I was offended years ago, Arne Duncan

I want to know where were the white suburban moms when Bush 2 implemented No Child Left Behind with the help of DFER George Miller?

Where were they when Obama Administration instituted Race to the Top?

Or how about when Arne Duncan made the racist comment about Hurricane Katrina being the best thing to ever happen to education in New Orleans?

When school districts serving mostly urban kids had to make devastating cuts to many programs that those in suburban (read: wealthier) districts often did not, where was the outrage?

And, in being allowed to work in my urban with only an intern credential, when most of the districts around me would not have considered me without a full credential – you know, it’s about race. That is, I can teach kids of color with no experience because really, “what does it matter?”

Or even when Governor Brown proposed to give more funding to school districts that taught more children in poverty and ELL’s and school districts that for years had received more funding or could cover the costs of extras through community fundraising, the reactions from some in the suburban communities (read: usually more white/affluent) were really quite sad and depressing.

When there are harmful policies that impact students and their communities – there should be outrage, regardless of what that student population looks like. Quite frankly, I will be pissed if Arne Duncan loses his job over this comment as it will confirm to me that the opinions of white, suburban moms matter way more than the voices of those who do not look like them.

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My response to John Merrow

So for some inexplicable reason, reporter John Merrow has decided that those of us who think that Diane Ravitch is a hero are similar to those who admire the idiot who read Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham.  (I won’t link to said idiot because I don’t want said idiot’s followers to post their idiotic comments on my blog.)

My Reponse:

As a young girl, I remember learning how to read with the help of my first grade teacher. I can’t remember her name because as a Navy brat, I wound up going to over a dozen schools. What I can remember is that it was the teachers who almost always made this perennial new kid feel welcomed and secure.

As a parent, I looked to the teachers that each of my three kids had as the experts. They were the ones that helped me help my children if they struggled over a new concept or informed me of when they needed extra help or support. They were the ones that brought learning to life for my three and helped them become the great young people they are today.

Now as a teacher myself, I look to my own experience as a student and as a parent to help me inform my own practice. I became a teacher later in life in 2001 and in that very short time, I have seen the profession I love and the people that I admire become the targets for every thing that is wrong in education. What the general public seems to not understand is how very little control teachers actually have over their profession. Where once there was respect for our profession as teachers, there is now derision and scorn.

Those of us who choose to teach in low performing, high poverty schools are labeled as failures when our students don’t perform as well as their peers – peers that often live in environments that are more supportive and less stressful. We are judged based on meaningless data that says nothing about the beautiful souls that so many of us feel so very privileged to teach. Kids that we see daily rising above despite all the challenges that are thrown at them, including attending schools that are labeled as failing again based on arbitrary data points that should never define any child, their school or their teacher.

All of this is to say, Diane Ravitch gives us hope. None of us who read Ms. Ravitch are gullible, mindless people. I would argue that many of us fall along the political spectrum not often seen in the US today. We are Democrats, Republicans, Independents and DTS. We are liberal and conservative. The one unifying factor is that Ms. Ravitch has been willing to take a look at the programs she once previously supported with a critical eye, examine her own beliefs and support with research why previously held conclusions were erroneous.

In short, she is a teacher. This is what teachers do.

That is why she is MY hero.

Trying to understand the tragedy of Trayvon

Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I decided to try the new Zachary’s, which is closer to where we live than the one in Berkeley. As we waited for our Chicago style stuffed pizza, I took out my phone to check Facebook and Twitter.

I wish I hadn’t.

There was a part of me in my white privileged world that thought because the jury of six women had not come back immediately with a verdict in the Zimmerman trial that perhaps justice would be served. Justice, that is, in what is supposed to be our so-called “post-racial” world.

My white privilege has caused me to be naive in trusting that the justice system works.

When I saw on Twitter that the verdict had come back and that Zimmerman had been found “not guilty” on not only 2nd degree murder charges, but manslaughter charges as well, I felt sickened and I felt heartbroken.

This decision has crystallized something for me.

There is a reason why many people of color jump to the assumption that racism is at play when a decision is made regarding their child who is being taught by a white person.

It is because racism is something too many experience on a daily basis.

Instead of becoming defensive when I am called racist, I think it is incumbent upon me (and not the person of color) to determine why they might feel the way that they do. I have to think of every past experience that has led to this moment. As upsetting & painful as it is to be called a racist, I am certain that it is no where as upsetting to actually experience it. Every single day of your life.

(This is not to say that I think sometimes the word racist is used as a weapon and like all weapons can be misused. I will explain what I mean by this in Part 2 of this blog post.)

Even a I write this, a white, middle class woman, white as white can be, strawberry blonde freckled girl with green eyes, I worry about stumbling, fumbling as I try to express what I feel because I will never know what it feels like to be black in America.

This is what I do know.

I am the mom of two boys, whom I love fiercely. The human part that I connect with in respect to Trayon is two-fold. First, the anguish that must torment both his parents, Tracy Martin and Sybina Fulton, in recreating in their own minds (as parents are wont to do) their son’s final moments. There is no doubt in my mind that Trayvon fought for his life, he stood HIS ground, and was murdered by his attacker. He fought in the way that I know my own two boys would fight if their lives were similarly threatened. (Of course, my two white sons would never have been approached by someone like Zimmerman because they are white males and thus are not automatically suspect.) Second, over the course of my teaching career, I have taught many young African-American males, who I have thought of often during this whole horrendous, ludicrousness of “standing your ground.” (I would argue Trayvon was also standing his ground & was simply defending himself against a stranger who had no cause to stop and/or question him.)

The part of being black in America, I can empathize, but I cannot truly know on the deepest level of what it really means.

What I can understand is hatefulness and it is in this that I think have a connection.

(Part 2 tomorrow.)

What “we” control . . .

We, as teachers, have seen a continual erosion of what we control. The dialogue has become it is the fault of teachers that our schools are failing. It is the fault of teachers that our schools are not safe and welcoming environments to all students. It is the fault of teachers that a high proportion of our kids of color are suspended or expelled.

However,

We do not control the rules we can use in our classrooms . . . these are now dictated by our district.

We do not control the curriculum . . . this is now dictated by our district.

We do not control the roster . . . these are determined by site administration.

We do not control who we work with . . . this is determined by district administration.

We do not control suspensions or expulsions of our students . . . this is determined by site and district administration.

We do not control our professional development . . . this is now dictated by our district.

What we control?

Very little.

Betrayal

When I first was elected to be president of the local where I work, I resolved to start mending the relationship between my district, the community and my union. It was one of my top priorities and so, when I sat in board meetings, I paid attention to who attended these meetings.

One of these people who regularly attended, I approached and over the course of my past four years, I thought we had developed a friendship.

Recently, developments have come about which has changed everything, which I would rather not go into online. Suffice to say that this community member, a person I thought was a friend, seems hellbent on destroying me personally.

It has been such an act of betrayal of which I’m still reeling from.

I don’t confide in many people. Like most friendships, you want to be able to share both frustrations and celebrations. It is appalling to me that someone you would consider a friend would think nothing of sharing information that you thought was in confidence.

I so want to believe in karma right now.

I need to set the record straight

It appears we no longer live in a country in which we are free to speak out about injustice. This is beyond ridiculous & the idiot who reported him needs to suffer some type of consequence. Karma can be a bitch.

Opine I will

I teach my students that their reputation is the most important asset they own. Your reputation is determined by your actions, your deeds, and also how you are viewed by others. Therefore, it is vital that  you understand that your reputation ultimately defines you. Success is not judged by how much you make, but rather, real success is judged by your character and how others view your actions and deeds.  I believe this with my heart and soul.

Unfortunately, my character was questioned by an unproven allegation. Ultimately it was determined I did no wrong and the allegation was unfounded. I write this posting today as a record of what has transpired over the last two days. I also owe my students and their parents an accurate representation as to what occurred so that they may be fully informed.

My views on the Common Core and high stakes testing,  are…

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