15 July 2010

All that moving and shaking is compromising the infrastructure.

I finished my last post feeling optimistic because I had a couple of things on my plate in this whole teaching job search.  Yesterday, I finally got that phone call I had been waiting for from my interview last week. Again, they chose someone with more experience. I won't use this blog entry to vent or think through this issue.  I had my meltdown last night, which was utterly unproductive, and now that the resulting headache is gone, I don't want to relive it.  I woke up this morning ready to keep pushing forward, and that's my intention.

I had an awesome meeting yesterday afternoon in East Lansing with a former teaching instructor. This is the first time we've had a lengthy conversation since I finished the teaching internship, so we talked about quite a few things--job search, the internship, and how those things are so interconnected now.  As we talked, particularly about how I'm reflecting on the internship as I talk to prospective employers about that experience as my teaching experience, I got kind of emotional.  Well, okay, I may have cried.

It became evident to me that all the "things I learned" that I've been articulating to people are not really the most important things I learned. Yes, I learned what I didn't know about classroom management (which, let's be honest, was everything). Yes, I learned what I didn't know about instructional strategies. Yes, I learned that my content knowledge is more than amply sufficient, but that doesn't always (hardly ever) matter. But as I talked to my former teacher, who is now a fellow teacher, and reflected on my internship more deeply, I found myself saying things about that experience that I didn't even realize I believed.  I realized that, above all else, I saw what it takes as an educator to deal with intensely difficult problems affecting your classroom and to still be a good teacher, to still want to be a good teacher. We're in an intensely difficult era of education in America, and difficult classroom situations aren't getting rarer, so this is something. 

I'm still trying to figure out how to get this on paper, and I'm not going to do it in this forum because it's so personal. I need to figure out how to say these things. These things answer the question that I am so afraid of--Why should we hire you? Why would you be the best choice for us? What more do you have to offer us than our other candidates? I know something right now about myself as a teacher that some teachers don't figure out for a long time, that some never figure out, and that some figure out and in light of it are pushed to leave the field.

I feel like this is getting dangerously close to me needing a soapbox to stand on, so I'm going to move on.

All right, even though I am lacking the essentials typically required for one to even be thinking about this (i.e. a teaching job and money), I've begun a list of things that I want for my classroom.

1. This paper sorter from callowayhouse.com. I'm usually a very organized person, but it became apparent during my internship that I may not be the most organized teacher. Trust me, there is a difference. I see lots of possibilities for this paper sorter, mostly centered around organizing my teaching materials for myself, so I may need more than one. Kind of expensive at 79.99 each.

2. This paper collector, also from callowayhouse.com.We had this in my classroom last school year, after some issues with students taking others' papers from the turn-in box. This solves all problems. The slots are big enough to slip even a packet of papers in, but certainly not large enough to slip a hand in. The back is closed with tabs, so it's pretty much "teacher-only" access.  Not to mention, it neatly stacks papers for you. I never knew how important this would be to me.

3. Dry-erase lapboards. Callowayhouse.com might be my new favorite website. We also had these in my classroom last year, and they were great for drills, whole class formative activities, learning games, etc. The students really enjoy them, and as long as you preface their use with an explanation of appropriateness, they're really effective.

4. From teachersdiscovery.com, I just love this poster. It's accurate, and has a ton of information on it. The Facebook-esque organization presents it all in way that students will recognize, be intrigued by, and probably spend a few extra seconds looking at.
Teachers Discovery also has them available for other authors, including Steinbeck, Hurston, Poe, and Neruda. OR! You can get them in a set of 16, which includes all of the available authors plus 8 novel characters (like Scout Finch and Odysseus)!

 5. Teachersdiscovery.com, again. I don't necessarily want this poster for The Giver, but there's a large selection of similar movie-style posters available for other novels and short stories. Most of them are pretty beautiful, and again very recognizable. And this poster for The Giver is a good example of how much information about the literature is conveyed in these posters. So, we'd be reinforcing content from the novel, and it might aid in a great conversation about critical visual literacy or media literacy. Shazaam!

6. A smart board. Impossible, right? Maybe not. Apparently, you can make your own smart board with a Wiimote and a few other items, for comparative pennies (or about $75). I've seen one of these homemade smart boards in action, and it's legit. Do yourself a solid and at least watch the video below to see if this is something that you want to get to working on.

I would put "a classroom" on this wishlist, but that's a given.

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