Thursday, January 17, 2008

Narratology: The Church of Scientology for Book Lovers?

Some seeds came in the mail today! Fennel, radicchio, arugula, chervil, huazontle (it's been described as "spinachy"), chives, and broccoli rabe. I'm a little excited, though it's tempered by the thought that we might get some more snow tonight...and it's still only January.

Last night I (think) I came to the end of an odyssey that started about a year ago, with a letter from the state. Though my actual qualifications would show otherwise, according to the all-mighty Oz, I am not "certifiable" to teach English in Massachusetts. Because my Master's degree is in English Language Arts and not English, I apparently am not suited to teach the class I have been successfully teaching for the last four and a half years. Whatever. It doesn't matter what I think; if the state says it's so, I'm powerless against it. I had to begin exploring routes to certification.

It seemed to me, for about six months, that the best route was twelve graduate credit hours in English at a college or university. I explored the local schools, and chose Simmons. It seems like an interesting place, and they had a program designed for people in my exact situation. I enrolled, and was to start classes on Jan. 28.

On Jan. 15 I received an email from the professor, via my advisor, that prior to the class I should contact her. Based on my curriculum vitae, she didn't think I was fit for the class. Hot on the heels of that email were the expectations for our first class: we were to have read 21 young adult novels (none published after 1991), three articles on literary criticism relating to y.a., the first two chapters of James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, two chapters from a textbook on literary criticism, the reward criteria from two y.a. awards, and the information on this year's award winners.

When I spoke to her on the phone (she wished to speak to me about my disadvantage based on my Master's degree in education vs. English) she told me that each week we would spend three hours in class, 10-12 hours on work outside of class, read four books a week, and write two papers a week.

Now, I've been out of college a long time; I'll admit that. But I must say that as someone who in the past has pushed and in the present is capable of pushing herself very hard, those criteria sounded absolutely ludicrous to me. I, and many of the other students enrolled in this class, work a full time job. As a friend put it, "What is she trying to prove? That she has the power over you to make you do all of this?" To top it all off, listening to the goals of the class it occurred to me that NOTHING in it was going to be valuable to me as a teacher of 8th grade English. Our focus would be narratology and the ideology and criticism of y.a. novels based in that theory.

Um. What? And how is this going to help me get books into the hands of non-readers, and improve reluctant readers and writers? So, in essence, the state is saying that regardless of whether or not what they want for my certification will actually make me a better English teacher, I have to do it. Who let these momos make these decisions...?

Strangely, it never occurred to me in all of this circus that a road to certification was available to me that was meaningful, challenging, and relevant. It's highly ironic, too, since it's a road I have traveled before and continue to value as one of the best things I have ever done as a teacher. I'm going to become a National Board Candidate again, only this time instead of History, I'll be attempting certification in English. I feel good about this decision. It's going to be hard, it will make me cry, it will make me cranky...and I might not pass. But I'll learn, and as a result my kids will learn. It's a win-win.

I should start stockpiling chocolate now.


An Ordinary Life said...

Don't we just love Massachusetts???
We'll have to have coffee more often.
(Next time is on me)

sara holbrook said...

OMG Who is more qualified to teach English than you are? This is the craziest thing I've read since Katie's gifted sixth graders reading on a HS level flunked DIBELS. Good grief.

Christine said...

I don't know why I feel compelled to add this, but I did pass National Boards, and got my English Professional Certificate in the state.