Name: Katie Sparkes
Site: Philadelphia (St. Joe’s)
School attending: Middlebury College
Returning teacher?: New Teacher
Class(es) teaching: Social Studies and Writing Through Literature
In these initial stages I find myself a little bit scatter-brained and very excited. I’m sure the following thoughts will reflect both.
#1. This spring my favorite professor taught a class called Education in America. I didn’t take the class, but I did attend the lecture during which the Head Master of a charter school in Boston came to talk about the problems that urban education faces. The lecture title itself was a bit misleading, but one thing that man said really stuck with me. “Teaching,” he said, “is the only profession I can think of that immediately demands leadership from its employees.” Now there could be others of the sort, but those who enter the business world typically have to prove themselves and collect valuable hours of experience before anyone puts them in a position from which they could really blow it. Teachers, on the other hand, are hired to lead classrooms full of hopefully bright-eyed students every minute of every day starting from the very first. To me there are few prospects that are more exciting.
#2. Our site director assigned us an article from a 2004 issue of US News and World Report, a piece called “Unequal Education; Now the focus shifts from integration to achievement for all” by Julian Barnes. (You can access this article that should be very applicable to all urban sites at THIS LINK if you so desire.) In the article Barnes argues that America’s battle has transitioned from being one of integration to being one of closing the majority/minority achievement gap that plagues the American education system. We all know one thing or another about that. However, Barnes goes on to say that all of the factors at which various parties tend to point fingers (inadequate funding, lack of after school and summer enrichment, etc.) don’t need to have the adverse effect that they sometimes have if teachers commit themselves to having the positive effect that they can have. Barnes really advocates for the teachers who set equally high goals for every student and then help their students reach those goals. Therefore, I have extracted several challenges for myself from Barnes’s article. For starters, allowing students to believe that they are anything other than capable will not be an option this summer.