). I like to read and hang out at the beach in the summer (although my surfing days are unfortunately over) and ski in the winter.