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21 February 2005: Name Calling Epilogue

Truly, I can't believe what happened to me today. Just today, as I was teaching a lesson in a younger colleague's classroom, I experienced a new level of name calling.

As I was trying to get permission to erase the white board, I called over the students to the teacher, "Susan?" She looked up and responded, "Do you mean, 'Miss Taylor'?"

Now, I'm not going to lie. I was incredulous. I stammered, "Yes, of course, Miss Taylor, may I erase the board?"

So, as I see it, there are a few scenarios that could explain this. Maybe Miss Taylor felt that the only way for the students to learn respect is if the teachers model it by unwaveringly refering to each other by their last names. Possibly, she resented my presumption that just because we were both adults I had the right to call her by her first name. I had done it over lunch the previous day, so clearly it had something to do with the context of her classroom. Maybe she just didn't want me there--which is fine, she's got a right not to use prep time.

In the end, though, I know it's not about my pride. It's about working relationships and how the way we talk to each other belies deeper truths about cohesiveness, collegiality, and support.

22 February 2005: Second Time Around (1 of 6)

I admit it. After just a few years in the teaching profession, I was pretty sure that I had it dialed. I knew what I believed, and I knew that I was working towards a teaching practice that reflected those beliefs. In my arrogance, I figured my focused reflection and flexibility in teaching had allowed me to develop the skills of a veteran teacher.

Not only that, but I often viewed extensive teaching experience as a handicap of sorts. As far as I had observed, twenty years in the classroom often seemed like more time to solidify ineffective teaching practice, and I had never encountered a veteran of more than 10 years who had spent that time reflecting and growing as a teacher.

Then, unemployment brought me to a unique opportunity. I became a departmentalized elementary teacher.

23 February 2005: Second Time Around (2 of 6)

I had often expressed fascination with the departmentalized model to my colleagues who worked in middle and high school settings. It seemed exciting, the opportunity to teach the same lessons a few times a day or more. I often lamented that these teachersí reflection and practice could improve exponentially compared to those of non-departmentalized teachers.

Think of it this way: An eighth-grade English teacher probably has five different groups of students (classes) that she sees every day. Maybe theyíre split into a couple different specific study areas (courses), such as American Literature and Reading and Composition. So, this young teacher on her first day of school has had five opportunities to practice her first day of school routine.

On the second day, she again has many opportunities to reflect upon and adjust her lessons. And so it continues.

24 February 2005: Second Time Around (3 of 6)

On the other hand, the general education (read: elementary) teacher gets to teach each lesson in her book exactly once per school year. The first day of school lasts all day, and there are 364 days between this one and the next time she will get the opportunity to try something new.

After just one year in the classroom, the young middle school teacher has potentially five times the experience as the young elementary teacher. Letís call this the Second Time Around phenomenon. And, by the way, this doesnít begin to account for the effects that time and distance can have on the elementary teacherís reflection process.

Seriously, it can get me down when I start to think about it this way. Well, at least it can get me thinking of getting a single subject credential.

25 February 2005: Second Time Around (4 of 6)

The reason why Iím dwelling on this now is because I had the opportunity to wear the shoe on the other foot. As it turns out, when I was just beginning my career, I did experience three horrible first day of schools in a row. After the third year, I finally realized that what I needed to do was write down my experiences and refer to them often as I refined my practice.

But now I understand that even this cannot compare to the opportunities for growth afforded by departmentalized teaching.

Unbelievably, when I finally did get to experience departmentalized teaching, it took less than two full weeks for the Second Time Around phenomenon to become visible in my teaching. I was teaching Spanish in an elementary school. My schedule was a basic prep-teacher deal: Twenty minutes in each of eight classrooms, including two classrooms of each grade from second through fifth.

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teaching quote of the day

Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.

- Chinese proverb

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