Monday, August 13, 2007

Follow up to "On meeting Fellows who just finished their first year"

I appreciate all of the responses to the post, "On meeting Fellows who just finished their first year.” I would say that I probably came off as a little harsh in my assessment of the Fellows who came to speak with our class. However, I should make it clear- I didn't mean to, nor am I knocking the 2nd yr TFs who visited my class or am I knocking their efforts. And like ‘subtext’ implied in his comment, we need to embrace and support new teachers in their journeys.

I was simply saying that I was frustrated that the stories of Teaching Fellows who have THRIVED, instead of those who simply SURVIVED were not represented. Last weeks Village Voice article, “Your Own Personal Blackboard Jungle” similarly only portrayed one type of experience of new teachers, and it was the same ol tired story.

I know for a fact that there are teachers and TFs that had a great 1st year, found success, and would be able to speak about their experience. I think this vantage point would be invaluable. We need to know what works!! We already know, or at least I know, how difficult and challenging teaching will be.

Or maybe the Fellows that came to my class actually did find success, but wanted to show us 'tough love', and use scare tactics to prepare us for the realities of the program. But in all honesty, that route is not very helpful. Tell me something new!!


Teacher Chic said...

I wish you luck on your upcoming first year. I think the panelists were just trying to emphasize that your first year is acutely difficult. Anyone who says otherwise either can't remember or doesn't want to admit they struggled.

I don't know any NYC Teaching Fellows, but I've known plenty of DC Teaching Fellows and other career changers. Some have the attitude, "Oh, it'll be a breeze for me because I've dealt with xyz in my previous career (or insert some other qualification that makes them 'special'." These teachers fall flat on their faces.

Learn from and love your kids. You could be the one to change their lives.

subtext said...

It is hard to find positive comments from people about teaching. I think it is because positive people are not taken seriously in academia; too Pollyanna. A friend of mine was finishing her MFA in the essay at Iowa years ago: she wanted to do a project on an influential teacher for her thesis. She was directed toward another project because her advisers feared the teacher piece was too positive. You will find people who have had positive experiences. I have had many over the years. Eliot Wiggington called them "sometimes a shining moment." Good luck and hold on to the good moments; it is easy to focus on the difficulties.

happychyck said...

I think the majority of teachers who survive their first years have had many positive moments that balance out the negative. It is indeed too bad that they didn't focus on that side.

Another perspective on this is that teachers often swap their tales from the trenches, proud of what they survived. Just see if you don't find yourself in a one-up conversation in the teachers' lounge at some point during the year with teachers telling their worst classes! No, these stories aren't necessarily positive, but we can say to ourselves, "Oh yea! I made it through that! What crazy person can do this job besides me?" It's like a rite of passage for new teachers.

What will work? No matter what advice is given or taken, you really have to figure that out on your own.

Brooklyn Teaching Fellow said...

All very interesting. Thanks for your thoughts and comments everybody.

I will do like subtext suggests- by "hold[ing] on to the good moments; [even though] it is easy to focus on the difficulties."

Anonymous said...

It's true, this past year I noticed how easy it is to forget all the wonderful, easygoing days, and how hard it is not to carry the tough moments along. This is every teacher's pitfall.

That's why I love the blogosphere. It is wonderful to share experiences with likeminded teachers, who are all optimistic, and who all want to learn and grow. I have learned so much from writing my blog and especially from all the wonderful bloggers that left messages! In this way, no matter how tough your day will be, you will always go to bed with strength for the new day.

PS. And most of all, teaching is fun! :-)

Jose said...

As a fellow, I gotta say, this is rather interesting ... rather interesting. I'ma read the blog before this one before I make my own assessments. Good to know NYCTFs are blogging more often ...

Brooklyn Teaching Fellow said...

Thats one thing I'm really starting to find out, teachers, NEW TEACHERS, are already jaded..

And Jose-
Yep, I decided to blog about my NYCTF experience. Good to see you here too..

Miss G said...

Welcome to the ranks :) Although I'm not a fellow, many of my close friends at my school are, and at least for me once you're in the classroom it's about a teacher, not about allegiance to a specific program.
I found your post about disenchanted fellows interesting, as TFA (of which I'm a member) gives you the exact opposite. You observe and hear from only the best teachers, so when you struggle in your first month or so (as all first year teachers are bound to do) you feel like you're the ONLY one going through that. Maybe fellows was overcompensating.
Teaching is, as I'm sure you've already experienced, incredibly difficult, particularly special education. One of the worst things you can do is go in with an attitude of 'I can do this better than anyone else' because experience DOES count for something (though not everything). Love your kids, work smart, and do take time for yourself. You have the attitude of a teacher that will thrive. I can't wait to read all about it :)
By the way - the sales at Staples are happening from now until Sunday. Be prepared for long lines!

Repairman said...

I saved the Village Voice article to print out and share with our district admin.

All I know of the Fellowship program is what little of it made our local papers, and to be honest, since we have had no challenges filling jobs, I never gave it it much thought. Your blog changed that.

You're on my recently trimmed, unpadded blogroll (no reciprocity required).

BTW, caught your comment to Miss Teacha. We'd make a good team. ;-)

NYC Teaching Fellow said...

Repair man- is being on a blog roll the same thing as being on a link list? if so, you are on my 'regular reads' section.

but yea, ive shared the TFs article in VV w/ some of my friends, both new and new-ish teachers, and they are kind of infuriated with the article. it doesn't represent their early years teaching experiences at all. who knows. i guess i'll find out what mine is like in the coming weeks!! peace..

Repairman said...

I'm looking forward to learning more about your program and your adventures (and misadventures!). Just by stepping out you've created an awareness all over the world (no bull) that wasn't there before August of '07.

Blogroll is just jargon for links. (But don't ask me too many questions about Web 2.0 stuff. I'm just catching up on the tech end of things, honest.)

If you have time, visit some of the folks on my link list. Good people. All kinds of different perspectives, but so much in common.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. I've been looking for something like this for long time. I've applied for the NYCTF for 2008. I teach high school SPED in Hawaii, which has its own host of complex problems. I have a question and some comments.

Question first:
What was the interview process like? I read on other blogs something about a group interview and a 10 minute teaching demo? Sounds awful. Do you care to post about the interview or training?

Comment 1: I totally agree that students tend to relate with teachers that look like them and are also from similar backgrounds; but, I'd like to add that I think a large part of the problem is a gender one. SPED kids tend to be disporportionally male and they often have issues with female authority (who doesn't, right?). I'm Japanese-Am-mixed and a lot of my students were Pacific Islander-mix, but we had really different backgrounds: I was raised on a farm; they were city kids. So it was fun learning about their city identity and they teased me about water catchment systems.

Comment 2: I had a student similar to James who just hated to read. I thought it was because he couldn't read. It turned out he had a bunch of friends in the class and he wanted to look cool by not listening to me. After some major frustration and words that did nothing, I changed my attitude and treated my student like I would a peer. I varied my strategy, remained calm at all times, and did different things with him everyday. At the end of the year, he was still the same loud, silly, student, but he knew when it was time to work and when he could "play." I think a lot of teachers forget that a classroom is also about building relationships not just having militant control over subjects.

I'm stoked to read more of your blog. Keep it up.

Repairman said...

What Jill said about your blog.

Looking forward to reading some more!

Anonymous said...

I just applied for the June 2008 program and I was wondering can anyone give me a more detailed explanation about the interview event and if one does well, what is the 7 week training and what does it consist of? I would like to be better prepared for this. Thanks, everyone!

poetkiosk said...

Perhaps, surviving is good enough? It is easy to judge before you have actuall taught. I am a Cohort 10 teaching fellow, believe me it all depends on the school. The experience as a teaching fellow is as varied as there are schools in the system. The reason why you see most people describing their first years as survival is because they are being honest. It is, truly, an almost impossible task. Out of the 30 or so fellows I started with, maybe 5 or 6 are staying after 2 years. Perhaps, you can amend your views after next week. I suspect you will. In fact, I am sure of it.

yo miss!, formerly in bushwick said...

I'm a C12 Fellow and I don't know anyone who had a stellar first year. I wonder if you didn't hear any of those stories because...well, there just aren't many.

I did a lot of growing up last year. I loved my kids. I did my best. But I wasn't terrific, not by a long shot. I doubt I will be this year, either. That's just the way this job is.

NYC Teaching Fellow said...

to respond to the poet dude at the bottom and the yo- miss chick.. actually, i had a great first week. and i didn't sign up for this to survive. maybe i just landed in a really great school. i have really amazing kids. or im going into it with the right intentions. maybe i have the right background. maybe i have the right experience. and yo miss- i think there are stellar stories of 1st year teachers. i think the blog community and writers and communicators of experience like to talk about the negative. like to dramatize shit. like to make shit sensational. most of these blogs are depressing, like the news. teachers who have steller 1st years exist! they just might not be blogging about it, or worse, might not be invited to speak on their experience to teaching fellows classrooms to speak about it..