So it's been quite a while since I posted anything on my teacher blog . My summer has been packed with a number of activities. I'll try to summarize them briefly for you here:
Late June: As soon as school got out, I spent about a week going out on the town with friends in Seattle. I feel like I went out about every night. The end of the school year is definitely a time to celebrate. I spent some quality time with the people I'd gotten to know in Seattle and would be leaving. I also got to spend a few days at a little cabin retreat with a few colleagues. It was a great way to close out the school year and my two years teaching in Seattle.
Early July: I went to the Philippines for the first two weeks of July to work for an NGO called SERV Philippines. I spent a few days in Quezon City (right next to Manila) and about a week on Tablas island in the Romblon province of the Philippines. While I was down there, I spent most of my time getting to know the people and doing manual labor on schools in the area. Romblon province is the fourth poorest province in the Philippines (according to the people I was working with), and many of the people living there could not afford an education. The teaching I saw was all very instructor-based. The teacher says something and the students repeat it. This goes on over and over and over until the teacher feels the students have learned it. Pretty typical of third-world classrooms in my experience thus far.
One very cool thing I got to see while I was there was a computer training for Filipino teachers. None of these teachers had ever used a computer before, and watching them attempt to manipulate the keyboard and mouse was a wake-up call. In the Western World, we all use computers on a day-by-day basis, if not hourly. We make assumptions about people's skills with technology, and when you see someone in their forties use a computer for the first time, it reminds you of how many unconscious skills you use every day without thinking about it. It also makes me wonder what skills they've developed that we don't have in the Western World as a result of their experience without technology.
Last two weeks of July: When I got back from the Philippines, I went to New Haven, CT, for a National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference on teaching world history at Yale University. The conference was three days long, and I met some very cool people from all over the country. I would say the best things I got out of it were ideas given to me by these people. Many of the presentations were poorly prepared and lacked direction. There were a few that provided some worthwhile tidbits, but for the most part, I was pretty disappointed with the conference. One other thing: New Haven SUCKS. Don't go there.
After New Haven, flew down to DC for new-teacher training at my new school in Washington, DC. I was sincerely impressed. The administration at my new school was very well prepared. They provided us with (AND MODELED FOR US!!!) instructional strategies they expect us to use with the kids, gave us a history of the school so we could contextualize our place and purpose, let us interview kids so we could get an understanding of the student culture, established rituals and routines so we would all be on the same page in our classrooms, spent a long time explaining Understanding By Design, and showed us student portfolios that they expected us to create with the students to demonstrate growth. After that, I drank the kool-aid. I felt like this was going to be the most incredible school I'd ever worked at. And it wasn't only because of the training. It was also because of the new colleagues I'd met. They were from everywhere: Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland, Vietnam. It is truly an international staff, and a minority of them are monolingual. They were also less than fifty percent white, which I've never seen at any school I''ve ever worked at. So, needless to say, I was excited at the end of the training........More to come on my new school in future posts.... When I was done, I flew back to Seattle to move.
August: I spent the first week of August driving my stuff from Seattle to DC. I spent four days driving across the country with everything I owned in my Mitsubishi Eclipse (I gave, sold, or threw everything else away). I moved into a group house I found that is about a 20-minute walk from my school. I spent the next week getting oriented to DC. Two weeks ago I did a week-long in-service with all of my new staff, and last week was my first week teaching.
I hope that catches everyone up. I intend to use the next couple of posts to go into detail about a few things I mentioned in this post, especially the Philippines, and professional development at my new school.