Out like a lamb... (Answers to your burning questions).
We had an extended break due to the change in the after-school schedule & the new tutoring, the vacation, and that icy snowstorm, and we also allowed all the kids to choose new clubs if they wanted to. So, I met with my new group for the first time on Thursday. I have several kids returning plus several newbies. Only seven kids showed up on Thursday. I split them into two groups and gave them the challenge of building a robot that could drive straight to the end of the table, stop right at the edge, reverse, and back up to its starting point, and it had to use the rotation sensor. The problem is, none of us (least of all me) has an elegant way to attach a rotation sensor to the wheel. We all remember seeing teams do it at the competitions, but no one remembers how. So we spent a somewhat frustrating couple of hours playing with gears. One group built a robot that made a go of it, but it was godawfully inelegant and not very robust. I helped the other group for a while and found a solution, except that it's a robot that will never be able to turn, so it's not really going to help in the long run. Can anyone point us to a website with building tips? The programming is proving much easier than the building - which might reflect my own strengths, to be honest.
What differences, if any, do you see in teachers from TFA compared to teachers that majored in Education?
Most of the teachers of my generation with whom I work got started in either the TFA or Teaching Fellows; most of the teachers I know who did not start that way are a generation older. So, I wouldn't be sure that differences were due to the path into teaching or simply differences in age and experience. Anyway, everyone at my school is extremely committed to righting educational injustices, regardless of how they got started. TFA and Teaching Fellows teachers might have a stronger feeling that they control their own destiny - if you don't like a school or teaching situation, change it or find a new place to work. We are not willing to complain without taking action to change things. For some, that means leaving education altogether, for others, finding a school where they feel more empowered to make change, for others. Of course, I'm generalizing a lot here.
So now that time has passed, would you be willing to share how you voted on the contract?
Sure. I voted for. Not because I liked the contract that much (I didn't) but because, assessing the political situation, I thought it was the best we could get (and I'm not talking about just the money). I wasn't seeing a lot of willingness to walk out, and Bloomberg had just won the election. Of course, the TWU strike changed everything, and I see now that I may have assessed the political situation wrong. The problem with telling you all how I voted is that now, posts which are intended to report on the extended time will be taken as whining. Please be aware that I fully own my decision and its consequences.
(On a side note, I found the rhetoric against the contract to be very off-putting and unpleasant, far less civil than that of the pro-contract side. Granted, it's always easier to be in favor of something than against it, but the comments on Edwize were so nasty that I did not want to be allied with people who would express themselves in that way. Sure, both sides made some unpleasant comments, but overall, the majority of the nastiness seemed to come from those against the contract).
What changes would you have liked to have seen in our contract and union?
I don't want to be a doormat any more - we need a new contract before or immediately after our current contract expires. I want more action taken to correct the root cause of so many teachers' problems: awful administrators. If we had better administrators, we wouldn't need some of the protections that end up shielding the bad teachers as well as the good, we woudn't be afraid of opening up the hiring process so that our principals have greater ability to choose their teachers. As someone who works at a school with a decent principal, I see how much better an organization is when it has leadership that pulls everyone together to work towards the same goals. Being able to choose your staff is an important part of that. I don't want to be part of a profession that is reactionary and defensive. Right now, I believe the key is getting really good people into principalships.