Monday, August 18, 2008


The Homeroom


Tim Schlosser, a teacher at Southeast Middle School, writes the LA Times Homeroom Blog:

Photo: Tim, a book and the beach -- bliss. Courtesy of Tim Schlosser


August 18, 2008 - My summer of reading, writing, and reflection is already starting to feel like a misty memory. 

Late August — anxiety season — has struck.  Southeast Middle School has seen some major off-season changes: Our principal and assistant principal are both leaving, enrollment is down, several teaching positions have been cut, and our funding for supplementary programs is at risk under the new state budget. 

This adds to the general sense of disquiet I have about my new responsibilities next year.  I’m chair of the English Department?  They want me to plan professional development?  Serve as an example of excellent teaching?  I often feel that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.  As I flip through the pile of professional literature I set aside — Content Area Reading, Strategies That Work, Reading for Understanding -- I am often depressed by its conservatism, its endless practicality, its exhaustive collections of graphic organizers to help English language learners navigate expository texts. 

A part of me recoils at these nitty-gritty teaching manuals and longs for the more idealistic pedagogical literature, like Jonathan Kozol’s "Savage Inequalities" or Paolo Freire’s "Pedagogy of the Oppressed. "

And still another part of me doesn’t even want that.  This part of me graduated from college two years ago and isn't even positive that he's supposed to be a teacher. To succeed next year, I guess I have to push those parts of myself to the side.  I have to read chapters with such titles as “Inferential Thinking: Reading Between the Lines” and, somehow, find ways to connect them to concrete classroom practices.  I have to schedule field trips, buy posters, create a classroom management plan that moves kids’ reading levels up and attitude levels down.  I’ve got to make another attempt at playing the role of the kind, wise teacher I’ve always wanted to be. 

When I meet my new students, all of this will feel exciting, I hope.  But right now it is a little bit terrifying.   

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