Monday, July 03, 2006

Holly Springs Part Two

Holly Springs is a critical-needs school district located about 35 miles north of Oxford. In the past five years we have placed six teachers there. Two, Richard Campbell ‘03 and Monica Govan ’04, are still there.

Oxford is home, of course, to the University of Mississippi, where both of our first-year and second-year participants take courses and complete their training as part of the Teacher Corps. In previous summers the second-years took Ed Law and Ed Research while the first-years did their initial teaching at Oxford High School, under the supervision of whatever veteran teacher the MTCer was placed with.

There are a whole host of reasons why this is problematic but I’ll just run through the major ones:

1) Kids from Oxford are nothing like kids from the Delta. Most of the kids in the Oxford school system are middle-class, white, and come from a home with two well-educated parents. Basically, kids from a typical university town.

2) Summer school at Oxford is one long 8-hour block. First-years observe in the mornings, about four hours at a time. It is nothing like real school with bells and periods and students entering and exiting every fifty minutes.

3) The veteran teacher was a question mark. Sometimes it was a kid fresh out of the School of Education who had never taught before. Sometimes it was a grizzled veteran who told our teachers to sit in the back and watch for the entire month. Sometimes it was a lazy teacher collecting a paycheck who shuffled all of the work onto our teachers. Mostly though, you had average teachers who would teach a little bit and then use the two or three MTCers to tutor one-on-one or in small groups. In any event, rarely was it a dynamic teacher with outstanding classroom management skills who modeled good practices to our teachers and then had them teach lessons once a day for fifty minutes.

4) First-years and second-years rarely spent time together. While MTC has almost always had a strong camaraderie within each group there has never been a great first-year/second-year bond.

In November, after kicking the idea around for a while, Germain McConnell and I set up a meeting with the Holly Springs School District. Basically, we said we had an enrichment program they might be interested in. As we drove to Holly Springs in the university van Germain and I had no idea if they would be receptive to what were really going to propose: an MTC Summer School based at Holly Springs…

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