Aug 14 2011

It Was 20 Years Ago Today Part I


So I was in my storage unit the other day and came across a box of stuff I had saved from my first year of teaching.  I had an idea which I won’t promise that I will pursue to completion, but here’s the idea anyway.  In the box were a lot of mementos — notes from kids, tests I gave, etc. — which might make for some fun blog posts (unlike the angry ones that I’ve enjoyed writing so much for the past 6 months).  Don’t worry, there will be plenty of angry ones also, but my idea was to post throughout the school year at least ten posts of blog entries I would have written 20 years ago had the internet been around back then.  Why I’m doing this, I have no idea, but here it goes:

August 13, 1991

Institute ended 4 days ago and I just got to my new apartment in Houston.  The last six weeks have been a whirlwind.  At the institute I made a lot of friends and learned a lot about teaching.

Teaching a full class is a lot different than my experience teaching small classes for The Princeton Review in Boston, which I did during college.  I’ve been fortunate at the instutue to be paired with a mentor teacher who let me teach three periods a day — over 100 students in total, for the entire summer.  Some of my friends weren’t so lucky.  They barely got to teach at all.

There were some very presigious faculty at the institute.  The four house deans were amazing with such different personalities and strengths.  One was a very old guy named Paul Nash.  From what I understand, he actually wrote the section on ‘education’ for the Encyclopedia Britanicca.

This is the second year of Teach For America.  There are 750 corps members this year, which is  a pretty large expansion from the 500 from the first year in 1990.

One day during this summer the 1990s who just finished their first years came to advise us.  It seemed like they were really struggling, which is not a great sign for me.

Though I got a chance to do a lot of teaching, and even to plan some higher order thinking units in math, my management is not very good.  I have a lot of trouble ‘pulling the trigger.’  I keep saying ‘next time someone …’ and then some kid who never talks does, and I just can’t go through with it.

I got a nice letter from one of my students telling me that I’m a great teacher and that “we’re going to be friends through writing.”  I plan to write to him sometime.

On my last day of student teaching, one of my top students, a very quiet girl came up to me and said, ominously, “they’re gonna walk all over you.”  I responded, “but you didn’t” and she just looked at me sadly and walked away.

But I think I can do a good job.  I’ve been teaching math in some form or another since I was 15 years old.  I’ve learned about how to make lessons include higher order thinking.  That was a big focus of our training.  Another thing they are really into is using portfolio analysis.  I don’t think in middle or high school I’ll be using those much, though.

Apartment brokers from Houston flew to the institute at U.S.C. and I had to pick my apartment by just looking at a map and the five choices they gave us.  I picked a single apartment on Memorial Drive in a complex called Bayou Park Village.  $560 a month.  Most of my friends are living with roommates, but I’m going to splurge for a single.

I don’t have a job yet, but they will send me on some interviews this week, I think.

I’m hoping to document my first year through this blog.  Maybe it will become a book one day.

5 Responses

  1. Wess

    This is the BEST IDEA EVER.

    What did the 1990s say to you? How many came to speak? Was portfolio analysis another “next big thing” in education at the time?

    … they flew in apartment brokers?? Crazy.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      Actually, it was called portfolio assessment. The idea was that instead of having tests or quizzes, students could choose some of the work they are most proud of and put them into their portfolio which would make for a more authentic grade. This was described for a great thing for kindergarten through 12th grade.

  2. Sarah

    This is great!

    As a new teacher (starting 2nd year, not with TFA) it is nice to hear reflections from a good teacher and realize that they, too, weren’t perfect at the beginning.

  3. PhillipMarlowe

    I remember portfolio assessment from 20 years ago. The in-thing.
    The two Hartford Courant articles from 1994 on EAI in Baltimore (that allegedly “featured” Michelle Rhee) mention the use of them. I wonder why Michelle Rhee fell off that bandwagon.

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By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum

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