See Linda Blog. Blog, Linda, Blog!
I am one of those dedicated, experienced, effective classroom teachers that the current wave of education reformers would have you believe refuses to teach in a ‘low performing’ school.
I graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach in 1981 with a degree in Liberal Studies and a minor in Linguistics. The next year, I earned my teaching credential with a supplemental certificate in English as a Second Language (ESL). I began my teaching career, as many teachers do, as a substitute teacher before having my first Very Own Class in the fall of 1984. For the next 16 years, I taught mostly 4th and/or 5th grade in a regular/GATE classroom setting in the Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School district, at a high performing (85th percentile and above), middle to upper-middle socio-economic level school. I taught in the “north of Montana” neighborhood, but I lived in the “south of Pico” neighborhood. I loved my job.
And I couldn’t afford to buy a house in the city where I worked. So I moved south to the city of Long Beach. Now, Michelle Rhee would say that during that 30 mile commute down the 405 freeway, I became an ineffective teacher. I beg to differ.
When I applied to Long Beach Unified School District in 2001, I was lucky enough to interview with Julie Nyssen, who was the principal at Whittier Elementary in Long Beach, a 100% free-lunch, mostly English Language Learner, 40% percentile and below school. She invited me to come visit her school, “warts and all”. I accepted the invitation, as well as the placement – a 5th grade GATE/Excel class. This was exactly the kind of school I was looking for. And that’s how I became my own Action Research Project (more on that in the blog!) Spoiler Alert!: Did my class rise up to the 85th %ile on the Big Standardized Test after a year with me as their teacher? No. Did my class make at least as much progress as my Santa Monica students had, as evidenced by authentic, embedded assessment similar to that which I used in SMMUSD? Why yes, thank you, they did. And sometimes more.
I taught at Whittier until 2011. In 2009 and 2010, because of deep cuts to education, I received lay-off notices. Each of these was rescinded; however, when the district ‘saved’ money by re-enlarging class size back up to 30:1 in Kindergarten through 3rd grade the following year, I and nine of my colleagues were displaced from the school.
Let’s stop here and reflect for a moment. I came to Whittier with 16 years experience which, after ten years at Whittier, brings the running experience total to 26 years. And remember, I chose that school when I was hired, when I could have held out for a school that better matched my previous experience. During my time at Whittier, I earned a Masters of Science in Science Education from CSULB in 2006, and I became a National Board Certified Teacher (Middle Childhood Generalist) in 2010. Dedicated, experienced, effective, and displaced from the low-performing school where teachers like me are not supposed to want to teach. Ouch. That hurt.
So when I was displaced, I moved to a school six blocks north of my old site. I have been teaching 5th grade at Signal Hill Elementary ever since. I can see Whittier from my new playground. I still miss it sometimes, but this school (I’m starting my 4th year there in the fall) has a similar student population, i.e. socio-economic and English Language Learner make-up, which is why I chose (again!) to teach here. I love my job.
is this, as articulated by Miss Bonkers in the book, Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! with eternal thanks to Dr. Suess, (who had help from Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith with this one):
“We’ve taught you that the Earth is round,
That red and white make pink,
And something else that matters more–
We’ve taught you how to think.”
Why a blog?
It’s my attempt to be the change I wish to see in the world. Oh, and because Mr. Garcia encouraged me! Thanks, e!