The Four Stages of Teaching

June 10, 2007 at 10:42 am | Posted in education, teachers | 4 Comments

The Four Stages of Teaching (Kevin Ryan, The Induction of New Teachers)

  • Fantasy
  • Survival
  • Mastery
  • Impact

The Fantasy Stage

Some people call this the idealistic stage. This is usually the period before a new teacher walks into the classroom. The new teacher feels that she/he would make a fantastic teacher because of various reasons, that the new teacher is there to save the world or at least save the children, and that every school day will be fun, fun, fun! The new teacher might voice the idea that, “Certainly, teaching will be hard.” Inwardly, the teacher knows that it would be easy.

The Survival Stageharried teacher

This usually begins sometime during the middle of the first day of teaching. I kid you not. The Fantasy Stage meets the reality of real personalities in the form of 20-40 children all with their own wants, needs, and demands. The Survival teachers begin to rely on practices that they see other teachers use, some effective, most ineffective, to get through the day. Teaching becomes a matter of getting through one day after another and holding on till paycheck day. Many Survival teachers begin to whine and make excuses, give busywork, and take no responsibility for the students’ learning. They make fun of professional development meetings and never actually develop as a professional. Their conversations in the lunch room begins with “These kids …” in a high, whiny voice. Because the Survival teachers do not succeed in teaching their students, they will try to convince the teachers around them that it’s not possible and make fun of teachers who are working hard. Unfortunately, many teachers never leave this stage.

The Mastery Stageteacher teaching

The Mastery Stage begins when teachers take responsibility for what goes on in their classroom and hold themselves accountable for their students’ learning. Suddenly, the Master teacher uses effective practices, have high expectations, and strive to improve professionally at all times. The Master teacher is not afraid to ask for help or “How did you do that?” This is where true enjoyment of teaching begins. The Master teacher is very threatening to the Survival teachers because they are living proof that “these kids” can learn, therefore all the Survival teacher’s excuses are a sham. The Master teacher may not yet be the model teacher, but their attitude and professionalism will soon lead them there.

The Impact Stage

This is the ultimate teacher, the award winning teacher who makes an impact on his/her students’ lives. Every day is focused on learning effectively, rigorously, and in an engaging manner. The students may view this as fun, fun, fun and in a real sense, the Impact teacher has achieved the dreams of the Fantasy teacher. The teacher has come full circle and teaching is an everyday joy.

Now, I view these stages as a spectrum or even that full circle. I am somewhere in the Mastery stage and working on heading toward the Impact stage.

My Survival stage lasted about three years and on the third year, I almost succumbed to the negative views of my fellow teachers. Thank goodness I somehow got out of it, perhaps because I saw that I was having a positive effect on this one particular child.

Where are you on the spectrum? I invite teachers with blogs to reflect on their teaching using the Four Stages of Teaching.

I pulled out the Four Stages of Teaching as a frame of reference, the context, for my discussion about the “Inner City Teacher Blues” blog.   Again, I shall not opine anything till later.


“Inner City School Teacher Blues”

June 9, 2007 at 9:16 am | Posted in education, inner city, teachers | 3 Comments

Please read this article written by a once idealistic middle school teacher who wanted to make a difference, and then left because he felt that it was hopeless. I would like to know your opinion before I post mine.

Many paragraphs strike me:

Every now and again I encounter some enthusiastic college student with a gleam in his/her eye telling me who they want to become a public defender, social worker, or school teacher in the inner-city, and I have to laugh to myself softly as something inside me melts a little painfully, strongly suspecting what life has in store for them. (I still respect such people and wish them all the luck in the world – one has to start out idealistic, I think. Too many people who start out corrupted become nearly worthless with the passage of time.) I survived my time at Berendo without losing my initial idealism without which a teacher is impotent and nearly useless (or a vehicle for causing more harm than good).

However, I realized that idealism need be tempered by a strong dose of reality. Unfortunately, reality was not something the Los Angeles Unified School District – or, I dare say, the community of Los Angeles – was ready to face: the schools there are full of “students” who are not students! One might read an article about the “troubled L.A. school system,” but that does not even begin to capture the colossal magnitude or bitter reaches of the disaster. The reality would break your heart! And the children should not ultimately be to blame – that role should go to the “responsible” adults who should know better (LAUSD Superintendent, administrators, city officials, community leaders, parents, etc.) and make the necessary decisions. I hate to say it because it is unpleasant, but I left the LAUSD utterly disgusted with my school and my role in it (even knowing most of the school and certainly myself were doing our best). That is the honest and painful truth.

As well as:

When you read about good teachers looking for ways out of low-income, poverty schools, hearken back to the voice you heard in this story about one man’s experience with the LAUSD and then try to understand.

A fellow teacher at my school is leaving the school, not because of the students, but because of the school system, ineffective teachers, and inefficient administration. She feels angry and I cannot blame her because our school system sets up our students to fail. It is a sad situation for me because she has the ideals and the potential to be an excellent teacher, a powerful force for change at our school. I can only respect her decision to leave our school and move to a better run school in a similar neighborhood elsewhere.

Now contrast that with Salome Thomas-El who Chose to Stay.

Well, what are your opinions and thoughts about this other inner city school teacher?

A Teacher’s Educational Background

June 6, 2007 at 5:04 pm | Posted in education, Special Education, teachers | 3 Comments

Attend enough professional development seminar and someone will ask you to think about your educational background. Then, think about your students’ educational backgrounds. Relate one to the other and consider how you will teach your students.

I’ve been thinking about my educational background and what a checkered background it is!

The Early Years

I started school at age two in Vietnam and learned French by age four at the end of a ruler stick wielded by terrifying Vietnamese Catholic nuns. They don’t mess around, those nuns. I learned how to write, read, and speak in two languages by the time I left Vietnam at age four. I also learned how to forge my mother’s signature “MOM” when given a bad note home. WHACK went the ruler stick. I didn’t do that again.

The Refugee Camp Year

At age four, I left Vietnam and entered a refugee camp on island somewhere in the Pacific and began my English education. Unfortunately, I learned how to play hooky and my guardian had to hunt me down every single day and drag me kicking and screaming to school. I also became a little arsonist and set fires to many small, inconspicuous items and areas.

The Elementary Years

I entered school in America at age five and was designated English as a Second Language (ESL) learner. I had a pull-out program where they pull you out of class to teach you. Being labeled like that insulted me no end, I remember. Within one year, I mastered English. Another year, I was top of my class academically and exited the ESL program.

Middle School

By Middle School, I was identified gifted and enrolled in a gifted magnet school in vibrant New Orleans. I was surrounded by gifted students. Exhilarating! There was also a question as to whether I had asperger’s syndrome or that I was just very, very gifted and what was the difference. I lack many crucial social and communication skills. My intelligences are shaped like mountains and valleys, extreme capability in one area balanced by great deficit in another. The final verdict was not to label me further, merely gifted, but put me in this special class a few times a week with only 9 other students.

High School

I moved out of the state and into the hell-pit of despair…Orange County, California, the most suburban, boring place I could ever imagine. I was also placed in remedial English, Health, remedial Math, and general Science merely because I checked that my home language was not English. Talk about making assumptions. I knocked on the counselor’s door every single day until I forced the school to give me a test to test my capabilities and put me in the correct classes. The counselors resisted at first because “they knew what was best.” Nonetheless, I lost one quarter of valuable education. Though I was placed in the Honors English class, I was always one quarter behind the Honors track students for all else and I actually feared that I wouldn’t be on the right track for the Advanced Placement classes in order to get to college. In fact, I lack many advanced placement classes that my fellow students received. I still graduated Valedictorian and hate Orange County to this day for its narrow-mindedness, lack of creativity, and very unmotivated citizens.


My calling was to become a teacher, but I needed a bachelor degree in order to get my teaching credential. So I majored in Physics. Physics is fun! Graduated UCLA with a B.S. in Physics with an average grade of B. I was one class short of graduating with an English minor because I got bored with English. It was too easy, I always “aced” the classes, and got tired of the English majors complaining about how hard the classes were. I do not have much respect for English majors now because of my college experience. I took up urban planning instead for fun.

I struggled with Physics because I had a BAD geometry teacher in high school and BAD math teachers. All these teachers taught me the algorythm, but never the underlying concept. I lack spatial sense. Doing well in many of my physics classes meant that I had to have good spatial sense and be able to pull out underlying concepts in mathematic equations. A good geometry background would have helped tremendously. Instead, I spent a quarter of Physics with my Teacher Assistant teaching me geometry instead of Physics.

As a Result

My very checkered past, as an ESL student, a gifted student, a misbehaving student, a poverty-stricken student, and (nearly) a special education student means I AM the diversity in the classroom that educational researchers write of. I keep all of this in mind every time a student walk into my classroom.

I have high expectation of my students because I don’t know where they are going or where they’ve been, and I could have the next Einstein sitting in my classroom.

I teach the concept and the process first and foremost and let the students develop their own algorythm. You already know why.

I am an excellent teacher because excellence has always been part of my life.

I still lack many social and communication skills and have to be taught by my friends and family how to do “normal” daily activities like dress myself properly, say thank you and please, shut my mouth when I have only negative things to say. These lessons continue to these days. I in turn teach the same lessons to my students.

If they fall out of their chairs, I teach them how to sit in a chair.

If they talk too loud, I teach them the proper volume.

If they crowd in line, I teach them how to line up one after the other.

I don’t make negative assumptions about students and their behaviors because I’ve already seen how assumptions about me could have set me down the wrong path.

I guess reviewing my educational background is a valuable reflective tool.

New Student Gone, New Year Beginning

June 4, 2007 at 8:13 pm | Posted in education, inner city, teachers, whining | Leave a comment

Talk about high transiency.  My new student is gone.  Checked out in the middle of the testing period.  Didn’t even finish the standardized test.  Didn’t leave a reason either, so it’s a mystery.

But generally speaking, our inner city school has extremely high transiency.  This is nothing new for us.  I have two more students who are warning me that they will move by June 11, that’s days away from completing third grade.

In the meantime, if you notice a marked decrease in my posting, that’s because my carpal tunnel just about knocked me out this past week.  I’m going easy on the typing until the pain subsides even more.

I think when I come back, I’ll start posting on how to get ready for the next school year as I’m four weeks away from starting my new school year and I’ve started thinking about how to build a classroom community of learners, what I want to keep, what I want to change.  Yup.  That’s right.  Before I can even think about ending the year with my current students, I have to start thinking about beginning a new academic year already.  Traditional calendar teachers have no CONCEPTION of what this process is like.  It’s like starting a race five miles behind the starting line with your hands tied and your legs hobbled.

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