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Sweatin’ it out / Will work for… money

sent: 6/26/2005

Howdy all,

The first Teach Greater New Orleans (TGNO) summer training session just ended on Thursday. This was a crash course on general education principles, such as classroom management, teaching kids of varying skill levels, etc. We also were introduced to Louisiana’s educational standards, which included even more mind-numbing acronyms than I encountered at Lockheed Martin. Each of the instructors kept reminding us that they were trying to cram a semester’s worth of material into a few days, underscoring how challenging our first year of teaching-by-fire will be. This Wednesday we’ll divide into new classes which will address teaching within our subject areas.

A lot of my fellow TGNO members have already gotten discouraged. Ostensibly the complaints focus on the instruction we’ve received, but I suspect most of the anxiety is due to our job prospects. Each day more details are revealed in the local paper about the corruption, mismanagement, infighting, and incompetence of the Orleans Parish school system. Orleans Parish has a contract with TGNO to hire about 2/3 of our members – a cornerstone of the guarantee that all our members would receive jobs. Besides literally appearing to have forgotten about this contract, Orleans may simply become unwilling or unable to honor it. Eight (?) Orleans public schools are slated for closing, several hundred jobs are already set to be cut, and a NY management firm with a “hatchet man” reputation has been hired to come in and clean house. Many Orleans teachers and administrators are fleeing to the surrounding parishes, and naturally they’ll get first dibs on any openings. We’re 1.5 months from the start of the school year, but it looks like a number of things will have to shake out before most of us TGNO members will get hired.

Despite all this, I’m not too distressed – at least, not yet. Many other TGNO members already have teaching experience, and they entered this program to satisfy certification requirements for No Child Left Behind. Other than that experience advantage, though, I feel like I’m in a relatively good position. Out of 63 members, only four of us are competing for secondary math spots. Of the four, I’m the only one who hasn’t at least substitute-taught, but I think my resume makes me an attractive candidate. The timeframe may get late and we may end up in less-preferable schools, but I’m optimistic that all four of us will eventually get jobs. While I originally was determined to avoid the dismal Orleans Parish at all costs, I’m now bracing myself to make the best out of whatever job I can get.

I also cannot get too worked up over the instruction we’ve received. Sure, there are aspects of it that could be better, but I figure that kind of knowledge will come (and can only really be obtained) through the trials of experience. We were told from the beginning that the most valuable part of our TGNO membership would probably be the support networks we build amongst each other and utilize throughout the school year. I get along very well with the other three high school math practitioners, as well as a handful of members in other subject areas. We represent a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and experiences, so I’m pleased with the prospect of supporting and receiving support from them. A year from now, I doubt the summer training we’re receiving will look like a huge factor in our successes or failures.

I’m still enjoying life here in southern Louisiana. I like the vibe here, and don’t feel so out of place like I thought I would. The hotwetsticky climate doesn’t feel much different than my usual post-workout funkiness, except that it occurs any time I step outside for more than a few minutes. So in a weird way, I feel like I’ve just finished exercising five or six times every day. I feel healthier than ever!

Until I know where I’ll be working, I’ll continue to live with Joan and Nat. They continue to be the best hosts I could imagine, and I know they’ll also be huge source of support long after I’ve moved out. Within the next month or two I will (hopefully) have a new job, new residence, new coworkers, more new friends, and a completely new daily routine. A lot remains to be settled right now, but my optimism is still in good supply.

Love to all (I mean, y’all).


p.s. Sorry, I borrowed heavily against my annual verbosity allocation in providing the words for this update. In contrast, future updates may need to be edited down to one-sentence summations such as “All’s good,” “Holy crap!” or “Send help.”