Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Teaching Addict

...the contribution I want to make now I want to make in the classroom. The difference between teaching and play-writing is not incomprehensible to me, they're not so different. They both create a public event that leads to understanding..... Teaching -- for Ms. Edson at least -- is a full-time occupation. She needs the summers, she said, to do nothing, because that makes you a more interesting person in the classroom...   Margaret Edson, Pulitzer Prize winner and classroom teacher.
I love reading about teachers who love the process of classroom teaching. I never heard of Margaret Edson until today's Susan Ohanian update. I watched the video of her Smith commencement speech from 2008 and I think I'm in love.
Susan Notes:

Margaret Edson astounded the media when, as a kindergarten teacher, she won the Pulitzer for drama. And she gets more than ten minutes of fame. More than ten years later, the media stays fascinated. The media is amazed that a teacher is an intelligent person.

Margaret Edson now teaches sixth grade. She remains passionate about her calling. Her teacher calling. And we can all be grateful that the media is still interested enough to talk to her about her teaching.

Here is the transcript of Margaret Edson's 1999 appearance on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Here is video of her commencement address at Smith College, delivered without a written text.
Read a fascinating interview with Margaret Edson.  Changing Gears but Retaining Dramatic Effect

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Debbie Meier often says that teaching kindergarten was one of the most intellectual challenges she faced. I loved the mechanisms of organizing a class of 4th, 5th or 6th graders and found intellectual challenges in figuring out a good seating chart or how to get coats hung in the wardrobe without them falling to the floor. Or how to get the idea of circumference across.

I was a classroom teaching addict for most of my first 20 years in the system and developed a superiority complex that I was doing the most important job in the school system. I was in the infantry and though I would never leave till they hauled me out. I certainly felt superior to people who did leave, even clusters or pull-out people. Unless they were older and had put in their time.

Then one day, I was older, with a principal who began to limit the control the teachers had over their classes through the institution of a high stakes testing program. I started thinking about leaving teaching altogether and even went back to school for a degree in computer science which led to part 2 of my career which I spent as a computer cluster and training teachers. I really can't say I was addicted to teaching once I left the elementary school classroom – once I was out of a classroom with a group of kids I would spend the day and the year with, I lost some of that passion. So reading about Edson was inspiring. Of course she didn't start teaching until she was in her late 30's and is in the early part of her 2nd decade. I hit that wall in the latter part of my 2nd decade. Here's hoping she never meets that wall.

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