A Phillie Teacher

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

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.


4 Responses to “A Horrible Sinking Feeling”

  1. Job-free said

    I’m sending out resumes and all now, too. I feel like a dodged a bullet in some ways — last year, while I was teaching in a different way than I was taught how to teach, at least I was able to plan my lessons, review when needed, etc. This year, I learned I couldn’t follow a script that wasn’t working nor was I experienced enough to play some complicated game of pretending to follow a script and not doing so (while still preparing for the required basically biweekly tests, written by the district, and each unit tested covered not only a normal amount of related material but several side topics thrown in seemingly at random).

    And wow, when I looked back at what I did as a student teacher, even, I remembered — oh yeah! I could be creative, I could look at the kids I had and come up with lessons and games and the like that were both informative, taught them the material and weren’t DEADENING.

    Now I’m working on how to express that in interviews…assuming I ever get any.

    • Deadening. That sums up what scripted teaching does to the kids as well as the teachers.

      Good luck in the job hunt! Teaching jobs are scarce here in the Northeast and many out-of-work teachers are vying for the few jobs that appear. I hope it’s different where you are.

  2. A New Teacher said

    I will be a new teacher in Philly in September, expecting to teach social studies in high school. Your post is heartbreaking in a way I know teaching in an urban school can be, yet I continue to convince myself that my history classes can be rich, meaningful, and connected to the lives of my students. I hope I teach long enough to get past this phase of education.

    • First – congratulations on getting the job! Philadelphia has hard financial times ahead and hiring will be tight. If you landed the job, you’ve already done well.

      For a first year teacher, there’s a lot to be learned in the way of classroom management and constructing successful lessons. Starting in Philadelphia schools, you’ll learn very quickly just to keep up with the kids’ and administrations’ expectations. If you can make it in Philadelphia Public Schools, you can make it anywhere.

      I taught in suburban South Jersey before I came to Philly. The kids there were motivated, the parents were involved and the administration was extremely supportive of all the teachers.

      Sad to say, this is not the case in many of Philadelphia’s high schools. Dealing with the stress that comes from all sides takes a toll on the teachers. Make friends. Communicate. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice.

      Please stay in touch. I’d like to hear about your experiences.

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