Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Being the New Kid On the Block

I have to admit that my professional transition from El Salvador to Berlin has not been a warm-and-fuzzy one. At my old school, I had built a reputation with my students and their families, and their parents would regularly come up to tell me how much they appreciated their kids being in my class and how they wished that I could have stayed to teach their younger sons and daughters. At the end of my first year, an entire group of kids went to talk to the administration to request for me to move up with them to the next grade. Former students would come back to visit me, and even now they are sending me emails to let me know where they are off to next year for college.

When you move to a new school, for better or worse, you start off anew. You leave whatever reputation you have built up behind you -- the respect that you have gained from your colleagues and the administration, the affection from kids whom you've known over multiple years. Most of all, you leave behind the trust of your students and their families. When you move schools, you start again at the bottom of the totem pole and have to prove yourself every step of the way, to everyone who might be watching.

In my case, I took on the slower-paced classes in two grades this year, because 1. I didn't really mind, I enjoy teaching things at a manageable speed for the kids, 2. I wanted to make sure the kids at the bottom would get the extra attention/support that they needed. Well, in those two grades, I have had various resistance from a few kids who feel that they should belong to a faster-paced group. Those kids care not for fun learning or meaningful tasks; they just want to move along faster through the topics. How do you convince these kids that conceptual development is worth taking the time to get right?? I refuse to short-change their conceptual foundation in order to speed through the topics, and I don't believe that it is good for their mathematical growth in the long run, or good for their problem-solving abilities. (Case in point, one of those kids moved up to a faster-paced group on a trial basis, and went from getting 100% to getting 25% on assessments.)

ARGH! It is frustrating to feel like the new kid on the block. ...I know that being new doesn't mean I am less qualified to teach these kids, or that I'm making bad decisions for their learning. But it does mean that what I value carries a lot less currency around here, as far as my kids are concerned. sigh.

Christmas break cannot come soon enough. The last week has been fairly demoralizing, and I don't have a lot of umph left in me before the holidays. :(

1 comment:

  1. We've had this issue not so much with students as with their parents, especially when they're in a "faster" section and it's clear that next year they should take the "slower" version.

    It's hard to get across that everybody can calculus eventually, and they will all be OK. The issue is not that the BC kids will get more math than the AB kids, or, God forbid, that they are smarter or better people. Or that you will lose out on a potential career if (gasp!) you have to take calculus in college.

    Instead, think about your (or your kid's) experience: do you want to feel as if you're working hard but you can stay on top of it, and feel successful; or is it OK if you're always on the point of drowning? The whole issue makes me think once again about the damage that tracking can do.

    Anyhow, I'm sorry for your position on the totem pole. Keep up the good fight!