March on.

It’s been almost a month since I’ve documented the workings of my new adult life. A month. When I think of that, I can’t help but think of Blake singing, “What’s the greatest chapter in your book? Are there pages there where it hurts to look?” Of course there are those pages. Of course there are days in the classroom when I think, “is this real life?” Of course there are moments outside of 6-3 when I question where the hell has my road taken me. So, to answer your question, Blake, yes. Not all pages are bad, though.

All work and some play.

I have to say, I’ve been particularly proud of my students and somewhat of myself for trailblazing through a mini unit on poetry and the Harlem Renaissance with a text-to-text connection to nonfiction articles regarding the civil rights movement. (Say that five times fast). In addition to teaching the topic of segregation, something I hadn’t realized they had never been taught until that point, we intermingled the idea of a dream to the expression of a dream through Langston Hughes’s poetry. Top it all off with teaching similes, metaphors, personification, and alliteration, and it was a banner week. From “Dreams” to “Dream Keeper” and “Harlem,” we discussed the value of dreaming, preserving dreams, and what happens when we neglect the opportunities that we are given to follow our dreams. We ended the week by creating our own dream catchers – the perfect form of personification – to help us keep dreaming of what we really want in life.

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Teaching poetry was incredible. Although I knew that asking the students compare an abstract concept with a tangible object is difficult, I’m proud of the strides they had taken. We have poets in the making!

Keeping the good vibes rolling, time with the dragon teachers has truly been my saving grace this week. I’ve said it in so many forms and ways, but those people are what get me through my worst days. Yesterday, a Jimmy Fallon session was exactly what the doctor ordered.

“DIY: School Reform”

As my area is expected to receive yet another depressing, super disgusting snow storm on Sunday/Monday, tonight I found myself at Shoprite with every other paranoid crony that feared not being able to survive one-three days without driving. Anywho, while in line, I found an interesting article regarding school reform for failing districts. Instantly, the magazine won me over. Because I hadn’t had enough time to read the entire article in line, I spent the drive home contemplating who this miracle writer was that came up with the eight step solution to one of our country’s biggest problems – failing schools. Who are you, article guru, and how did you come up with these?

The article (found here), written by Patrick Kerkstra, presented readers with eight strategies for saving a city on the brink of educational disaster. Some interesting highlights:

  • Superintendent should set city schools free. With schools falling in a top-down organization, being led by the district’s central office, schools do not have free reign to improve instruction based on what they observe every day. Things are dictated by someone who is not directly connected with the students. Districts can be responsible for dictating or monitoring everything from the curriculum taught in most classrooms to the length of the school day. Kerkstra provided an incredible quote regarding his city of focus, but I feel it applies to more than just his focus area:

    “Results of that approach couldn’t be clearer. Not only is student performance abysmal, but district headquarters is the type of bureaucracy that make you want to pull your hair out, at once inefficient (the district is in the digital dark ages, forcing principals and other officials to squander precious hours on paperwork) and overreaching (in 2012, district HQ dismantled a parent-created reading nook in a third grade classroom in a certain school, deeming it “clutter.”)”

  • New teacher contracts. I’m with it. Logistically, if we are making such reforms, we need the protection and support of our contract. It is expected that the union would sue if terms of contract are breached. therefore, it’s only logical for a contract to be created that would help facilitate the change needed to regenerate failing districts.
  • Shame city universities into doing more. Interestingly worded, but as a teacher, we know that it’s all about partnership. Considering the amount of resources that are allotted to universities, why not ask for aid? The goal of city and state universities is to keep each state’s scholars within those states, so to be able to do so, we need to improve their schooling during their younger years to help facilitate learning that will put them on the road for a post-graduate college career.

Educators, check it out. It’s an interesting article that challenges the idea of just letting failing schools fail.

Food for thought.

As this year progresses and I approach state testing, my final observation, my 24th birthday, and the end of my first year of teaching, I’m constantly reminded of the transition that I’m enduring. I talk with my fellow teachers about this all the time – “the in-between.” We’re more adult than in college but less adult than our colleagues with kids and mini vans and soccer practice on Friday nights. We’re more adult than thirsty Thursday but less adult than TurboTax. “The in-between.” We don’t miss being included, but we miss the feeling we had at that point in our lives. It’s an interesting place to dwell and can be a disappointing one more times than you think, but I have to say, it’s the waiting room for doors to open with opportunities we hadn’t thought of yet.

If you’re in the “in-between” like me, hang in there. I know that it’s often depressing, knowing what you could’ve had and what you have to wait to earn. Hang in there. Great things are coming.

Ciao for now,
-Ms. Sunshine

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