Archive for March 2010
Ok, ok, let me clarify: I didn’t really spend the whole day in a 3rd grade classroom, but I try to volunteer for a couple of hours each Friday. Both of my daughters attend the same elementary school; one is in Kindergarten (not garden) and the other is in 3rd grade. Since the K teacher has a parapro, I spend a little more time in the other classroom.
Although I am not overjoyed about being unemployed, I do (kinda) enjoy seeing them off to school, waiting for them to get off the bus, and all the stuff that happens in between, such as serving as Room Parent. I really don’t think that what I do for the 1 or 2 hours is a big deal, but let the teacher tell it, my time is a ‘tremendous help.’ So what exactly do I do that lightens the load for this teacher? Well, I spend my time getting the kids’ Friday Folders ready. Sounds simple, huh? It is for me, but imagine trying to teach abstract concepts such as time to eighteen kids, add to that the fact that you have to repeat concepts because some kids are pulled-out for other services (e.g., speech, reading, etc.), and having your instructional year reduced by approximately 3 weeks due to the various tests you must administer. If that’s not enough, how about the fact that you don’t really get to use your planning time to plan because your administrator wants to have meetings all the time. Some things are better said in an email….I’m just sayin. Not everything needs to be discussed in a meeting-type forum. But don’t forget, you still have to find time to grade, do lesson plans, administer county-wide Interim assessments every 9 weeks, test reading levels, lunch duty, and prepare Friday folders. Silly me! I forgot to mention that teachers have to do all of that with three fewer work days due to mandatory statewide furloughs.
So as I sat at the table, sorting the students’ papers and the weekly junk mail sent home by the school, I listened to the teacher explaining the concept of lapsed time.
She asked, “Does everyone understand how we got that answer?” A few students said no. She made another attempt at explaining. Fewer blank stares that time.
I’m thinking: “How in the heck do you teach something like elapsed time? I don’t even remember learning the concept. I struggled trying to teach my kids because it’s practically an innate skill for me.”
She continued, reassuring the kids that they were doing a good job and they would spend more time working on the skill. I remembered how I struggled to teach multiplication to some of my former students, which is a little easier because you can model that, but time? Whew! Hats off to the primary grades teachers…they do more in the classroom than people can imagine, which is why giving an hour or two of my time each week is, in my eyes, insignificant. Alas, the teacher insists that it makes a huge difference. Who am I to argue?
BTW: For those of you who think teachers have it easy because they are off during the summer (well, some of them), think again! That is a time for recuperation (God forbid a teacher should actually use a sick day), reflection, professional development, graduate study, and any futile attempts at a social life. Oddly, they don’t complain-they only ask for a fair wage and a little respect.
Still synthesizing dialogue from last night’s #BlackEd chat on Twitter (9 PM EST every Thursday). The group continues to grow, but I feel as though I need to address the elephant in the cyber-room because we do not want this effort to become counterproductive to addressing the ’cause’ (identifying problems & solutions to the opportunity gap for Black students). Now I know there are tons of educators and parents using Twitter. If it’s true what they say about 6 degrees of separation, we should have more people actively participating in the dialogue. After I took the high road last night in a disagreement with another participant, I got to thinking: This is exactly why there are probably four times as many people watching as there are participating.
I was called to task on my criticism of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Anyone who has ever read my blogs with a semblance of interest or paid any attention to my tweets knows how I feel about him. I have never minced words when it comes to discussing him or that woman in D.C. (Read my blog about not drinking the kool-aid) I was challenged to post a link to any article where Duncan stated that parents do not care about education. Well, I think Duncan has shown that he has been stricken with a case of foot-in-mouth disease on more than one occasion. First it was the witch-hunt for ‘ineffective’ teachers. Then, he had the unmitigated gall to say that Katrina was the ‘best thing’ that happened to the New Orleans education system because some of his homies have netted some hefty profits). Now he’s on a mission to ban schools from participating in the NCAA Tournament based on academic performance and graduation rates. Yeah, let’s see how that pans out… Anywho, this individual went on to tell me that Duncan has been in education for years (please Google Renaissance 2010 and read more than one story) and basically knows what he is doing. Again, please see Renaissance 2010 and what has really transpired in Chicago (not the suburbs) as a result. My counterpoint: Would you allow someone other than a cardiologist to give you medical advice/treatment for your heart? HTTN! Would you allow a tax driver to fly your airplane? HTTN! So why is it ok for a non-educator to make major decisions about education when he couldn’t get results in Chicago? I can’t help but invoke the infamous words of Jay-Z: Men lie. Women lie. Numbers don’t lie. The data is available to the public. if numbers don’t move you, please Google Derrion Albert. He was attending a school that housed members of rival gangs because theirs had been closed under Renaissance 2010, brainchild of Arne Duncan. Education is the only profession where someone without any on-the-job training or experience can come in and implement changes that do not make sense! I wonder how the American Medical Association would receive me, a trained educator, if I drafted a 50 page report outlining how they should improve healthcare…but I digress.
He went on to tell me that my ‘logic’ was assinine (poster’s spelling, not mine). Ok. Whatever happened to respectfully disagreeing? I think I am a little (ok, a lot) too old to participate in name-calling with people who come together to discuss solutions to the education epidemic. I will agree to hear your point-of-view. If I do not understand, I will certainly ask you to expound. I may still disagree, but at least I will extend you the courtesy of respecting your opinion. I adamantly refuse to participate in such banter, as I know people are watching. That is what’s important to me. Someone who may be teaching in a predominantly minority school may be watching, because he or she does not know what to do, how to do it, or how to ask for help. The last thing I want that person (or hundreds of people) to see, is two African Americans bicker over Duncan’s suitability to serve as the Secretary of Education. Yep, counterproductivity at its best. I refuse to participate. End of story.
For those who have been watching, I challenge you to join the dialogue. We need to hear from you. We cannot arrive at solutions without hearing from you. We all have a voice and potential to contribute and exact change.
In the words of Mr. Vilson, who motivates me to write blogs more frequently: That is all!
Several weeks ago, BlackEd (Thursdays, 9 PM EST – shameless plug) launched on Twitter. It is an opportunity for parents, teachers, and community members to ‘meet’ once a week and discuss different issues regarding the education of Black students. The interest has grown and I am glad to see many non-minorities actively participate in the discussions each week. However, I will admit that a medium such as BlackEd is long overdue and we have a lot of ground to cover. Here is my concern: Once we discuss these issues, how do we take what we have learned and apply it to the classrooms and communities in which we live? Better yet: How many of us actually have the power (or politics/money) to apply what we learn to the classrooms where our kids spend 6-8 hours each day? What if our communities do not want us to improve education for our kids, and instead, block our efforts at every turn? Now pose those same questions to our Latino brothers and sisters, who are trying to find ways to address the same issues for their children. It becomes very overwhelming, but we must do something now rather than later. Too many of our kids are dropping out, everyday. Too many of our kids are short-changed by the institution of public education. Too many of our kids are conditioned to become criminals and delinquents; not enough of them are trained to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. How do we fix this?
During the past few weeks I have limited the amount of time spent on Twitter in an attempt to figure out what I am supposed to be doing with my life and the amount of information swirling around in my head. Another reason for my Twitter ‘fast’ has been to avoid reading all of the education rhetoric that is tweeted and retweeted. Sometimes that amount of verbiage b.s. is just too much… I have also learned not to even comment on some stuff because, well, some people post things just to make themselves feel/seem important. As I watched the dialogue last night, I couldn’t help but wonder: If I were a man (first White, then Black), would I have fewer problems working in the Education system? It seems to me that the majority of those in positions to make important decisions have different genitalia. We could say the same words, in the same manner but I know no one would take me seriously or even listen for that matter. Do I really need to jump on the ‘blame the parents, teachers, or unions’ bandwagon to make things happen? Should I follow in that woman’s footsteps and start sleeping with men in powerful positions to gain entrée into leadership roles? Would I ever be able to go into a suburban school, fire all the (Black and ineffective) teachers and then accuse them of abusing children knowing that my job is protected because Gates and Broad believe that I am increasing test scores? Hmmmm…I doubt it.
Yes, we have a few Black and Latino leaders in education, but I can’t help but wonder if they actually believe everything they say? Do they really believe that blaming parents is productive and necessary? Or do they say those things to appease White people, e.g., district officials who call the shots? I can’t help but wonder why Pedro Noguera is not a household name (in households other than those with Latino names, that is). Why have we not seen him or Baruti Kafele featured on NBC Nightly News or 60 Minutes? Who will speak for the Black and Latino children? There is only so much information you can obtain from research articles and longitudinal studies. At some point, someone needs to ask a Latino how to serve his or her community effectively. At some point, someone needs to ask a Black, single parent what kinds of programs s/he needs to help their kids succeed in Math and Reading. Who will speak for us? Better yet, why won’t they let us speak for ourselves? Afterall, asking someone from a privileged middle-class background to represent kids from Southwest Atlanta is like asking me to be a spokesperson for the Asian community. And we all know that will never happen.
After a much-needed and long overdue (quasi) social media hiatus, I am back. And I can honestly say that I nearly lost my damn mind…more than once during the past 3 years. I have been working on developing a Visual & Performing Arts Charter School for my community since 2007. Despite obstacles, mostly political and financial, I kept going. Why? Because I consider myself to be a keen observer. I pay attention to what happens around me, especially the things that other people do not notice, e.g., home value determines both the type and number of innovative programs offered at neighborhood schools. I moved to Snellville (Gwinnett County) 5 years ago when I purchased my first home. I knew that the school district had a reputation for being one of the best in the state (not that that statement says a lot considering the national rankings, but that’s another topic altogether).
As I worked on developing this school, I began to notice a lot of subtle ‘isms’ within this county, especially as it relates to the school district, program offerings, etc. Snellville has become a majority-minority community (mostly African American) during the past 5-7 years. Most, if not all, of the schools are close to 50% African American and roughly 10-11% Hispanic/Latino. I do not have a problem with living in a majority-minority community, but I would prefer that my kids have the opportunity to experience some diversity while they attend school because, well, the real-world is not comprised of all one race. But no matter our educational attainment levels, income bracket, or automobile of choice, one thing has not changed: When we move in, they move out. Yep, White-flight is alive and well in 2010. And yes, that bothers me. Why? Because despite rhetoric and tomfoolery from the ‘experts,’ I know that African Americans do value education. I can say that the few White people I have met through the charter school efforts have remained committed to staying in their neighborhoods and changing the schools, not the demographics. Unfortunately, those people are truly in the minority. No pun intended.
So fast forward to 2010, after being told by Andrew Broy that our organizationm had to raise $1 million dollars in 30 days to ensure approval and several tersely written letters to Georgia State Boad of Education members (no responses), elected officials (no responses), Cathy Cox (no responses), Georgia Charter School Commission (no responses), and Arne Duncan (half-assed response), I am tired. Not tired of trying to improve education, but tired of trying work within (or against) a broken system filled with people who lack the knowledge and ethics to make sound decisions about the kids in my community who look like me. Yes, I said it. Too many people making decisions for kids with whom they have no commonalities. Does that mean they can’t make any decisions? Absolutely not. But representatives for all groups should have a seat at the table and not just for show. They should be invited based upon their experience, education, and potential to make substantive changes to the manner in which Georgia educates children. That is not happening. I think it will be a very long time before we see this level of change here in Georgia, even when we get a new Superintendent of Schools and Governor later this year.
I took the past 2 weeks off to decide on whether or not to continue efforts to open the charter school. Of course this project is my baby so I was torn. I have invested a significant amount of time and effort into researching, writing, etc. I have learned a lot about myself during the past 2.5 years, most importantly that no one expects me to be a superwoman; that was a self-imposed sentence. I now know my limits. I can only deal with so much foolishness, blatant racism, sexism, and classism. I need a break. I want my life back. I am not giving up this dream. It will not be deferred, just reconfigured.