Sunday, March 04, 2007

Still Standing...

Wow, the students are really starting to get back to what they were doing last semester...The behavior problems had finally started to taper off (school wide), but I'm guessing it's the nice weather that's having an effect on them. Typically, students are getting arrested almost everyday at my school now. This is because the administration has decided to call the police whenever they fight (a good decision, I think).
Apparently, the violence is getting worse though, because one of the assistant principals made an announcement (twice) to all students that if they fight, they will be sent to jail or the detention center. I guess some of the students don't even care about/ think about the consequences.
Meanwhile, we had an incident the other day where someone (not sure if it was one of our students or not) supposedly had a loaded gun at school the other day. The police arrested him and, according to another teacher, beat him up pretty bad. They even slapped him in the face for talking. An ambulance had to be called. Other students saw this, so you can imagine what this does for their perception of police in general.
In an unrelated story, I believe one of my students who dropped out a couple of months ago is being charged with burglary. His name, age, and even middle initial were given, so I'm assuming it was probably him. I hope he eventually learns from this incident, because I had several discussions with him while he was a student. It's kind of hard to believe he will change though, because I can remember him bragging about a cousin of his getting ready to kill somebody (literally) upon release from jail a few months ago. It's sad.
And finally, I can't forget the most recent event. A student set a teacher's portable classroom (trailer) on fire last weekend. It's the 3rd time they've broken into her classroom this year, and about the 8th time over the past two years. I felt bad for her, because she's here for the students, and they can't see that. There's yellow tape outside her classroom, and I don't know when/if she'll be able to get her room back this school year. Supposedly, they destroyed her grades and a lot of other paperwork inside.
Clearly, something about the culture of violence and misbehavior needs to change. If the students say they want better lives for themselves than their parents had, then it is up to us (educators) and the parents to show them not only how to succeed, but also what causes failure. I think we really need to start a mentoring program with Jackson State, Tougaloo, Mississippi College, Milsaps, and other area schools in order to bring in successful college students. When our students see others who look like them and come from some of the same backgrounds, then we will be able to reach them. They need to see others who they consider to be like themselves in order to realize that they can choose this route, or the route some of their associates have taken. There is still hope, but I think mentoring is a key element.

Getting Certified

Lately, I've been going through the process of trying to get a job for next year. Although I said yes on my letter of intent with JPS, the principal knows that I probably won't be coming back next year. Recently, I've been checking out my options for teaching in other places.
At first, I was looking to teach in a private school in NYC or Miami. I even found a diversity teacher fair for private schools in the state of New York. I signed up and got my plane ticket. At the same time, I was using Carney Sandoe and Associates (a placement agency) to help with nationwide private school teacher vacancies. In researching employment possibilities at private schools, I have found that placement agencies are an essential element. This is because private schools, especially the more prestigious ones, don't typically post all of their vacancies to the general public. They use the agencies, which are paid by the individual schools, to find good candidates for them. So from what I understand, you're not really going to have a good shot at employment unless there is an agency vouching for you and your abilities. In addition, it is apparently harder for teachers with less experience to get jobs in private schools.
I was pursuing the private school route because I thought it would lead to a teaching position where I wouldn't really have to worry about excessive behavior problems. In addition, my hands would not be tied by what, how, and when a school district wants me to teach things. Plus, no state testing.
After several weeks of this, I realized that my heart is in public schools. While I would love to teach in a great school, that's not why I originally joined Mississippi Teacher Corps. Ultimately, I realized that I love teaching in public schools. I feel that I have a greater impact on the students, because most of the students at good private schools are probably going to succeed and go to a great college with or without my help. I appreciate private schools and the opportunities that they provide, but everyone isn't privileged enough to have that kind of education--and I want to help those who aren't born with that silver spoon.
After reaching the conclusion that I want to teach in public schools, I had to decide between NYC and Miami. While New York City is supposedly the greatest city in America, I have wanted to move to Miami since the 9th grade. Because of this, I chose Miami. I've sent in all my materials for a temporary 3 yr license in the state of Florida (this was a pretty easy process). However, now I'm dealing with the paperwork for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. There is a mountain of paperwork, and I haven't really seen that many vacancies available for an English teacher. It's weird because last year JPS posted roughly 20, and M-DCPS is the 4th largest district in the U.S. I've only seen roughly 10 vacancies, but maybe it's still a bit early. Anyway, I'm trying my hardest to get a job there. If I do, I'm definitely gonna rub it in when its 75 degrees in January and Brian (NYC), Joel (Boston), and others are trying to reach 32 degrees. I can't wait!