Yo Teach…! Or how to avoid teaching like Jason

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 26 2013

(late) introductions

When I first started this blog, I mainly used it as a pressure valve. I taught every day and rarely had time for much else, but I needed the outlet in case I read something on this website or in the news that would get me so worked up that I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I wrote something down. Naturally, a lot of what I wrote was a bit feisty, and I think I benefited from the anonymity. Today, I am older, slightly wiser, and kind of over the fight-picking (most of the time). I am also no longer teaching. In the fall I will be getting my doctorate in educational policy, leadership, and instructional practice. Like most in the program, I am training for a career of research, commentary, and perhaps advising, not a job within the school as an administrator or principal etc.

As of now, my main academic interest is studying schools as unique organizations.Informed by my experience as an elementary school teacher in two very different popular but struggling charter schools, I believe understanding schools as unique organizations will contribute to resolving two of the most fundamental questions for school improvement: How do schools’ organizational characteristics preclude or support the continual implementation of teachers’ rigorous classroom visions, and how can the regulatory and financial environments of schools facilitate the flourishing of school organizations that promote such ambitious and diverse classroom instruction? I hope to work from the bottom up and top down simultaneously, to explore research on the various kinds of successful classrooms from a range of educational philosophies, the ways school organizations might support or hinder the widespread development of these kinds of classrooms, and how broader institutional environments contribute to or prevent the development of these organizational characteristics. You can view my (quite pessimistic) theory about the relationship between these three levels of education here.

Of course, a lot of topics are integral to answering these questions. The the diversity of school organizations offered by CMO’s, independent charter schools, for-profit charter schools, private religious schools, and various kinds of public schools are key to teasing out some of these relationships. The continued  goal of refining measurement tools in education is critical to this endeavor (without it, we have a much more difficult time assessing philosophically different classroom and school practices). The effect of common core implementation (and its attempt at instilling educational change by replacing content-oriented with higher level critical thinking-oriented standards/assessments) and other (I believe) more arrogant attempts at standardizing educational organizations and classroom practices (VAM, compensation schemes, scripted curricula) will deeply inform how I view the relationship between broader policy initiatives and school organizations. Finally, the way we view the teaching (as a profession or a service-oriented business) could dramatically change the way school, teacher and classroom roles transform (Should schools allow professional autonomy? Should schools unbundle the jobs of teachers and administrators and reassemble them in ways that take into account comparative advantage and economies of scale? Should schools, unions, ed schools, districts, or online providers be vested with responsibility of training and continued teacher professional development ? Do educators need a theoretically grounded knowledge base?).

I will use this blog to continue exploring some of these issues. I hope to connect with collaborators, thought partners, or mentors through this site, and I hope to now write out of earnest desire to explore ideas, not built up frustration. Therefore, I would like to hold myself to a higher standard of courteousness and thoughtfulness in my writing. The best way to do this is to not be anonymous. My name is Max Yurkofsky, I’m 24, I live in Somerville MA, and if you want to chat, connect with, challenge, or berate me you can email me at maxyurkofsky@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading,

max

One Response

  1. Max,

    I look forward to reading your thoughts. Good luck as you start your program!

    Best,
    Alex

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