NJCTE is launching a new regular feature on our blog, Office Hours. We invite you to digitally “drop in” to seek advice and chat about professional concerns.
I will host this new feature on our blog and respond to all questions and comments I receive. NJCTE established this dedicated email address for privacy purposes: NJCTEofficehours@gmail.com. I will anonymously post questions and responses in the style of an advice column, using “Dear Doc” as a salutation and “Inquiring Educator” for the advice seeker.
Let me introduce myself for those of you who don’t know me. It is important to know something about a person dishing out advice! I hold the position of Professor Emeritus at the College of Saint Elizabeth, where I directed and taught in graduate and undergraduate programs in education. I hold a BA in English from Montclair State University and an MA in Communications in Education and a Ph.D. in English Education from New York University. I taught high school English for 13 years, primarily at Watchung Hills Regional High School in Warren, NJ, before moving into higher education as the Director of the Educational Media Center at Seton Hall University. I served two terms on the North Plainfield Board of Education. Teachers College Press published a book I co-wrote and edited on teachers and academic freedom. I have written journal articles, presented at conferences, and currently am co-researching and writing a non-fiction book on a notorious 19th century murder that happened in my town. I remain active as a retired educator in the National and New Jersey Councils of Teachers of English, the Morris County Retired Educators Association, the NJ Education Association, and the National Education Association. NCTE recently appointed me to a two-year term as a policy analyst for higher education in New Jersey. I am spending significant time in retirement working with organizations focused on social justice and political change. I am committed to continue advocating for quality teaching and learning.
While I’ll serve as the host of this new feature, I hope our readers will respond in the comments section and provide a lively and supportive forum, enriched by the knowledge and experience of the many educators who read this blog. There is strength in many voices. Of course in responding we will expect respectful on-line discourse—no flaming or trolling. NJCTE reserves the right to delete comments that are hostile or disrespectful. Please respect people’s privacy. Use pseudonyms to protect others if you describe people, incidents, or situations. Do not mention the names of communities, schools, or districts.
As a teacher educator, teacher, and educational leader, I have sought and offered advice on many issues. Here are some questions based on 40 plus years of conversations with students and colleagues. I pose them to “prime the pump” and launch this advice column. I am sure you can think of many more, and I invite you to submit them in the comments section. Here’s a start:
- How can I find a real mentor I can trust?
- How do I handle a new teacher who is my mentee and is not performing well?
- How do I handle professional jealousy, either as a new, untenured teacher or a seasoned educator?
- How do I challenge an evaluation I think is inaccurate or unfair?
- Is it possible to work for a supervisor who is not a people person and doesn’t understand my teaching?
- How do I handle the paper load so typical of English teaching?
- How do I resist the pressure to pass non-achieving students to maintain the graduation rate?
- How do I maintain my enthusiasm for teaching in a school with a toxic culture?
- How to I handle challenges to books, materials, or pedagogy?
- What do I do with angry parents?
- How do I handle a colleague or supervisor who is making biased remarks about kids? About others?
- How do I balance my private and professional lives and find time for myself?
- How do I cope with negative people at school?
- Can you recommend any strategies for doing advanced graduate work while teaching?
- How do I keep up with the rapidly changing demands of technology?
- How do I avoid burnout?
- What do I do if a colleague or supervisor is engaging in sexually aggressive behavior or language?
- How do I handle “needy” students who demand a lot of attention when I have 130 other kids?
- How do I cope with the exhaustion typical of workers in the caring professions?
I hope some of these prompts get you thinking about your work. Feel free to post more questions in the comments section below.
Remember, the office is always open here! Reach out to us at NJCTEofficehours@gmail.com. Let’s talk!
New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English