because I have accepted an offer to teach in a high school come this Fall.
I have explored a number of opportunities over the past few months, and was offered an opportunity at a middle school after I had withdrawn from consideration because I wanted to be in a high school, where I feel I am most useful - allow me to be a wee bit prideful in saying while I am a very good middle school teacher most of the time I am an outstanding high school teacher. The middle school is expanding, adding 10th grade this year, and asked if I would be willing to teach 7th grade for one year then move to 11th. It was a tempting offer, but I declined because I wanted to explore the opportunity I have accepted.
I will be teaching at North County High School in Glen Burnie, Maryland, just south of the Baltimore Beltway. It is part of Anne Arundel County Public Schools. It is 45 miles from my house, which may sound crazy, except that teachers are expected to be there at 6:45 (students at 7:15) and I have tried it - at that hour of the day I can make the trip to the Dunkin Donuts a mile from school in 45 minutes, which is only about 10-12 minutes longer than it used to take me to go the 25 miles to Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, where I taught for 13 years.
The principal and I know one another, which is why he recruited me for this position. The school has a STEM program, a magnet program for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, which is why I was recruited. Bear with me. As was the case with our Science and Technology students at Eleanor Roosevelt, most of those students will take Advanced Placement US Government & Politics as sophomores. That is what I taught for my final 7 years at Eleanor Roosevelt. I also served as a Reader (grader) of the Free Response portion of the AP Exam. But by itself that would be insufficient.
The STEM program includes a course on STEM policy. This intersects with all kinds of issues - STEM education, morality, ethics, budgets, etc. It is something that very much plays both to my strengths and my interests, at the same time it will stretch me because I will have less personal scientific knowledge than many of my students.
Let me explain that, and what else is interesting about this school.
Eleanor Roosevelt's Science and Technology program was nationally known. We drew from an interesting population, including many with parents at places like U of Maryland College Park, USDA Research Lab, National Institutes of Health, various federal and state government agencies. It was largely a middle class school, ranging in size during my years there from around 2450 to over 3200. The vast majority of students went on immediately to post-secondary education, and it was not unusual for the graduating class to win well over $20 million in scholarships. Once when I was there we had the overall winner of the Intel Science Fair, and multiple times we have had won or more students win prizes, as two of my former students did this year.
North County is a very different population. It is far more working class and lower middle class, as one can perhaps discern by looking at the data in this school profile. But background does not mean that there are not very bright kids, and that does not mean they should not be challenged.
The current principal is a graduate of Eleanor Roosevelt, who has built a wonderful program. I have visited the school twice, once last fall at his invitation because he was looking forward to the 2013-14 school year and possibilities, and then when he invited me in to explore the position. i spent 90 minutes with the administrator who oversees the STEM program and the teacher who is taking over as the head of the program, and we developed in that hour and half a sense of rapport and of common purpose.
I will be challenged. I will have to rethink my AP curriculum, because they use a different text. The STEM policy course has only the broadest of outlines, and it is something I want to make very interactive with the students, making it a growth opportunity for them.
Oh, and as far as quality of the students? The school has produced the 2010 and 2012 overall winners of the Intel Science Fair and a prize winner in 2013. Of course, to be fair, that was a pair of outstanding brothers. I have met the younger, who will be a senior next year, which means I will not teach him.
It is important that students see their peers who succeed. It can help them realize that the opportunities for them could be wider than they might otherwise have imagined.
I know two teachers in the school who used to teach at our old school, one fairly well.
I know I am at my best as a teacher when I am stretched, when I am challenged.
I am at my best as a person when I am functioning in a teaching capacity. That of course includes my writing - about education, and about other topics.
I have lived in one state and taught in another for all except one year of my teaching career, yet have been able to develop relationships with my students, so I do not view the commuting distance as a major problem - although my auto insurance rates are certainly going to rise.
I have been encouraged to continue blogging, so once the school year starts you can expect to occasionally hear the perspective of my students on issues of the day.
I may from time to time seek ideas about STEM policy issues from those here whose scientific expertise greatly exceeds my own.
What is of greatest important is that I will be doing what I am supposed to do - teaching, challenging, mentoring, making a difference in the lives of teenagers.
A few weeks ago this became clear to me, as I wrote in a piece I titled Sometimes the signs are unmistakable
I am a teacher.
I am going back into the classroom.
I am excited and impatient to get there.
Wish me well.