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05 December 2013 @ 08:43 am
Retaining  
I retain water. Schools retain students. To me, the word retain means "hold in" or "hold back." When we talk about retaining teachers, though, the general intent is that we keep teachers in place, we help them continue in the profession despite obstacles. But I am coming to question even these meanings when it comes to TFA's use of retain. Here is an article from North Carolina about a superintendent who made a deal with TFA without the advice or consent of the school board, teachers, parents, etc. : http://www.news-record.com/news/local_news/article_5c709b3d-2457-5fe2-b401-68a3023b1580.html. And here is the money quote: "Nationally, about 40 percent of the teachers complete a third year in the school districts where they were placed, Hurley said." Frankly, I fail to see how this is retention in any way, shape, or form.

I know folks who have come to teaching as second and third careers. They are counted among my friends and cherished colleagues. All of them, however, went to a teacher preparation program (and the concept of teacher prep seems almost insolent to me as well, but it is early in the day and I am not sufficiently caffeinated) as if we prepare teachers as we could prepare a meal. Do we prepare lawyers or doctors or chefs?

This post was also generated in part by the discussion of this book (http://www.amazon.com/American-Teacher-Classroom-Katrina-Fried/dp/1599621274/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386168887&sr=8-1&keywords=teacher+heroes) on Morning Joe on Wednesday: AMERICAN TEACHER: HEROES IN THE CLASSROOM. The staff of Morning Joe interviewed one of the teachers featured in the book, someone who had created a school within a school. Certain students volunteered (or were selected, this was not quite clear) to enter into this experiment one summer. It is now part of the regular school year. It is an interdisciplinary approach to teaching in which kids do not really attend discrete 50 minute classes but rather tackle topics and issues from a holistic perspective. Field trips, thematic discoveries, and other elements are part of the approach. There is nothing new here except the school invited this teacher to continue his approach after a successful summer implementation. Thirty years ago I was doing the same thing with my teammates; content areas shared time and class and materials and foci. I can still recall the fall where we studied pilgrims, early American literature, food, science, etc. all culminating in a day in which we dressed in costume, conducted trials, made food, etc. all using the crafts of the early American settlers and the Native Americans who helped them survive. But the staff of Morning Joe hailed this as the greatest thing since sliced bread when it is happening now in classroom after classroom daily.

I wish there were more teachers blogging about what they are doing in the classroom. I read posts by Donalyn Miller and Katherine Sokolowski and Colby Sharp and Paul Hankins because they affirm all the wonderful things I know teachers do (go look at Donalyn's post yesterday about bringing Little Red to her classroom after NCTE or Katherine's post about what she thanks her kids for or Paul's musings about the books he received at NCTE and ALAN making their way into Bagels and Books plans). And I wish instead of calling these few "heroes" we would just go with "teachers." I do not mean to take away ANYTHING from the work these teachers are doing day in and day out. What I want the public to know is that this IS the day to day work of teachers, quietly transforming lives, quietly making connections to kids, quietly dealing with all the slings and arrows and offering up instead great books, opportunities and invitations to write, and so much more.

Teachers are a GIFT each and every day they enter the classroom energized and leave drained only to refuel overnight and return the next day.
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