Apr 28, 2010

What Comes With Community

In October, I wrote a post highlighting structural changes for our freshmen class. In sum, we want to bring the pros of a small school to our large school setup. I teach at the largest high school in Oakland; students falling between the cracks has become an all too familiar story.

With the new setup, I know all of my student's teachers and speak with them on a daily basis. We monitor our students' progress and strategize how to catch those falling behind. I know more about my students and have met more of their parents than I've ever before. We are personalizing education and bending to our students needs.

And we've created a community of freshmen.

But, as with every community, there are pros and cons. Specifically, 2 things:

1. They've caught on to all my antics.
All my teacher habits. "I understand." The sarcasm. The management strategies. Students can talk about us the same way we talk about them. Once one student catches a trend, it seems every student's figured it out. Now it seems they use "I understand" on me more than I on them. "E, I need you to come inside right now." "I understand, Mr. G." Ha, ha... funny.

2. They're all friends (or enemies...) with each other.
I guess becoming friends is ok. But now that we're approaching the final 6 weeks, every sort of classroom culture developed in other classrooms has seeped into mine. Positives and negatives. The discoveries in lack of admin support they've made in their english class is the same sort of stuff they can push in mine. And vice versa. It's become harder to quiet em' down and keep em' focused. And their freshmen.

Ok, maaybe on a path to becoming a bitter old teacher. Try 30 weeks straight of 5 periods worth of teaching freshmen, and you tell me if your patience wears a lil' thin. These mini-communities we've got here is a great thing. I consider the option of jumping ship to another school in a new place but am hesitant it won't provide the same type of setup we've got here. It ain't perfect, but it's in the right direction - in a place and a city that needs direction.


6 weeks til freedom. 6 weeks.

Apr 27, 2010

Test Time

Context: Classroom full of freshmen hunched over at their desks. On the surface they are calm, but their minds are hard at work. California standards test for mathematics, here we are.

Student 1: "Achooo!" (Loud sneeze)

Other Students: ::look up, distracted briefly::

Student 2: "Uh uh. Nope. Hell nah."

Me: "Uh, you're supposed to say 'bless you'"

Student 2: "Nope."

Me: "Bless you student 1."

Other Students: ::smile::

Apr 14, 2010

Sharpen Your Saw

I meet a man in the forest. His eyes weary, his shirt sweaty, his entire energy communicated exhaustion. I ask him, "What're you doing sir?" He answers, "I'm sawing these trees."

I observe a dull saw and a tired tired human spirit so I ask him, "Well, why don't you take a break to sharpen that saw?"

"There's no time," he says, "there's no time. I gotta saw them into logs."


I've been caught in a routine that's kept my head above water. I'm hanging on til the end, but I've lost the strength that was my momentum months ago. Nothings changed, but my saws become dull. It's time to take a step back.


Don't count down the days; make the days count.

Apr 3, 2010

Once again, procrastinating

My assignment: Take a current policy issue and examine it through the lens of EE Schattschneider or James Madison. What is the conflict? Who is the audience? Who are the protagonists? Predict/advise the outcome.

I chose to look at NCLB - bad choice because since I'm interested, I'm gonna get dragged into tangents such as policy debates, letters to the editor, angry blog posts, etc. I rehashed this Google Reader share from my buddy on Bill Maher and John Legend's take. My thoughts follow.

Just got in a good viewing of this since I've been reading herra stuff on the subject. Funny how the final line is "In the battle to reform schools, whose side are you on—Maher's or Legend's?"

This ending line is indicative of how people have been framing the issue - that it's one-dimensional, that there is a black and white, that there is a silver bullet. Nah uh.

I appreciate some things that Maher says, but he is a pundit with a myopic, white male, middle class view of the situation. The Ledge acknowledges the good points and nuances with some situational information. In the end though, he's not a teacher. He's a singer, albeit a good one who does an amazing throwback to the days of Motown. Damn, I love tangents like Mr. G. Anyhow, the views aren't at odds.

In short - it's a much more complicated issue and requires buy-in across disciplines and institutions outside of Education. Also, it requires a paradigm shift to make education a true value - no more lip service.

In shorter - we're f*cked.

Ok, time to get back to my homework.