Sunday, March 15, 2009

Twenty Questions for Teachers

Nancy over at Teacher in a Strange Land threw this out there. I figured I'd give my spin on it.

1. Teaching assignments, how long? High School: U.S. History, World History, U.S. Government, Economics, International and Global Studies, Advanced Placement Comparative Government, and Intro level (lower reading level, ELL students) classes in Government/Economics/World History. Add to that basketball coach. All of the above for 8 years.

2. Favorite Class Taught and Why? I love U.S. government because it is relevant and students become engaged immediately. Mock Congress is one of the best assignments in existence, using the ability to explain and then implement the Legislative Branch is just plain fun. Although, I might have to say that coaching is also a favorite. The kids learn more skills, and more relevant skills, than in the classroom, and the assessments are quick and revealing.

3. Worst Class Taught and Why? Can't say that their is a subject I hate (although I much prefer Government to U.S. History). I had a class about six years ago that was very challenging, but my teaching style was confrontational and that was part of the problem. There are classes during the day that are quite exhausting, but "worst"? Not really. The worst part of teaching isn't the kids. Trust me.

4. Favorite Class Taken? Anything by Bob Cottrell at CSU-Chico. That man managed to rekindle the passion for History at time when I was lost to what I really wanted from my life. I enjoyed his class so much that I took four of them, and learned an enormous amount. He was passionate, and I had lost that during my early college years. He brought it back.

5. Favorite Education Book? To be quite honest, education books are pretty much full of shit. Want a real lesson in education? Read a blog. Most good teaching doesn't come from a book, it comes from experience and common sense.

6. Best Teacher Buddy? Wow, a couple actually. While I tiff with my department on occasion (sometimes serious tiffing), I think that they are a great group to have around. While we do disagree on things, we can honestly say that we are a very strong department. An ex-teacher, now an administrator at one of the schools, was fantastic at showing me the ropes and giving me all kinds of "heads up" on how things worked at the school and in the community. I'd have fallen on many a landmine if it wasn't for his wisdom.

7. Best Administrator? I've taught for 8 years and have had two good administrators, and one other.

8. Most Disappointing Experience? Four years ago the "one other" administrator let a parent verbally rip myself and two other teachers apart for 90 minutes. By the end, one of the other teachers was in tears, I had capitulated on an assignment (that was never completed the second time either), and I had lost every ounce of respect for my boss at that time. That will never happen again.

9. Most Thrilling Moment? About three years into teaching I remember puttering around my classroom after a really good assignment for that day in December and thinking, "I'm going to do this forever, and I'm going to be good". It was moment I realized that it was really going to work.

10. Funniest Incident in Your Classroom? This year actually. But I really can't talk about it because it was borderline profane. However, it was Juniors in high school, no harm was done, and it was really damn funny.

11. Most memorable student? Nope, I have too many memorable students to pick just one.

12. What about unions? Necessary, but too busy trying to follow the CTA party line an acting in a confrontational manner. It's less of a bargaining tool now and more of a political body.

13. What about charter schools? A serious cop-out. Why would the state support schools that simply changed the rules regarding the students it can keep instead of changing the rules for all the schools? And don't say the teacher's union because a good administrator can fire bad teachers.

14. What about merit pay? I'm all for it, but you better get a terrific administrator and have a really good measurement on what makes a good pay grade. Pay based on some idiot test that students can sign out of and don't care about is insane.

15. What does "21st century learning" mean? It's 20th century learning using more technology and collaboration. Honestly, some of the things that used to happen in the past century (you know, discipline and accountability) worked out pretty good.

16. What makes a teacher "effective?" The ability to engage kids, period.

17. Most overrated "reform?" Charter schools. They have kids whose parents care more about their education, and they are allowed to make their own rules when it comes to discipline. Wow, not too hard to see why they succeed (on occasion). Give me the ability to kick out kids for failing academically and replace them with kids that have concerned parents and I'll show you some serious results.

18. Best professional development? The Advanced Placement Conference in Bellevue, Washington was pretty cool. However, the greatest professional development is watching other teachers' experiences and learning from it.

19. Personal education hero? Rex Moseley, my master teacher.

20. Priorities, if you could spend $5 billion on education? Better teachers in high-needs schools; innovation grants for creating new kinds of schools; serious teacher development--content knowledge, leadership, instructional improvement; a policy academy where practicing educators and policymakers jointly investigated research and creative options for problem-solving (I copied this from Nancy because it was right on the money).

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