T.F.A. as a long term solution? not anytime soon…

sitting in the 29 Bar today, deep in Trojan territory watching my Bruins get spanked in the Final Four.  this was not the only  glaring contradiction of the day.  as Antero and i debated about whether or not we could have prevented our mediocre workshop on graffiti from being so mediocre… i happened to over hear another conversation about Teach for America. immediately distracted from my mediocre conversation (no offense Antero, we were both tired) i tuned in to catch a tag line that would give me any bearing as to the the resident opinion of this highly controversial topic… Teach for America teachers. how much of a benefit are they to the education profession and all its ridiculous baggage.

in a moment’s time my fears were confirmed. the patrons discussing this at the table next to ours had said that, “teachers in TFA are positively affecting the classroom more than teachers from traditional credential programs as well as those with more experience.” i glanced at Antero’s face which reassured me that his suspicions had also been aroused (if anything it confirmed the fact that our previous dialogue was in need of a change of topic). i held my tongue a minute longer to see where this obviously misinformed discussion was headed when the lady who had began the discussion (whom i am indebted to for providing me with additional information in the upcoming link – thank you) referenced a study that backed up her assertion. i couldn’t bare it any longer so i leapt into the conversation uninvited. my clarifying question had also confirmed my hypothesis that this lady must have a daughter who was about to enter the program. i asked if shoe wouldn’t mind sharing this article with me and true to her word and my request, she sent the above link….

i pondered before i began writing my rant of a response. i thought about my own prejudices for TFA. my own everyday experiences with very close colleagues and friends who are members of TFA. i wanted to collect my thoughts to maintain the appearance of an objective and fair evaluator of issues, after all i am an educator. yet i could not shake the emotional part of the response i am about to share. the above study cites data from testing scores which everyone who knows anything about education realizes, despite the conventional wisdom, that test scores is not the only nor the best means to assess a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom. however i could see how this data could be validated. the TFA teachers i know are far more dedicated to the perfection of their craft as teachers, way more committed to a reflective practice that with time, proper cultivation and administrative support would no doubt lead to a critical pedagogy bent on the transformative type of education so desperately needed by by our students and our country at large.

yet what was no addressed in this study was the saddening fact that TFA teachers are quite often not committed to the long term commitments to the field of education as other teachers from traditional universities, those who knew they wanted to positively affect the youth thru education specifically… those who may have had more than naive expectations on how to survive in the profession for any length of stay above the normal and frightening attrition rates commonly experienced by inner city schools like mine. what is even more depressing is the reasons why they are leaving… ask my friend, a 2nd year teacher who was assigned to quite possibly the most difficult assignment at our school, why she is leaving. one of the finest young teachers i have had the privilege to work with will not be on my time come next year. although she is one of a kind, she is not alone in this trend. another article written in 2004 highlights the issues concerning a program like TFA. before i can whole heartedly believe that TFA teachers produce better results, i have to figure out how to get around the many stories like the ones of my friend and my first mentor teacher, who change our students life for the better only to leave the profession and relegate the students once again to the horrors of a modern education system that provides them with under-qualified long term substitutes that rotate almost everyday, further eroding an already unstable life… one that does not set them up for the kind of success our society insists on measuring with bubble filling. maybe it is the definition of success that needs to be explored when we examine why these amazingly successful teachers choose to leave our profession to seek out struggle and success in others.

Delicious Tags

this is where you can follow my daily surf sessions on the net. content i peruse at leisure….

Democracy vs. (or with) Anarchy

it should be noted before you read further that i am working off of the following definitions:

democracy – an improbable experiment on the path to fruition of the promise of unalienable rights of citizens (read humans) to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

anarchy – the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without govt. – harmony in such a society being attained not by submission to law or by obedience to any authority but by free agree concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption and also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being.

i am not sure which is more viable… or which one is truly what it supposes to be by definition. not even too sure of the definitions or the validity of the available definitions. but they are both systems that i have been trying to get a better understanding of lately. whether through an organized reading circle that meets once a month, or a rebroadcast lecture of sociologist Parker Palmer on the drive back to a friend’s from a solo dining experience consisting of time for self reflection, nostalgia, and sushi….. it seems that my ponderings continue to connect in the oddest places. or maybe the most logical of places. this under utilized blog is another attempt to connect these free floating ideas to each other and perhaps to you…

my thoughts are incomplete on purpose. still digesting the information i have explored of late on these themes.

That’s what I’m screaming about Pt. II

i am so sick of “revolutionary” or “social justice” urban educators saying that there are more important things to worry about in the hood than global warming. the environment is not a priority issue. or, “people of color don’t go camping! we don’t belong outside!” yes i have actually been told that. in however much serious a statement like that was intended to muster, there are serious implications behind it. the environmental movement is accepted as a movement primarily for affluent white culture. the green media hype (Planet Earth, An Inconvenient Truth, 11th Hour, etc. – not to mention hurricane Katrina) has lessened this somewhat. realizing that even though you may be part of an urban community, there is still another larger community that needs to be experienced in order to appreciate and subsequently to assist. i am glad this middle school teacher in Harlem knows what’s up!

teachers of the year… and the winner is…

what makes a teacher worthy of a title like teacher of the year? one of my colleagues was nominated and subsequently dubbed a teacher of the year for a certain region. i love him. he is my department chair as well as my friend. but i doubt that these were the reasons for his recent title.

so what does make a teacher qualify for teacher of the year. i am not going to lie and say i looked up the criteria for this. i wouldn’t do so not because of lack of interest but for fear of navigating a district website. but even if i were to find out the criteria, which i could just as easily ask my friend, i wonder if i would agree with what makes a great teacher.

my wife is a great teacher. she cares genuinely about her students, or should i say authentically as the theory suggests? she works very hard to serve her students as best as she can. she strives to improve upon her practice and is very reflective of such a process. she is dedicated and willing to see error as an opportunity for improvement. yet recently she was to share her periodic assessment data (the standardized tests our district has our students take in between the state standardized tests periodically) with a room full of principals. this protocol, which was facilitated by UEP and designed to analyze the data reflected from the tests to begin to develop ways to improve test scores (which maybe the problem right there) instead took on a hostile tone towards the sharing teacher, who was present while these principals apparently forgot the previously stated objectives of the protocol. but more importantly what they forgot was that we are dealing with human beings here. human beings that have feelings, needs (both emotional and physical), prior experiences, desires, all that goes along with human nature.

which brings me back to my original question; what makes a teacher a great teacher, worthy of recognition for teacher of the year? are they looking for teachers who can produce data that “they” tell us we want to see? how close are we then to mechanized teaching done simply by numbers and “objective” data? or is a great teacher more than that? are they in fact measuring teacher greatness by human beingness?

La Profesora

La Profesora se fue ayer. La maestra, mi Abuela. Yet absent in the physical world, ella esta presente en espíritu todavia. She was so strong in spirit that today when I woke up reluctant to go to work and teach my students, she was there pushing me. “Levantate! Vaya a trabajar hijo. Tiene que enseñar tus estudiantes.”

i am not sure how well i taught today, but i did nonetheless. and in this i learned a little bit more about mi Abuela. Sobre que tipa de mujer fue ella. Ella fue fuerte, ella era dedicada. Por estos todos la conocen. While i was down visiting her for what would turn out to be the last time, i was truly in awe of the impact this one woman could have on a place. yet when compared to the impact it had on my heart that was usually 2000 miles away, it all made perfect sense. the waves of people that came by to pay respect, para ver si La Profesora esta “OK”, estas olas fueron símbolos de las olas sentimientos en mi corazón. There is not enough i can say about mi Abuela. She was a force on this Earth, one of good. and this is what i take from her.

Now it is time to be my own force. To pick where she left of. To follow in her foot steps, paso a paso. Porque somos maestros. there is a certain prestige and power that comes with our titles. and mi Abuela knew that. and she used it to conquer the ignorance that helped feed the darkness not only of the uneducated but the “overeducated”, the elite that so often use education to keep the masses down. She helped lift them up. and so now it is time that i do the same.

everyday i step foot in the classroom i do my best to lift. but i know that this is not enough. looking at my grandma’s life it is quite clear. there is so much to be done. and i need to have persistence and strength to survive let alone overcome this system that pushes my students down and pushes me around. so it is in her spirit now that i move forward. combined with the spirit of so many others, here and gone. if it is change we seek then it is change we become. this blog is merely one aspect of the work that i attempt to do, always work to do. true conversations that need to happen. what is really going on in our schools? what is going on in our lives? here i will try to utilize this space for whoever is ready to join in conversation. the theme: ed 4 change.
para mi Abuela, te quiero muchisimo… y yo voy adalente para conseguir cambia.

That’s What I’m Screaming About!!!

This is what I have been waiting for, why i barely write in this blog, and why nobody visits it neither… I have been waiting for this talking point. It is so much easier to quote somebody else who says what you want to say. I learned that while doing my thesis… which by the way sounded a lot like what Congress is just now learning. Can’t remember if I sent a copy to them. Now, to send a copy of this to Super Nintendo Brewer to see if he will remain true to his 5 point plan. -g

A chat about Congress’ effort to restore environmental education funds | By Amy Linn | Grist | Grist Feature | 26 Sep 2007: ”

No Child Left Inside

Graffiti: Art, Vandalism, or the next victim of Coporate Capitalism?

a panel discussing the cultural importance and educational value of graffiti and you invited a Caltrans head? oh this ought to be good… and for the most part it was…save a few things mentioned below.

there is no doubt that the conference held at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy was in the right city to discuss these issues. the event began with the coordinator of the program addressing the audience (many who joined the event an hour into… gotta love LA, and comprised of super egos, talent, self appointed experts and martyrs, and just your average educational enthusiast trying to see if they could learn something and bring it back to the youth) disappointedly… within the first ten minutes of the doors opening someone had tagged the building, historic and sacred to many who do work there.

avoiding a close call of cancellation, we continued on the bumpy road. the highlight reel should read.
1) Caltrans representative Dan freeman plays the part of the “bad guy” to a T, but not before dosing off a nod or two while participating in the panel… to his defense, the panel wasn’t exactly begging for his continued input.
2) former President of the Cultural Affairs Commission of LA timely points out the “we need to take the existentialism out of graffiti..” i mean seriously folks.
3) O.G. cholo stylist and native of East LA Chaz Bojorquez hands out one of many “disses” of the day when he fuels the battle of the coasts with his comment that “… NY is still doing bubble letters…”

other highlights included artists Slick and Retna responding to inquiries on their proven credentials, as well as defending themselves and members of other crews, artists demanding answers to questions that undoubtedly left the lay person in the audience more confused… and a distaste for the high level of ego necessary? in graffiti…

bottom line. the discussion must continue. questions to be answered. what is graffiti? is tagging the same thing? what is art? what is vandalism? why do graffiti? does the intrinsic individualism equal embedded capitalism? and can we have this discussion without addressing political, social, economical, racial, and the other multitude of realities and issues…

what did we learn? that our students need to be a part of this dialogue. they need to help us answer some of these questions and help us creatively formulate solutions to some of the “problems” graffiti creates while it addresses, consciously or not…
p.s. suggestions for curricular ideas surrounding this topic welcome… without the existentialism!
-g
p.p.s. couldn’t really comment on LA weekly and their important role with the excess of promoting that went on at the event but… read the article coming out soon by Shelley Leopold