Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ben suggested that we write a blog on the topic of what we wish we knew before joining Teacher Corps. I suppose that the easy answer is, "everything I know now," but I'll try to give a more complete response here.

I guess I should begin with what I knew before coming down here, or what I expected. I've blogged about this in the pas, and all of my assumptions at that point were very uneducated, but I guess they went a little something like this:

1. It will be difficult.
2. The graduate school classes will ensure you become an excellent teacher.
3. You will have a huge effect on the students.

After almost a year in the program, I am not sure how able I am to judge the validity of these claims, but I can use them to come up with a list of things I wish I had known.

1. It will be difficult, but not in the way you expect. The difficulties I have faced in my life have always been based on not understanding an academic concept (such as calculus and chemistry) or not understanding the behavior of other people (friends, acquaintances, family, lovers). I am arrogant enough to have had very little self doubt in my life. Until I became a teacher. I have doubted myself almost every day since stepping into the classroom, in regards to both the big things and the little things. I doubt whether I am teaching a concept correctly. I doubt whether my students are understanding me. I doubt whether I truly understand what I am teaching. Most importantly, I doubt if I am a good teacher. I doubt if I am the best person for these kids to have in the classroom.

2. Teacher Corps is not an academic program. I have learned very little from my graduate school classes, but for some tricks of the trade (I previously posted about my feelings on the Ole Miss Graduate School of Education). If you expect to use the weekends in Oxford to academically investigate some great mystery about American educational inequality, you are looking in the wrong place.

3. Secondary teaching (at least in critical needs schools) is not an academic pursuit. The problems I work out each day in my classroom are varied, but they are hardly ever intellectual. To truly grow intellectually I need somebody to challenge me and make me uncomfortable. Though my students may commonly make me uncomfortable, very rarely is it an academic discomfort.

4. Take Ben Guest with a grain of salt. It is really easy to bash him, his policies, and the way he presents things (as most every member of my Teacher Corps class did in the early days of our time here), but in the end you have to understand that all the decisions he makes are for the best of the program (even if they don't serve your individual interest). By joining Teacher Corps you have become part of a greater family, and Ben is the mother. Dr. Mullins is the father. Ms. Monroe is the cool aunt.

And that's all I have to say about that for right now.


Blogger Ben Guest said...

I think of myself more as the abusive, alcoholic step-father.

11:47 AM  

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