Friday, June 19, 2009

IRD: Are You a Real Teacher? Or Do You Just Homeschool?

Last year, teaching for the Institute for Reading Development was all-encompassing.
This year, it is part of what I'm doing. There are other parts as well.

The work itself has become more interesting because I understand the curriculum enough now to modify it (slightly) as needed to fit the real people seated in front of me. And this means that I have begun to think about individual students more, and try to figure out what makes them tick--at least as far as their reading goes. For example, is that middle school kid who is trying to outcool everyone a problem-child? Or is he sorely lacking in confidence in his abilities?

Whereas last year, I was struggling mightily to just master the curriculum, so that I only had time for a few fleeting thoughts about students, this year as I sat down to write my Book Level Assessments (pre-Reading through Grade 5), and my Book Level Recommendations (Grade 6 - Adult), I enjoyed being able to summon the face of each student (with help from my seating chart) and with it a sense of the reader and the person.

There are still some things that I am still surprised and nonplussed by when I encounter them. For example, people parading into class late week after week, even though they have paid tuition for the course, and even more puzzling, people who pay and then don't show up. Period. Strange.

Adults these days!

And then there are the parents who walk in with a chip on their shoulder. Despite my string of degrees, I will never be good enough to teach their Johnny or Suzy, the one going into honors English, you know. They demand: "Are you a real teacher?!"

I am always tempted to say, "Why, no! I'm a holographic teacher. You know, like the doctor on Star Trek Voyager." But then, I would hope that most people who love Star Trek would not be that dismissive and disrespectful. There are quite a few parents I have encountered who don't have their manners very solidly pinned on.

This year, I had a parent overhear my conversation with two homeschooled students about how I homeschooled my own son. She didn't talk to me. She didn't clarify her notions. She called the company and complained that I obviously "couldn't handle the class" because I was a "homeschooled teacher." Of course I couldn't, but it would have been great to walk up to her and talk about Abigail Adams, one of the most intellectually astute women in American history, who was also a "homeschool teacher."

By the way, the two homeschooled kids in that class, the ones deprived of "real" teaching? They are among the best readers in the class. Figures.

I have no idea what the IRD teacher support staff think about complaints like this one. My teacher supervisor asked me directly: "Are you a homeschool teacher?" Well, yes, but like most homeschool moms, or like moms in general, that's not all I have done my whole life.

It is at these kinds of moments that I have to repress that part of my that wants to list all of my degrees, honors, publications, and my annual income. But it would be dishonorable of me to play that kind of "one-up the Joneses" game. So I just smile and say, "Yes, I'm a real teacher. Yes, I did homeschool my son. And I still miss it."

And that is true.
I still miss it very much.


christinemm said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It reinforces the ignorance and rudeness that exists.

If that mother really had a concern of your competence in teaching she should have asked you directly if you are a trained teacher. If she had an issue she should have address it with you. But she was a coward who was too scared to approach you with a polite question and voicing a concern. Only the bullies and cowards go right up the chain of command without first clarifying their assumptions. People like that make me angry. They create problesms where problems may not exist.

christinemm said...


I disclose in my reviews when I get free product.

I resent this monitoring of blogs idea. What next? Monitoring of email discussion groups and listening in on phone calls?

Amie said...

I agree with the previous comment, why couldn't she of talked to you about her concerns?

I don't even like to consider myself a "teacher", instead I prefer "facilitator".