(This is part of the Slice of Life project)
I spent part of Saturday with a videocamera in my hand, documenting some work being done by the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. Within our network, a group known as Project Outreach (whose mission is around issues of access, equity and diversity for WMWP) has been designing a program for prospective teachers in urban schools who have not been able to pass the state’s certification test for teachers (known as the MTEL). So, WMWP has offered some sessions on how to approach the Writing and Communication exam, and my role was to capture a discussion at the end of the Saturday session.
I felt a bit like an intruder with my camera aimed at them, but they were gracious, and the discussions were pretty amazing, as these teachers — some of whom English is a second language — talked not only about their own struggles with this standardized test, but also how their struggles allowed them to relate more to the struggles of their students; about how they have come to understand that they must find ways to relate to the world of their students to make learning relevant; about what keeps them going in the classroom during difficult times; and about how they must always maintain high expectations of their students, even though they come from families falling apart or neighborhoods that are violent or schools with very little flexibility. They keep their students in the center of their hearts.
As a teacher, it was a reminder to me, too, to keep these ideas close. Many of my students don’t have the same situation, but some do. It’s interesting how sometimes just the act of “listening” to others brings a solid focus into your own situation. I am thankful for those teachers and their willingess to be honest and open, and to share their stories.
The video will be used as part of a presentation by our Project Outreach folks, but also, it will be part of our Western Mass Writing Project website, which we will be redesigning this year. When it goes up live in the coming days, I will provide a link.
Peace (in sharing),