My first five years of teaching were at Oberlin High School, a school of about 350 students in a college town. We had three English teachers and whenever we were together, it was a department meeting. My colleagues had experience and wisdom and let me bounce ideas of them. This helped me develop a sense of what would work and what problems may pop up with different types of learners. I was a recent graduate with all of the terrific theories on how to teach who needed practical advice by day two. These teachers deserved more money than me because of the knowledge and experience they had obtained. Even The Ohio State University is paying new coach Luke Fickell less than it paid Jim Tressel. Why? Coach Fickell has less experience as a head coach. So, I don’t get why some people feel experience does not count nor deserves a higher salary.
One lesson I borrowed from J.R., the “old” man across the hall, was journal writing. He gave class time each day for writing. The kids would write and write and write. He always said, “Writing is a process, you never write a masterpiece on your first try. ” I don’t remember many classes at The Ohio State University that taught me how to teach writing. Most of the classes had me reading literature or learning how to teach reading to students. However, I learned from J.R. that to become a better writer one has to write. Through the years we shared many students, and I could see the students he had taught becoming better writers. His teacher evaluation should have rated him AWESOME! Funny, for half of his career there were no standardized tests to measure his success.
Recently a former student from Oberlin shared with me that she only recently threw out her journal because she was moving. She wrote me that the journal was therapeutic for her, as it was a tough year for her. Shari’s comment made me decide to bring back journal writing in class. I stopped doing journals because I had trouble keeping up with all of the writing. When I started teaching I had five 50 minute classes with a total of 90 students. When I moved to Pickerington, I began teaching six 40 minute classes with a total of 160 students. Plus, we started to teach to the state’s standardized tests. Everything was to be a five paragraph essay. So, I moved away from journals.
As Bob Dylan said, “The times they are changin.” We still have standardized tests, but the core curriculum (another term for the National curriculum) is focusing on creativity and technology. Basically, many older teachers like myself are trying to catch up with the kids. So, this blog is my journal. I plan to have my students use WEB 2.0 resources like Wallwisher.com and Edmodo, to post thoughts and journals on-line. I will be able to moderate comments or not post them if a student wants to keep their writing private.
I am getting excited for year 23 of teaching. I know one day I will graduate and finally leave high school. Until then, these are the best days of my life.