Today I got an email invitation to a reception for Accepted Fellows. We’ve only had one communication from the Board of Education since we received our acceptance letters (in my case, December 10, 2000). About 10 days ago, we received “Enrollment Packages” with forms to fill out and return confirming our interest in the program and giving them an idea of where and what we want to teach. (Placement still remains kind of a black box, though.)

[Warning! Until I get caught up to the present, my posts are likely to be lengthy, which is why I’ve started breaking them up. Even after I get caught up, they’re likely to be lengthy; I talk a lot. :)]

I admit that I’ve been extremely impatient (which is so unlike me. NOT!) I called the Board of Education in early January, asking for more information, particularly for a reading list. What transpired moved me to pick up a copy of Bel Kaufman’s classic, Up The Down Staircase. It’s as much fun to read now as it was in 1965 (I was in 9th grade), and I fear, still much too true.

The Enrollment Package (a copy of which I got my hands on early, by the simple expedient of going to 110 Livingston Street and asking for it), included a reading list. I was most interested in the reading list, having 6 months to kill before training starts, but — with one exception — it was all sociological in nature: Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities, Lisa Delpit’s Other People’s Children, etc. Don’t get me wrong, these are excellent books; but it was reading these and the other books on the list that got me to apply for the job in the first place. Now I want to learn how to do the job.

One advantage to being trained as a lawyer, is that research is second nature. I hit the web. First, I got the one “teaching book” on their list — Harry and Rosemary Wong’s The First Days of School. It had lots of good information, but the style leaves a lot to be desired. It’s so patronizing, it’s almost insulting.

Then I searched for teachers’ message boards and mailing lists. I found a wonderfully friendly, helpful group of people at Teacherfocus.com, and I joined a teachers’ “book club” list, a few teacher’s discussion lists, and put myself on the mailing list for lots of newletters from education sites. I went to Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com and searched for books on education, teaching, reading, etc. (At present, I have almost $1000 worth of books in my shopping cart at Amazon!)

One thing that really bothered me was the lack of information on the graduate programs offered to Teaching Fellows. I understand that placement in a graduate program depends on the district one teaches in, but, to be frank, the graduate program will have some bearing on where I want to teach. Back to the ‘net. Without too much trouble, I found the person in charge of the program at Long Island University. I called her, and she was very friendly and offered to make an appointment to meet me. I then called the Bank Street College and spoke with a wonderful woman, Dr. Bernadette Anand. I met her at her office, and she gave me tons of advice and encouragement, and the names of the people in charge of the other programs. Professor Reed at Brooklyn College actually walked me through the course of study there.

Through all the advice I was getting, and the sites I was viewing, some basic principles and names kept coming up: Fountas & Pinell’s Guiding Readers and Writers, Lucy Calkins’ The Art of Teaching Reading and The Art of Teaching Writing, the work of Howard Gardner on Multiple Intelligences, Schools that Learn from the “Fifth Discipline” series of organizational studies, etc. And, uniformly, I have found disdain (which I share) for the “checklist” idea of “education” promoted by E. D. Hirsch’s “Cultural Literacy” movement. Frankly, the “Cultural Literacy” movement is as close to “anti-education” as I can imagine. Certainly people within a culture share knowledge and ideas, but Hirsch’s prescriptive attempt to implement cognitive schema theory, as though a) shared cultural concepts are static rather than fluid, and can be maintained by fiat and b) “education” consists of learning listed concepts, is just silly. It’s worse than silly, but that’s a rant for a different time.

I’ve been acquiring the books I can (they’re expensive!) and working my way through them, posting questions questions on my lists and boards.

Friday, though, I realized that I was missing the most fun part of becoming an elementary school teacher: reading kids’ books! So, I got lists of the Newbery, Caldecott and Coretta Scott King award winners and honorees (Barnes & Noble actually has little handouts of the lists in the stores) and went shopping.

I got Madeleine’s Rescue (Newbery) (which I had loved as a child), Bud, Not Buddy (Newbery and King), The Three Little Pigs (Caldecott), and some I had as a child — The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge, Leaves from a Child’s Garden of Verses. I also got one by Judith Viorst that I had heard of — Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day — which every human being should read!

I can’t tell you how much fun I’m having! I’ll be posting a bibiliography soon; comments and additions will be much welcome!