Monday, February 9, 2009

Let it be?

My title is inspired by the song I'm currently listening to...Paul McCartney's "Let it be," a song I could blog about because of its history which I find intriguing. That aside, as I thought about writing this post, I was thinking, "when will I be able to blog about something really positive, exciting, and uplifting?" I guess the answer is "not yet..." So it seems, one catastrophe after another. On the good side I have entered week 3 of student teaching. So far it's been about what I expected, though I could do without all the politics and details. To say student teaching has excited me to have my own classroom would be lie because it has me seriously questioning whether I really want to do this for the rest of my working life. It's definitely not my students that have me questioning myself; they're all great for the most part. Yeah, some of them give me a headache at times and make me want to scream, but in the end I can't really complain. I'm currently teaching the 6th grade general music class full time and have slowly been taking over the 5th and 6th grade choirs as well as the 8th grade general music class. By next week I should have all 4 classes full time. I think my biggest problem is I'm far more lax on talking than my cooperating teacher is, so it's hard for me to really crack down on it as much as he wants me too, mostly because I'm not as aware of it as he is. So, problems he sees don't really seem like such big problems to me. So in a way, I feel like I'm being more judged on how well I mimic my cooperating teacher than on whether I would be a good enough teacher myself. Anyway, I can't really complain about my cooperating teacher much as he's given me a ton of feedback to help me be better and is supportive of me trying new approaches (he really liked my little PowerPoint presentation today in 8th grade music). True, we definitely have differences of opinion on strategy, but I know he wants me to do well.

Today has been an interesting day to say the least. Teaching went OK, though I am still suffering from the effects of a cold, so I have a stuffy nose and a cough which is worst in the morning. It's magnified the stress I already have for sure! It was after school that things got interesting as I finally had a follow up with my professor from last semester. I was nervous, but tried to be cheerful and smiling without being wishy-washy. Basically, the meeting was ice cold and she kept re-iterating that I "earned" the low grade (a D+) and didn't want to get in a "philosophical discussion" when I protested that such a grade is not an accurate representation of my actual comprehension level in the class, which is how will people will interpret such a grade (isn't that what grades are supposed to measure?!?). She had absolutely no sympathy or leniency for what happened (review: I accidentally left out the book reports from our final project when I turned it in and received no repsonse when I contacted her to try and correct the problem) and simply assumed that I blew off the assignment. So, someone who is supposed to be teaching us how to be better teachers and try to reach "special learners" and make sure no one gets left behind had no problem with me getting left behind and had no interest in helping make it right. To review, the Tuesday after it was due (it was due the week before finals week) I discovered the printouts of my book reports and immediately e-mailed her to see if I had accidentally printed out a second copy. I received no response until her "courtesy" e-mail notifying me that I had received a D+ since I didn't turn in the final reports. I got that e-mail on Thursday or Friday of finals week.

She considers herself highly considerate and gracious for giving me an "incomplete" after I sent my e-mails in December and indeed, I will give her credit for that. However, the end result is that I have to write 15 additional book reports and turn them in by the end of the month. I thought "how annoying" but since no matter what I said she had already made up her mind, I just went along, trying to be pleasant the whole time. She never smiled once at me and the only nice thing she said was complimenting my hair when I came in (she didn't recognize me at first it seemed). Not only was it an ice cold meeting, but it was also rushed. I got the impression that my meeting with her was an annoyance and an inconvenience (she even said she had another appointment after a whole 5 minutes or so (I arrived just after 3 coming straight from school and was done by 3:16) and didn't even close her office door while we talked. The relationship was obvious: she was the lord; I was the feeble minion begging for mercy. I also got a taste of what she thinks of me as a student, and probably as a teacher, when I asked why it didn't seem to bother her that I hadn't turned the assignment in and had apparently blown it off. I said it told me a lot about what she thinks of me as a student and she basically agreed. So, she really doesn't like me, thinks I'm a poor student, and I'm supposed to believe that when I turn this "assignment" (read: busywork) in in 2 weeks that it's going to be graded fairly?!?

As I walked out, I basically decided to just get it done and over with and be done with her once and for all. As annoying as such an "assignment" would be (writing the first 15 was not a pleasant experience) I figured just getting it done wouldn't be that difficult. I still intend to do it, probably this weekend since I have a 4-day weekend (yes!). Of course, it's never that simple. After walking out, I called the MAT director to inquire as to why I hadn't heard from my supervising teacher yet. My cooperating teacher had asked my professor (who is also the director of student teaching for the School of Music and the liaison between the MAT and the School of Music) and she had said it was the MAT's responsibility to get me a supervisor. Well, the MAT director called me back and told me to call the Office of Student Teaching & Field Experience and they said it was the School of Music's responsibility since the Office of Student Teaching is a College of Education office and is therefore not qualified to evaluate me as a music teacher (something I had assumed as well). The person in charge seems to have it under control and has the ball rolling as it appears I "fell through the cracks" being the first music student to go through the MAT in 10 years (she even thanked me for bringing this to their attention). But that begs the question: why is it OK for my professor to botch something of this magnitude (had I not called, it could've been catastrophic in terms of my student teaching), but I'm not allowed to turn in an assignment late because of an honest mistake in a stressful day and week? And let me just say, this is not the first time my professor has failed in her duties as liaison and as my advisor due to her not being familiar with the MAT program. I have been incredibly lenient and understanding with her as I've dealt with problem after problem and frustration after frustration in trying to find answers and make sure I can graduate, most of which have been caused by her not being up to date (i.e. attending relevant meetings) with the program requirements. Seriously, she didn't even know that the program was just a year long until I told her last fall and thought I was still an undergrad!

So, now I am debating what to do. I could tell it bothered my professor immensely that I went "above" her, but as of now I feel that's what I need to do again. Not so much to get out of the assignment (though I wouldn't mind), but to make sure a formal complaint has been made and because I do have a legitimate fear of retribution in the form of my grade. I can understand honest mistakes, but this is incompetence and pure indifference on her part towards me, not to mention letting her own prejudices and personal feelings affect how she evaluates students.

Wow this was long and I still haven't even gotten into my student teaching experience yet! Guess I'll save that for next time!


Andy said...

as long as you can trust the person to whom you would be going over her head and filing a complaint, then I think you need to cover your own butt; make sure you document everything very specifically in a way that is objectionable and not full of emotion, and for heaven's sake, be humble about the whole thing, at least from their point of view and play the game, as unpleasant as that may be.

Becky said...

Yes. Maybe it would be a good idea to make the formal complaint AFTER doing the busy work assignment? It already seems like she is going to grade you unfairly...make sure she doesn't have any other reasons to hate you before she gives you that grade. I think it is important to make your point, but knowing Kent State I'm afraid your complaint will more than likely fall of deaf ears. Good luck with everything, and I agree with Andy about the humble part....just play the game for now and write a book about your injustices later. :) (Seriously)

Love you.