Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Letter X

Lets not forget why this has been a particularly difficult year.  It started out that way, really.  Harder kids with various behavior patterns that in my view and experience, had to do mostly with a sense of  entitlement.  Harder because of the wide variance in academic skills.  Harder though, because it just started out hard.  I blame it on testing. 

Today is xtra recess for well-deserved 3rd graders, and for me it's reflection on (e)xams.  Next fall might be different with one less standardized test (WKCE), but it'll undoubtedly feel like there's still testing throughout the fall and school year.  With the new teacher evaluation expectations and the new Smarter Balanced tests, not to mention the age-old MAP testing, I admit I'm ending the year mired in what is yet to come. 

It's a crazy system - here we are as a community, appalled and afraid of racial inequalities, yet there is no moving away from the tradition to quantify learning - the very measure that looks at our students to say, "You are here or there regardless of what you've learned." It's day x and as I get ready to exit another school year, I'm also getting ready to tackle this ongoing conflict of sorting kids based on their (e)xams.  Part of my xtra recess during summer break is to look ahead to deepen my conviction that the status quo needs continual challenge, on-going reflection and discussion, and then - action. 

#dosomething #racebasedsorting

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Letter U

It's countdown day 6, and while John-Pio will be learning about the United States, I will be in room 105 surrounded by adolescents who use me to get their needs met.  I'm not going to lie about the one thing that's gets me to my core: being used.  I don't think it's my perception - I just think it's a reality of being in a profession with demanding and impatient youth. This year has been an exception as far as this feeling goes and most of it has to do with kids being



I can go into detail about how these three things are manifested, but I'll save it for another post.  Just know that before you say every generation gets worse, I'm here to tell you that that's what they all say - every generation before this one thinks the one behind is more spoiled, more entitled. 


The truth is the generation before this class of 11-12 year olds also displayed aspects of these behaviors.  And everyone before that did also, and since I've been teaching since 1989, I got cred on this one. 

What makes behaviors and actions of entitied kids maddening lies in the subtleties.  At the same time, it's also the in-your-face behaviors, and while the subtleties are often ones I can't always put my finger on, the blatant behaviors like 

Assignment sheets, newsletters for parents, whole research organizers on the floor

Lost permission slips

Pencils, pens, sharpeners taken apart and broken

Notebooks stained, water-spilled, torn

just drain me visually and physically.  Kids believe everything is replaceable and at their disposal.  On the other side is what kids say and believe


Sense of privacy for their families and friends?

Motivation or even an element of respect?

Yesterday a student stood behind me and smelled my hair, then exclaimed, "My mom needs your shampoo!"  In response to a very clear and impersonal re-direction, another student just started dancing as I was talking - seriously, with direct eye contact too.  And others asked multiple "what if" questions when reviewing a set of expectations for a field trip.  Another kid told me the reason he wears his hat in class even though he knows he isn't supposed to is because I want to.  Sheesh.

#developmental #voice

The worse though, was when a student asked for help and then as I was talking, she literally walked away - distracted by someone or something.  I don't know.  
That, I believe, although it's happened a hundred times before and required direct teaching of an undersocialized behavior (aka rude), was the tipping point.  The point at which feeling used hit me at my center and the point at which I decided to treat myself to a hard workout in the weight room of my school, a piece of rhubarb pie, and a tickling session with my spirited daughter. 

#livetoday #newday #teachrespect




The Letter T

T day.  Such a good letterIt's Twin day and the countdown is 7.  John-Pio and his friend Lucas planned this from letter day A - that they would go as Twins in their flag football team jersey, wearing blue shorts with a green stripe down the side, black socks, and their Vans.  I love that they pre-planned this; good friends make days like these fun.  

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Letter S

Last week over dinner, Misa and John-Pio and I talked about my life as a college student.  I shared the story again about where I went, why, and how I got there.  It's a long story really, but in short, I got to the University of Utah by way of other colleges that rejected me.  Today is S, countdown 8 days, and as John-Pio celebrates summer birthdays, I'm celebrating Justice Sonia Sotomayer

#champion #affirmativeaction

You undoubtedly heard in the news that in late April, the United States Supreme Court, by a vote of 6 to 2, did not overrule an amendment to Michigan's state constitution regarding its admissions policies to public universities.  The amendment which was passed in 2006 stated that admissions to a public university "shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin."  It had been passed to shut down an admissions program at the University of Michigan that was designed to increase the diversity of the student population. In fact, now other states are prepared to pass their own laws against the practice, too. 

In other words, public opinion has turned strongly against affirmative action policies and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a fierce defender of "race-sensitive admissions," is facing an uphill battle.  I was one of those minorities who, without affirmative action, would not have been admitted into the university where I ended up studying.  Historically, it's always been more difficult for a member of a racial minority to attend college so when I learned that the admissions policies at the University of Michigan would stick, I felt a tinge of despair.

I'm struck by the quandary of having respect for the democratic process (after all, the voters won and the amendment passed) while at the same time, wanting badly for it to have been overruled for the sake of diversity in education.  Can the goal of educating all citizens and be achieved without the help of race-based admissions policies?

Recently I listened to an interview by Sheryll Cashin.  She wrote a book titled, Place, Not Race, and in it she proposes that we reimagine affirmative action.  She suggested that universities recruit students from single-parent and less-educated families; give full scholarships to students from inner-city schools and follow the example of Texas that requires their public universities to accept the top 10 percent of students from every high school.  In other words, it's possible that class-based admissions policies can help bring diversity to colleges and universities, while also serving an underrepresented community - like students from poor or middle class backgrounds.

#thereshope #thinkin'boutmystudents

Lets face it:  inequality is continuing to rise.  College tuitions are increasing and college admissions offices have a responsibility to find ways to bring students of all economic backgrounds to their institutions.  Increasing economic diversity and maintaining ethnic diversity without racial preferences will be hard, but if more and more states continue to try passing laws like Michigan's, then class-based admissions will help. And anyway, it strikes me that if a college can afford to recruit quality athletes, then surely they can find ways to recruit more heavily from poor and minority communities. 

Earlier in the year I was reading Justice Sonia Sotomayor's memoir, My Beloved World and every so often I would read a selection out loud to the kids - her story is relevant and I relate to it.  Later, I pulled up Justice Sonia Sotomayor's amazing, eloquent dissent and skimmed through the first 45 or so pages, then read the last 10 or so, and I will say, that her account of the effects of discrimination, especially the feeling it may give a citizen that s/he "doesn't belong here," is powerful.  Y'all should put it on your list, and while you're at it - if you haven't already read it, pick up Justice Sonia Sotomayor's memoir.


The Letter R

What else would countdown to 9 days be but Reading - Monday is R day.  I'm going to finish our read aloud, When My Name Was Keoko and do something really boring related to reading - a final assessment on their ability to close read text.  

This morning though, here's what it looked like on the homefront . . . 

Here's what I'm going to be reading today . . . 

And this . . . 

And this book will hopefully be my first summer read . . . 

I'm bugging everyone for their summer reading list.  Please?  

#ninedays #summerbooks