Before I do that, a little background information about me.
At the beginning of my career, I was not well respected as a teacher. I was respected as a person, but my abilities in the classroom were often discounted. I was viewed as the coach that teaches. Unfortunately, sometimes perception becomes reality.
It took an act of bravery on my part to change this stigma. I left my first school. I was an alumna of that high school. Teachers that I had as a student, still taught there. I had coached football for a few years before I started teaching there. I bled those school colors. I even thought about having the mascot tattooed on my ankle. (I still have the artwork, just in case).
At my new school, I was still coaching football, but the perception of my classroom abilities was totally different. I was treated as an educational professional. Life was good…then we moved to Tennessee.
Adjusting to a new area and a different culture was tough on me. I was teaching at a school that was trying to be on the cutting edge of educational pedagogy. We tried to implement any “new” strategy that could be found. For the first time, my wife and I were teaching in the same school. Our two children were both in a daycare for the first time. All this change was overwhelming.
I felt like I was back in my first school. I was respected as a person, but my abilities in the classroom were often discounted. Again, I was viewed as the coach that teaches. When you start to doubt your abilities because others are, it is a hard mind set to escape. Not wanting to continue this progression, I changed schools.
Once again, I was treated as an educational professional.
And then came Hope Street.
I applied for the Hope Street Tennessee Teacher Fellowship to have an opportunity to get paid for working over the summer. When we heard the message on the answering machine of my acceptance, my wife, kids and I did a happy dance in the kitchen.
Two years later, as we come to the end of the Fellowship, and the end of Hope Street in Tennessee, I want to thank Hope Street for what it has done for me as a professional educator.
First, I thank Hope Street for focusing me on the reason I teach. In my first article, I said, “who I teach is always more important than what I teach.”
Second, I thank Hope Street for teaching me that I am responsible for my professionalism. Above all, I am a valued and respected teaching professional. Regardless of scores, reputations, ratings, etc., all teachers have the right to be valued and respected as professionals. We take enough hits from the public, and now from our legislatures, that we must be professionals for each other.
Third, I thank Hope Street for showing me that it is not only acceptable but encouraged to build your brand. Not many teachers teach for the “glory.” By nature, we do not do anything for notoriety or chest pounding. Must of us are humble beings that allow our products to speak for us.
Finally, I thank Hope Street for introducing me to some incredible and amazing teachers that I am very proud to have as part of my professional learning network.
Nobody likes to say goodbye. I am sure there will be a Hope Street Group reunion in the future.
I hope that Hope Street may look back on the work and the efforts we put forth in Tennessee and decide to “get the band back together.”
Until then…thank you!
Al has taught mathematics in Knox County for the past nine years, the last three years at Karns High School. Prior to Knox County, he taught in two school districts in Maryland, spending three years at Howard High School in Howard County and 13 years at Laurel High School in Prince George’s County. Al has taught the gamut of courses from Pre-Algebra through Trig-Analysis/Pre-Calculus. He is also certified to teach Teen Leadership by the Flippen Group. During his teaching career, he was an assistant football coach for 22 years, a head football coach for two years and a head wrestling coach for 12 years. He earned the 1997 Prince George’s County wrestling coach of the year award from the Prince George’s Journal newspaper and the 2007 Howard County football coach of the year from both DigitalSports online newspaper and the Baltimore Touchdown Club. Al graduated cum laude from Bowie State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics. He also holds a Master of Education degree in Secondary Education from Bowie State. He also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging his colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.