the happenings of a week in education…

every week is so filled with news when you are a teacher. you are constantly listening to the news searching for new and creative ways to connect your students to the happenings of their world… exposure to expansion of worlds. then there is the news that your classroom generates, the news of the students, and other teachers… where to begin? we will start big and zoom in…

this week the congress and the president signed into law the edujobs bill and now the money is flowing towards schools… meanwhile the media is framing the topic of education reform in a manner that is angering many of my colleagues and has prompted a boycott of the los angeles times for an article published this weekend regarding teacher effectiveness – an article that needs further digestion for me to write informatively on… but was interesting nonetheless. my nemesis seemed to have been able to pull together more coherent sentiments here regarding this… however i was in the middle of another thought…

as we narrow into the scope of the world i interact with directly, the sphere of influence seems to remain quite large while the locality collapses ever inward. while the “union” and “district” made up by individuals who simultaneously are agents of both institutional entities (a weird juxtaposed and often hypocritical reality that needs further exploration) prepared ideological battles, i had an interesting experience with some of my colleagues who represent one or both of those institutions… while filling up my water bottle in our parent center. i was stopped by MY UTLA chapter chair (my representative who’s main priority is to look out for the well being of teachers like myself)… he informed me that i could not drink the water from the parent center as it was only for parents. in a tone reminiscent of reprimands handed down by many administrators for countless minor infringements like this not worth mentioning here, he proceeded to tell me that it was ok just this time but that i should cease to drink the said water. i was taken a back and upset but not enough to respond with anything but a nod… in my mind i was thinking that i would continue to drink said water until an administrator and not my union rep. directed me not to… yet shortly after that my direct supervisor found me outside and told me that in fact (like i had suspected the policy was on taking care of a basic human need such as hydration) that i could drink whatever water i damn well pleased… the next day my principal reiterated that sentiment. both of my administrators were very adamant and quite bothered that i had to undergo this inconvenient non truth at all… but it got me to think about the typical model from which many of our teachers, especially young ones, like myself, are indoctrinated into thinking… that all administrators are the “enemy” and that our union brothers and sisters are our only allies in the “trenches”… well at least this time, they got it wrong.

as i retreated back to the “safer” space of my classroom, it was a common ride of ups and downs experienced when teaching 9th graders and new superintendents sitting in … as i met with successes and failures in simultaneously teaching and writing a curriculum on community action research, students delved into studying agency and awakening to the fact that they have potential to become active agents of change in their communities and schools…

during first period on friday i saw one of my students being escorted out by security… he was studying gang violence with his group in my class. he was largely (no pun intended… he was the largest 9th grader i had every seen… it took me a good 3 second internal dialogue with myself to remember that he was a child and my new student when he walked in the door for the first time) responsible for coming up with his group’s inquiry question:

how have gangs evolved from a positive to a negative force in the community?

i found out later that he was escorted out by security for his own safety. the local gangs had put the word out that he was not to remain safe… not even in school. i don’t know if i will ever see “manny” again but i hope that our short time together proved to be as positive a learning experience for him one day as it was for me… for what he taught me happened in the first seconds of our meeting each other. he reminded me of a simple fact. we take our students as they come… and we push them to be the best students they can be… no matter what.

Sir Ken Robinson – Round 2: “spanking the argument” on education…

witnessing the last 2 years of destructive reform that has left schools depleted of some of the best teachers (especially in the inner city) i posted one of the most pivotal talks on education in my opinion, given by sir ken robinson.

he more recently did a follow up to this talk below… in this time of true crisis, “environmental crisis” as he puts it, we need to deeply rethink what life is all about and how the models and theories of education we operate from prepare our students and our children for this imagined future… we need to realize the limits of the present circumstances as well as the limitless possibilities of ever evolving future realities. we need to give our students not only the tools… but the space to create with them. and the freedom to choose which tools best work them to re-imagine our world… the world that we will one day inevitably hand over to them… our schools need to be places of diverse thought and creativity and passion… for all students…

the revolution (of education) will not be mechanized!

Life lessons…

after school on wednesday my nemesis colleague and i were walking out the building discussing the current issues of alcohol and ecstasy use facing our current freshman when i bumped into one of my first students in LASUD. i hadn’t seen her much since the seventh grade where she was like many other young girls her age at the time, confused and somewhat lost in the messy world that is middle school academics… she was pushing a stroller with the cutest 10 month old little girl i had seen all day… it was her little girl. beautiful… much like my former student.

it is not the first time i have run across a former student of mine who became pregnant after our time together at john muir, but it was somehow different this time… i strive not to show any signs that may be misconstrued as disappointment, for i am not disappointed so much as shell shocked. yet this time it was a weird mix of awkward amazement an appreciation. asking my student about whether she was going to continue with high school and finish her senior year i was pleased to hear that she would be. i was upset to hear about the future of her young daughter growing up without her father, my student had openly offered that the she didn’t know where the father was… i shared that i would soon be a father too and then continued to play with her little girl for a moment before she left…

today sitting with another former student about to apply for colleges i shared the previous exchange with her former classmate from that same year. she shared back stories of some of the other girls – about five – who had made the journey into motherhood… one of them possibly attempting that role from behind jail bars.

i don’t know how to feel besides weird. in my joy of becoming a parent, watching my wife’s joy in being a mother combined with my own in supporting her, i know that what my former students have become – by premeditated choice or otherwise – is one of the most beautiful creations in this world… yet it is not what i anticipated when they sat in my class in the seventh grade, when i struggled to get them to see the importance of their educational journey and the relevance of decision making…

now they must become the teachers for the most important students in their lives. i only hope i was able to aid them somewhat in this effort… as they had aided my own journey in being a teacher and future father.

self directed learning…

been meaning to post this for a minute…but…

as i stumble through the first “mester” (half semester) of my eight week class on community inquire i am inspired by the natural curiosity exhibited by my students. it is this wonderment and need to find answers to personally important questions like the ones below that drive transformative education… that cause them to be engaged in conducting surveys on their campus that will hopefully lead to action… or so the theory goes. we shall see what the come up with but nonetheless it is fun to be a part of their inquiries.