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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Midsummer Bummer

Scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream

Well, the 4th has come and gone. We had some family and friends over to burn some weenies that day. We enjoyed our "Celebration Without Fireworks."

The day after the 4th is always the worst day of summer for me because it marks the mid-point of the summer vacation. That means that a teacher's mind inevitably turns towards the coming school year. Bummer.

Next week Cat and I will be flown to Orlando, Florida for a "High Schools that Work Conference" with about 50 other high school teachers from the Oklahoma City Public Schools. The conference will take up an entire week of summer vacation. I hope that this conference doesn't turn out to be as "Mickey Mouse" as Orlando's most famous occupant. Some others who have gone report that they got a lot of good from the workshops.

The main thing I have to fight when I go to these professional development activities is an inherent defensiveness. I will hear people get up and proclaim how much success they have had with one technique or another with their "at risk" students. I wish I had similar success stories to report, but I don't. Teaching in an urban school is tough going. I hear them talk about how they have triumphed in the classroom. I feel as if I am not measuring up.

So I want to find reasons to desparage their success and undercut their advice. I think things like, "it won't work with my students"; "their school is not like mine"; "if I had the resources and support they enjoyed"; "if they had to deal with our administration." Excuses are very easy to discover; however, this defensive has the unfortunate effect of blocking the good that I can gain out of their instruction.

One of the best pieces of advice my father gave me was to maintain what he called "a teachable spirit." Be open, he told me, to the ideas of others. Remember you are always in need of learning and capable of growth. Whenever I keep his advice in mind, I find that I do develop and grow.

There is a reason why a doctor says that she "practices medicine." I guess I need to realize that I am a practicing teacher.

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