Monday, April 29, 2013

The National Initiative to Dismantle Free and Public Education

There is an absolute beauty that can’t be denied in seeing so many, teachers, parents and students. . .  community organizers and even some people just getting off from work, ALL  fighting for educational justice. Citizens of various cities throughout the United States are irrupting in mass protests and demonstrations to demand that its city legislature protect and defend its investments for its children. After all, at the very least isn't this what tax dollars should ensure?? President Obama's Administration has initiated a budget for An Economy Built to Last and a World-Class Education for Our Children. This budget plan is clearly to protect and even develop needed enhancements in education and curriculum. 

What is heart breaking is the ability of Philadelphia’s SRC (School Reform Commission) to close 23 of its schools, the audacity of the District of Columbia Public Schools to compromise and only close another 15 schools and Chicago Public Schools will close a whopping 54 schools to handle its budget crisis! All of these districts have tried to save the city's budget by enacting school closures before. This act has neither assisted the cities' budget crisis nor done anything to enhance the academic growth of its students. As a matter of fact these actions have done more to widen the academic achievement gap  than it has done to close it. There are countless other cities and districts throughout the nation that seemingly ignore this collective cry, demanding to keep public schools open. I was always told that whenever confused about an institutions motives, follow the money. Just how broke is this country??? The Dow Jones ,S&P 500, and the Wall Street Journal all reported the highest increase in investments and market values since 2007. A simple question will always be asked: Since the bail outs provided by TARP ( Troubled Asset Relief Program) work so well for banks and the industrial market, why isn’t the same investment made by our tax dollars towards our schools? Follow my next post as we follow the money! 

Thought of the Day

Monday, April 22, 2013

Haiku for the Blue Planet Student Mosaic Part 1

So, in the previous blog post I shared a mosaic that my students put together for Earth 2010. This year, we were already working on haikus which are traditionally written about nature to for our unit of poetry. (Happy Poetry Month!) I had my students decide what they wanted the picture to be, draw it, cut it up and each student wrote his/her haiku on a piece of the planet.

We started first by drafting our poems:

Then we checked over them to make sure they followed the correct format:

Then we wrote our haikus on our little pieces of the planet:

Next we put them all together to create our mosaic:

I added a little extra credit assignment that my students were really excited about. We went outside and took pictures of nature with our camera phones and then I had the students post their pictures to Instagram and put their haiku as the caption. We used a hashtag them so I could find them and give them credit. They liked that they could share their assignment on a social media site they often use:

Ode to Earth Student Mosaic Part 1

Back in 2010, I had my students create a mosaic to honor Earth on Earth Day. Each picture has a poem, in the form of an ode, celebrating nature. We pieced them together to create this beautiful mosaic in the hall which we dubbed, "Ode to Earth". This year I plan to do the same thing with my Creative Writing class only this time we'll be focusing on haikus since we're deep into our poetry unit and are focusing on poetic form. (Happy Poetry Month! btw) That mosaic will probably be much more detailed. I will be posting the results. Stay tuned!

Thought of the Day

Happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Thought of the Day

"The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey...for to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others, The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning." -Nelson Mandela

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thought of the Day

"Learning has been reduced to getting the right answers to someone else's questions."

We reward students who give us the "right" answers and mute the ones who question our answers. The more you excel in an inauthentic system the less important being authentic becomes.- Victoria Merriweather

Teach em to test or teach em to learn

Atlanta Superintendent Indicted

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Land of the Free?

We Need to Talk About Injustice

Economic status determines a lot for our children especially with the public school to prison pipeline being a very prevalent problem here in America. On the video above, Bryan Stevenson has a frank discussion about injustice in America.

How does our justice system reflect the inequalities of the public education system?

How can a true investment in a child's education change the likelihood of them being found on the wrong side of justice?

Thought of the Day

"We have a justice system in this country that treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent. Wealth, not capability, shapes outcomes." Bryan Stevenson 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Are Our Students Allowed to Flex Their Decision Making Muscles?

"Simply put, we have fallen in love with the illusory certainty of making a choice, and abandoned any shared commitment to investing in the long and careful deliberative process that is necessary to ensure that the decisions we do make are both well informed and thoughtfully constructed."

These sentiments came from: the Education Week article In Modern School Reform is it We the People or Me the Individual?

I agree whole-heartedly, I just haven't articulated it the way they have. As a middle school teacher, this is what you lose when you create "zero-tolerance" policies. This is what you lose when you evaluate instruction with selected response assessments. There's no wiggle room, no second chances, no mercy and no grace. We are teaching our children that making "good" decisions is a natural innate ability. We give little room for growth to reflect that one's ability to make the right decision comes more easily over time and maturity, or that decision making is more like a muscle and only gets better with exercising. When an adolescent makes a mistake now-a-days, they are severely punished ...imagine how this discourages their faith in their ability to make good choices throughout life? 

I know that is not the central thesis of this of this article, but I couldn't help but pull it out. It is definitely a problem in our schools. 

Time is a major factor. So much as to get done in a certain amount of time, and we simply ignore the differences in time it takes different individuals to process information. 

How can teachers and parents help students flex their decision making muscles?

How do you feel about "zero-tolerance"? 

In what ways can we teach children to enjoy the process instead of focusing solely on the product?

Thought of the Day

Monday, April 15, 2013

While School Doors Close, Prison Cells Open

Four major cities are closing several schools next year: Philadelphia (23), New York City (23), The District of Columbia (15) and Chicago (54). I've often wondered what the ramifications might be for so many school closings aside from larger class sizes and already overwhelmed resources such as wrap around services (social workers, resource teachers, etc) being abused, and I found an article that outlined many more problems for districts in the future. Here, Education Week argues why closing so many schools only temporarily saves district budgets.  

I also watched, "The House I Live In: Takes a Hard Look at the War on Drugs" yesterday on PBS and found that so much money goes into the war on drugs. With the privatization of the prison system, prisons in this country are looked at as more of an asset while our schools are considered liabilities. Convicting felons is a business that turns a profit. Hence why while the U.S. contains only 5% of the global population we have more 25% of the world's prisoners.  More money is invested in convicting non-violent offenders than educating our children. The lack of investment in education causes the overpopulation of our prisons. When are our priorities going to change?

It is important to put a proper workforce engaged in keeping our streets safe, but do you think there is a disproportionate amount of money and human captial invested in the war on drugs versus what is spent on schools? Why or why not?

In what ways can law enforcement work with and within schools to decrease the number of convicted felons in the future?

According to the documentary, the drug problem in America is only a symptom of larger problems related to social structure, public health, and economic issues. In your opinion, what are these problems and how can community organizations (schools, law enforcement, religious organizations, social workers, etc) ban together to find a resolution? 

Thought of the Day

"The best success is usually the one you risk the most to achieve, but sometimes just taking the risk is its own reward."