"My Year as a Teacher" - Emily Sachar - Newsday and New York Newsday
A First-Time Teacher Learns the Hard Way; Novice Is Stunned to Find She's Unprepared for Class
"September 20, 1988. The basketball sailed over my head again -- from Roger to Nathan, back to Roger, over to Andrew, then to James, back to Roger. "'Okay, that's enough. Will you please take your seats?'" I shouted. My voice was cracking, I was yelling so loud. "The period started 10 minutes agao." "My math class in Room 327 was turning into a gym class. "'Dribble,' Roger mumbled. 'Dribble, dribble, dribble. Up and score!' The ball banged against the back wall, landed on a desk and bounced to the floor. "My attendance book fell out of my hand. Nathan grabbed it, dangled it in my face, and threw it Frisbee-style against the blackboard . . . "
No Common Denominator; Each Kid Presents a Different Challenge
"Mary as a proud girl, the sort who found it easier to be nasty than nice. In those early weeks of school, she had come late to class, scowled at me in the hall, and told the other students to call me 'Mrs. Sucker.' . . ."
Too Many Bad Apples for Teacher Discipline; Problems Steal Valuable Learning Time
". . . Some said I should call parents, so I tried that for the first few months of school; every night I was calling five or 10 homes, which was not a testament to my diligence but to my failure to control the classes. . . . "
Teachers Who Make the Grade Bright Spots in a System that Fosters Mediocrity
"Like many teachers, Nobile's school day didn't end when the last bell rang. She took classes after school to work her way up the salary scale. In New York City, teachers must earn one master's degree within five years to retain their jobs, and they must earn a second master's degree to get to the top of the salary scale. . . . "
Formula for Failure: A Curriculum Over Most Kids' Heads + Few Tools to Teach It = Little Learning
"Ironically, my school had an excellent, easy-to-follow textbook series for the sixth and seventh grades, and math teachers for these grades also had a supplement from the Board of Education with ideas, including games, for teaching their curriculum. The eight grade had neither. . . . ."
"To use hands-on material takes a great deal of training," says Bruce Vogeli, professor of mathematics instruction at Columbia University's Teachers College. "Many teachers are not good at this sort of approach."
" . . . After I had decided to leave teaching, and after the school year had ended, I no longer felt self-conscious about looking into the home lives of my students. . . . "
A System That's Fail Safe; Passing Kids Despite Lack of Learning
" . . . I scanned the rows of students. Scattered about were several dozen who didn't know their times tables, couldn't write a simple essay or couldn't understand a short passage in an elementary textbook. Yet, in less than two months, they would be adorned in caps and gowns and graduated to high school. I felt like I was watching a heinous lie. . . . "
"One shelf in my den has workbooks. Another has bags of smiley-face stickers, and another has dice and protractors. Next to my computer is a filing cabinet filled with puzzles I used in my year as a teacher at Walt Whitman Intermediate School in Flatbush, Brooklyn. "They were my teaching supplies, and I haven't been able to throw them away. After teaching math for a year, I decided not to return. But I still feel like a teacher, and I often imagine I'll go back to the classroom someday. . . . "
Teacher Passes Final Exam; Five Former Students Grade a Novice Instructor
"Five of Sachar's eighth-grade math students met last week with a New York Newsday editor to talk about their experiences in her classroom. The students, one from each of the five classes Sachar taught, were: Ilka Bent, Sabura Alexander, Karim Licorish, Fredeline Amedee and Natalie Rodgers. They were not students profiled by Sachar in the series.