My apologies for the delay in posts; despite my plans to have a do-nothing sort of weekend, I ended up being much busier than I imagined. But don’t fret, that’s a good thing! Although I didn’t actually post anything, I spent some time thinking about what I might post and came to this decision: in each entry, I’ll try to start with some education related topic, before allowing myself to indulge a little in talking about my personal comings-and-goings of the last few days.
My duties at KIPP this week are not super interesting. They primarily involve scanning every single student’s file to a computer as an insurance policy against any sort of disaster. Natalie, the Managing Director of Operations at KIPP developed this fun (and, admittedly, necessary) project after another local charter school suffered from a fire and lost all their records.
So instead of talking about my personal experience at KIPP in this post, I’m going to attempt to explore some greater education issues that I’ve touched on a little previously. As I said before, one of the most important aspects of KIPP is great teachers. What they, and most educators across the country struggle with, is how to find those great teachers. Teaching skill is unlike skill in disciplines like math or science; although content knowledge is important, it’s close to impossible to quantify what makes someone a great teacher.
Dr. Martin Haberman has spent his life trying to do just that, however. He has conducted multiple studies and written countless articles on how to isolate what he calls the Star Teachers from all the rest. He’s developed a series of interview questions that address ten dimensions of teaching: persistence, organization and planning, values student learning, theory to practice, at-risk students, approach to students, survive in bureaucracy, explains teacher success, explains student success and fallibility. He admits, however, in an interview (that can be heard at www.kipp.org/00/audio/) that there are many elements of a good teacher that can’t be easily assessed in an interview setting.
At KIPP Philadelphia, much more credence is given to applicant’s sample lessons. However, in many of the other KIPP regions the initial phone interview is paramount in the process; their answers are scored on a rubric and their final score determines their future in the applicant pool. Teach for America uses a similar system. This, to me at least, seems to go somewhat against some of KIPP’s principles. Student-teacher interactions and the ability to enthuse a classroom are clearly not quantifiable and to be looking for specific things to be said in answers could be seen as equivalent to limiting students in certain ways – maybe a stretch, but something that’s been on my mind.
And now for the few people reading this that care about what I’ve been doing in my spare time the past couple days. After spending the night at Haverford last Friday and getting to see a number of friends, my housemate Katie and I found ourselves left to our own devices for most of the weekend. This turned out to be great; we spent pretty much the whole weekend together, hanging out, cooking and going on adventures. Saturday night we made our way to South Philly to a Haverford alum’s party at which the majority of the guests were teachers that were approximately 10 years older than me – a fun flashforward to my potential future. Unfortunately, upon leaving we got stuck in a rainstorm, ended up walking almost a mile and waiting on a street corner in Center City for a bus for over 20 minutes.
Which leads me to the tally I’m going to start keeping in order to try and prove that Seattle gets a bad and untrue rap for its rain. Number of times I’ve now been stuck in the rain in Philadelphia: 2 (in seven days).