When I first became a parent, I felt as if I had joined a secret club. Membership included our own version of a secret handshake too. (It is a sleepy head nod.) New parents could identify each other anywhere. We would also commiserate about our lack of sleep and share our humbling experience of becoming a parent. We knew parenting would be rewarding, but we did not know that it would be so difficult. Sometimes we discussed how we finally understood our parents… or worse, how we had become our parents.
Becoming a teacher was a similar process for me. I assumed it was going to be easier, probably because I had worked with young people for many years. I had also been a good student! What could be so hard? It was a good stable career. I liked kids. Besides, there is all that vacation. (Just like parenting has all that free time when the kids go to bed.) Well, if you have ever been a parent who looked forward to Friday night housecleaning, you might understand teachers and all their free time.
I have been more successful as a parent than as a teacher. My two children attend a Spanish bilingual dual immersion school in Oakland, California. Their school, Melrose Leadership Academy, is NOT a charter school. It is not private. MLA is part of the Oakland Unified School District. During the first week of “Summer Vacation,” teachers from six OUSD schools attended the Dual Language Curriculum Development Institute in the MLA multi-purpose room. I took a few pictures.
I visited each day for at least a few minutes with my camera and my children. I am grateful to document this part of the dual immersion story. Many teachers continue working during the Summer by attending summer workshops and professional development, but students and families never see it. There is a myth (and bad math) about “three months summer vacation.”
The two teachers preparing the presentation both taught first grade last year at Melrose Leadership Academy. This picture illustrates how many public school teachers prioritize learning. The teachers are working together to share information with other educators. The quality of the information is more important than the quality of the equipment. The projector is old and stacked on cardboard boxes. The teachers are playing sound from a laptop through a really bad speaker into a microphone, but their equipment will not stop the teachers from sharing important information.
Just as parents have a special club with a secret handshake, teachers have their own club with its own language. If possible, children should not be exposed to either world until the children become adults. Children should not know everything about their parents; children do not need to hear certain adult words. For example, children never need to hear the words “pedagogy” or “summative task.” Children never need to hear the phrase, “Differentiation and Extension: The Centers Way.” It is enough for our children to know that their teachers help them discover dinosaurs.
During the afternoon session “Differentiation and Extension: The Centers Way,” teachers rotated to different learning centers. Learning centers are designed so that students can assist each other. If you look through the photo gallery, you can see teacher interaction. When I view some of the expressions, I know that the teachers are considering how each activity might empower students in their classrooms.
By the end of the week, teachers created two weeks of lesson plans to share with the entire cohort. I believe the lesson plans were part of a larger unit. When you were a student did you know that teachers planned entire units? When you were a kid did you think that your parents had unlimited free time?
Their is an art to teaching that works against teachers. When students discover dinosaurs, the student receives credit. When the student grows up and continues thinking about dinosaurs and possible extinction theories, he does not remember any former teachers. When my children learn Spanish, the children receive credit. As a (former) teacher, I understand how this works. As a parent who does not speak Spanish, I want the teachers to receive credit.
Parenting is better than I expected. The MLA experience is better than I expected.
What do you expect?