On the Front Lines

Chronicles of a first year high school biology teacher

Best Christmas Gift. Ever.

If this doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, YOU HAVE NO SOUL. 

Today was the last day of classes. Exams are next week. Then I can really relax… for a few days. 


I fail at blogging, and other things

Well, not really.

I’m about a semester into my first year of teaching, and it has been interesting so far.  The first month or so was extremely stressful, as it took awhile for me to get the timing of my lessons mapped out just right.  After that, I got into a  good swing, but felt overwhelmed still, as my assigned mentor hasn’t been the most helpful (doesn’t even speak to me, actually).  

Overall, I think that I made the right choice, profession-wise, but I think my choice of school was poor.  When I interviewed and visited the school, I was excited about everything. In addition to the science curriculum (Physics First), I was basically sold on the fact that the students were bright, excited about learning, and hard workers.  When I finally started working here, however, this was pretty far from the truth.

For starters, there is very little accountability for students.  Unlike most schools (even most other private schools), there doesn’t appear to be any requirements for moving on to the next grade.  For instance, a freshman can literally fail 4/6 classes, and move on to the next grade.   And when they fail 4/6 more classes that year, they can move on to become juniors.  When this same junior fails 4/6 classes, they can move on to senior year. HOWEVER, once they’re a senior, they have to take extra classes, online classes, and pass every single one in order to graduate.  In other words, students (and in a school of less than 150, there are about a dozen in each grade), are allowed to waste tuition money up until senior year, and rather than being challenged, continue to have the bar lowered year after year, until they are ultimately thrown under the bus.  How is this progressive education? How is this preparing students for college?

One of my students was one of these students.  Had severe academic and behavioral problems 9-11th grade (due to family issues). This year, his senior year, he is adamant about getting into college.  He has (from what other teachers have told me) made a 360 from where he was this time last year.  He’s passing all of his courses (most with As and Bs). But because he is lacking the credits to graduate, has to take 7 classes, plus two classes online.  Despite the fact that has to work 20 hours a week, he is working very hard, and succeeding in his in-school classes, the administration (and me, under pressure of the administration) have in addition to this workload, have pretty much placed an ultimatum on his graduation: “Pass these two year-long online courses by February, or you won’t graduate.”

In addition to this, the school’s “free-thinking” and “progressive” mission apparently includes the right for students to make wildly inappropriate racist, mysogynistic, anti-gay, and anti-(insert religion here) comments.  More often than not, many teachers and administrators don’t say anything at all! The school prides itself in being the most accepting of the individual in the city, but many, many students fear speaking out against these comments for fear of being ridiculed. While I can understand wanting to give students more freedom, it can’t happen (it doesn’t happen) unless the students are mature enough, or willing enough to be responsible for said freedom.

Whew! That feels better. Anyone have any thoughts or words of wisdom, or similar stories?     

SCOTUS Ruling on Race-based diversity programs

Tired already!

I’ve been working for the past week or so on designing a curriculum map for the four courses I will be teaching this year. It is hard work! I’m still trying to figure out the best way to organize units. After that, the real work will begin 🙂

I’m using my future course website/wikispace as a means for organizing everything. I’ve heard about loads of teachers using wikispace and blogs successfully in many middle and high school classes, so I’m trying to figure out the best way to adapt it for advanced biology courses.

Happy Memorial Day!

Welcome to my Blog!

This blog will serve to chronicle my preparation for, and experience during my first year of teaching high school biology. Stay tuned!