I am feeling particularly proud of my school because we are getting involved in the movement against high stakes testing. As one of the top 25 schools identified in NY state as high-achieving, we are protesting the use of high stakes standardizes tests and discussing the ways in which teachers have been negatively impacted by the tests. We are giving teachers a voice in this education reform maelstrom.
Check out the event and more information here: http://www.teacherstalktesting.com/
After the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, one never wants to hear of news like that again. It could have happened again, but thanks to Antoinette Tuff, it didn't. Check out this article. Here is an excerpt from the Washington Post article by Petula Dvorak:
"...No one was shot Tuesday after a man slipped into an elementary school just outside Atlanta with an AK-47-style assault rifle, 500 rounds of ammo and “nothing to live for.”
Not because we listened to gun advocates who said we should arm teachers with weapons.
Not because we took the advice of the National Rifle Association, which said schools should have armed officers.
Not because we heeded the school board directives to make frightening “intruder drills” part of every curriculum.
Probably, a mass shooting didn’t happen because the gunman listened to Tuff, the bookkeeper at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga. Police have identified the suspect as Michael Brandon Hill, 20.
On Thursday, President Obama identified Tuff as a hero, with a surprise phone call thanking her for her act of bravery.
As soon as the man entered the school and fired one round into the floor, Tuff called 911 and stayed smooth and calm as a computer help line operator. She kept a conversation going among herself, the gunman and the 911 dispatcher.
She calmed him. She told him that he wasn’t alone in having troubles. Her husband walked out on her after 33 years, she said, and she has a “multiple-disabled” son. She soothed that man holding an assault rifle by telling him, “We all go through something in life.”
“I’m sitting here with you and talking to you about it,” she told him when he mumbled something about no one wanting to listen to him.
As she persuaded the young man to surrender, she said: “We not going to hate you, baby. It’s a good thing that you’re giving up, so we’re not going to hate you.”
She offered to act as his human shield, to walk outside the school with him so police wouldn’t shoot.
She even told him she loved him, cared about him and was proud of him as he began to stand down.
Are you listening to her, America?
Her 911 call — listen to the whole thing; it’s riveting — is a portrait of poise, compassion and selflessness. She was exactly what America is forgetting to be.
..." (Click here to read more)
It's summer time. I finally have time to relax, work at a leisurely pace, and prepare for next year's students. During this time off, people have asked me, what do you do during the summer?
Well, many things. At present, I am working with the mayor's office helping run one of their international, educational programs called Global Partners, Jr. I teach in the summer program at a local library. I am taking sign language classes to teach my students in the upcoming year how to sign. I tutor a young student in my neighborhood. I develop websites. I attend education workshops like Responsive Classroom that educate me on how to create a more respectful classroom where the social curriculum is just as important as the academic curriculum. I attend specialty workshops like Orton Gillingham that train me in multi-sensory teaching of students with disabilities and dyslexia. I am catching up on reading the Heroes of Olympus series and have been enjoying time with family and friends.
I have mixed feelings about summer vacation. On the one hand, I enjoy time off and planning my own activities. I find lots of great opportunities for professional development during the summer. There are many grants and summer opportunities I can apply for that help me deepen my skills and knowledge of the subject I teach. I also, like any person, enjoy the freedom to choose what I want to do on my own time, whether that is continuing working or spending quality time with friends and family whom I haven't seen during the busy school year. Summertime is a time to rejuvenate and reflect for me, professionally and personally.
On the other hand, summertime for students can represent an opportunity to really explore other activities and develop skills in other areas or it can just be mindless video game playing time that goes unchecked. Unless students come from a proactive family that helps them make the most of their time either in play or in structured activities with reading time carved out, it's hard for a student not to be a victim of the summer slide, where a child's literacy skills slip because of inconsistent practice. For families that do not/can not have a plan for their child, summertime represents a slide. Luckily, there are opportunities out there that encourage students to be involved in structured activities like the summer program for which I am working.
Summer time, for me, has its pros and cons. I wouldn't be opposed to spreading it out more evenly across the school year so that there isn't such a large lapse for students. Concentrating it in smaller chunks may actually be more healthy so that students and teachers alike get time to refresh and catch up on sleep.
There have been so many disheartening and disappointing things that I've seen in the education system in NYC. The first disappointment came when I was in school at TC and I saw that Cathie Black, former Hearst Magazines president with no education experience, was named Chancellor of the largest public school system in the United States. At least she stepped down after three months. The second disappointment occurred today when New York City released flawed value-added assessment data of all its teachers to the public. The impact of this disgraceful public humiliation by the city of our hard-working teachers is something that cannot just be undone. It has lasting impact on not just the teacher, but the wider school and family communities. When confidence in teachers need to be strengthened, the city is shaming teachers with flawed, inaccurate data.
Schools are communities where everyone cooperates--to help those who need help, to educate those who have not had the opportunity to be educated, to learn together, strengthening our communal knowledge.
I want to make this point crystal clear so let me use the following table below to make clear why schools are, and should remain, communities. This will also help elucidate the contrast between the community based model of education and the business model being advocated by businessmen.
Schools are, and should remain, communities
Schools ought to operate like stores
If advocates of the business model want to weed out the "bad worker" or the "bad teacher," they need to first define who that is and develop a system WITH educators and administrators that reviews the performance of the teacher and determines that they cannot teach or improve.
As I teach my students when they face a bully who does not respect them and tries to shame them in front of their peers, rise above. Bullies are not team players and they usually have very few, if any, friends because bullies will turn on their friends, too. Bullies treat you like an object that they can just toss around, not asking for your opinion and not believing that people can change and grow. Perhaps bullies lost the confidence in themselves that they could change and grow and now can only exert power to humiliate others.
NYC, do not be a bully to your teachers and don't treat them like commodities.
This is an excellent article on the "schools we [should] envy" in Finland. I encourage anyone who wants to become more interested in education reform in the United States to read this article:
"Even the corporate reformers admire Finland, apparently not recognizing that Finland disproves every part of their agenda."
The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and do not reflect those of institutions, organizations, or employers associated with me, past or present.