Monday, February 27, 2012

Meaning/Representation/Execution of a Deepened Commitment

I had a conversation with my advisor this past Friday. It was really just a check in type how-are-you-feeling-at-this-moment kind of meeting. I would like to say that I felt better than I did, and then I do, but I guess that it is all about being honest, because that is the only way we can get to a point of change. Anyway, a great amount of my irritation and frustrations and despondence with they system and where I am at right now shone through. And thus, I received the following e-mail.

"I’m finishing up your letter of recommendation and have come to a little problem. Generally I close my letters for students in our program with a statement regarding the individual’s commitment to urban education and public schooling. After our conversation on Friday, I’m not sure how to close your letter. If you were to construct a sentence summarising your area of deepened commitment as you complete the program, what would you say?"

In this meeting I expressed that I do not want to work somewhere where my social life is expected to be aligned with my professional life. I do not want to work somewhere where teachers are always yelling at students. I do not want to work somewhere where students do not have the discipline to learn. I do not want to work somewhere where misbehaviour is a major issue. I also do not want to work somewhere where I feel like I am wasting my time. I live on a series of principles focused on the value of time. Not just my personal time, but time in general. I am not saying that all of these things are true of where I am not, however they are observations and conclusions I have drawn based on my experiences over the past year.

I expressed interest in working at a private school because I do not want to deal with a perceived set of problems based on my limited experience, since I have only worked at one school. Let me think about this. I can not say that I am exclusively committed to a public education. I support it and believe that everyone has a right to become educated as long as that is what the person wants and that is what they work toward. I do not believe that everyone should have the same education after a certain point in their life, like post-elementary school, because not everyone is destined for or desires the same educational endpoint in their lives. Many people do not want to go to college, they would prefer to be mechanics, or servicemen, or farmers, thus they do not need the same type of education that someone who would like to be a surgeon, an engineer, an architect, or a teacher need. Thus, we should not waste their time, their teachers' time, or the system's time on providing an education that is rejected and thus wasted. All education should be differentiated, not just the education of a single classroom. Not everyone is the same, not everyone needs the same things, not everyone wants the same things, so we shouldn't be giving everyone the same things. I support public education because everyone should have a chance to make choices for themselves regardless of where they come from. I do not agree with the system as it stands today because I believe that it is hurting more people than it is helping.

In regards to my commitment to urban education, I love living in an urban setting. I believe that living and working and growing up in an urban setting is good for kids because it is real. I grew up in a place and had experiences that were real because I made some less than excellent choices that got me into those situations. However, if I had made other choices I could have grown up in a pintucked primrose dreamland, and probably never learned anything that made me a real person at all. I love working and teaching in an urban setting because there are so many resources that are within reach. There are so many things to see and so many things to do. Students are minutes away from touching the things they are learning about, they just need a guide to get them there. I have no intention of returning to dreamland, or any other glossy version of suburbia. Well not until I am old and move back to Florida to sit on the beach. At this point I fully intend to spend my teaching career in urban education settings. I plan to stay in Baltimore for a minimum of the next five years and then maybe someday teach in the City. However, that is too far away for me to plan at this moment, besides I fully expect life to happen while I am busy making other plans.

While, I did not come to a single sentence defining my current commitment and my current belief system, I think that I made some support from which to draw a single statement. I may not agree with everything about public education as it stands now, I believe in what it stands for, and I want to be a part of aligning meaning with representation with execution during my teaching career in an urban setting.

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