April 20, 2007

Teachers’ Teacher?

Which I guess is what I officially am now. Last night I finished teaching my second teacher credential course. I love teaching credential courses because the baby teachers who inhabit these classrooms are often wildly excited about their new profession, and have a genuine desire to change the world. It’s awesome fun to help them learn about classroom discipline, lesson planning, and relating to students. It gives me an even brighter hope for the future.

Teaching these courses adds to the length of my teaching day twice a week for five weeks stretching it from 7:30 AM to 9:00 PM, with a break between 2:30 and 5:30. Marathon days in front of people teaching le subject de jour. It’s exhausting, but worthwhile. At my high school I now run into student teachers that took my course last fall. We stop in the halls to chat, catch-up, and share funny stories. It’s very rewarding to see a "baby teacher” evolve into a “student teacher,” and continue to be fired-up about teaching. Very cool.

Last year about this time I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to pursue administration, or teaching at the university level. It’s obvious how that went. I actually enjoyed teaching these last two credential courses so much that I am now toying with the idea of chasing down an EdD. or PhD. in education. That way when I’m finished I can teach at the university full time. Part of me says that if I go to the university level full-time and stop teaching at the high school level that I will lose my effectiveness as a teachers’ teacher because I am no longer teaching non-teachers. (Does that make sense?) But a larger voice inside of me shouts out the need for change and growth. Change and growth that may be satisfied by even higher education. But, seriously, I don’t know if I can survive a three to four year program as a student along with everything else that is going on.

At the high school I am trying to get funding for my computer classroom. The machines my students and I use are antiquated, and in disrepair. Our principal has committed to replacing the old equipment with new machines, but the expense of doing so continues to be a challenge that is not easily met on a public high schools budget. At least not the way our budget is structured. I’m forced to make sacrifices and figure out how to make-do with what is available. I understand that computer courses are much, much more expensive to support than a standard course that does not use technology, but this generation needs to be technology literate, and without the technology to make them literate, well, you get the picture.

Perkins IV money is being made available to elective programs that appropriately prepare students for careers and follow a recommended sequence of courses, include a minimum number of hours in those courses, a connection to a post-secondary program, and that address not only the K-12 Content Standards put also the California CTE Pathway standards. Sequences of elective courses that satisfy these requirements are eligible for funding. Other elective courses that do not are left to fend for themselves and in the current environment of moneys being focused away from electives and into remedial courses for students needing to pass the required exams.

One of the changes I’ve been considering is the subject matter I teach at the high school level. I am a credentialed English teacher who is NCLB compliant in Theatre. I started off teaching theatre for two years before the computer opportunity pulled me away. I miss teaching theatre and I’ve been thinking a lot lately (really a lot) about going back to teaching theatre. I even applied for a theatre job with another school district in an area I’ve always dreamed of living in. I didn’t get the job (BTW, is being called an “enthusiastic guy” a good thing or not?) I’ve had a few opportunities this year to put my earring back in my left ear and work with theatre students. It was a real blast. I found myself working from place a passion that I’ve not visited in a very long time.

At the same time I am heavily entrenched into the foxholes of school reform working on our SLC (CASLE) model. A model we are planning to implement for next school year. Major restructuring of the high school, the campus, the school day, and the way students and teachers relate to each other. I firmly believe that if done right, we will be able to seriously improve and enhance the students’ educational experience. But this will require a variety of paradigm shifts that won’t be easy for the staff and students of the oldest high school in California still operating at its original location.

One of my ideas for our SLC will be a school of Arts, Media, and Entertainment. I want to combine both the multimedia production discipline with the theatre discipline and create new opportunities for kids to not only experience the creative process, but also participate in even more authentic “real-world” experiences that will help them learn vocational as well as academic lessons. I can envision theatrical productions that include not just the drama kids, but students from the whole school of Arts, Media, and Entertainment including obvious groups like band and choir along with kids from art, video, drafting, and even woodshop. Yes, woodshop. How cool would it be for art students to draw the set, the drafting students to draw up the plans for the set, and the woodshop students to build the set? I realize that you don’t need a smaller school to get the woodshop program to work with the drama program, but it seems like it would be a lot easier with a smaller, more familiar population of students and teachers.

Spring is a busy time of year for teachers.