Healthy Exit Update

Last year I wrote:

What if you realize, as you are training for X, that you don’t want to do X?

If it’s piano lessons, you stop.

If it’s med school or law school, you’ve got a problem. Called: “Lots of debt.”

One of the nice things about tuition-free teacher residencies is, at various points in the process, you can stop without debt.

You can realize “Hey, I signed up in good faith. But now that I’m around kids all day, maybe this isn’t for me.”

By embracing and welcoming the notion of teachers exiting during training (including helping them think about “what’s next” — other professions they might want to pursue), you reduce the number who quit later (at more perilous times).

And last August I wrote:

So what happens to those who exit? Good things.

Three paths:

1. Some realize they want to teach, but NOT in “no excuses” type urban schools. Steve is off to St. Ann’s in Brooklyn. Kate is off to Mystic Valley Charter in suburban Mass.

So what happened with Steve and Kate?

Kate's doing great. Her principal just came to visit.

Steve just wrote me, and I share with his permission:

Hey Mike,

Teaching at Saint Ann's is quite the experience. I teach 5 classes: 3rd grade math, two 7th grade classes, Algebra I and Geometry. Each class is 45 minutes and meets four times a week. This year my biggest stressor is lesson planning, trying to make them both engaging and informative. The kids are generally well behaved (after all their parents are dishing out lots of money on them) and the only issues are side conversations. Classrooms are set in a U shape to encourage dialogue rather than directives. Saint Ann's readily "admits the talented" because they are supposedly gifted enough to think freely and creatively. Of course all kids have their own issues.

I am learning a lot of very interesting math as a result of needing to present the subject in a captivating and investigative way. I work an office on the 10th floor of an old building in historic downtown Brooklyn with all the other math teachers. They are so smart and interesting. We're set up in a similar way like (your office with MATCH, which is 2 large tables pushed together and 6 people), except that the room and desks are longer and the ceilings not as high. Teachers don't have meal duties and as a department we meet just once a week Tuesday morning to make announcements, talk shop and share mathy things.

Our department chair is really awesome. He'll observe me whenever I ask him to and is always down for a curriculum planning session. I write my lessons on legal pads and don't need to share them with anyone.

The freedom and spirit at Saint Ann's is an impressive but very overwhelming one. At least for now. Still, I'm really enjoying it all. Lunch is made by the cooks in our very good cafeteria and is free for faculty. I'm also assisting the boys high school basketball team and getting paid for it!

Overall, I'm having a great time. It's quite the change from MATCH. Hope things are going well over there for all of you.

Best, Steve

Sometimes our sector gets caught up in trying to make a utilitarian calculation of how to somehow "generate the most good." It can lead to an implication that only teaching poor kids is noble and meaningful. That is silly. Steve's exit from our teacher residency has started him on a promising path in Brooklyn, and I tip my cap to him.