Thursday, May 20, 2010

The grass might not be greener

For those of you who follow my blog, you know I am actively looking for a new position within the New York City public schools through the open market transfer system. I'm looking for a school where children, parents, and teachers are valued, a place where years of experience mean something and teachers have input into the curricular decisions they make and how to best serve the needs of their students. I'm looking for a school with functional collaborative structures (not just show), for a school where teachers have leadership opportunities. After 4 weeks of searching, I am wondering if I will ever find a place like this. I have some interviews lined up and I have been receiving phone calls from schools, but I can't help but feel discouraged by what I am encountering.

Just today I got a call from a new school that opened to ease overpopulation in one of the outer boroughs. I had passed the school while dropping off a resume at it's much older counterpart across the street (complete with a yard full of trailer classrooms). It was so new it was practically glowing. I was fascinated by this new building, full of new possibilities for children and families in such a needy area. When I saw a posting for an open position there on the open market, I applied. When I got the phone call, I was eager to hear more. They wanted to interview me and to see a demo lesson. "Great!," I thought. So I asked them to tell me what grade level and what kind of lesson. They said it would be 1st grade literacy. "Excellent," I thought and then I asked, "What kind of curriculum do you use for literacy?" (keep in mind, I was transfered to the "literacy specialist" to answer this question). That's when the conversation turned sour. "What do you mean?" asked the voice on the other end of the phone. "You know," I said, "like Balanced Literacy or TC?" "Oh, yeah," she said, "sometimes we use balanced literacy, and Reading (can't remember the second word in this program, but it sounded like a basal reader-type program) but you know, we use a little bit of everything like right now we're learning about the life cycle of a frog, you know, so we're writing everything about frogs." "Okay," I responded, "so you plan thematically?" "Yes, each week we (grade levels) teach one strategy to the children until it is mastered and then we teach another the next week." WHAT!?!?!?!?!? Okay, first off, how can you "sometimes" use balanced literacy? Not possible! AND, how is teaching a uniform strategy to classes across the grade level each week constitute thematic planning. So you get the idea. The conversation was confusing at best and it made me really sad. Are you kidding me? Such a beautiful new school in such a needy area full of immigrant children (and you KNOW how I feel about teaching my ELLs). I couldn't help but think "How dare you go near those children!!! How dare you (city) build such a beautiful building with NOTHING inside for our city's kids." They sit there learning about frogs all day when there is critical thinking to be done and literature to devour. I thought about the conversation and then called the principal back immediately to decline the interview. Maybe I'll be back at my school next year. At least we know what program we use for literacy and know how to plan thematically for deeper learning.


bronxteach said...

I'm also wondering if the ideal school exists somewhere out there. One that serves a high need population, values and nurtures critical thinking skills above all else (for students and teachers) and values the voices of students, parents and teachers. If you find them will you let me know?

Anonymous said...

If you are looking for a great district, try Washington state! :) I love teaching here.

TeacherVoice said...

Even though it sounds like that school wasn't the right fit for you, I'm glad you were able to secure an interview. Good luck on your job search!