A Phillie Teacher

I was a starry-eyed teacher from New Jersey. Now I work for Philadelphia Public Schools.

Archive for January, 2011

A Few Bright Spots

Posted by aphillieteacher on January 30, 2011

We knew there was big snow coming our way. The weather report said the big stuff wouldn’t happen until evening rush hour but true to form, most New High School students stayed home “just in case.”

They were probably right. My usual half hour commute to work was a 45 minute white-knuckle ride over sleety streets and I was glad to make it to school without anything serious happening.

So where are the bright spots?

  1. One of my students asking to borrow my “Hamlet” DVD so she could watch it at home.
  2. A girl who angrily told me I must have lost her essay, brought it to me a couple hours later – and apologized.
  3. A young teacher stopping to talk after school; discussion turned to all the stuff we bloggers discuss online: the travesty of scripted teaching, need for greater accountabilty for our students, a few jokes . . very nice! I wish people would stop by to chat more often.
  4. Final bright spot: thanks to the snow, we had a **FoUr DaY WeEkEnD** and the full day in-service the district planned was canceled so we can make up one of our snow days :D
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Posted in Philadelphia Schools | 3 Comments »

A Horrible Sinking Feeling

Posted by aphillieteacher on January 25, 2011

A local Friends (Quaker) school has a job opening for an English teacher! oh boy oh boy, I thought with great excitement. A new job! A new start! kids that really *care* about learning.

Then I looked at their web site. And their curriculum – especially the elective courses. That’s when I got that horrible sinking feeling that told me You don’t know how to teach like that anymore. Heck, you don’t even know 2/3 of the books they’re using!

Working in an urban school, teaching the most fundamental skills over and over to kids who don’t care or don’t want to learn about the world has ruined me.

I don’t have the gloss and shine necessary to develop cool, exciting and innovative courses anymore. I’ve become a hack.

Think I’m over reacting? Check out this course description:

Throughout history, individual men and women have transcended the darkness of their age and proved
inspirational leaders, bringing about progress and change. Sometimes these individuals were kings or
politicians, other times they were citizens turned revolutionaries. We will look back over 2,500 years of
dramatic literature’s political masterworks and ask “what makes a great leader?” Is it easier for a king or
a revolutionary to enact change? What should be the relationship between faith and government? And
must our hero die to prove his worth and bring about progress? In this class we will read, recite and debate:
Euripides’s The Bacchae, Shakespeare’s Richard II , Schiller’s Don Carlos, Bruchner’s Danton’s Death , Shaw’s
St. Joan and Anouilh’s Beckett. Each student will be responsible for reading the plays and will be graded on
his or her ability to discuss and debate the plays in class. Additional assignments will include a weekly in
class essay regarding the play, a written biography of one of the playwrights and his work, and a final
assignment (written or graphic) in which the student will present how he or she would adapt one of the
plays for a contemporary audience.

I don’t think they would be tremendously impressed with my multiple hand-shaking styles or use of street slang at the interview. They would laugh at my world of graphic organizers, “chunking literature” and read-aloud for juniors and seniors in high school.

Woe is me. I will send the resume and cover letter but in my heart, I know I don’t stand a chance.

Posted in Education | 4 Comments »

Get Tested

Posted by aphillieteacher on January 24, 2011

Nothing to do with reading or thinking.

At New High School, entire English classes are sent to the auditorium to watch a brief video about STDs before then sent to the bathroom with a test kit. Whether they actually urinate in the cup and turn it in for testing is up to the kids. I saw a lot of the students nodding as the presenter ran through statistics and symptoms, so it’s very likely that many of them decided to go ahead and get tested.

I understand that every year they find multiple cases of diseases among the kids. How far they get with treatment, I can’t tell. But at least they’re getting informed.

When I was in high school, all we got was vision screening. I wonder if the suburbs have school-wide programs for STDs?

Posted in Education, Philadelphia Schools | Leave a Comment »

How’s That Script Working Out?

Posted by aphillieteacher on January 17, 2011

About a month ago I posted my angry response to the district’s command: “Do not teach literature or critical thinking or anything to do with gaining knowledge or learning about the world. Certainly don’t let them discover the wonder and beauty of American writing.” Instead they mandate that every week

1. the kids read a non-fiction text selected by the district
2. write a 5 paragraph response to a canned prompt
3. track their scored “progress” on a district-made table

what our highly-paid experts in the district office forgot was allowing time to conference with our students and give them personal feedback.

What the kids get is a 14 point rubric sheet with four items checked off. I try to add comments or circle particular items that need attention but honestly, our kids zoom to their score and look at little else.

Result: they’re not making any progress. Week after week they enter nearly the same scores as the previous week, all because I never get the chance to say “Here’s what’s going wrong with your (topic sentences) (transitions) (conclusions)” And with 90 something of these to grade every week, I’m tired.

End Result: everyone is frustrated – me, helplessly watching my kids make the same errors every week, the kids because they don’t see any results and they’re damn tired of this nonsense and finally the District because there wasn’t any change in scores.

Obviously this will somehow be my fault.

Posted in Education, Philadelphia Schools | 4 Comments »

Teacher Fakes Bomb Threat To End Faculty Meeting

Posted by aphillieteacher on January 2, 2011

Don’t waste another minute! Check out Mr. Teachbad’s blog! But don’t forget to come back here.

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