Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bronx Teacher Pamela Lewis Speaks of The Responsibility of Hip Hop Artists and Executives

I am tired of execs who care more about their dollar than their people who allow rap music that completely denigrates not just women, but perpetuates stereotypes of blackness. Being from the hood is different than being "hood," and many of these rappers glorify being hood as if certain behaviors are actually the right way to be than the wrong. It's regression to the fullest, as we attempt to teach our students to move forward. And as much as I have empathy for our struggling parents, who are victims themselves of poverty's vicious cycle, I don't understand how there is zero accountability. Sometimes I feel like it's a conspiracy to keep us down. Like the powers that be don't actually want our parents to become stronger parents. Finally, with all that is up against us teachers trying to fight the good fight, I am SICK of catty bitches that make a mockery of this "woman" profession. I think about how many men view teaching as yet another place populated by women, thereby undermining the work that we do, and to have to listen to some of the crap that so many women teachers are guilty of spewing, makes me cringe because they too perpetuate this idea that teaching isn't a true profession but instead a place to drink coffee and gossip. When I see teachers like this, I think they don't care about the students they teach, and often times, they are not just non TOC but black and Latino, which infuriates me. How can you be bothered with spreading rumors and hating on fellow women when your own people, your own children are struggling to read? I left a school because they were more concerned with trying to make other teachers miserable than actually teaching. I don't think this level of blatant reckless behavior happens in white public schools as frequently as it occurs in the hood.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

You Need Ethnic Studies and Community History To Push Back the Charter Offensive

Any teacher organization which doesn't give strong support to Ethnic Studies and Community History can't push back effectively against the charter offensive. Charters push a one size fits all pedagogy which emphasizes mastery of a curriculum produced at great distance from the lives and experiences of students most charters teach. Charters promote assimilation and conformity, achieved through relentless test prep and memorization, rather than critical thinking and an ability to use familiar materials and local traditions to promote historical understanding. If public schools are to gain the support of families of color and families living in low and moderate income communities, they must foster a pedagogy which draws upon those communities culture and history as an asset rather than a deficit and brings family and community members into the school. Public schools can't stand still and depend on what they did in the past. They have to show they can be more innovative- and more child and family friendly- than the charters, and Community History and Ethnic Studies are an important way of doing exactly that

Friday, October 24, 2014

Why I Enthusiastically Support Ethnic Studies and Community History and Why BATS Should as Well

The reason I became an education activist was because the Community History projects I was doing in Bronx Schools were pushed out by excessive testing and the NYC DOE's decision to begin rating and closing schools on the basis of student test scores. Those projects created immense enthusiasm among teachers, students, school staff and families. Their replacement by drilling for tests based on state mandated curricula was a terrible loss for all concerned.
It is also significant that almost no charter schools emphasize ethnic studies and community history because they promote a critical vantage point on the economic and political elites who are the main funders and supporters of those schools. It would be most unfortunate if BATS did not give its most enthusiastic support to ethnic studies, in Los Angeles and around the nation. Supporting Ethnic Studies is one of the most important way supporters of public education of claiming the moral high ground that Corporate School Reformers have relinquished by pushing a "one size fits all" mode of curriculum and pedagogy.

And in California, Charter maven Marshall Tuck also opposes Ethnic Studies, Shouldn't that tell us something?

Ethnic Studies and Community History, along with the Arts, are two of the most important vehicles we have to revitalize public education and bring teachers, students and families together. They create excitement, build community, and nurture critical thinking.

A Reality Check for Time Magazine- And A Wake Up Call for America's Teachers



Nearly two years ago, a group of 1,500 principals, including many of the most highly respected school  administrators in the the state, signed and circulated a petition to the Governor of New York protesting policies which were undermining public education and making their jobs more difficult. If you would believe Time Magazine, you would think they were protesting teachers tenure. But their petition NEVER MENTIONED tenure. It protested high stakes testing and teacher evaluations based on student test scores.

That petition never made the national news, much less the cover of Time magazine. But now Time chooses to give huge attention to a campaign by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur to eliminate teacher tenure in the nation's public schools.

What is going on here? Why is a campaign against High Stakes Testing by respected educators not worthy of coverage while a campaign by a billionaire against tenure from someone who has no experience teaching or administering a public school becomes the lead story of the week?
Time's campaign epitomizes everything wrong with the crusade for "School Reform" that has become a national obsession since the passage of No Child Left Behind.

It is financed and driven by business leaders, not educators. It has no support from teachers and school administrators and systematically ignores their voices. It chooses to totally disregard the best education research when it fails to support the application of a business model to classroom teaching and educational administration.

Demonizing teachers, and anointing CEO's and billionaires as saviors of public education, the way Time Magazine does, is not only a sure path to weakening public education, it creates momentum for a campaign to privatize public education a policy from which those attacking public education, especially those in the tech industry, are likely to profit.

The only way to fight back against this is to punish those leading the charge. It is time for a principal and teacher boycott of Time Magazine, and Time for Kids.

The sleeping giant has woken up. And she will NOT go to sleep until the national assault on teachers has come to an end

Monday, October 20, 2014

Educational and Economic Issues in Rural North Carolina- A Local Educator Worries about a Future with Charters and Common Core

I'm from a small town called Gaston, North Carolina. It sits on the North Carolina/Virginia border in Northeastern North Carolina and at one point in time textile mills were king. Fast forward to 2014 and those jobs are long gone and the only thing left in terms of viable jobs are working minimum wage jobs at your local fast food/retail stores or working at Lowe's Distribution Center and International Paper(local paper mill). In regards to education thankfully I was finished before they(the school board) really started pushing common core and now the county only has one local high school(it was two when I was in school) besides KIPP Pride High. The school was founded in 2001 in what used to be a peanut field and has since been a shining spot in our community with the successful graduation rate of students and the college graduation rate. But after reading up on how TFA and KIPP schools operate I can't help but question why do these organizations put profit over the progress of students and teachers of those schools. 5 weeks is not nearly enough time for a TFA recruit to be trained and then sent to teach at a school where students have bigger issues than just a lack of textbooks and school supplies. I say TFA and KIPP should revise their procedures and put the students first. While I'm glad that the  current generation of kids are getting a somewhat better education than I did through some people that are staffed at KIPP that I either went to school or grew up with I just want the current kids to be able to grow into progressive thinkers who won't just go with status quo and know when to stand up for what they believe to be right. Hopefully a child in my hometown in the future won't have to stand up on a desk in a classroom in protest and scribble on paper equal education just to get the basics and then some.(That was a nod to Sally Field's role in the movie Norma Rae which was based off of an incident in my hometown with one of the local textile mills back in the 70's)

To Those Who Blame Schools For Poverty- A View From the Bronx

I watched the flower of Bronx youth be shipped off to Vietnam,
some returned, some didn't, and some who returned were never the same

The public schools stayed open

I saw the Bronx burn from the 4 train and the 3rd Avenue El
when I first started teaching at Fordham

The public schools stayed open

I watched landlords torch their buildings for
insurance money

The public schools stayed open

I watched the business districts of the Hub, Southern Boulevard
and Fordham Road go up in smoke during the Black out riots of 1977

The public schools stayed open

I watched all the music clubs of the Bronx shut down while hip hop
rose in parks, and school yards and community centers

The public schools stayed open

I watched crack sweep through the Bronx in the late 80's and destroy
countless lives

The public schools stayed open

I watched large sections of New York gentrify and their poorer residents
move into the Bronx because it was the only place they could afford

The public schools stayed open

And you tell me that public schools and public school teachers are to blame for poverty and inequality.

Where were you when War, Disinvestment, Arson and the Crack Epidemic wrought havoc on Bronx communities?
What were you saying then?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Teacher Educator Mitchell Robinson Reports on his meeting with TFA Recruiters:


One of my students was contacted by a TFA recruiting representative, and asked if she was interested in getting involved with the organization. She sent me the note, and I replied that TFA was not welcome in my teacher preparation classes (a la Mark Naison!). I received a reply asking for a meeting, to discuss my "problems with TFA." 

 Well, the 2 TFA recruiters just left, and the discussion went just about as well as I thought it would. They wondered how they could work more effectively with traditional teacher ed programs, and I asked them how they justified sending out recruits with 5 weeks of "training" into some of the more challenging classrooms in our state.

There appears to be a massive disconnect--either real or constructed--between the national organization and the workers on the ground when it comes to the group's goals. When I suggested that TFA was contributing to the displacement of veteran teachers in Chicago, Detroit and other urban centers, there was a look of shock and disbelief on their faces They claimed that was not their goal.
When I asked the one young woman (both recruiters had taught for 3 years, then moved into leadership/management roles with TFA) what TFA's goal was, she said it was to improve education in urban schools. I asked her what were the factors contributing to the "problems" in those schools, and what was TFA doing about those problems--there was nothing but silence.

I suggested that the (manufactured) teacher "shortage" in some urban schools just might be the result of poor teacher working conditions and a destabilizing of teaching as a profession, causing more teachers to leave the classroom--and that TFA played a major role in creating these problems. She denied this was the case, but acknowledged that the "perception is there" that this is the case--to which I replied, "Its not a perception. That's your business plan, and if you aren't doing anything to actively combat that "perception," then you are part of the problem. When traditionally prepared teachers leave the profession, its a bug--when TFA recruits leave, its a feature." She disagreed, and I asked her what the average length of service was in Detroit for TfA recruits--she "wasn't sure."

We finished our discussion with a last question: "What would you say to my student teachers--who decided they wanted to be teachers while they were in middle school or younger, elected a major in education, and then spent 4 or 5 years preparing to enter the profession--if they asked you why someone with no degree in education and 5 weeks of summer training should be competing with them for the same job?"
Her response was that some people decide to become teachers at different times, and that should not preclude their entry to the profession. I agreed with her and suggested that these persons then enter a post-BA program in teaching--which takes 2 years of coursework and includes a full student teaching placement at my institution--and that the students in high-need schools deserve nothing less.

The look of horror on the other woman's face was priceless. (She had majored in journalism and Italian, and then taught English and Social Studies for 3 years.) I asked her what was wrong and she said, "I just wanted to get in to the classroom in the worst way."

"You did," I replied.