Monday, November 16, 2009


It is November in Cleveland. Already.
A few short weeks ago the world was brilliant with the blazing hues of maple, ash, and oak trees, transforming the shady side-streets of quiet city neighborhoods into festive pathways of scarlet, gold, and orange. The sky was blue and the air was crisp. The excitement of a new school year and a fresh start held forth the promise that anything was possible.
And now it is November.
The dark nights come early, and the timid mornings begin late. I look up at the skeletal branches of trees, then down to the brown leaves blowing across the gray asphalt. Gray has become the predominate color of the city; gray streets, gray buildings, gray sky, gray moods. The first quarter report cards have been sent home, and students who couldn't make the grade have been sent packing. The honeymoon of a new beginning is over, reality made her entrance, and the long haul has begun.
It has been a mad rush kind of school year for me thus far. In typical CMSD style, my student rosters continue to change, with two new boys added to my eleventh period class just this week. I have a full schedule teaching 6 periods a day, with one brand new course; a digital photography class.
After serving more than twenty years in the district, I was not surprised by the fact I would be teaching a class for which the school has no textbooks or equipment. So, for this first year, each student must bring in their own camera, and I stay a jump or two ahead of the kids, designing the projects and curriculum as the class progresses. This elective course is an experimental pilot, and I feel pretty good about the outcomes so far. We've been able to schedule several speakers and a couple of field trips. The staff from the educational non-profit, Facing History and Ourselves, has been extremely helpful in working with us to connect art with social justice issues, history, and photo journalism. The theme we decided on for the school year is "Finding Our Voices; Telling Our Stories". The class is currently working on Life Magazine style photo-essays dealing with neighborhood landmarks and community. I would like to find a public space, or neighborhood gallery, to exhibit the work in the spring. If anyone has a suggestion, please, please, let me know.
Contributing to my manic schedule this year are a couple of new responsibilities. I applied for, and was admitted to, the district's new PAR (Peer Assistance and Review) program. Two young teachers, from other buildings in the district, have been assigned as my "mentees". For a semester I will serve as their advisor. My task is to help them with the challenges that face so many teachers when they are beginning their careers. I get to spend time in their classrooms, listening, observing, and answering questions. Together we will talk, set goals, plan, and try new strategies. I wish there was a program like this around when I was a rookie. All of my lessons were learned the hard way.
The PAR program is a collaborative effort between the district administration and the Teachers Union to address the issues of teacher quality, retention, and professional development. It is relatively new to Cleveland, and is only being implemented in a few other school districts nationwide. I will share my thoughts on the effectiveness of the program (with respect to confidentiality ) in future posts.

street photography photos
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Kathy G said...

Good to have your post show up in my reader this morning!

I think St. Louis weather is pretty similar to Cleveland's. We had above-average weather for the first part of November, which made for nice trips out to see the fall colors. However, now everything is brown, and it's rained the past three days.

marybeth said...

Thanks for reminding me how lucky we were earlier this month. Two weeks ago the temperature was in the 70s, Tom and I even went to the beach at Conneaut, Ohio. Although we enjoyed the gorgeous morning strolling the boardwalk, a couple brave souls stripped off their clothes and took a quick plunge... with a special emphasis on the word "quick".

Diane Vogel Ferri said...

I teach in Cleveland hts and have been a mentor many times. Having taught for almost 30 years it is difficult not to be cynical with them sometimes. i still like kids and teaching - when I actually get to do that and not be attending meetings, training in the latest trend and doing paperwork.

Tina said...

mary beth, don't know how to reach you, but thought you'd want to know my mom has metastatic lung cancer. she is currently at home on hospice

Anonymous said...

lady write something new!!!!!!

Tina said...

Mary Beth,

My mom died on june 2nd. We will bury her at All Soul's cemeter, tomorrow 6/19 in chardon Ohio at 10:30 a.m. You and yours are welcome to attend.

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