Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Alt. Cert. Educators Could Teach Sonia Nieto a Lesson!

One very important aspect of the teaching profession is that teachers are perpetual learners. That’s why I drag myself out of my classroom and into graduate classes twice a week, that’s why I read whatever educator literature that falls into my lap, that’s why I ask a myriad of questions of every teaching veteran I meet. As a teacher I feel obligated to listen to anyone who I feel I can learn from, even if I learn *not* to do things the way someone else teaches.

Recently I attended a lecture given by Sonia Nieto, the education guru who wrote/edited Why We Teach and What Keeps Teachers Going, among many others. If you’re a teacher on the East Coast and you work with any students near the poverty line, I’m pretty sure you have a good idea about who I’m talking about. This woman is revered in the educational community because of her drive to promote a “passion for social justice” and cultural diversity, but I just want to know why she disregards Teaching Fellows and Teach for America teachers.

The lecture itself wasn’t so great, a lot of Hallmark Card-isms about what makes a great teacher, and how important it is for educators to have a “mission of fighting injustice,” but during the Q&A session in an auditorium that consisted solely of teachers with alternative certification Nieto solidly stood by her traditional teaching roots, even while trumpeted the need for teachers to be creative and to fight for their students rights.

Well let me tell you something, Sonia Nieto: Teaching Fellows sink or swim. Either they teach and teach well, or they quit under the pressure. Teaching Fellows get seven weeks of training and then the spotlight is on, and the show begins. If it doesn’t take an enormous amount of bravery to face a classroom of students on the first day of school after a perfunctory training and not run screaming after the first week…what does? Teaching Fellows can think outside the box, Ms. Nieto, because we come from outside the box. Fellows usually hold other jobs before teaching, and bring those experiences to the classroom. I'm not saying every single Alt. Cert. teacher is a boon to the profession, but don’t hate on us, Sonia Nieto, we’re doing the best we can!


Blogger Teacher said...

I have read some of her book, althought it was quite awhile ago. My thoughts are that her problem is not with teachers as yourself being from another profession... but her problem is more with what you mentioned... the lack of training you are given before being dropped into a classroom. Thus causing you to feel you and other alt. educators are forced to sink or swim. No insult meant towards you, just the system in of itself. I am a traditional educator, and like you have had years of experience in another profession as well. It's a big world, and all should be valued. I think it speaks volumes about you that you are swimming, given you only have seven weeks of training in teaching! Shows you are passionate and motivated.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 4:03:00 PM  
Blogger Cavetoad said...

I went to school for my teaching degree at UMass where she teaches so she was around alot and it was just before this book came out so she was testing some of it on various classes and with many of us in the department.
I also know two of the contributors from when we were High School students together nearly 2 decades ago. We talk often about the fact we're all teachers now.
Funny that there are some things you just can't escape, for me former HS friends and apparantly Sonia Nieto.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 5:56:00 PM  
Blogger Ms. C said...

Cavetoad, I appreciate your imput...I only "met" Sonia Nieto for a 60 minute lecture, she could very well be a different peron in casual conversation. And you're absolutely right, if you're in the education business you cannot escape Sonia Nieto.

Teacher, you have a very valid point...and I love having a platform to discuss the education of educators. There's a huge margin between 4 years and 7 weeks of training...But I feel that the 7 weeks I spent were mostly theory and learning about child development.

I can't help but think that on the first day of school traditional teachers and alt cert teachers are on an equal playing field: Both scared senseless by the living, breathing, sometimes hostile humans that are in the teacher's care. Experience is the only true teacher of teachers, I believe. People can tell you what to do when students do this or that, but only by teaching in a real classroom can you learn to think on your feet. And no, student teaching doesn't count, because even though it's nice to "try out" the role of teacher student teachers legally have to have a "real" teacher present. And what's teaching without that sense of "Oh, my god...I'm all alone with these kids, and I'm the sole person responsible for their brains for a whoel year Yipes!"

Even if I had 10 years of traditional educators education I don't think the jump from learning to be a teacher to teaching would be any easier.

And I'm still pretty dubious about the importance of all this theory.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 6:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AMEN!!! I was so pissed at her lecture. Gloria Ladson-Billings on the other hand was fantastic.

Happy break!!

Sunday, April 01, 2007 7:49:00 PM  
Blogger NYC Educator said...

Actually, you had 7 more weeks of training than I did.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 5:08:00 PM  

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