As promised, here is my first journal entry, summarizing my first week of school. My goodness, look at the time. It's 10:36pm. I should have been in bed half an hour ago! Cheerio!
My first week of student teaching was a crash course in the politics of an American public high school. Not having attended a public school and only thus far observing in rural schools, I was unsure of what to expect in this large, urban setting. All I knew were the statistics: 2612 students, 52% minority, 33% paid and reduced lunches, 79.9% graduation rate. I knew that I was going to be teaching AP US History, AP World History, and a section of regular World History.
Every day this week was different. Monday was very hectic because as soon as I got there, there was a power surge in the building that knocked out all the lights and computers. My supervising teacher had been gone from school for a few days, and there had been snow days, the week before, so the students had a hard time paying attention. It was only later in the week I would discover that the school does little to enforce rules about cell phones, iPods, or eating and drinking in the classroom, if such rules exist.
On Tuesday we went to an interdepartmental meeting on improving academic rigor, where I learned about the tension caused by Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB), and also met one of the assistant principals. I discovered that the high school is known in the city as actually being “two schools”- one where academic standards are high and students are college bound, and one where students do not care about classes and are in danger of not graduating. The divide is racial and socio-economical.
Wednesday, the students were dismissed at noon for professional development meetings. The most valuable part of the day was observing a social studies department meeting. My supervising teacher prepped me for it by telling me that in a group of 15 teachers, only three are female, not much is accomplished in these meetings, and teachers do not ever collaborate with each other. During the meeting, some of the behavior exhibited by these teachers was worse than the students. They didn't pay attention when the department head was trying to get feedback on textbook selection, argued with each other, and were extremely vulgar and crude. Still, I was interested in the textbook selection process, which is complicated by textbook company incentives (which include projectors and laptops), the budget, and the township wanting to use the same textbooks at two different high schools. Teachers at my school are asked to give a first and second choice, but may not end up with either.
Overall, this week was a bit overwhelming, but exhilarating. I am excited to dive into the world of education. My teacher and I get along quite well and think the same way. At first, I wasn't sure if we'd get along, because she first came across to me as cynical, but I have come to believe that she is very much a realist. After twelve years of teaching, she has had good classes and bad classes that have distinctly affected the way she does things. I could see myself making a lot of the adjustments she has after having similar experiences.