Goodbyes are forever, so let’s stick with “see ya later”

    The Philadelphia Urban Seminar was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I learned so much, not only as a future educator, but also as a developing leader. On Thursday I had my first serious altercation with a student, and I’ve been pondering on how I would verbalize this experience for quite some time. This one student was being extremely disruptive, rude, and disrespectful towards the teacher as she was trying to administer the predictive assessment tests. She was complaining about her unsharpened pencil. I was thinking to myself, “it’s not a big deal, I will gladly give you another pencil!”. The teacher was losing her temper, and she started to raise her voice. I would be lying if I said I was calm and collected. As I offered a new pencil to the student, she took it and I took her old pencil. Now, I can admit that I wasn’t gentle, and I probably shouldn’t have been as aggressive, but it was a time where I really lost my cool…

   The student caused a fit, and the teacher instructed her to take the assessment in the dean’s office. Afterwards, my teacher and I had a conversation that will always be remembered.. She did not tell me I was wrong, or make me feel guilty, but simply explained to me that there will be students that you can’t battle with because you’ll never win. At the moment, I didn’t quite acknowledge and appreciate the substantiality of her argument. After thinking about it for hours, and the ensuing days, I realized that I made a big mistake. The pencil swap was insignificant, fairly negligible, but my inability to control my emotions and remain patient was very improper of me. I realized that I must be calm at ALL times, even when the worst of students exasperate me. I learned that an effective educator manages his classroom by eliminating negative tension and completing the primary objective: teaching the students! I noticed from my practicum experience that students are more attentive, more inclined to participate, and overall a better performer when they have a positive relationship with their teacher. Although I am not particularly proud of this incident, I am satisfied with the lesson learned.

   All in all, I’ve been able to connect what we’ve learned in the classroom and the readings to the real world. I was able to understand that “labeling” may very well adversely affect the learning environment. Perhaps I “labeled” this child as a delinquent, perhaps not. At the end of the day, I do not know what I was thinking, but I wish not to make excuses. Fortunately, I had an experience such as this now, during the seminar, as opposed to when I’m a teacher with my own classroom. Additionally, I need to strive to implement a more effective strategy towards order and discipline. As we’ve all learned, a great educator has control of their classroom. He or she is capable of maintaining order without doing anything unethical, immoral, or improper. I strongly believe that the key to achieving this is to build a healthy and positive relationship with the students. For it not until then that students will trust me and trust that I am making the best decisions, even if it’s one that they may dislike. It is unfortunate that this student didn’t have respect for me, because this was something that had built up from the first day. There were times where she refused to complete the class work simply because I handed the sheets out. There were even times where she left questions unanswered and when I inquired as to whether she needed help, she would simply ignore me. In the future, I will be sure to avoid situations such as these. My gratitude for what the urban seminar has taught me is immeasurable.

 

 

 

You say tomato, I say tomahto…

   My second day in a practicum setting was another easy day in the sense that I did not have any unfortunate altercations with the students. In fact, the students managed to complete two scenes in Romeo and Juliet as opposed to their ordinary one. Proudly, the students in my class are hardly among the worst in the school. I was very appreciative to have a group of  well behaved students but I wish not to speak so soon.

   During my lunch period, I sat with a few teachers from the English department. The names of these teachers will remain unsaid however, the gossip that was addressed is undoubtedly worth mentioning. Initially, the teachers were discussing recent changes in “the Union” and how the “Union” will sometimes act in teachers best interest and other times not. Furthermore, they were expressing their discontent with working for the district; for the district had the authority to transfer or layoff new teachers. The teachers that accompanied me were ridiculing the Union’s inclination to support those with seniority. In time, I realized that this environment is very much political. But then again, what place of employment do you know of that isn’t political?

   As the subjects of conversation shifted, I felt prompted to ask questions that pondered my mind. I inquired on the criteria of earning tenure. One of the teachers brilliantly explained to me the system by which one would earn his/her tenure and, to my surprise, required only three years of teaching (minimum). Three years does not seem very long to me at all, for there were teachers in my High School that worked for a decade before earning tenure. Now, once again, the teachers intelligently explained to me that although three years may not seem long, in the life of a new teacher three years seems like a life time. Confirming on the politics of this controversial issue, she also explained that the fear of losing a job makes the years ever so far. Her argument was quite convincing.

   Towards the end of the period, we began talking about how some rules, such as school uniform, are applied very lightly. We also noted that this particular policy was only enforced on certain students, perhaps those that need discipline because of their behavioral issues. I then asked if there was an in-school-suspension (ISS) room. The teachers responded by saying “yes, but it created just this February”. Now, the research that I’ve gathered about my school reflects that my school has been around for quite some time. The fact that an in-school-suspension room was created within the recent year left me perplexed. The teacher then pointed out that in the many years she had been with the school, she has never had anyone come in and observe her classroom. From my personal experience, there were many days throughout my academic career where an observer sat in on our classes. My teacher would strive to increase class participation so as to leave a positive impression. Nevertheless, my teacher admitted to myself, as well as the other staff, that she was asked to produce an illegitimate observation report. The teacher across from her nodded her head and admitted that she too was expected to file a report that never existed.

   I was highly bothered by what I  heard that period. I was not comfortable with teachers, as instructed or suggested by their superiors, producing records about in-class observations that never took place. Classroom observations are invaluable in the sense that they clarify, for the district or state, the persisting problems in the classroom that need to be eradicated. Without such observations, these conflicts are simply addressed arbitrarily (lunchroom) and not bureaucratically (district). This is quite relevant to the conversations we’ve been having in class, for there are times where “drawing the line” is a difficult task, to say the least. When do we distinguish ethical improprieties from negligible offenses? How do we tolerate the flaws in the disciplinary system? At what point do we realize these variables are formidable and inevitably reducing the quality of our youth’s education? To certain individuals, they had reason to ignore or, rather, not tackle these issues. For those present in the lunchroom that day, including myself, we can’t understand why these issues haven’t been resolved. The adverse effect taken upon the institution and it’s inhabitants is, evidently, more apparent to us than them. Well, as the expression goes: you say tomato, I say tomahto…

   In conclusion, my day’s experience was substantial for many reasons. Other than it’s relation to our class discussions, it also ties into many of the readings. Corbett expressed in his writing that a “good teacher” is capable of establishing order and discipline. Speaking on the behalf of not only teachers, but administrators, guidance counselors, and PTA members need to collective ly devise a new, or rather, revised method of discipline. Corbett and Wilson both incorporate the opinion’s of students who were subjected to a classroom where the teacher had no control. The implications of these situations are obvious. It’s certainly prevalent in my school (Edison). Overall, the ideals associated with education reform are driven by the lack of discipline, lack of control, lack of exposure in failing schools. I hope to one day become a firm, respectable, and profound administrator who can effectively turn around an urban school.

                                                               

   Today was our first day of community service and I am proud to say it was very productive. Although I desired the task of painting, I was given arguably the hardest task of them all. Our goal was to clean up a “lot” filled with trash, beer cans, bricks, plywood, sinks, toilets, teddy bears that were urinated on, plants, doors, and many, many more. The job was very tedious and required a lot of physical labor. Upon cleaning up most of the garbage and waste, we planted beds that were put together by some of our peers. The beds were created by using freshly cut wood and a cordless drill. The waste that we were exposed to today seemed to have been accumulating foe years. Although this day of service left me exhausted, I am very proud to say that the experience was rewarding. I proved once again that there are many areas in our country that are paralyzed by poverty and a run-down environment. Such variables must be considered before leading the youth through their educational journeys. It’s crucial that we remember how disadvantaged they may be and hopefully that serves as am impetus to work even harder towards education reform. I have certainly been driven by this day. Unfortunately, many people do not have the privilege to make such realizations. You say tomatoes, I say tomahtos…

A segment of Louis Armstrong’s “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”

You say either and I say either, You say neither and I say neither
Either, either Neither, neither, Let’s call the whole thing off.

You like potato and I like potahto, You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto, Let’s call the whole thing off

But oh, if we call the whole thing off Then we must part
And oh, if we ever part, then that might break my heart

So if you like pyjamas and I like pyjahmas, I’ll wear pyjamas and give up
pyajahmas
For we know we need each other so we , Better call the whole thing off
Let’s call the whole thing off.

First impression is always a lasting impression…

  Today marks the first day of the Philadelphia Urban Seminar, and I couldn’t be filled with more elation and anticipation. My day began earlier than usual, as I was awake early enough to finish some last-minute packing and call a taxi to transport me to Nittany Inn. The ride to Philadelphia wasn’t terrible; in fact, it went quicker than I expected. Upon arriving at the University, I was left with little to no indication of how this program would ensue. Nothing particularly spectacular, or worth mentioning, occurred until our van left to Walmart. My mood, my expectations, and my goals were all affected by this seemingly insignificant trip.

   Upon arriving to Walmart, it was agreed that we would limit our shopping to 45 minutes. It was understood that we would be out of Walmart no later than 10:15pm. As we all were done shopping and patiently waiting in the van, we noticed it was 10:16pm and Cory (driver) was not in the van. I made it clear to everyone that he wasn’t more than two people behind me while we were waiting for the register. Regardless, we were still quite unsure as to what was taking him so long to return. Then, another one of the TAs had announced that he texted her saying he was being held up by a customer who was apparently disgruntled over a price discrepancy. The details were still not released, and  before we could drive the van to the front of the Walmart entrance, Corey had finally walked out with bags occupying his hands.

   Once Corey entered the vehicle, he was hysterical, and bursting with emotion. He was outraged by what happened in Walmart. Apparently, he was being held up because the customers in front of him were not pleased that the candy they wished to purchase was $1.00 and not  $0.50.  As Cory was telling his story, the students in the car could not stop laughing; Cory’s story was so animated. They way he told his story was funnier than ever because he was so enraged by the customer’s dissatisfaction with a $0.50 difference in price. Cory shouted, “I felt like telling her: Lady, I will gladly give you $0.50 if you allow this line to continue moving.” Cory then made it clear that even after transferring to a different line, he saw that the unhappy customers were still at the same register as he was exiting the store. As Cory continued to tell us his story, we were all laughing blissfully.

   My first day here in Philly was powerful in that it has affected my hopes for this program. As a result of this priceless Walmart experience, I realized that my time here in Philly could very well be similar to that night. I noticed that I was in the car with great people, and my relationships with them will ultimately determine what I gain from this seminar. It hadn’t occurred to me that I would share laughs and accumulate stories to be shared. It also hadn’t occurred to me that I would finally understand the meaning of the expression: “the best things in life are free”. Meaning, I would find great pride in the simple things that are part of this seminar, such as the relationships and stories I build with my peers. I now realize that my next 2 weeks here could unfold in a similar fashion if I remain positive and outgoing. My hopes for this seminar have amplified after my first night, and I highly look forward to what I may encounter.

                                                           

   Tonight was another eventful night. As I walked upstairs to visit Katie, she brought it to my attention that she texted Cory to come and kill a bug for her. My first notion was that the bug couldn’t be that big, and perhaps she was being a typical female. I was terribly mistaken. The bug (still unidentified) was huge, and apparently it had the ability to fly, seeing as it had relocated from its last seen location. I admittedly told Cory that it was understandable why his services were needed, all while sharing memorable laughs with the TAs. The image of the bug is slightly disturbing however, it definitely holds significance to my experiences here in Philadelphia.

                                                                                     

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.