Even if I see you again, I will never see you again.

My grandmother’s house always had beautiful paintings and other wall decor items on the wall. I would come over and she would plainly state “When I die, you can have anything you want. This will all be yours.” My 13-year old self would roll my eyes and reply with exasperation and some shame that I’d rather have her live than inherit the cornucopia of Soviet trinkets and other chachkes.

As I grew, the objects came to have more meaning and history, especially after I came to value family heritage. There was the blue wave that stood mightier than the ocean whence it came, this oil painting hung in the foyer above where the dining table would host family gathering after family gathering. A few seagulls flew overhead, seemingly looking for a silvery fish snack. That painting was there since I was two…

Next, were the twins, a sort of Raggedy Ann and Andy pair of matching paintings from the 1970s.They both sported bell bottoms. You would inevitably pass their mischievous grins as you walked toward grandma’s peach colored, sunlit bedroom. The girl had a velvety purple shirt on with a flower and the boy had some DIY fishing gear. Their large eyes were kind and friendly, I believe Grandma got these from our neighbors and relatives, Esther and Minnie who passed when I was still in elementary school.

The most mysterious of the coveted wall art, and the piece that would make me blush as a kid was the needle point work, so craftfully done, of a lonely woman posed near a window with a sheer sheet covering a portion of her nude body. Her breast, pixelated with the fine wool thread in pink and peach, peeked out. I was always so in awe of that piece, ofcourse I never thought to ask how grandma had acquired it and the story behind it…

It is strange how regrets pile on like buttermilk pancakes when opportunity to communicate with someone you love ceases indefinitely. It’s not the objects carry her spirit, maybe they do, it is that sense of comfort and familiarity. Also responsibility, I would have loved to carry on some family heirlooms. But ofcourse, as the years passed and grandma gradually became bedbound with a round the clock home attendant, things disappeared. A 6-month stint at the nursing home-poof, there went that gold ring. Another few workers later, that antique piece vanishes. Away at college and then living outside of Brooklyn for a few years, I lost sight of these things… Returning to the pillaged apartment, I felt as though her memory, her life has been sordid somehow by all these external variables. In the end, all the things that were to be mine, oh boy, were gone or damaged. The late 2000s bed bug scare across NYC passed through like a whirlwind and the wretched creatures did not overlook all the lovely mementos that were to be bequeathed to me. So as I cleaned the apartment, I could not take the blue wave, I turned away from the 1970s adventurous Bobsey twins and reluctantly left my needlepoint crush with her supple breast… Instead of my favorite things, I was delighted to find a wrinkled piece of paper in a decorative tea kettle that was never used for tea but only display.

I unraveled it and then remembered, it was a small accounting book that grandma had me use when I took money for things I really needed like school supplies and other purchases that my mom could not afford to get me on her own. Grandma would have me do the math so I could feel the finances. It was money that she was saving for me but nonetheless I had to justify deducting the sum from Grandma bank and keep the rudimentary books. It is neat reflecting on this, so many years later…

I managed to keep some china and I hope that will some how give physicality to her memory. I am still trying to figure out away that she can stay alive in my heart so in the meantime, I have this morbid, tragic and brutally honest Margaret Atwood poem, Margaret Atwood can verbalize all the things I feel but cannot say succinctly.

An excerpt of my favorite stanzas from Five Poems for Grandmothers

In the house on the cliff
by the ocean, there is still a shell
bigger and lighter than your head,
though now
you can hardly lift it.

It was once filled with whispers;
it was once a horn
you could blow like a shaman
conjuring the year,
and your children would come running.

You’ve forgotten you did that,
you’ve forgotten the names of the
children
who in any case no longer run,
and the ocean has retreated,
leaving a difficult beach of gray
stones
your are afraid to walk on.

The shell is now a cave
which opens for you alone.
It is still filled with whispers
which escape into the room,
even though you turn it mouth down.

This is your house, this is the picture
of your misty husband, these are your
children, webbed
and doubled. This is the shell,
which is hard, which is still there
solid under the hand, which mourns,
which offers
itself, a narrow journey
along its hallways of cold pearl
down the cliff into the sea.

***

Sons branch out, but
one woman leads to another.
Finally I know you
through your daughters,
my mother, her sisters,
and through myself:
Is this you, this edgy joke
I make, are these your long fingers,
your hair of an untidy bird
is this your outraged
eye, this grip
that will not give up?

***
Goodbye, mother
of my mother, old bone
tunnel through which I came.

You are sinking down into
your own veins, finger
folding back into the hand,

day by day a slow retreat
behind the disk of your face
which is hard and netted like an
ancient plate.

You will flicker in these words
and in the words of other
for a while and then go out.

Even if I send them,
you will never get these letters.
Even if I see you again,

I will never see you again.

Mid-2017 Update

As nearly a month passes since I have returned to Brooklyn from my six month stint in our state’s capital, good ol’Albany, or “Smallbany” as the locals call it, I wanted to reflect on the whirlwind that has been the last few months.

Albany Highlights:

1. TeachNY Provost’s Steering Committee
contribute to policy resolution language and learn the “anatomy of a resolution” language must be durable. Any specific language goes into MTPs Memo to presidents. Worked with a Provosts, Deans, professors and a SUNY Board Trustee on revamping standards for educator preparation.

2. Nothing can substitute geographical proximity and access- being able to take a 5-minute walk up Chestnut Street, hit the Plaza and enter the Legislative Office Building to attend a Joint Legislative budget hearing for SUNY and CUNY is nothing short of remarkable. SUNY Chancellor Zimpher and Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia testified as I took notes and tried to process the key issues.
* Sitting in on the Finance and Administration committee board meeting and Learning about how the board votes on resolutions and presents information was amazing as well*

3. I had the opportunity to attend two TeachNY events one at the courthouse at SUNY and another hosted at City College, co-hosted with CUNY. A speakout with student teachers on how to improve the student teaching experience confirmed that students did not feel that the internship/field requirement was long enough.

4. Attending a first-year visit to City Arts Charter Schools, authorized by SUNY, as part of the evaluation team was exciting. I observed classrooms and we debriefed on the school’s performance in areas of Instructional Leadership, Curriculum, Pedagogy, At-Risk students and Organizational Capacity.

5. Attending the annual SOMOS Conference, during the critical weeks leading up to the budget enactment date of April 1, and listening to both sides hash out the Excelsior Scholarship Proposal benefits and disadvantages.

It is hard for me to verbalize but being so close to policy initiatives being proposed, opposed, debated, developed, advocated for, lobbied against, written about- the exciting and frustrating web of policies, politics, people ignited a fire inside of me. Meeting lobbyists, advocates, legislators, senators cemented the feeling that civic engagement was alive. People felt so passionately about their issues and thus became subject matter experts for their particular arena. During the Child Victims Act lobby day, I witnessed a woman who has been sexually abused as a child break down into tears during a conversation with a state Senator. After the budget was enacted, stage agency heads, advocates and non-profit leaders who had been fighting for an issue for decades either reaped a win or continued the struggle. Underneath the small town facade, a town that was mostly empty after 5pm, Albany was rife with politics, negotiations, suspense, powerful stakeholders, betrayals and unrest. Sounds like a modern soap opera, eh?

I miss it.

Being able to participate and observe as a Fellow made me feel like my voice mattered . It was an honor to be part of this fellowship with 13 other kick-ass principled and diverse women.

Now the challenge is being able to sustain that energy and experience and translate it into the context of my long-term career goals in NYC. I reluctantly returned on a hot June 30th, 2017 day, in a rickety U-Haul 10 footer, with my fiancee beside me and my entire life in the cargo compartment.After declining a job offer in Albany, I returned to NYC with a cloak of uncertainty weighing on me… with no job lined up I prayed for the best as I started a new chapter.

Haulin it back to Brooklyn after the fellowship graduation…. #nosleeptillbrooklyn #movingday

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Within about a week or two of moving, my paternal grandmother, who had already been bed bound for quite some time and mostly non-verbal with dementia, had a stroke. After a week at Coney Island Hospital, two days at a hospice/nursing home she finally took her last breath, on July 20 around 1:00pm. This was devastating, my role model since I could walk and talk is no more. Family flew into town from Texas and Florida, then they flew back out. We had a lovely service for her, well really for us. I still get some flashbacks of her plain pine, unfinished coffin being covered with dirt as we buried her at Wellwood Cemetery on Long Island. I am planning to make one final visit to her apartment to take a lovely needlepoint portrait that had hung on her wall for decades. I will have photos and memories to remember her by and the knowledge that her same blood runs through my veins. Excelsior. Ever upward. Till my next post, which must be sooner than 6 months- the gap of time between this post and the one preceding it.

NYC opt-out numbers soar in AY 2014-15

April 14-16, 2015 marked the administration days for the ELA state test in New York. This year about three times as many students “opted-out” of the New York State Common Core test in the middle school I work in than last year. State-wide the numbers soared even more, most notably West Seneca, a school district near Buffalo where reportedly two thousand students refused to partake in the bubbling in and “extended response” festivities. Two thousand in one district compared to the 50,000- 60,000 – the state-wide refusal number last school year according to state officials.

Students in my school submitted letters from their parents opting them out, I received calls the morning of the exam from anxious parents who decided last minute and then asked how this would affect their child’s academic progress and chances of promotion into the next grade. Surely a packed question and one  that I could not answer given the time constraints and my position in the school. The principal tried to talk some parents out of opting out but most stuck to their guns and even used language from many local vociferous parent groups like Change the Stakes.

A communication was sent out to families encouraging them to weigh their decision carefully:

“Firstly, thank you for providing notice that your student is considering opting out of this year’s Common Core NYS math and ELA tests. Both your student and the school have worked hard this sure to ensure mastery of the grade-level standards set forth by the State of New York. While I am disappointed to hear your student will not have the opportunity to show his/her knowledge through this testing process, as a public school, we must provide families an option to refuse the test. “

Under state and federal accountability rules, the metric is if less than 95% of a school’s eligible test takers sit for the exam than the school will be deemed as failing to make “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP). So it is in principal’s best interest to push for the exam.

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As a middle schooler in a Brooklyn public school in the 1990s , we had “city-wides”-  there was one for Math and another for ELA. Now, students sit for a cumulative 540 minutes, (about 4.5  hours for each subject)  that is quite a significant increase and comparable to examinations at the graduate level. Furthermore, no other country tests to this extent according to Diane Ravitch, education policy scholar and former Secretary of Education. It is inspiring to see parents so involved in their child’s education that they are take a bold political action, for many maybe their first venture into activism.

Next week is the 3-day long Math state test, more opt-outs are expected.

Concessions: More voices invited to critique CCLS implementation

Are the Common Core Learning Standards -CCLS finally giving way to public pressure? Not merely public at large but a collective voice from educators, education policy makers, parents and activists? The American Federation of Teachers is disbursing $30,000  grant for a teacher-led task force in NY & Connecticut to review the  standards.  How often does that happen in ed policy?

The task force is charged with:

  • critiquing the ELA & Math curricular resources that accompany the rollout of the standards
  • evaluating the state’s process for developing standardized tests
  • assessing how the efficacy of professional development and other supports for teachers as they implement the standards for special populations ( ELLs, IEPs etc.)

“Teachers have not had enough time to fully understand the standards and develop curriculum, and it’s been especially difficult for teachers with special education students and English language learners,” says AFT Connecticut President Melodie Peters.

The question is to what extent will the voices of the task force be addressed?  Is this but an appeasement strategy so it can be said ” Sure, teachers and practitioners were involved in the implementation, their opinions were substantially incorporated into what the process looks like today.” At the close of the six-month grant, the reviews will be shared with policymakers, state legislature and parent -led advocacy groups.

 

See the AFT Press Release for more details.

 

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Summer Update

Happy Summer!

It has been a whirlwind of the past 2 months… a few updates

MOVING
1. I moved into a new place with my partner. Moving in is a lot of work. It was not immediately obvious that moving in is a month long process. Unpacking, acquiring furniture, restocking the pantry etc.We are still moving in but mostly done. I think the coffee table was the last major component…

FURNITURE PROJECT
2. I wish I was more DIY, but I suppose this is a start. The coffee table I found from Craigslist was mostly perfect, it raises up so you can dine from it. The only thing that was off was that it was painted black. It would be too much black in the living room so I decided to strip the paint to reveal the natural oak beneath! I still need to finish sanding it and then stain it. Next project is a Kitchen Island!

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3M stripping gel after sitting for 2 hours- I go at it with a Putty knife

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After sanding, coconut oil on one side to see comparison

 

Summer Class
3. Semester long coursework crammed into a 5-week Summer class is challenging. Meeting twice a week was manageable but it was demanding. The Communications class was the last core class for my MPA. Public speaking was fun, very hard to deliver from memory or even extemporaneously. I did reduce the amount of verbal fillers I used like “er”, “like” and “um”. Now on to electives!

Now a great excerpt on digital learning for young learners from this Week’s Marshall memo. With our kindergarten class at the organization I work at using Ipads it is important to have a set of regulations limiting the time these kids are interfacing with tech gadgets. There have not been any major published studies concluding what the effects of digital learning is on young brains.

 

*          *          *

How Much Digital Text Should Young Children Be Reading?

“It’s been a long time since libraries were paper-only domains,” says author Annie Murphy Paul in this article in School Library Journal. “The number of websites, apps, and e-books for children under five has grown exponentially, leading librarians, teachers, and parents to wrestle with new questions about which digital offerings are appropriate and when.” Enthusiastic advocates make the case for exposing children to digital content at a young age, but others caution that the research is scanty and too much technology may “rewire” young brains, making it more difficult for children to pay attention and control their impulses.

“Children under age five need to handle real objects, learning for themselves how the natural world works,” says Paul. “They must move their bodies, coordinating their movements and gaining physical confidence. They should engage in unstructured playtime, exercising their imaginations, managing their emotions, and solving problems in scenarios of their own creation. And, most of all, young children need to interact with other people, navigating relationships with their peers and receiving guidance and support from adults. All of these needs are met most fully in the offline world.” Paul cites research on a number of ways in which digital content can shortchange development:

• Children have difficulty transferring knowledge from one context to another, even if a video portrays people speaking. A flesh-and-blood person can respond to a child’s gestures and words and presents a much richer array of cues than any two-dimensional image.

• Most digital content has little educational value, even if it claims that it does. And e-books with visual and auditory gimmicks and game-like features can distract young readers from the content.

• The time spent with digital media may not be messing up children’s brains, says Paul, but it means less time relating to people, playing in unstructured environments, and getting outside.

Paul is not a Luddite and believes digital content can enrich children’s lives, but she believes teachers, librarians, and parents need more guidance on choosing the best material and using it wisely. Here are her selection criteria:

– Digital material should be easy to use and understand.

– It should be accessible to children of varying abilities and levels of maturity.

– It should be playful and enjoyable, encouraging creativity and imaginativeness.

– It should be open-ended and interactive, not one-sided and passive.

– It should connect to children’s everyday experiences while exposing them to new information and perspectives.

Paul suggests several online clearinghouses that provide ratings of children’s media: Common Sense Media, Graphite, Children’s Technology Review, and Google Play for Education.

It’s also important for adults to interact with children while they’re using digital media – something that comes naturally while reading a book together (pausing to make a comment or ask a question) but happens less often with videos or apps. Paul urges adults to pose open-ended questions about electronic material and ask children to describe what’s happening in their own words. And adults should limit the time children spend with digital content. “The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under age two get no screen time at all,” says Paul, “and that older children be limited to two hours of screen time a day.”

Paul closes with a list of advantages that print books have over electronic reading matter for young children:

– Because paper books don’t have hyperlinks to click on, they can create a more immersive reading experience and children aren’t tempted to explore the Internet.

– With no visual and audio gimmicks and games, children are more likely to focus on the written words and remember what they’re reading.

– “Without the bells and whistles of e-books, young readers must mobilize their own imaginations to fill in the gaps left by authors and illustrators,” says Paul: “what a character looks like, for example, or the sound an animal makes.”

– The feel of paper and rich colors of illustrations are a strong feature of books, and many are significantly bigger than the small screens of tablets and laptops.

– Books are more conducive to “a quiet focus on words and stories,” says Paul, versus the fast-paced entertainment.

– Books are a little easier to share with others.

– Adults are more likely to stop and ask questions and less likely to say, “Swipe the page now” or “Don’t touch that button.”

– “The number of quality children’s books published in paper still vastly outnumbers those available in digital format,” says Paul.

“Too Soon? The Low-Down on Digital Content, What’s Appropriate, At What Age – and Some Props for Print Books” by Annie Murphy Paul in School Library Journal, July 2014 (Vol. 60, #7, p. 16-18), www.slj.com

New York state has more inequitable allocation of education funds than other states?

Great radical run down on the reality of educational opportunity from the Campaign for Education Equity. They say zipcode is indicative of school quality…


SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: 

THE TRUTH ABOUT SCHOOL FUNDING IN NEW YORK STATE

Myth #1: Schools and school districts have enough funding to provide all of their students with a quality education in spite of state funding cuts.

REALITY: The fact is that no one in state government—not the governor, the legislature, nor the state education department—has examined what impact the state cuts to education have actually had on children and schools. But independent research shows that state cuts to education have detrimentally affected children throughout the state and have disproportionately hurt districts in low-wealth areas that serve large numbers of children from low-income households. Because of inadequate funding, many schools throughout are unable to provide basic state-required educational resources like books, required course offerings, and technology to all of their students. This means that the requirement in the state constitution that all students be provided the opportunity for a sound basic education is being widely flouted.

Myth #2: Students won’t benefit from additional funding.

REALITY: With adequate funding, schools will be able to provide students with the full range of resources that are constitutionally required but are not currently offered in many schools because of limited budgets. Benefits to students will include: additional textbooks so students no longer have to share in class and can take books home after school; smaller class sizes; repaired and upgraded computers for student use; required tutoring and other supports for students who are struggling academically; restoring advanced science and math classes; honors and AP classes; art and music programs; physical education classes; foreign language classes; career and technical education; school librarians; field trips; internships; school government; school newspaper; and sufficient guidance and college counselors.

Myth #3: Schools and school districts could provide all of their students a quality education with their current funding—they just need figure out how to “do more with less.” 

REALITY: Neither the state government nor the state education department has produced any evidence to support this claim. Moreover, they have not provided schools and school districts with any guidance or models to show them how they can meet constitutional requirements and new state mandates with less money.

Myth #4: New York State is fully meeting its school-funding obligations under state law.

REALITY: Foundation aid for schools statewide is currently almost $4 billion below the level the state legislature itself determined in 2007 was necessary to provide all students with the opportunity for a sound basic education. In 2009, the state froze the level of state aid and deferred full payment of the constitutionally required amounts. Starting in 2010, each year it has reduced the amount of foundation funding by imposing a “gap elimination adjustment” that it has claimed is necessary to help eliminate the “gap” between available state revenues and state expenses. Currently this “gap elimination adjustment” is over $1.6 billion.

Myth #5: The state doesn’t have enough money to increase education funding.

REALITY: This year, the governor has announced that the state has a budget surplus, and the governor has announced that he intends to use the surplus to cut property taxes and various business and estate taxes by about $2 billion instead of providing the school aid that students have been promised and that the constitution requires.

Myth #6: Governor Cuomo’s 2014-15 executive budget proposals provide a big funding boost to schools. 

REALITY: The governor’s $608 million proposal for basic school operations would provide only a 2.91% increase in school aid this year. Just to meet mandatory cost increases and avoid more cuts in staffing and programs, school districts will need at least a 3.7% increase, according to the Education Conference Board. Under the governor’s scheme, New York City would receive a 2.76% increase, Syracuse would receive a 1.74% increase, and Buffalo would see only a 1.72% increase.

Myth #7: Gov. Cuomo helped New York fix its school-funding problems by establishing an education reform commission charged with “evaluating education funding, distribution of State aid, and operating costs” and examining “the unique set of issues faced by high-need urban and rural school districts.”

REALITY: In its final report that was issued in January 2014, the governor’s New NY Education Reform Commission was silent on these issues, saying that it was unable to make any recommendations regarding the critical funding issues because of  “their complexity, the wide variety of views surrounding them, and the limitations of time and resources.”

Myth #8: New York spends more on education than any other state and gets poor results. 

REALITY: According to the January 2014 issue of Education Week’s “Quality Counts,” New York is fifth highest in per capita spending, adjusted for regional cost differences, and its overall achievement levels are higher than 29 other states and the District of Columbia. More importantly, New York’s high average spending masks the fact that the state contains some of the highest spending and highest achieving school districts in the country, but the distribution of education spending is more inequitable than in most other states, and vast numbers of students throughout the state are not being provided a meaningful educational opportunity.

Myth #9: The governor and the legislature can shift the blame to schools or school districts.

As a matter of constitutional law, it is the state, and not local schools or school districts, that is ultimately responsible for ensuring that students receive appropriate educational services; if student achievement is not at desired levels, legally the fault lies with flawed state policies and inadequate state actions.

Children of the Common Core

Children of the Common Core

Image by Nick the Rat

The interview day was fast approaching, I haven’t interviewed in a while so this was a good opportunity to reflect on where I came from and where I wanted to go.

I was scatter brained in the days leading up to the interview, with poor time management I wasted post work hours searching for a new suit.
After trying on 3 suits each with its own shortcoming a.too cheap looking, b. too tight c. damaged zipper on the pants that slid open at the slightest movement. I almost had a panic attack and was upset with myself that I wasted time. I went home to meditate.

That night I prepped a smoothie for the following morning, my smoothie kick has been going well. Preparing 13 zip loc baggies in one shot makes it so much easier to make.The next morning I was pretty chilled out as I got onto the train and listened to the wheels screech below as the Q train made the infamous sharp turn over Coney Island Ave and ran down Brighton 11th street. The sun was rising and I felt the butterflies settle as I reviewed my talking points on a one pager. Soon the interview from hell would reveal itself.

“Screechhh! “… moments later a muffled announcement unapologetically declared a slew of train delays. If you live in NYC you know the announcements are seldom comprehensible, most times they resemble the muffled cacophonous sounds of the adult characters on Charlie Brown. I bounced from the B to the Q a few times to try my luck. Inevitably, I arrive 45 minutes late, drenched in sweat underneath all those winter layers, I freshen up and swap my comfy walking shoes for my patent leather interview heels.

As I enter, 3 other candidates are feverishly  clicking away at laptops around a small conference table. I jump in to complete a realistic “prioritization task” quite similar to what my day to day “firefighting” often looks like. Obviously I would ensure an absent teacher has coverage for his/her class before embarking on some philosophical discussion about the school dress code for a student whose precious do-rag was confiscated. We all must appease parents sometimes.

After completing the tasks, I chatted with the other candidates. Upon inquiring what school they had previously worked in they turned out to be Seniors in college. I naturally felt out of place, either this role was not for me or – I should not be applying to entry level positions with candidates more junior than me. I felt like the old maid in the candidate pool.

I brushed it off and got ready for the mini “tour” where the guide, the office manager- a bright eyed millenial boasted how the “graduation rate” was 100%. Yes, cherry picking and expelling those who can’t keep up can result in that.  OH lord. I couldn’t take any more, I wandered off on my own for a bit  in the “no excuses” zone and was uncomfortable with what I saw. While the environment seemed rigorous and not a single detail was overlooked I did not feel the joy from these students. Second graders walked silently down the hallway in a straight line , not even a single murmur nor a smile for that matter ! I won’t be completely biased here, I did observe a strong student teacher relationship where a student smiled and quietly hugged a teacher on the way into a classroom.

The schedule was scrupulously planned and the “data driven” ideology was evident via daily attendance rate posters plastered  all along the hallway. Laminated posters praising the most recent “Word Wizards”  who were on track to meeting the “reading goal” held a prominent spot on a bulletin board. The quantitative measure tallied the amount of books and individual words a grade level had read in total.One poster read ” 6th graders have read 460 books and 17,745,103 words.” Cultivating the love of reading in the K-8 years is wonderful, I have no qualm with that, but I don’t recall excessive quantifiers vis a vis my reading when I was in elementary school.  Are the students’ reading experiences enjoyable or a source of anxiety are they thinking”This is the 100th word I have read!”

My exploration continued into a 1st grade classroom where the teacher repeated verbatim from the corresponding part in a highly structured lesson plan. Students learned shapes and the ones that got something wrong had a towering figure above them draw a giant “X” in red. I remember learning about proximity as a teaching fellow and getting down to the same level as the child to show respect and relay empathy and understanding.

A towering figure, if you are 5 years old, that has got to be stressful! I just don’t know how else to say it , it seems like it goes against social emotional teaching and the concept of the whole child. Was I in a corporate reform outfit churning out middle managers who would only ever ask “How high?” students who memorized the right things but could not produce independent thought nor evaluate and think critically at the end of the day? Sure, they may have ready all those books that were on the list of approved curricula by Bill and Melinda and Arne but what kind of adults would they become? Children of the Corn, children of the common core.

I’ll wrap up this overdue rant – I did not feel the joy of learning and realized that the grass is not always greener. I need to develop and change gears sooner or later in my career but for now I know that I am at a school that I would send my own child to with no hesitation. These kids are joyful and learning at the same time, what more can we ask for ?

 

 

 

Final Research Paper and Reign of Error

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On Monday September 23rd, 2013 I went to see a discussion with Diane Ravitch hosted by The Century Foundation. I was super excited since last time she spoke at Bank Street college earlier this spring I ended up missing the presentation.

Though this post is long overdue (Research papers and various essays as required by my public affairs professor, statistics homework that overstayed their welcome from saturday well into Sunday night, work, general exhaustion of the mental faculties etc.) I feel it more relevant because of two reasons.

1. I finally had the opportunity to read the long awaited chapter where Diane outlines a clearcut vision for how to improve the charter school arena thereby mitigating the effects of the “corporate reform movement” aka the private ed reformers.

2. Mayor- elect Bill De Blasio nominated Carmen Farina as the new NYC Chancellor:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/30/nyregion/de-blasio-is-said-to-choose-schools-chancellor.html?hpw&rref=education&_r=0

Also we are a mere 24 hours until 2014 is upon us! (oh lord…)

Whilst spending 4 days of my winter break cranking out my final research paper for my Introduction to Public Affairs class at Baruch College (a core requirement that I initially was not excited about at all and so delayed until my 3rd semester) During my first attempt at taking this class I ended up dropping it when a professor was going to teach it as a lecture-style, rote memorization class- memorize all the presidents including their incumbencies and other AP History HS type approaches.This class I enjoyed, the professor was cynical and real about the policymaking arena, her sardonic tone and questioning demeanor always challenged the class.

The assignment for the final paper  was to choose a particular instance of policymaking formation ( a law that had been enacted for at least 5 years) and outline how it came to be. This was based on the central model of policymaking we had learned in class- Kingdon’s model which relies on the ” three P’s” Policy, Politics and Problems.

The framework posits that when these three meet each other during an opportune moment, a policy window, they couple and out comes a particular policy. So the central question is why do we have this particular policy instead of another? Its not that the policy we have is the optimal one produced by rational decision making – no, it is the one that is politically and economically feasible.I think of this a lot as I contemplate the education reform movement. I chose to look at how No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 came onto the decision agenda and which parties were excluded. Naturally, I cannot talk about education policy without consulting or pulling some quote or core idea from Ravitch. One of the most interesting ones

Ravtich outlines how charters can integrate into public education in the Chapter- ” Make Charters Work for All ”

“Solution No. 5: Ban for-profit charters and charter chains and ensure that charter schools collaborate with public schools to support better education for all children.

 “Is it possible to make them a productive part of American public education,rather than a disruptive force? The problem with charters as currently configured is that they have strayed so far from the original intention of their founding fathers… they saw charters as a way to empower  public school teachers to devise their own innovative curricula and methods to free them from excessive regulation and bureaucracy. Neither man thought of charters as a way to transfer control of public schools to private hands or to create profit-making enterprises for stockholders or to destroy teachers’rights and their unions.” 

This reveals how easily perverted a vision, a policy can become from when it is first legislated and /or envisioned till the time it is actually implemented (Because of the “3 P’s”) With DeBlasio’s policy of charging rent to co-located charters, what new problems will be created in the political arena when it comes to  cultivating a collaborative partnership between the Charter world and public school how will charter. Ravitch and the Kingdon model go so well together.

 

TFA Alum speaks out

A few months ago I read an impassioned piece written by a professor Mark Naison from Fordham University about why he did not allow TFA recruit in his graduate classroom. I shared it with a close friend who had recently completed her TFA fellowship to see what she thought of this. Unfortunately a bid to critically evaluate an organization’s mission and impact was internalized as an ad hominem attack. I have the deepest respect for her teaching and her commitment to stay in teaching unlike many of her colleagues. We straightened out our miscommunication but I was reminded about our discussion when I stumbled upon a video entry from a TFA Alum who came out with a dissenting opinion. His struggle reminded me of my own teaching fellowship in Newark, NJ where I often felt defeated and hopeless and was at a loss of how to help my students.

What do you think of his story? How representative is his view? What other alternative perspectives are out there that come directly from the source- the operating core of idealistic middle-class Ivy league educated millenials ? I would like to see survey data that shows the satisfaction of TFA alums of their Summer Training and their experience as a corps member from a neutral 3rd party.

I feel like he was speaking from the heart until the part about having insufficient access to books as a 7th and 9th grade English teacher. He  mentions that the school library had not grown in a few years and the student had read through the entire set. Upon submitting his 2 weeks notice, he had an exit interview.When asked why he did not reach out regarding obtaining more books he shifts the responsibility to the principal and (at 8:22) claims he does not remember if he asked the principal for more books. A bit absurd that you would not recall such an important factor. I think this weakens his argument as the burden of responsibility falls on him to request a resource necessary to lesson delivery and instruction. Also the part about now having a english curriculum was strange.

Source: http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/teach-for-america/