Thursday, December 6, 2007

I'm cheating and back-dating this because I didn't want to pay for internet access.

For the past several years I've been able to make a living as an expert in something I know so little about. Perhaps the secret of my success is my frequently-reiterated contention that I am no expert. Nevertheless, people pay good money to come and listen to my pondering and pontificating. Go figure?

I love that I can meet so many people. Good people. Dedicated, hard-working teachers who care about their students so strongly that they are standing up to all the malarkey being thrown at them, insisting on providing experiences for their students to learn, not just to test. Today I met a teacher who paid her own way for a 2-day seminar on writing workshop, even though this is likely her last full year in the classroom. "I just want to reach all my kids," she told me.

Another teacher today challenged the group (and me) with questions to the point where it threw the whole schedule. I was finishing up my A.M. plans when we broke for the day at 3:15. The timekeeper in me was a little upset, but the conversation was interactive, and most everyone (90 people) remained engaged. This teacher stayed on as I packed up my tech gear and we chatted a bit. She told me she'd hung on in her school beyond what was a reasonable time frame. She was tired of having her hands tied by administrators and she was seeking a new position. How can she find a better situation, she asked me. I told her that I was sorry to report from the field that frustration among teachers has reached epidemic levels. She then asked me to compose a recommendation for her, thinking that a note from an “expert” like me would be the job-seeker's equivalent of a Get Out Of Jail Free Card. It seemed silly. We’d just met. But I thought about it for a while and decided that I probably had learned more today about her ideas on teaching than her negligent administrator had learned in her 15 years in the school. So I wrote:

To Whom it May Concern-
I met Mary Beth today. Mary Beth was one of over 90 attendees at a seminar and I was the speaker. In spite of these circumstances I don't find myself lacking solid information when recommending you consider her for a position in your school.

Mary Beth came to today's seminar with specific goals, and she wasn't afraid to demand that they be met. Her active participation in the seminar demonstrated an enduring interest in delivering the best instruction for her students. In designing and presenting staff development for teachers throughout the country I have learned that I can roughly gauge a teacher’s commitment based upon the questions he or she asks. Mary Beth was persistent in her questioning. She vigorously pursued strategies to meet the needs of all the learners in her classroom.

A teacher seeking to improve her effectiveness? A teacher demanding strategies for her students? Mary Beth appeared to be this and more. Certainly an applicant worth considering for the important position of a teacher in your school.


LJ said...

Thank you for you submission Ms. JSG, but unfortunately we, the administration, are busy rolling over for stupid people. There are still books to be burned, science to be ignored, and personal asses to be covered. Mary Beth sounds like a trouble maker with her caring and wanting to learn. Learning has no place in education.

Yours in W.

The Administration

Cora Spondence said...

Today I may ask you to write the same letter for me.

DiaBelo said...

JSG, you are the Queen of "No Teacher Left Behind."

And I second Cora Spondence's emotion.

MJ said...

How kind of you to write that for her. I'm picturing those moments when we try to pack up and visit with the teachers who like to stay after and talk. That was truly a gift--for us and her.

It's also giving me a weird vibe to realize how bad teachers everywhere are feeling.