Category Archives: Media

The ups and the downs.

I read this article, “Where Have All the Teachers Gone” today.  In particular this stood out.

“An analysis just out from Georgetown’s Edunomics Lab argues that boosting class size for great teachers would save money that could then be funneled into bonuses for those educators taking on a larger load. The savings would come largely from a reduction in the overall teaching force, angering teachers unions and their allies.”

Calm down teachers unions.  What sane teacher would boost their class size for extra money?  I don’t want you to pay me more for added time or kids, I want less kids for the same pay.

Today was really rough. I had a hard time keeping the simmering anger down and when I got cut off on the bridge and there was weepy country music in the background, I couldn’t help but start to cry out of self-pity.  Amidst the excuses and trying to empathize with two students who made it hard today, I harshly told myself that maybe that time of the month was approaching.

But there comes a fault where it just can’t be my fault.  As I neared the last light before my house, I glared at the blinking red hand and railed against this piloted “rotations” system going on in my classroom.  I’m told that the light is closer than I think and I’m doing better than I’m giving myself credit for.  But at the end of the day, nothing feels worth it.

I try to concentrate on the rest of the kids.  The laughs.  The miniature successes.  And how with a rotations system, I can finally give some of my higher kids extra attention too.  But what do I do about little Bo Pete who stares at me blankly.  How many more emergency meetings are we going to have on differentiation and outlier students?  I’ve heard the science teacher explain her differentiation piece three times now in three meetings with I’m sure the same audience.  I’ve heard us voice the same issues.  Kids know that all they need to do in my class is work hard.  If I have Mr. Freshly-Tested-Out-of-His-IEP and Ms. ELL/IEP/Missed-class-because-of-broken-leg thriving, what’s the excuse for the kids who claims that “I get him in trouble” or “nothing will change” or “it’s because others distract me”?  How do  I respond to ridiculous requests like, “when I’m distracted, let me go for a five minute walk, let me listen to music, seat me somewhere else, seat me near a friend?”

Do I reward you because you, as a fourteen-year-old, can’t hold it together?  Sure, go on your five-minute walk.  Then come back and be more confused than before.  And then get more frustrated!

Or sure, go ahead and listen to music.  Oh wait, you don’t know what’s going on because you’re spacing out even more?  I’ll take time out of my lunch break to help you out.

Oh sure, sit with your friend who’s going to “help” you.  Wait! Now you’re both throwing things at someone else at the table?

Give me a break.

And while I’m juggling kids, there’s people who promise help and never deliver. That’s even worse.

And I promisepromisepromise you, I have it really good here.  How do I deal?  Money’s definitely not what’s going to sweeten it.

What’s interesting though, is that when kids are rotten, something sweet happens with the school.  And when school things discomfit me, the kids are pretty sweet.  I’m thankful for a happy end of the day.  Now onto the massload of emails concerning students I sent to the office, a failed conflict-management, and phone calls home.

Dear “Education Innovation Grant Donors”, I really really really dislike you.

Dear Education Innovation Grant Donor,

I really dislike you.  You come into cities, districts, and states with your shiny, quiet offices and fancy titles to dangle all this money right out of our reach.  It’s quite easy to get this money, you say.  All you’re looking for are schools that are serving their kids, being innovative, thinking outside the box, providing 21st century skills.

You lie.

What you really mean is you want us to be like [insert some school you love here].  What you really mean is that you want us to flood our classrooms with yet untested technologies from partner* companies.  What you really mean is that you will look at the numbers instead of delving deep into what’s actually happening at a school.

You’ll give a school a gold star just because their data appears stellar (high test scores, abnormally high college acceptance rate, serving low-income population), without actually looking at how they’ve achieved it (paternalistic disciplinary practices, no extra-curriculars, no college graduations).  You’ll give us lofty ideas and advice (try montessori, try flipping the classroom, scale your model, blow up your model) without a clue as to how implementation would work. You’ll encourage us to pilot, pilot, pilot without acknowledging that in reality this is experimenting on kids who don’t have any other options.

You are a parasite disguised as a benefactor.

You don’t actually know what teaching entails.  You have a vague notion of what success means.  You think that all you need are good managers and consultants to help you get your innovative grant donor-ing group to do well.  You think that your two years of teaching experience and grad school has earned you the right to march into our buildings and “consult”.  You think your ideas are news to us and that they will help us turn things around.

And guess what?  You have so much money, that we are willing to listen, meet, pander, and spin our schools at different angles just so we can get some.

Because we don’t really have a choice.  Do we?

In truth,

Junia

*aka, you serve on their board or payroll

Links Dump! Because today is interesting

Being Bored Makes You Brilliant!  This article is about the time people spend on smartphones and how rarely people are bored.  And yet, it is in boredom that  brilliance happens!  An iOS app (Moment) is mentioned and a challenge (less phone time) is issued.  Oh yes and a video (of people in NYC on phones) is shown.  As a new smartphone owner, I prided myself in not being connected.  But lately I’ve gotten the hang of Instagram and…

An Algorithm Teaches Math!  Okay, basically, it’s 100 kids in a gym-like classroom with partitions and 15 teachers and assistants and a computer.  I like this article because the grain of salt is in it.  It’s another approach at Blended Learning, and I can see this style definitely being issued because honestly, at a certain point “disruptive innovation” is not about getting the most quality but getting a “good enough” for the most amount of consumers.  Sadly, in this case, consumers are our students (aka, our future) and “good enough” is not good enough!  Anyway, off my platform.  This article is INTERESTING in its descriptions, caution, and qualifiers!  And again, creativity and critical thinking gets the boot.  sigh.   (ps: spoiler alert: blended learning is not cheaper)

East Palo Alto v. Silicon Valley – This article will take multiple sits as it’s super long.  Yet it’s very nuanced and covers the history of the more implicit racism at play from the 50’s and onward.  Having lived here for 5 years, I recognized a lot of buildings and areas and ideas that I took for granted.  We studied A Raisin in the Sun in high school.  I wonder why although we touted diversity, we were never pointed to the glaring pink elephant right over the bridge.

Speaking of the 50s…

Photos of Korea in 1952 – Korea.  Because the war was still going on.  These are photos from Captain John Randolph Coupland III from the US Army.  It reminds me that in order for any country to be “fully developed”, they need to go through the awkward “developing” stage.  It causes me to admire the Korean spirit in how they are always so determined and so FAST at trying to accomplish.  It also causes me to mourn because it’s so broken with totalitarian brainwashing in the north and mindless consumerism in the south.

Pushing Back Against the “School Saves” Narrative

An unpublished post from 2/20/14 (two months ago).  Still applies.

We’ve seen this everywhere: stories, op-eds, movies.  The teacher or the school flies into the neighborhood or town.  Takes out their Mary Poppins carpetbag of tricks and voila, students change!

I watch clips like these, and I’m not gonna lie – it gets me every time. I cry, I weep, I feel guilt, I feel relief.

Yet at the same time, I feel scorn, and I know the satire and the naivete. And it reeks.

I see someone of privilege come in and say the exact words I say to my kids:

The positive, “I know this is not you – I know you can do better, you are better.”

The strict, “You gotta give respect to earn respect!”

The risque, “After you die, you rot in the ground, and everyone else will go on living!” ..  That sort of response is supposed to achieve a hush-hush effect, the whole “did she really say that?” thing.  The words that adults disapprove of yet also admire and defend showing how this teacher is “level” to the kids.  This teacher was just spouting “real talk.”

Honestly, it sucks.  How does a teacher from a middle class background actually know anything about their students?  How can they realistically speak “hard” “street” words when they drive a car and have insurance and a savings account?  Half of these teachers are in their first jobs out of college and they weren’t going to make it as I-bankers or get into law school right away, so they’re here to make themselves for competitive.

I’m not saying baby the kids.  They don’t need that.  But… there has to be something more.

I know Lisa Delpit and David Whitman could probably give a more nuanced explanation/critique. But my poor poor mind is so frizzled that at this point, only the emotions that I felt from grad school remain.  The actual research and analyses?  Buried somewhere in the recesses of my brain (or so I would like to think).

Reflecting on this week

This was a good teacher week.  It was a good teacher week because I felt that there was at least one lesson that really hit the kids.  It was a good teacher week because we ended positively.  It was a good teacher week because I slept a lot.  It was a good teacher week  because two different people from my childhood showed me they cared because they saw an area where I was needy and provided.  It’s things like that — not advice, not suggestions — just physical funds, resources, or labor, that really speak to me as a teacher, right now. 

Today, I also happened upon THREE DIFFERENT teacher-related links that were all so good.  I think these are good for everyone to read.  It speaks to me, as a teacher, but should also let people know a bit of what teachers experience.

How To Be a Teacher for More Than 5 Years Without Killing Yourself

I’m working on different parts of this list written by Justin Stortz, a former teacher who is incredibly vulnerable in his posts.  Last year, I was thisclose to burnout, and I wish he had written this post sooner.   And I’ve already learned the hard way why it is important to stay humble and not “set yourself and your class up for failure by letting your ego get in your way.” :-/  Also, this year, I’m trying to maintain a hobby (working out and writing), trying to cook more, and I put myself on a sleeping schedule.

The Hardest Job Everyone Thinks They Can Do

Inspiring kids? Inspiring kids can be downright damned near close to impossible sometimes. And… it’s downright damned near close to impossible to measure. You can’t measure inspiration by a child’s test scores. You can’t measure inspiration by a child’s grades. You measure inspiration 25 years later when that hot-shot doctor, or lawyer, or entrepreneur thanks her fourth-grade teacher for having faith in her and encouraging her to pursue her dreams.

Maybe that’s why teachers get so little respect. It’s hard to respect a skill that is so hard to quantify.

Fellow teacher friend and HGSE grad shared this link on Facebook.  Dennis Hong, a molecular biologist – turned – teacher shares a few tidbits on what teaching is and why it’s so hard.  A short, thought-provoking piece from an apologist for teachers.

First They Came for Urban Black and Latino Moms (For Arne Duncan)

A few months ago, I walked past a “successful” charter school here in Harlem, NY, speed-walking to get my school supplies for the coming school year. I noticed a huge crowd of mostly Black and Latino families all waiting to pick up their children when a taut, pony-tailed White man came out with a clipboard and yells, “Alright, parents, we need everyone to line up!” My inner voice yelled “What!?” at the entire scene. No one protested. A few snickered and rolled their eyes. They all got in one straight line, parallel to Malcolm X Boulevard to pick up their children.

This would have never gone down at a suburban school.

Jose Vilson, hits on a piece of white privilege that we so often ignore.  Also, coming from a successful charter school, I see this all the time.  It’s articles like this that reminds me that it should not be so normal to witness this kowtowing as schools begin to own the children.  I rage about families that don’t support their children, but in the same sense, we should be helping families support their children, not just forcing our parenting upon the families.

Must Watch: 20/20 Children of the Plains

I just turned in my first final exam yesterday.  Two more due Wednesday.  The final one due Friday.

I feel like I should be at least 85% productive daily.  But I took a break to clean my room and watch this: http://abc.go.com/watch/2020/SH559026/VD55148316/2020-1014-children-of-the-plains.

I really wish you would watch it.  It’s heartbreaking, and I would like to talk about it.

I wonder, though, there’s such a finite power in human beings.  The questions of hope and life are answered by the Giver of Life alone.

“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  John 4:13-14

What exactly did Katehi authorize?

I laughed when I saw Occupy Harvard.  I thought it completely ridiculous.  I understand that these undergrads mean well, but actions rooted in good intent don’t really mean anything if there isn’t an effective plan.  If anything, I equate it back to 2004, when a bunch of us high schoolers drove to Sacramento to protest Gray Davis’s cuts to Basic Aid.  (“Hey Hey, Governor Gray, Basic Aid has got to stay!” – catchy!).  Misplaced zeal and passion.  We protested; we yelled, waved signs, gave demonstrations.  Probably not very effective though- Gov. Gray wasn’t even in the office that day.  (Great planning, guys!) It’s true that where there are numbers, people listen.  But in the same sense, I felt Occupy Harvard was just a bunch of undergrads who wanted to protest something but didn’t have a united vision or anything like that.  Furthermore, I felt like Harvard students have so much going for them in terms of resources that they don’t need to sleep out in tents (which is basically the front yard of their dorms anyway…).  If they really wanted to do something, they should rally their PARENTS to send letters of outrage, etc.

With all that said, I’m impressed by the actions of the Harvard administration because they are so careful and correct with everything.  They didn’t ban the students’ right to protest but they are restricting access to the Harvard Yard – only students are allowed inside.  The policemen are guarding student safety, but they aren’t attacking the students directly.  I feel like such actions also diminish the self-righteous “yeah! I’m protesting!” attitude of some of the undergrad too.. because honestly, they’re protesting in such a “cush” environment.  It’s almost like Harvard is simply accommodating for their “silly little protest” – a good tactic from their side.

California, on the other hand, is insane!  Honestly, no other state is going down the tubes as fast as this one is.  In terms of the UC Occupy movements, it seems like their complaints are legitimate (tripling budgets? hello!)  These people aren’t expecting to be coddled; they are engaging in civil disobedience to make a statement and they know the consequences of such action (arrest – not physical assault). It’s not like the UCs don’t have the means to respond peacefully or properly.  They have their own police force.  So, when civil servants then retaliate with violence, there is NO way ANY of this is right. [see: Colbert’s Take on Occupy Berkeley]

Even if you disagree with the Occupy movements (and honestly, I don’t think I completely understand them because it’s really disorganized, nobody is defining what exactly they’re occupying, and some people are just “anti-capitalism”… which I don’t think will help anything), you can’t deny the fact that people are getting hurt, and it’s on the grounds of a republic, in a state that prides itself for revolutionary ideas and free speech.

The UC Davis incident is concerning not only because policemen sprayed pepper spray directly at the students, but they forced upon students’ mouths and caused internal damage as well.  It’s also suspicious that nobody is coming up to produce the orders from UC Davis Chancellor Katehi.  She could solve all this clamor for her resignation if she shows that she didn’t authorize this.  She probably did! Which brings me to another point: hello California; haven’t you learned that police force is never the answer?  In my short 6 years in the East Bay area, there have been so many “accidental” killings from police.  And these aren’t high-risk situations with masses of people. I don’t know.  I’m all for individual rights, but it’s hard to argue when the “good guys” lack judgment and act just like the “bad guys” do.  I say “lack of judgment” because obviously, who’s dumb enough to act like this when there’s camera’s rolling.  I don’t think our police force is insidiously evil – they’re just poorly trained or unprepared or something.

Personally, the reason I began to get curious and think more about this was when I was in Boston waiting for lunch with a few friends.  I saw a large group of “Occupy  Boston” and at first, I was a little frightened.  Then I heard them talk and yell and explain and I just thought “whatever.”  However, I looked up from my book and looked at the people in the crowd.  They didn’t look like “career protestors” (a la the tree-climbers of Berkeley, 2008) .  I read their signs.  These were your regular Joes and Janes.  Able to work, but jobless.  There is a problem, and when people start to take to the streets, it’s not because they have nothing better to do, it’s because they’ve exhausted all other options and are at the end of their rope. I am in grad school.  I’ll have a job.  Many of you guys probably have jobs.  Do you necessarily deserve it? Maybe I’m not the 1%, but I definitely won’t be in the 99%.  Isn’t this huge gap an issue?