Archive for the ‘educational change’ Tag

A little break from the (Education) insanity   2 comments

I’m back. The Twitter and blog hiatus did me a lot of good. I had the opportunity to rest, evaluate, recharge, and regroup. At least that’s what I have told myself! Participating in various education-related chat groups on Twitter (BlackEd and EcoSys) have provided me with the opportunity to ‘hear’ what others are doing in the their respective classrooms, both K-12 and higher ed. I will admit that it is easy to become disillusioned after interacting with other teachers/educators. For the most part, we all seem to have viable and feasible ideas for seriously addressing eradicating the ‘opportunity gap’ that exists for many minority and economically disadvantaged students; however, few of us have the opportunities or resources to share our ideas on a large scale. My observation: Far too many teachers are concerned, not enough administrators, superintendents, and knowledgeable policy makers share the same urgency. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not give credit to Principal El, Principal Kafele, and Dr. Steve Perry, for they are in positions to initiate, cultivate, and nurture change within their respective environments. Furthermore, those leaders foster leadership in all stakeholders (students, parents, etc.) How many of us can honestly say that our building leaders have done the same? How many committees within your building are chaired by the exact same people, year after year? This type of leadership is one of the reasons why we continue to have the same discussions; nothing ever changes. When demographics change, our instructional and leadership styles need to change as well. Some of us ‘get it,’ and the rest, well….But I would like to know how we are supposed to keep the fire lit, given all the elements that work against us? How can we ‘Choose to Stay’ when greener pastures present themselves?

I will ponder those questions as I listen to my girls’ piano lessons. I hope that the answer presents itself soon, as I feel myself running out of steam and I have grown tired of bumping my head against the wall known as public education bureaucracy.

Advertisements

A little change requires a little (or a lot of) discomfort   17 comments

Yes, the presidential election is over but people are still using the word change when describing anything from politics to education. I can’t help but wonder: Do most people really want change? I think a lot of people talk a good game, but when it comes to walking the walk, folks start to disappear or get really, really quiet. Yeah, I think I may need to go a little ‘rogue’ in this post because there are some things that need to be said because a lot of people are oblivious to what’s going on in the world, especially as it relates to education.

Barack Obama was elected the first African American President of the United States. He made history. We must move on. I did not hold any unrealistic expectations for this president because I understood (to a certain degree) the mess he inherited: two wars, a crappy economy, a broken-down educational system, and hatred from other countries of the world. As David Letterman would say: I wouldn’t give his problems to a monkey on a rock. Obama definitely has his hands full and he needs our help. First and foremost, we all need to be realistic: He is not going to come close to fixing all of these problems during his first term (yeah, I am claiming a second for him). Secondly, there are things we can do to be the change we want to see (Ghandi).

How? You might ask. Well, for starters, there are thousands of educators on Twitter who have an opportunity to participate in ‘professional development without walls’ like never before via various weekly chats. We can communicate and share best practices with people from all fifty states and many foreign countries. However, simply talking is not productive. Let me go a little deeper: Ignoring the real issues facing our educational system will not make them go away. Since I was a little late to the chats, I thought I would ‘observe’ first to get a better understanding. After observing for a few weeks, I started to notice a recurring theme: Technology. Now don’t get me wrong, I think technology is great, especially since I can connect with other educators. Unfortunately, technology is not solely responsible for the opportunity gap (or achievement gap, as others call it) that exists for millions of students. Let me be more specific: Lots of African American, Hispanic/Latino, English Language Learners, Students with Disabilities, and kids eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch. You may know those students as members of the AYP subgroups. I don’t doubt for one second that Interactive White Boards (IWB) are great educational tools but let’s keep it real, shall we? How may schools actually have them? Do they have enough for every teacher? Better yet, how many Title I schools have them? I have said it before and I will say it again: Too many kids have to dodge pimps, whores, crackheads, and dope dealers on the way to school. Reality check: School is the safest place for a lot of students, whether you care to accept and acknowledge that fact or not. Ignoring it won’t make it any less true. I seriously doubt they give a damn about whether their teacher is effective at using an IWB. Reality check: Yes, technology can be a great teaching tool, but when I am hungry and my stomach is growling, I am only focusing on how/where I can get something to eat.

So this brings me to my issue: I suggested that we discuss a real educational issue, like what different schools are doing (besides talking) to address the opportunity gap. Well, the question submitted was completely edited/altered and in no way reflects the one submitted. Hence, the point is completely missed. If ‘professional’ people are too uncomfortable with addressing the issues, are they really competent enough to be in front of the student groups in question? I am reconsidering my opinion on that one because you cannot enter a classroom with the notion that you don’t ‘see color.’ If something is right in front of you, how do you not see it? That’s something David Copperfield could master, but the average teacher, I don’t think so. But here’s a better question: Why do people attempt to stifle the dialogue of those who are interested in addressing these issues? Whether the stifling comes via completely ignoring or changing the question posed, it’s ignoring nonetheless. And it’s not right. It’s unprofessional, offensive, and dismissive. Certainly counterproductive in any attempts to address and eliminate the opportunity gap. I guess we are not as far removed from D.C. as we’d like to believe, huh?

Million dollar question: Do my honesty and directness make you uncomfortable? If I were a man, would you be less uncomfortable? Do you genuinely care about your students’ success? Do you care enough to acknowledge that they may not pay attention to you because they are wondering if they will eat when they get home? Or they could be worried about whether they will have a home at all. Did you ever stop to consider that? If not, you need to at least acknowledge that, as of today, you are not equipped with the knowledge necessary to adequately deliver any content to your students, whether you use an IWB, iPad, Mac BookPro, or not. Period. Before you can take them anywhere, you have to know and acknowledge from whence they came. Yep, it really is that simple. By the way, notice there was no mention of one (racial) group not being competent enough to educate another. I know some of you were looking for it (and probably found or interpreted it somewhere) but I never said it. I will not stop discussing the real issues just to make people feel more comfortable. Sorry, there is too much at stake for me to live in oblivion. If my stance means I have to talk to myself, then so be it. I usually get more done and better answers that way anyway!

Peace!

Is ‘educational change’ on the horizon for Georgia?   Leave a comment

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this blog are those solely of the author (that’s me) and are not shared by any parties listed below (at least I don’t think they do).

Those you who have been following my blogs have probably guessed that I am very passionate about education. Specifically, quality public education for all kids, regardless of their zip code, parents’ social/political affiliations, race, etc. Likewise, I believe that quality education should be provided, ‘By any means necessary.’ Whether it’s high-performing, neighborhood charter schools (not those magnet schools, located in affluent neighborhoods inaccessible to low-income students, disguised as charter schools) or a complete investigation and overhaul of the desegregation orders in some states, namely Georgia, to balance access to high-performing, 21st century schools. Sounds overwhelming, but I honestly believe that it will take something this radical to start on the road to repairing our public education system.

Enter politics. I have never been one to mince words, although I have been criticized for my directness-only since moving south though. I am fully aware that politics are necessary to get things done. I also know that sometimes, politicians can cause more harm than good when their personal agendas overshadow the issues at hand. Well, I got a little re-inspiration about the possibility of politics doing something good last night. I had the opportunity to speak with Brian Westlake, Democratic candidate for Georgia State Superintendent of Schools. The position is currently held by Cathy Cox, who is also running for re-election. I will admit that I didn’t expect to hear from Brian after I sent a rather lengthy and detailed email a few days ago (you all know how I do). Shame on me because he responded and invited me to call him so we could speak on the phone or meet in person. I sent Brian my phone number and he actually called me last night. I certainly did not expect to speak with him for over an hour! Not that the length of the conversation bothered me, it was just not what I expected based on my past interactions (or lack thereof) with politicians and other high-ranking officials. So far, Brian is 2-for-2. That’s pretty good considering the person he has to convince (me).

During the course of the hour, we discussed our backgrounds: Both of us have undergrad degrees in something other than Education and experienced some of the same ‘issues’ during our first years of teaching. We shared a lot of laughs last night. What is most impressive about Brian is that, despite opposition-both then and now, he is committed to making some changes in education within the state. He admits that the level of change necessary will not happen over night or even in the course of 1-2 years. The important thing to remember is that change is necessary and someone has to be the first one to take the steps in that direction, even at the cost of making some powerful and connected people uncomfortable. I haven’t been this excited about a politician since…well, President Obama. Honest. I had really lost faith in local politics, especially school boards and state education positions because frankly, they have been traditionally held by people who neither look like me, know or care about my concerns. Sure, Brian is not African American but he is young, has recent experience working with African American students, parents, and teachers. He now works at Berkmar High School in Gwinnett County, probably the most diverse school in terms of populations of international students.

There is a saying that alludes to the obvious: If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will continue to get what you’ve always gotten (or something like that). While millions of people turned out for the last presidential election, many of us (myself included) have forgotten about exacting ‘change’ on a local level. I am committing to change that this year. I have already told Brian that I plan to share his information and platform with the parent network I have established here in Gwinnett County for our Visual and Performing Arts charter school. I also have a large number of friends who are still teaching and still dealing with the same issues. If we are adamant about change, we must be as adamant about making it happen.

Let’s educate ourselves on those people who want to represent us and make a commitment to making our collective voices heard. The primary election is in July; the general election is in November. I will continue to share information on this race through Twitter and this blog. A change will come to Georgia’s education system. Will you be a do-er or an onlooker?

Is 'educational change' on the horizon for Georgia?   Leave a comment

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this blog are those solely of the author (that’s me) and are not shared by any parties listed below (at least I don’t think they do).

Those you who have been following my blogs have probably guessed that I am very passionate about education. Specifically, quality public education for all kids, regardless of their zip code, parents’ social/political affiliations, race, etc. Likewise, I believe that quality education should be provided, ‘By any means necessary.’ Whether it’s high-performing, neighborhood charter schools (not those magnet schools, located in affluent neighborhoods inaccessible to low-income students, disguised as charter schools) or a complete investigation and overhaul of the desegregation orders in some states, namely Georgia, to balance access to high-performing, 21st century schools. Sounds overwhelming, but I honestly believe that it will take something this radical to start on the road to repairing our public education system.

Enter politics. I have never been one to mince words, although I have been criticized for my directness-only since moving south though. I am fully aware that politics are necessary to get things done. I also know that sometimes, politicians can cause more harm than good when their personal agendas overshadow the issues at hand. Well, I got a little re-inspiration about the possibility of politics doing something good last night. I had the opportunity to speak with Brian Westlake, Democratic candidate for Georgia State Superintendent of Schools. The position is currently held by Cathy Cox, who is also running for re-election. I will admit that I didn’t expect to hear from Brian after I sent a rather lengthy and detailed email a few days ago (you all know how I do). Shame on me because he responded and invited me to call him so we could speak on the phone or meet in person. I sent Brian my phone number and he actually called me last night. I certainly did not expect to speak with him for over an hour! Not that the length of the conversation bothered me, it was just not what I expected based on my past interactions (or lack thereof) with politicians and other high-ranking officials. So far, Brian is 2-for-2. That’s pretty good considering the person he has to convince (me).

During the course of the hour, we discussed our backgrounds: Both of us have undergrad degrees in something other than Education and experienced some of the same ‘issues’ during our first years of teaching. We shared a lot of laughs last night. What is most impressive about Brian is that, despite opposition-both then and now, he is committed to making some changes in education within the state. He admits that the level of change necessary will not happen over night or even in the course of 1-2 years. The important thing to remember is that change is necessary and someone has to be the first one to take the steps in that direction, even at the cost of making some powerful and connected people uncomfortable. I haven’t been this excited about a politician since…well, President Obama. Honest. I had really lost faith in local politics, especially school boards and state education positions because frankly, they have been traditionally held by people who neither look like me, know or care about my concerns. Sure, Brian is not African American but he is young, has recent experience working with African American students, parents, and teachers. He now works at Berkmar High School in Gwinnett County, probably the most diverse school in terms of populations of international students.

There is a saying that alludes to the obvious: If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will continue to get what you’ve always gotten (or something like that). While millions of people turned out for the last presidential election, many of us (myself included) have forgotten about exacting ‘change’ on a local level. I am committing to change that this year. I have already told Brian that I plan to share his information and platform with the parent network I have established here in Gwinnett County for our Visual and Performing Arts charter school. I also have a large number of friends who are still teaching and still dealing with the same issues. If we are adamant about change, we must be as adamant about making it happen.

Let’s educate ourselves on those people who want to represent us and make a commitment to making our collective voices heard. The primary election is in July; the general election is in November. I will continue to share information on this race through Twitter and this blog. A change will come to Georgia’s education system. Will you be a do-er or an onlooker?