Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On Applying to Teach For America and Alternative Licensure

In today's NY Times, there's an opinion article  discussing teacher education programs and the relationship between teacher pay and performance (Room for Debate: Do Teachers Need Education Degrees?, http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/16/education-degrees-and-teachers-pay/ ).
In my job search, I've applied to universities mostly, but I've been thinking about teaching at public schools.  When I was working on my M.Ed. in Teaching ESL, I was sure that I would never want to teach in a public school, let alone work with youth. Four years abroad working with teens and public school teachers changed my mind.  I don't know how many times I've looked at the Teach For America website, and then decided not to apply, including this year.  But according to the Ohio Department of Education, there's no path for me to alternative licensure without being hired by a school district first.  I have all the content and methods classes I need for both Spanish and ESL (and probably technology, too, even though I didn't have them look at that).  I just need to take the Praxis for both areas which I'm planning to do in September, and 12 semester hours more of classes.  I'm looking for a new challenge and new experiences, and really, for some stability. 

But, a job. I could live at home, substitute teach, and see if something works out.  However, I have no desire to live in northwest Ohio, or even in Ohio.  I could go back to UC full-time and pay out of my pocket for more than a year of classes in education, but seriously, I'll be paying for my undergraduate education for years to come and don't need to add more loans on top of that than I have to.  This is where Teach For America starts to look good.  Yes, I'm already an educator, but not a public school educator.  I would love to live in many of the regions of the country that they're in, and be closer to universities that I could (and actually want) to do my doctorate at in the future.  I've been applying to schools in North Carolina (highly recommended by various VIF program teachers who worked there and loved it) hoping to be able to find one that would accept me through lateral entry, but I think it's the wrong time of year.  I know that T.F.A. has a lot of skeptics, some of who managed to dissuade me from applying before, but in the end I think it could be a good option for me.  

Going back to the article, it mentions that the director of teacher education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education said that of the nation’s 1,300 graduate teacher training programs, only about 100 were doing a competent job and “the others could be shut down tomorrow.” The first year I was in El Salvador, I went to visit one of the other fellows that was in Xela, Guatemala and to present at a conference there.  She had done her Master's at Monterey Institute of International Studies, and two of her professors were also visiting for the same conference.  I'd always known that my Master's program wasn't everything that it should have been, but listening to my colleague and these professors, both well-known in the field of TESOL, talk about the good ole time at Monterey, my fears were confirmed.  That was also about the time that I decided that a doctorate was for me, but that I needed to choose carefully. 

There's so many things that I would like to do, and that I wished I had planned for, but now I know.  I had imagined another year in Colombia, but being back here has opened my eyes. I'll keep trying, and when it happens, it happens!

Monday, August 17, 2009

San Sal Quick Trip

Taking a break from interviews and filling out job applications, I decided at the last minute to go to El Salvador to visit with my husband and bring back my cat. Unfortunately the tickets weren't as cheap as they were the first time I looked, but Continental was recommended for pet travel anyways.  Five days wasn't enough, but at least it was five days where I felt like I was at home again.  Ohio still feels foreign to me after a month back.  We spent the majority of the time running around to get papers for the cat (which by the way, no one ever checked in any of the airports), seeing friends, watching soccer games, and just enjoying being together.  No news on Edwin's visa yet; it's apparently still "in the mail." We made it out to the beach on Sunday, which was empty since vacations had just ended. 
Why do I feel at home in San Salvador, I wonder? I haven't lived there for a year, and still am not fond of its violence and crazy drivers, but how can you not love a place where you see guys on the corner holding large venomous caterpillars? Where the menu is painted on the wall and includes rabbit, iguana, armadillo, and turtle eggs? I love having the Pacific a half hour drive away, and same for mountains.  I love the comfort food (sorbete, plantains, pupusas, beans, and such) even though I gained about a pound a day that I'll now have to run back off. I've been offered a job there, and am tempted, but I'm holding out for the US. What's meant to happen will happen, I suppose. El Salvador has so many problems that even though I want to be with my husband, I also want to be safe and finacially sound, and he agrees. 
I'm also happy to note that there are still lots of nice people in airports, contrary to my previous international travel experiences.  The cat's kennel/bag lost a zipper at the first security checkpoint in San Salvador when I had to take him out. A nice couple gave me all their safety pins and luggage locks, and helped me punch holes in the bag to try to keep it closed.  This got me back to the gate, where a very nice police officer pulled out his leatherman and tried to fix the zipper, along with another airport employee.  This didn't end up working, so he went and found someone from Continental to help.  The Continental guy and a lady from the duty free shop next to the gate punched more holes in the bag and then laced packing tape through it. Thank you, friendly airport people!  In Houston, other travelers helped me get the cat out and through security, thank you all, too!  It's nice to be proven wrong about grumpy people in airports, and I had more enjoyable conversations in one day than I've had in the past four years traveling thanks to one pretty black and white Salvadoran cat (who was adopted from http://www.aranielsalvador.org/).

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Casa de Alejandro Cotto

Don Alejandro Cotto recently donated his house and museum in Suchitoto to CCSA (the institution I worked at for two years in the English Language Fellow Program). The structure needs a lot of physical work to bring it up-to-par, and CCSA doesn't have the resources to handle it on their own. Does anyone know where funding for such repairs can be found? One of my friends was asking me to see what I could find out, but that's certainly not my realm of expertise. Alejandro Cotto is well-known in Suchitoto and in El Salvador for supporting the arts and preserving the past of Suchitoto, as well as putting it on the map for tourists.

En la casa de Alejandro Cotto - Suchitoto

Here's the story, plus video, posted in El Diario de Hoy

and another article written about Don Cotto's house in La Prensa Grafica

Although Suchitoto is admittedly not one of my favorite places to visit in El Salvador unless it's after dark (think killer sun and not much breeze), this is an extremely important project for the town and for El Salvador.

Summer in Ohio

Playing around with my new camera in the backyard.

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2 Weeks Back

After two weeks, I've had four interviews with universities and was invited to have a second interview with one of them.  I've filled out more job applications than I can count (why, US universities, do you all use the same system, but force us humble job applicants to enter the same information over and over and over).  I even applied for a job back in Bogota, although I doubt anything will come of it.  I've spent some quality time trying to find out what I would have to do to get my teaching license in Ohio (not easy, even though I already have a Master's in TESL and the equivalent of an undergraduate degree in Spanish) and how much money I would have to spend to do this (too much).  I also figured out that there are indeed other states where I could move and get a public school teaching job fairly easily (North Carolina, for example, which I need to find out more about). I wrote countless essays for a short-term Peace Corps TEFL training position, and re-examined what I'd have to do to join the foreign service (not yet, that's more in the long-term plan for me).  I'm trying to figure out how to write a proposal for research that I think should be held at an ivy-league school (so out of my league, but it'd be a great learning experience) and how I can videotape myself teaching pronunciation now that I have no students and am semi-stuck in rural Ohio during everyone's summer vacation (teaching portfolio at http://erin.lowry.googlepages.com). 

There are so many things that I'd forgotten about, like peach cobbler, root beer floats, and watering the plants.  There's also a lot of things that you can't do without a job, like get a cell phone plan and buy a car (if you want loans). The first time I walked into Wal-mart, I literally felt sick to my stomach.  It's so easy to get and accumulate "things" here, something I want to try to avoid if possible.  I finally cleaned out the boxes that held all of my notes and papers from undergrad, which ended up being easier to part with than I thought it would.  I've spent a lot of time talking to friends back in Colombia and El Salvador, along with some here.  I think the shock of being back here might have been easier being in Cincinnati, so that at least I would have been in a city as opposed to a cornfield.  Hopefully I'll find out early this week if I'm going to get one of these uni jobs, and will have a couple of days to run down to El Salvador to see my husband and collect my cat.  Still no news on his visa, but the application should be in San Sal by now.