Cross-posted from TWIE for all the new teachers in CPS this year. You can make it!
Hialeah (FLA) High School teacher Roxanna Elden has written a book about being a teacher that's now out, See Me After Class.
she looks ridiculously young and way too happy to be a real teacher,
but she's still in the classroom and recently got her national
certification. Take that, all you haters. You may also recall she got
that great blurb from Dave Barry I posted not long ago.
Hot Seat, Elden reveals how teachers have been reacting to her book and
how her book avoids -- nay, refutes -- movie and book cliches that
"make real teachers feel like failures."
I still haven't read the
book but I like what Elden says about the effects of pop culture
portrayals of teachers on expectations -- not just teachers'
expectations but policymakers' and pundits' too.
Click below for the interview and the pics.
How would you describe See Me After Class?
RE: It's a funny, practical guidebook that acknowledges teaching is not like the movies.
What book or books inspired you or were a model (or may be familiar to readers)?
RE: I grew up reading Dave Barry's work, which was why it
was such an honor to get a cover blurb from him. He has a way of
picking out the humor in every situation which influenced my outlook on
life, and later my own writing. I'm also a fan of Scott Adams' Dilbert
books, which mix funny observations with career advice, and I used a
few parenting and relationship advice books as models.
Why do we need yet another education book?
RE: Most books written for new teachers are either
inspirational stories or training manuals. Training manuals repeat the
over-simplified messages many teachers already learned in training.
They don't help teachers who are struggling to put their training into
practice. Inspirational stories gloss over the fact that becoming a
great teacher takes time, and even great teachers have bad days.
You say your book acknowledges that teaching is "not like the movies." What's wrong with teacher movies?
RE: There's a genre of teacher movies best described as
stories might be inspiring to non-teachers, but Hollywood-style
portrayals of our job make real teachers feel like failures. After all,
many of us used to watch these movies and pictured ourselves in the
lead roles. Now we're stuck in the uncut, un-edited versions, and no
one is sticking to the script, including us.
Are there any broader effects of these inspirational stories about plucky teachers?
RE: Many of the teachers who tell these Hollywood-style
stories have left the classroom by the time the book or movie comes
out. Career teachers are compared to the unrealistic standards they
leave behind. Many of the new accountability measures seem to be
created with the idea that every part of our students' lives would be
under our control if we had enough dedication to make it happen. Rookie
teachers are especially susceptible to these images. Some beginners
don't realize that they can damage their careers by trying to recreate
the bold moves of movie teachers, who confront their bosses, make plans
behind their principal's backs, and invite students to their homes
without notifying parents. The truth is, movie stunts are not meant to
be tried at home.
What makes you qualified to write this book, compared to anyone else?
RE: I'm now a National Board Certified Teacher, and
have taught many different subjects and grade levels, but I still
remember my first year clearly. I set out to write the book I needed
during my own first year, and was also lucky to find teachers all over
the country willing to share their stories and advice.
What mistakes did you make as a first-year teacher?
RE: My first year I spent a tremendous amount of time,
money and energy trying to be a great teacher. Unfortunately, I spent
them in the wrong places. I stayed until after well after school hours
every day and bought creative, unnecessary supplies, but couldn't get
my lessons back on track when they got derailed. I brought home piles
of paper every night, but my grade book was nearly empty when report
card time came. The worst part was the feeling that I was the only one
making these mistakes. I had dreamed of being a teacher for most of my
life. By November I was sure I had chosen the wrong career.
How would your book have helped you?
RE: The stories would have let me know I wasn't alone,
which would have improved my confidence and morale. Some of the basic
stuff, like the ready-to-use filing system and ten-day-countdown to the
school year would have helped me start the year on solid ground. The
most helpful part would have been the classroom management chapter,
which addresses the pitfalls in common management advice like "be
consistent," and "give positive reinforcement." I had heard all these
things before starting teaching, but when my classroom management broke
down, they became easier said than done. I needed more than just a
repeat of what I learned in training. See Me After Class could have
helped me pull my classroom back from the edge of chaos in the middle
of the year. It would have been much better for my students, not to
mention my mental health.
How has the book been received so far?
RE: The most common reaction has been, "Where was this book during MY first year?"
Don't you know teachers don't have time to read?
RE: See Me After Class is meant to be weekend reading -
likely after a really bad week. Teachers should be able to pick up the
book on Friday, finish it over the weekend, and walk in Monday as a better, more confident teacher. Not perfect, but better.
If you were going to write or star in a movie set in a school, what story would you tell?
RE: If I were going to write a book or movie set in a
school, it would have more than one star. Schools are run by a whole
bunch of imperfect human beings. Our personalities and personal lives
influence our teaching. So do outside issues such as poverty and
politics. There are plenty of stories about police officers and doctors
that show these people as complete humans, but there aren't many
stories that do the same for teachers.
Why didn't you write this as a more serious, less cute type of book?
RE: The book is serious - it's just not preachy.
Teachers already know our job is important, and the days we feel we're
bad at it leave us very demoralized. The last thing we need is to open
up about our mistakes and have someone say, "Well, that never happens
in MY class." We need someone to say, "That has happened to me, and
it's not an easy problem to solve, but these are the solutions I've