The Material That Makes You

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Soldier Gives Child Materials

Soldier Gives Child Materials

Here’s my best attempt at putting a positive spin on a topic that’s probably irked anyone who’s had to help facilitate the growth of fellow colleagues or teachers who see the odds and punch a hole through that proverbial glass ceiling. While I’m trying to figure out the nuances of being the math coach of my school, my mentality’s still in the classroom, because I still teach a class. For my 30 students, I’d do practically anything to ensure that they’ve learned the material, including stepping away from the “required” curriculum in favor of making sure that the NYS standards were learned. It doesn’t mean I’m doing a ton of chalk and talk, but sometimes the book doesn’t have all the answers.

And that’s where I take issue with the “issue” of materials. When I first signed up for teaching in NYC, I understood a few things:

1) The students were not going to necessarily come in with the motivation to do well in school.

2) The school I’m working in may not necessarily have supportive staff.

3) I may not have all the materials I need all laid out for me.

Later on, that last statement became, “I don’t need to strictly use one set of materials.” Certainly, I think using worksheets and overheads all the time doesn’t lend itself to good teaching, much like using the given textbook also doesn’t help either. A good teacher knows how to balance the materials, and we all strive to create that equal balance. With that said, if I’m ever deficient in one for reasons that are beyond me, you know I’m definitely going to have resources from other ends. I’ll be well-prepared and I won’t wait until some administrator comes into my room to tell me what it is I need to have and why I don’t have it if I’m not ready.

In this day and age, the recipe’s being laid out for many urban public school principals to fail in the hopes of breaking up the schools and infusing more charter schools into these buildings that aren’t meant for 2-3 different schools in the same building. The economy’s made it easier to set forth this agenda because principals already had a tight budget, but funds have decreased by incremental percentages. That naturally has to do with less materials for teachers and students alike.

Yet, at the end of the day, we don’t teach to the curriculum. We don’t teach to workshops. We don’t teach to books. We shouldn’t be teaching to the tests (even when some of us do). We teach to the standards, and we should teach using those resources as arms of a multi-pronged attack on learning these standards. If we’re using just one source, that’s very limited, and if we see our whole careers dependent on one source, mandated or not, then we’ll lose the essence of what it means to really teach.

Then again, if you’re a good teacher who has none of these things, the urgency for materials doesn’t pose as an obstacle, but a means for becoming more (not less) resourceful. This’ll test your material. Right?

Mr. V, who’s posing this more as a thought process, not in absolutes … honest, this time …