Friday, April 27, 2012

Printed: Teacher Freedom + Collaboration = Success

This is awesomely impressive and should be happening more:

...The district was named a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education, which honors academic excellence in largely minority and low-income districts... Corona-Norco appears to have mostly avoided the pitfalls common to similar districts with diverse student populations and budget constraints. About half the students are Latino and are mostly low-income. The district's $371-million budget has been cut by $140 million since 2007-08. 

...It is most apparent in the lack of strife between the district and its unions. In 2010, teachers and administrators took a 5% pay cut to avoid teacher layoffs. Teachers, who meet weekly to discuss strategies and tweak lesson plans, are given freedom to experiment in the classroom and are active in developing curriculum... By design, the district stays away from prescriptive lesson plans, allowing teachers and administrators at individual schools to develop their own strategies to reach the same goal — higher student achievement. - LA Times 

Further proof that giving teachers choices in curriculum is better than wide-reaching mandates from people that likely have never taught in a classroom or know your students. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Moment: Canvassing NLD

One of the best days ever today - driving (and getting lost) around North Lawndale with Molly to pass out flyers to the North Lawndale Service Day:

- an elementary student whose school CY painted last week was so happy to see us
- an older woman at a restaurant told us all about how she had CY at her school growing up
- we accidentally found a nonprofit, LAMP, that works with children who are impacted by incarceration, and discovered that we know some of the same students :-)
- the whole atmosphere of the community seemed different to me than usual; since we were seeking out other organizations in the area, it was like we stumbled upon this whole world of active do-gooders that we never knew existed.

Note to self - wherever I work, try to find this invisible network as early as possible, then use each other to collaborate and refer.  "Who else is on the beach?"

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Captured: Math in the Caf

Math games, budget and gpa info, resources for summer jobs, and cookies :-) 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Printed: Diabetes

In 2003 Sinai Urban Health Institute (SUHI) conducted a survey that found that 10% of North Lawndale respondents aged 18 – 75 reported that they had received a diagnosis of diabetes by a health professional, compared to 5% in Chicago and 8% nationally. SUHI also calculated the diabetes mortality rates using Illinois vital records death certificate files and census data and found that the diabetes mortality rate in North Lawndale is 62% higher than for the US and 37% higher than Chicago’s. - Source

Proof that these communities need effective nutrition education more than ever. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Moment: Mascot

Our team's favorite "mascot" (aka kid that hangs out with us all the time) sitting in our room, talking about goals and grades and whether or not he'll make it to the NFL, diverts to a story about his childhood friend who was one grade older - "When he was in 9th grade and I was in 8th, he told me just to go to school and do what I gotta do, not to get distracted like other kids... then one day his grandma told me he died.  And I didn't cry or anything, even though I knew him since I was like 10 or 11.  And she told me he left me a note, you know we used to play football together and all that, and the note said that if I didn't make it to college for anyone else, to make it for him and for myself.  So that's what I'm going to do."

1)  I love that he's close enough to us to open up like that.  Who would he talk to otherwise?  Makes sense why he drives us crazy talking every day after school.

2) Sad that he said repeatedly "but it wasn't like a tragic death, he just drowned in his friend's pool in the suburbs, then had brain damage. But it wasn't like he was shot or anything."  Another reflection of how accustom to death the kids in this neighborhood are.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Printed: The Hardest Job Everyone Thinks They Can Do

This was so comforting to read - it confirms that 1) I am not the only one who gets frustrated when talking with non-teachers, 2) it's ok that it's difficult, and 3) it's still 100% worth it. 

"The next time you walk into a classroom, and you see the teacher calmly presiding over a room full of kids, all actively engaged in the lesson, realize that it’s not because the job is easy. It’s because we make it look easy. And because we work our asses off to make it look easy." 

The whole thing is really worth reading <3

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Printed: Ready to Strike

"Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing for big changes at Chicago Public Schools next year, including a longer school day, a different calendar and new teacher evaluations.  Lewis said CPS wants to lock in a five-year contract and is offering teachers a 2 percent raise in the first year, with salaries based on performance in later years.

Chicago Teachers Union officials say teachers at more than 150 schools are ready to go on strike.  Chicago teachers have not gone out on strike since 1987. Lewis, who said she was a first-year teacher during the last strike, said the climate at CPS is the most hostile she has ever seen." - wbez

Oy vey. I used to care 0% about these kinds of things (like unions and legalities) but now I know what an enormous deal it is.  Not sure what I would do if I was asked to strike.  Fingers crossed they find an agreement soon that values the teachers' work and keeps the needs of the students first.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Captured: Freshmen Retreat

Camp Duncan was a success!  We took 36 freshmen on an overnight trip using some money from City Year and some money from the school.  CY and the teachers shared the planning and we (mostly) all chaperoned.  Students were invited to attend based on grades and behavior.  It was so interesting to see them in a different element and they really enjoyed it :-)  Makes me think that one day I'd love to have an annual trip or similar tradition...

We've arrived!  A little different than the city...

Four square.  Yes.

Tons of team building activities. Note to self - do these regularly with my class. Find the time.

I made it to the top!
Campfire :-) We could actually SEE the stars!

Printed: Testing Sucks

 Only 7 percent of teachers believe in standardized tests, says

As the author writes, 'If growing numbers of parents are considering opting out of standardized testing, and teachers themselves don't believe high stakes tests as essential to learning, why are we ramping up the amount of testing in our schools?'

Update: Tennessee is now factoring in standardized test scores into elementary students' course grades.  As the Tennessean said, ...the scores will count for 15-25 percent of all test-takers’ second-semester grades. Tennessee is believed to be the first state in the country with this brand of widespread student accountability in grades three through eight. While teachers welcome the change, the new rules are rattling some students’ confidence and have parents questioning the benefits.

At least 35 percent of teacher evaluations are based on the learning gains that the TCAP tests measure. “Teachers said, ‘We’re the ones being graded all the time — the kids don’t have any skin in the game,’ ” said Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, who supported the new law. “They don’t take these tests seriously."

Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said it’s too early to gauge whether the changes will improve test scores. 

So, what's happening is that the craziness to hold people accountable to numbers is trickling down, and now 8 year olds are worrying if they're smart enough to meet the scores.  Great.  What about addressing the root of the issue, like better teacher prep programs, better teacher development and coaching, and better tools for school-family integration?  We're headed in a great direction, U.S. Education System.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Printed: Your Children Are Not Your Children

Your children are not your children. 
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.  
They come through you but not from you, 
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. 

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 
For they have their own thoughts. 
You may house their bodies but not their souls, 
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, even in your dreams. 
You may strive to be like them, but seem not to make them like you, 
For life goes not backwards nor tarries with yesterday. 

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
. . . . . . . 
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness. 

- Kahlil Gibran 

Printed in Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing by A.S. Neill, which describes the Summerhill school in England.  I think it's going to be my next favorite book.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Words: Your Fear

Throwing around the "get to know you" question ball:

"What's your favorite color?"
"What's your favorite school subject?"
"What's something you fear?"
"Getting shot and killed."

Not the first thing that ever comes to my mind.....


Monday, April 2, 2012

Printed: Students Demanding an Education

"I want the kids [that are] under me, I want them to be able to have the education that we were supposed to have that we didn't get." - Detroit Public Schools Senior

"About 50 students were suspended Thursday from the all-boys Frederick Douglass Academy in Detroit, Mich. for walking out of classes in protest, demanding 'an education.' Among their complaints: a lack of consistent teachers, the reassignment of the school principal, educators who abuse sick time and a shortage of textbooks. One math teacher, parent Sharise Smith tells WJBK-TV, has been absent for more than 68 days." - HuffPuff

Wow.  This is when you know it's bad.  Good for them.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Printed: Autism

"New estimates show that 1 in 88 American children has been identified as having autism spectrum disorder, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today, marking an increase of more than 20 percent since the last time such data were collected." - EdWeek

Wow.  How is it possible that people still don't know the causes?  This also makes me think about how general ed teachers NEED to be trained on how to provide supports for students with autism, not just special ed teachers.  How is that not required in teacher training yet??