After 38 years in education, Judith Harper thinks what teachers are missing is more time to learn from one another.
When Judith Harper was graduating from Arizona State University in May 1981, she felt fully prepared to take on five classrooms on her own that fall. After all, Harper had majored in English education, and the program was highly regarded. Plus, during her senior year, she had gotten to work in a real classroom, as an apprentice to a veteran educator.
But a few months later, as Harper finished her first week of work at Westwood High School in Mesa, Arizona—a diverse, sprawling suburb near Phoenix—she realized how much she struggled even with the basics, such as keeping 22 teens paying attention to her lesson for 15 minutes, much less an entire hour. “On the first day, I had a student who refused to work, a student who was interrupting the work of his friends, several students using inappropriate language with each other and me,” Harper recalled. “As a novice teacher, you have no idea what you should be responding to and what you can ignore. Every day I felt like a failure.”