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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Goodbye Old AP. Hello New AP.

I found out today that I will be teaching a brand new AP class during third period. This will undoubtedly be another disaster for at least a few weeks. I have limited experience with this content, but at least I have two years experience teaching in the content area. So I'll begin Monday with a group of kids who all know each other from a previous teacher who decided to quit this week. I don't know what they're working on, what their grades are, how they've been graded, or what they're like. I've heard that they're wonderful and that they're working on a unit about American myths that focuses on rhetoric, but I've learned not to trust information from administrators.

Constant changes like these are often accompanied by positive statements on the part of administrators.

"You're going to be just fine," or "This will really give you a chance to work with the AP data we've compiled on these students and hone your skills."

It's these kinds of things that make me cringe. Is there a portion on the administrative praxis exam that assesses your ability to speak without saying anything meaningful? I swear - I would feel so much more comfortable in my job if I could just hear my administrators be honest about the realities we face.

"Wow. We're really making your life difficult here you over here, and we really make it impossible for you to teach at the beginning of the year. I'm impressed you're still with us. The next few weeks are really gonna suck for you. Sorry about that."

An inability to be authentic and the predilection to speak like a PR representative on behalf of DCPS is what earns all of our administrators scorn from the staff. I discovered this today in a training all of the 9th and 10th-grade teachers had to participate in. It's gotten to that point in the year when the experienced teachers feel comfortable enough with the new teachers to let them know what they really think about the school. I had my first conversation about that with experienced teachers today, and wow.....I had no idea....

Teachers at my school HATE the way things are handled by the administration. They desperately wish the administration would just tell it like it is. Instead of spouting the company line, we'd like to hear what they really think and how they'd like us to deal with it. One example a teacher brought up was Michelle Rhee's push for every student to work on constructed responses every day last year as a result of poor DC CAS scores on constructed responses. Apparently the administration talked it up like it was a great idea despite the fact that it took away from desperately needed instructional time in other areas. The teacher relating this story would have preferred the administration to have admitted it was bull.

There's another side though. I can understand why administrators act the way that they do. I don't go into my classroom and tell my kids that I think their midterm exam isn't worthwhile because I don't agree with my administrator who wrote it. If I did, most of them wouldn't do it, and when I asked why, they would tell me it was because even their teacher didn't think it was worth their time. So I can definitely see how being an administrator is walking a fine line. It's essentially the same fine line any authority has to walk. I suspect it's probably a little more difficult for them in dealing with teachers though (in comparison to my dealing with students). Teachers, although they think they're mature and can handle honesty, often act just like students, and many times even worse. Teachers tend to be the worst students in my experience, and on top of that, reprimanding them is super awkward as they feel they have a right to be disrespectful by virtue of dealing with disrespect all day in the classroom.

So I don't know...if I ever become an administrator, I think I'll have to keep these things in mind. People like honesty, but they also need to believe they're being held accountable if you want to get them to act the way they should. I feel like sometimes that requires the PR talk, which is unfortunate. I don't feel like that would be the case if everyone could be expected to do their jobs as honestly and maturely as humanly possible, but we all know that's not a reality.

I think the implication here is that regardless of how ridiculous someone seems to be acting, it's always important to honestly attempt to understand where they're coming from. It certainly helps save me a lot of stress.

2 comments:

  1. Just to let you know that there is lots of support for AP teachers at AP Central. They have forums for each subject area that are very helpful. There are sample lessons and syllabuses on their site. I don't know if you've heard that you are required to get your course syllabus approved. I'm not sure

    There are many AP teachers that will willingly share lessons and info with you. Keep positive and keep developing those relationships, they will make all the difference.

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  2. Yea - I appreciate that. I'm lucky to be working with two other teachers that are teaching the same class, so I'm hoping to use their stuff for a while.

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