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Monthly Archives: July 2008

29 – Who Killed Education?

I stayed up until 3am watching CNN’s special entitled, Black in America. My mother called to tell me about the special…she said it would be featured in two-parts and that I should check it out. Well, I did…and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since! The education portion of the Wednesday night’s special really hit home…hell, it even reminded me WHY I flocked towards that inner-city school the way in which I did. The statistics were mind boggling…the special report mentioned that Black children are, academically, the lowest achieving group in the world…in the WORLD…WOW! The report also noted that Black females make-up the majority of the African-American populace of post-secondary enrollment…Black males are more likely to drop out of school, become involved in a life of drugs, gangs, and crime…and end up in prison. WOW! Then the special featured how the plight of the black male (you know…not being educated or gainfully employed) affects the family structure and trims down the dating pool for Black females (if she’s only dating within her race)…and the stats for that…only 45% of Black females will ever get married. WOW! (I know that had nothing to do with education…more on a personal note)

Dr. Roland Fryer is a big-wig professor of economy over at THE Harvard University, and he is also the associate director of something called the American Inequality Lab (and yes, I so totally have a nerd crush on him). Fryer was featured on last night’s special due to his idea of “paying students to learn.” He feels that it will work. Fryer revealed that he grew up in an inner-city environment and claims that today’s students are not like the students of the past. He says that phrases such as, “Do your work so that you can make good grades and go to college,” mean anything anymore…he also says that today’s student (especially the inner-city student) needs a tangible incentive to get through school because they (lower-class, inner-city students) do not have the same role models that middle-class students have at home (which I guess would be their version of the tangible incentive).

The next thing I see is a group of Fourth Graders who are being rewarded/paid for making A’s on test. They receive a sheet of paper that tells them their balance…and the kids are excited. When the students are questioned about how they feel making money for studying affects them, one young man responded by saying that he felt it made his expectations for himself that much higher (I’m paraphrasing here). Reaching Out to Students When They Talk and Text discuss the idea more in depth, and while I understand the idea behind the action…I’m not so sure that what students will learn in the long-run will truly pay-off. I understand that students need to be motivated to learn, but is paying them THE answer? …Or giving them a cell phone? And I found the following quote from the article to be extremely interesting:

Mr. Klein and Dr. Fryer said they hoped that celebrities like the rapper Jay-Z, the comedian Chris Rock and the basketball star LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers would participate by sending text messages or calling students who succeed. Grades, attendance and completion of assignments will all be considered signs of success.

I find that quote interesting because a simple “Good job!” from your parent is no longer enough…a male from the ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY is now being expected to tow the line as the last hope for academic encouragement. I’m just wondering what will happen to these kids when they get out into the real world and realize that there are no rewards in college for acing an exam…there are no rewards at home for taking care of your children…there are no rewards or incentives for paying your bills on time (I don’t get discounts for that)…so, I will be extremely curious to see the end result of Dr. Fryer’s two year experiment. Also, I wonder how well this would work with drug-dealing high school students who would scoff at $25 per test…and I also wonder WHERE is this money coming from? Hey…and maybe I have no room to comment on anything like this since I had a middle-class upbringing with college educated family members, but my INCENTIVE to learn was a spanking…I didn’t want one…so I did the work, and then as I became older the spankings stopped and I understood the value of completing something via the fruits of my labor. HA! Go figure! Ideas like that are foreign and antiquated now! Now my students talk of abuse or neglect…never the middle ground where nurturing occurs…Has this also killed education?

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Posted by on July 24, 2008 in Work

 

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28 – Fleeting Moments of Gratitude

…And so Part II of my saga shall quickly return. I got a job at a new school in a district that neighbors Ye Olde Shoppe O’ Ghetto Horrors, and warrants a one hour one-way commute. I should feel elated, but I don’t. I mean…I have a job…RIGHT? Just today I saw a woman who could have easily been one of my students’ parents, lumbering about in the rain, pushing an industrial-sized trash can, and placing the remnants of the careless into her little treasure chest of joy…oh yes, she certainly did look like Little Miss Sunshine…only too excited to be chasing down the soggy trash of those who were too “busy” to actually take it to the trash can.*

Thank God I’m not you, I thought to myself as I watched her. She was a dead ringer for a sleepwalker. I was waiting to erupt with a feeling of gratitude…instead came the flashbacks…last year, the year before that, and the one before that…UGHHH!!! No romantic-comedy-esque warm and fuzzies were coming to the forefront. Zip. Then I called a friend of mine who teaches in Manhattan, and she told me about all the budget cuts occurring within her school…she mentioned that all non-tenured teachers, people with less than four years of teaching experience, were being let go (she is tenured). I gasped at the thought.

Then, tonight, I was cruising NPR (because that’s what I do when I feel down….???) and I came across this podcast. Scary. Scary because it’s true…the more money that is taken from the educational budget means that much less will inner-city/underserved populations be served with a fair education. Remember, I taught an entire year’s worth of a class with no book. I was not issued a teacher’s edition and my students were never issued individual textbooks. Why? No more books…no more money, that’s why! Oh, and don’t forget about the other class I taught…they had text books (brand new text books), but they were so severely out-of-date that they did not follow the current state standards for education.

I admire those teachers who got out there and protested for what they believe in. Where I work, the teachers don’t have the guts…but if they did…if I didn’t think I would be the ONLY person out there on that line…I would be there. In fact, I think Americans as a whole should go on strike…but that’s an entirely different blog!

So, New Place High School is it…after sending twenty cover letters and resumes directly to principals, and uploading my information on the state’s teacher job site…this is it, and I started back in March. This is bad. I have never had such a difficult time finding a teaching job. While this school is not inner-city, the actual school board may be in a bit of trouble…so cross your fingers for me. When I think about all the cuts in education, the good teachers out there who no longer have jobs, and that woman picking up trash…I try to feel grateful…really.

*I am by no means downplaying anyone who does this for a living. It is an honest and legal means of earning money. My point, for myself, is that I did not go to school to do that…and she looked VERY unhappy! So please don’t send me a bunch of comments saying I’m an elitist bitch because I don’t want to pick up trash for a living (because I barely like to clean my own living room). If it came down to it, then I would (pick up trash, I mean…I get suckered into doing the chores somehow – if I don’t, then no one else will)!

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2008 in Work

 

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27 – Why Mechanics Should Not Perform Heart Surgery

Okay…so Tom, a reader of mine, posted the following comments (he’s always finding/asking the good stuff):

There’s an interesting discussion on Hard Times at an education blog here. Teachers who have actually been in an urban classroom were not impressed with the bloggers National Review article. (I responded to this one first)

The ed. blogger makes a poor argument which needs to be ‘unpacked’ as he so condescendingly and wonkishly put it. (I responded to this one second)

The “wonkishness” that Tom refers to is an education blogger/researcher (probably twelve years old) who writes for the National Review Online. This blogger has taken his pre-pubescent thoughts concerning Hard Times at Douglass High, and created a dismissive, snobbish, condescending, and judgmental evaluation of the teachers/administration at Douglass High. Needless to say, our Little Blogger Boy did NOT receive a warm reception from any of the commenting educators or people with the ability to think rationally (myself included).

Liam Julian, bless his heart (A Southern phrase I learned from my aunts which really translates into: What a horse’s ass), feels that the teacher’s at Douglass High just “weren’t cutting it” (Yes, I am quoting Julian). Julian goes on to lambast the lesson plan of Mr.McDermott, the 9th Grade English teacher (whom of which posts a direct response to Our Little Blogger Boy)…claiming that his writing topic was inappropriate (paraphrase). Please feast on a few more written gems from Our Little Blogger Boy taken directly from his article Liam Julian on Hard Times at Douglass High on National Review Online:

Yet this film makes clear that kindness and devotion do not great teachers and administrators make, and despite their intentions, the staff members at Douglass aren’t cutting it.”

“But some of Douglass’s staff members actually heighten the discord of their pupils’ already discordant lives. The film shows an English teacher who asks his class about people they know who have screwed up or failed. Thus, instead of having a valuable conversation about Nick Carraway’s flaws, say, or the mistakes of old men who fish for marlin, the students tell stories about relatives who are pregnant, in prison, or dead.”

Hard Times at Douglass High shows that troubled urban schools can succeed only if they’re staffed by competent people. In urban education, good intentions alone will not yield good results.”

If this is who we have to count on to forge the way for educational research, then we REALLY ARE in trouble!

***UPDATE:  This is for my disgruntled Wednesday (wdnsday) commenter! 🙂  This is my posted response to Liam Julian (click the first link to see full information).

Mr. Julian,

“Hard Times at Douglass High shows that troubled urban schools can succeed only if they’re staffed by competent people. In urban education, good intentions alone will not yield good results.”

There is nothing more unnerving than the mechanic who attempts to perform heart-surgery. As a seventh-year teacher in the public school system, I must say that I find your irreverence for the scope of my profession quite offensive. This is not a game, Mr. Julian! American education is in trouble; suburban and urban. NCLB has been fuel to the fire because our POLICY MAKERS are not educators! For you to condense the culpability of this massive issue down to one minuscule group of people shows your lack of preparedness. You should not have written your article without further research…you deserve to be torn a fresh asshole due to your pompous oversight.

There is a recipe that one should follow when engaging in the proper education of a child: parents, community, school, and policy makers. Please notice that I listed four components…four…like the number of tires it takes to support a car. It’s a machine. What would happen to your journey if one or more of those components were faulty?

I viewed that documentary, and I saw a lot more than good intentions in the works. There were plenty of competent educators who were featured on Hard Times. As an individual who has never taught, I find it rather presumptuous of you to evaluate something you know nothing of. Please keep in mind that we need solutions in order to fix this mess…people who are able to view the “big picture,” and that picture boils down to this…policy, policy, and MORE policy; after policy…parents, parents, and MORE parents; after parents…environment…THEN, maybe THEN are we able to look at what I am able to offer in the classroom.

Sincerely,
Ms. Friendly
http://www.msfriendly.wordpress.com

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2008 in Work

 

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