October 30, 2006

OSAT crunch time

Posted in teacher certification, testing at 2:23 pm by mrsmauck

Well, I’ve been reading “the classics” all summer, but now it’s crunch time. I take my English teacher certification test this weekend. If I pass, which I won’t find out until December (!!), it’s possible I could have a teaching job for the spring semester–then I’d have to make a decision about teaching while pregnant. If my pregnancy remains as smooth as it has so far, I really don’t see a problem with it. I was dog-tired and nauseous for about three weeks, but ever since, I feel great! Plus, I talked with this woman at my church who is a retired English teacher and college prof, and she did her first year of teaching while pregnant. She was sick every day and would literally have to eat salty crackers during class to keep from puking right there in front of the students. Of course, I don’t want to go through anything like that, but so far, I haven’t actually thrown up at all.

Anyway, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do on posting reactions and lesson plans for classics I’ve read: The Great Gatsby and The Crucible, and I’m currently reading The Red Badge of Courage, which has been a struggle, and Walden, which is a delight.

October 12, 2006

Question about subbing

Posted in job search at 2:52 pm by mrsmauck

I just got a whiff of a teaching job for next semester that would align perfectly with my status as mommy-to-be. A current English teacher is preggo at the school I’d like to teach at, and her due date is in February. I could take over her class for 8wks or so, get my feet wet in teaching and at my preferred school, and then have a few weeks before my due date to get everything ready. Then in the fall, I’d be ready to take those classes over (if I can bear to separate myself from the baby!!).

HOWEVER, and this is a big one, is there any way I could get health insurance for this brief time? I’d like to get hired by this school for the fall; I’m wondering if if they would go ahead and insure me starting in the spring? Normally, I wouldn’t care about being without insurance for six months or so, but obviously as a new mommy, I’ll need that coverage!!

Ultimately, I’ll have to just talk to the administration about this, I’m sure. I just wondered if any of you could see this being a remote possibility.

October 4, 2006

Writing for the real world

Posted in writing at 2:11 pm by mrsmauck

All right teachers, riddle me this: What’s the point of a research paper? What’s the point of MLA? How many people actually use these conventions in the real world? I was talking to a woman at my work yesterday, and she has a business degree, but found herself writing grants for a living. Likewise, my husband was bumfuzzled when the bank told him they needed a business plan to fund a small business loan. Any citizen can and should write letters to the editor about issues they feel strongly about. This is writing that matters in the real world, and does high school English prepare students to do this kind of writing, or is it more sink or swim? Do you think we’re responsible for giving them basic writing skills, and then they decide how to use them? Why do we give them basic writing skills through tasks that often have no real-world parallel, such as literary analysis or research paper?

I think the solution to these questions might be in teaching audience. The teacher or grader should not be the only audience for a paper. I’ve felt like this so much throughout my academic career, and it’s frustrating. You turn in what you think is a great paper, and get back a not-so-great response from the teacher, i.e., a not so great grade. So you start writing what you think they want to hear. Is this useful or counterproductive?

Writing is a way of learning; that’s for sure. That’s why we make assignments like, “Write an essay about a theme in The Great Gatsby.” But I truly believe that we will be cheating our students if they don’t learn about writing for the real world. Here are some concrete examples of what I’m talking about:

  1. Scholarship essays
  2. Business plans
  3. Newspaper articles
  4. Letters (Business, cover letters, friendly)
  5. Grants (Could students even work together to write grants for the school? It doesn’t hurt to try, right?)
  6. Note-taking

Teachers, what do you think? How do you show students the real-world value of conducting research, drafting a hypothesis, and writing an engaging, convincing research paper? I mean, we’re not training classrooms full of future professors, who will become masters of research papers. There’s the obvious reason of being able to write papers for college courses. I suppose they’re also taking ownership of a topic or body of knowledge and embarking on their own personal quest to become (at least short-term) experts in that area. That’s a valuable lesson for real life, right? I like the idea of students teaching each other what they learned, and also reflecting on their quest. Perhaps we should approach research papers this way: students are beginning a journey to becoming experts in an area in which they’re interested. The final product will be a thoughtful, well-researched paper, and the education of their classmates on their topic. But the journey is what’s important. The fact that their passion could be stirred for a cause, for an idea, is what’s important.

I guess I kind of answered my original question, hashing this out on here. Thanks for listening, and I’d love to hear your ideas on writing for the real world.