Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Day of School

     As you know, I ended up getting hired to teach at a different school in a different district than where I had been the past two years.  This past Thursday was the first day of school at my new job.  Thinking back on my three first days of school as a teacher, this recent first day was different than the other two.  I thought I was going to be nervous or anxious.  I wasn't.  Did this mean that I was more confident with myself as a teacher? Possibly.  I was really surprised at how well this past Thursday and Friday went for me.  One would think that a new school with new kids would be intimidating or scary, but for me it wasn't.  Thursday morning, before my first day of school, I prayed for that day and for those kids.  That morning, I read the first two chapters of John and what was reaffirmed in my life were the two words, "Follow Me."  God has called me to be a teacher.  Through all the internal strife that came with trying to find a job this summer and to face disappointment and some bitterness, God had me in His hands the entire time.  No matter how much I wanted to stay in the district I was in, His plan for me was something different.  Sure, I could have forced the situation of trying to stay in the district, but I would have been miserable because I wasn't where He wanted me to be.  To obey His will is to surrender yours and mine.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Waiting For Superman Review

     Tonight, my wife and I decided to watch Guggenheim's documentary on the state of public schools, Waiting For Superman.  As a public school teacher, I have mixed emotions and thoughts concerning this documentary.  I need to preface by saying that this post might not show a state of organized thought.  As I recall what I have seen, I am going to comment on what comes to mind (this is one of the things that I really like about isn't a requirement to be a formal thought like a term paper).  Here goes.

     As I do when I watch any documentary, I go in knowing that there is an agenda being presented and there is bias.  This means that there are going to be viewpoints and facts that are not factored into the equation.  This is not to say that they were left out on purpose, they just were not mentioned.

     Guggenheim paints a negative picture of teacher unions, namely NEA and AFT and the effects of their involvement in public education.  Regarding teacher unions, they are necessary for keeping school districts and state legislatures accountable through contract negotiation and lobbying, but they unnecessarily protect teachers that have no business being a teacher.

     It was said in the documentary that reformers now say that failing schools create failing communities.  This would mean that the failing schools either existed before the communities did, or the failing schools turned successful communities in failing communities.  How does a community not exist before a school does?  How does a school change a community for worse?  Every city in this country was created before any public school system was created.  Do they think that public schools popped up in the middle of nowhere and then communities were created around those schools?  I don't think it happened that way.  What happens when crime starts to rise in a community?  The community has ceased to do its part in keeping crime from happening.  When a community starts to fail, everything that community is involved in starts to fail.

     One of the points that was made in the film concerned the idea of opportunities.  Every child does not have the same opportunities.  Sure, they have the same opportunity to get an education, but they don't have the same opportunity as to where they get that education.

     Now for my little blurb about China and India.  I am tired of hearing about the United States being compared to China and India when it comes to test scores and education.  This is like comparing apples to pineapples.  Culturally, education is held in high esteem in China and India.  In the United States, sure, it is held in high esteem among the wealthy, but not necessarily among the dwindling middle class and lower class.  I do not know what a teacher gets paid in China or India, but I know for sure that teachers are not paid what they are worth because the teaching profession is not well-respected in the United States.  For those that say that teachers are just babysitters during the day, then by golly, start paying us a babysitter's salary.  Do the math.  A teacher would be making six figures, maybe more.  Also what is different in China and India...does every child go to school? No. Here is an interesting article dated January 20, 2011 (very recent), that I found that compares American education to Chinese education.  We try to educate everybody.  China, and I am sure India is the same, eventually educate the best of the best.  When a country educates only the best of the best, OF COURSE math, reading, and science test scores are going to be better.  The United States has a different culture and society than China and India.  Part of culture and society is education.  They can't be compared.  That's like saying Michael Jordan was a better athlete than Walter Payton.

     Okay. I think I am done.  The only thing that I will, for sure, agree on with Guggenheim, is that our public education system has problems that need to be fixed.  The problems are so meshed together with everything else that things won't change overnight.  Education has to be an equally integrated relationship between the students, parents, teachers, and schools.

P.S. - I don't teach for the money.  If my motivation was the salary, I wouldn't be teaching.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

List of Driving Pet Peeves

     So with my new teaching/coaching job in the city, I have to make the approximate 45 minute commute.  I am starting to see more and more things that drivers do, while driving, that I consider to be pet peeves.  Following is a list of them, in no particular order of importance...

- Slowing down...then putting on the turn signal.

- Merging onto the highway at the same, slow speed being traveled prior to merging.

- Doing something else, like texting, applying makeup, reading. Yes, I have seen someone reading while driving.

- Sitting at an intersection waiting to turn right on red with the turn signal on, but not doing so even when the intersection is clear and it is legal.

- Not looking when changing lanes.

- Being on my tail when there is no need.

- Turning up the bass so it makes the trunk rattle.

- Thinking that 2 or 3 feet in front of my car is enough room to switch lanes while traveling 65 mph...or more.

- Not necessarily the first car running a red light to turn left at an intersection, but the second or third.

- Waiting for the last possible moment to merge when an upcoming lane is shut down.

- Not waiting for me to pass when cars are parked in a neighborhood on your side of the street.

- Turning right at an intersection, right in front of me, when I am crossing the crosswalk.

- Speeding through a school zone when the lights are flashing.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A New Focus and New Job

     So when was the last time I posted?  Ah yes, July 16, 2011.  What day is it today?  Ah yes, August 7, 2011.  I will be honest, it is really hard for me to be consistent in posting something almost everyday AND have it be related to history.  If I really wanted to do that, I would just post a link to the History Channel website.  I need a new focus for this blog.  I think I know what I am going to do.  I am going to have a regular blog concerning regular things.  Sure, some of them might be related to history, but not everything will be.  Take this for starters.  Here follows the account of my job situation over the summer.

     At the beginning of June, I was up at school visiting my wife, who was still on contract.  The principal asked me to "step into his office" (he didn't actually use those words) where he informed me that my teaching position was being cut.  Just to give you an idea, each school in the district was being asked to cut two positions.  Mine was one of them at the school where I was teaching.  Obviously from my point of view, this was a horrible decision, but from the district's point of view, it made sense.  I was just finishing up my second year of teaching and was on temporary contract.  I was also teaching a subject that does not have a state-mandated test.  Once again I was looking for a teaching job.  There were several positions I applied for, but ended up interviewing for only one of the them.  We are still in June.

     The same day I interviewed for this position, I received a phone call from my principal about a position that would very likely be opening up at the school where I had been teaching.  Over the course of the next several weeks (we are now in July), I was waiting for the job to be posted on the district website so that I could apply for it.  The job was posted.  I applied for it.  About a week and a half later, I received a phone call for an interview.  I was really stoked because I honestly thought I would be at the top of the list to fill the position.  I had been at the school for the past two years.  I knew the faculty.  I knew the kids.  I wanted to be there.  The interview was on a Wednesday and I was told that I would find out by the end of the week.  Friday rolled around and I didn't hear anything.  It was now August.  Monday came.  Nothing.  I was losing sleep due to anxiety and worry.  Now it was Tuesday.  I had breakfast that morning with my good mentor and friend Chris.  He mentioned the principle of God's timing.  More on that later.  The morning hours passed and I still didn't hear.  I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to hear and that I didn't get the job.  Feeling conflicting emotions and thinking conflicting thoughts, I decided to see what else was out there.  I wasn't sure there would be jobs available.  I wasn't the only cut teacher looking for a job.  School was getting ready to start.  One district had already started.  I found two positions that had been posted on another school district's website.  I filled out the online application.  I applied for the two positions.  I didn't expect things to snowball (good snowball) from there.  Within a couple hours of applying, I received a phone call for an interview.  The following morning I interviewed and that was it.  I was being recommended for the position.  I got the job.  The burden of needing a job to provide for my wife and I was lifted off of my shoulders.  And I could sleep.

      Now for the hindsight.  When you come to God asking for His provision, it will be in His timing, never yours.  Leading up to the interview for the position at the school where I had been, I was wanting what I knew and what was comfortable.  What I thought I wanted was not what I needed.  What I needed was to abandon my comforts and desires and follow by faith.  Moving to a new school as a teacher can be scary, but in Him there is no fear and He will always remain faithful.