I started student teaching today, but I think that instead of discussing this exciting milestone in my life, I would like to offer some exposition to this week. This year we have a new principal at my Wildly Diverse High School (the name I have assigned to my high school where I am student teaching), and as a result many changes have taken place from last summer until now.
In a school that attempts to teach about 3,500 every year, there were 40 new hires, many of which were first or second year teachers. Additionally, nearly every department chair was replaced. Murals were replaced, mottos changed, and ideas altered.
The first day of our preparatory week, our principal gave us an hour-long speech. He said there were problems at Wildly Diverse High School, but that was no excuse. He told us to ignore other responsibilities in favor of doing our jobs – in other words, in exchange for teaching our students. Success for every student does not appear to be just a slogan to him, but something worth striving for – a high, but still reachable goal. I found his excitable, energetic demeanor inspiring.
Perhaps the most telling aspect of the talk though, was instead his focus on how to teach. He discussed taking two or three core skills the students need to focus on – tone, square roots, grammar, etc, and pounding those skills into our student’s heads. Teaching our students a little bit is better than teaching them nothing. He discussed how teaching the test was a good thing, a goal, an obvious answer to a question of curricula.
This was the first and most overt example of politicking I have ever experienced for a specific type of educational doctrine from someone who was in a position of authority over me. It was a little off-putting. I do not necessarily disagree with my principal’s philosophy, but I certainly found it slightly off-putting, this explicit educational directional road map for the rest of the year.
Sure, my Wildly Diverse High School has problems – what high school doesn’t? My question is who should be the one to dictate how we are instructed to teach? Administration? Politicians? Teachers? Students? Honestly, I do not know.
All I know is that as I begin my first semester teaching in a real-life school this week, and I am doing all I can to scrap by. Should I be worried about this sort of thing? Should I put my nose to the grindstone and focus on my 104 students? Should I speak my mind and live with the consequences? I am not sure how to assume leadership roles while simultaneously recognizing my role as a teacher with absolutely no job-security. As a student teacher, I haven’t even received a paycheck yet!
This is a tricky balance. Which side do I lean toward more?
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