Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Following Trevista – The Challenges That Lie Ahead

This is the school that I spent the last three months of school at last year.  It was a hard situation, probably the most difficult job I've ever done.  I don't know the answer to the question of what to do about schools like this or this school in particular, so I guess it is as she says in the story . . .  we shall see what happens over the next year. . . 

Following Trevista – The Challenges That Lie Ahead: Trevista public school in Denver is embarking upon a major shake-up to boost academic scores, part of a federal program to save failing schools. [Photo: CPR]

Friday, May 11, 2012


Seven years ago I had just graduated college and now had (count em!) TWO fancy pieces of paper and absolutely no idea what to do next.  I knew I wanted to do the Peace Corps, but I wasn't in a financial situation to do that yet.  I was working in a restaurant and having a general directionless feeling, like so many people do when they leave college.  One day I went to visit some teachers at my old high school and got to talking to one Ms. (Dr.) Heidi Hursh.  Somehow, she convinced me that I should be teaching- and then proceeded to get me a job.

At 23, I was barely older than the students I was teaching and got mistaken for a student on a pretty regular basis.  Also, I had no idea what I was doing.  Technically, I had the credentials to teach the class, a college level Introduction to International Studies, since to be able to teach lower level college classes you just need a Master's degree in the subject you are teaching and I happened to have a brand new one of those.  But I really had no idea what I was doing.

The transition from student to teacher was strange.  First, I was young.  Second, I was teaching at my own high school, right next to my old teachers.  I remember one day when a few teachers invited me out for a FAC (Friday Afternoon Club-Happy Hour).  I sat in the middle of a long table sipping my beer- in between my old physics teacher and my stage teacher.  I don't remember talking much, I think that mostly I just sat there with wide eyes and tried not to freak out at the fact that I was there.  The teachers gossiped about the news at the school (the principal had just announced that she would be leaving the school) and of course, talked about students and (amazing!) other things as well.  Over the next few months, I got more comfortable in this informal space, but even now, years later it is a bit amazing to me that I got to go out and drink with teachers.

Over the past few years, while I have been in Denver, I have taken on several different roles from teaching to subbing to running after school programs.  I am more comfortable now when students call me Ms. Lipman and most of the teachers I work with now have never known me as a student.  But I am a student still, or again.

I just finished my first semester of "Student-teaching" on my way to become certified to teach high school.  One of my friends asked me today if I was done with school yet.  I thought about it and laughed a bit- there are so many answers to that question- yes, I am done with school for this semester; no, I am not done since I have one more semester of classes in the fall; no, I'm never done with school- once I finish this program then I will just keep going, teaching and learning- I will never be "done" with school.  I thought when I started teaching seven years ago that there was this magic time when you became a "teacher."  I have realized a more nuanced view of this process- I am a teacher, but I am still a student.  Even when I finish my license and am teaching full time (fingers crossed that I get a job!) I will still be a student.  Part of teaching is the fact that you never stop learning.