Sunday, June 13, 2010

Finding my way back to teaching

I’ll be honest here. As far as teaching goes, last semester was a disaster -- my worst ever. One of my classes got off track, some of my students were mean to me and I was mean back. I took it personally, handled it badly and wanted to flee the classroom forever.

I needed to shake off spring 2010 and find my way back to what I do well and enjoy as a teacher. So, I picked up the late Frank McCourt’s wonderful Teacher Man.

This from an interview with NPR’s Jacki Lyden:

Mr. McCOURT: I couldn't get a job anywhere else. The speech bureau at the Board of Educations questioned my foreignism, my brogue so to speak, that they didn't want their children coming home sound like Barry Fitzgerald or Maureen O'Hara in those days. So I finally--they were so desperate for teachers in vocation high schools and everybody told me, `If you're going into teaching, don't even think about going into a vocation high school. They'll kill you.' The movie out at that time was "The Black Board Jungle."

LYDEN: So did they kill you?

Mr. McCOURT: All I can say is they made a man of me or they made a teacher of me or they made something of me. The main thing was that I survived classrooms in a vocation high school when many people fled for the hills and became investment bankers. But I hung on there, I suppose, because I had moments of great triumph and illumination along the way. And there's nothing like that. When you finally hit it with a bunch of teen-agers, it's paradise.

And, I also got some inspiration from Bryan Marquard’s Globe obit of fifth grade teacher Larry Zukerman.

Having spent most of his career in classrooms teaching children to become better readers, Larry Zuckerman turned to the Internet about a decade ago and created a website that would help fifth-graders encourage each other to open one book after another.

“This whole idea of building communities is an old one in teaching; it’s just the technology that’s different,’’ he told the Newton Tab three years ago. “Technology opens the possibilities of things being done in totally different ways, so I like to explore it.’’

The result was Zuckerman’s Barn, a website that took its title from his last name and a farm building owned by a character in E.B. White’s classic “Charlotte’s Web.’’ On the interactive site, children have written thousands of book reviews and commented on one another’s critiques. Some continue to use the site after fifth grade.

Thanks guys. See you in the fall.

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