Chicago Sun Times Teacher Essay Series Marches On

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I’m more than pleased to let everyone know that the Chicago Sun Times teacher essay series marches on with a great piece about a thoughtful teacher finding her way as she tries out in-depth, experiential learning and student collaboration. It appeared Saturday morning, July 12 in the Web edition of the paper.

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ON THESE ARTICLES, ESPECIALLY TO FRIENDS WHO ARE NOT EDUCATORS.

And I deeply hope that these articles inspire teachers elsewhere to work on setting up similar publication opportunities that connect thoughtful teachers to the wider public and policy-makers, rather than only blogging on sites seen mainly by other educators. Let me know about similar efforts you are trying so we can support one another.

Latest Chicago Sun Times Teacher Essay

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Hooray! The latest Chicago Sun Times Teacher Essay is now up on the web edition and will appear in the Sunday July 6th print version. Jean Klasovsky explains how Restorative Justice (see explanation in this link) can strength school climate and reduce suspensions through peer councils that steer students to fix problems they’ve caused instead of simply punishing them. The zero-tolerance route, as Jean smartly points out, means that the punishment for missing class is to miss more class — which in turn increases the drop-out rate. You can also see Jean’s recent TEDx talk on this issue on YouTube.

JUST A REMINDER TO OUR BLOG FOLLOWERS AND FRIENDS: MORE TEACHER ESSAYS ARE NEEDED. THERE ARE JUST ENOUGH IN THE PIPELINE TO GET US THROUGH MID-AUGUST. THIS IS A GREAT CHANCE TO BRING THOUGHTFUL TEACHER VOICES TO THE PUBLIC AND DECISION-MAKERS, MANY OF WHOM DO NOT REALLY UNDERSTAND THE NATURE AND VALUE OF OUR WORK.

Contact me here or at stv.zemelman@comcast.net to learn the details, submit an essay, or recommend an articulate teacher-writer.

 

Educator Voices in the Washington Post

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It’s good to see educator voices in the Washington Post — Peter Smagorinsky, of the University of Georgia and retired school superintendent Jim Arnold — speaking out to explain to the public how the tens of millions of dollars being spent on standardized testing could further kids’ learning much more if it were spent on re-hiring teachers and providing the materials and facilities that schools need.

If they can use their voices, so can the rest of us!

Sun Times Teacher Essay on Kindergarten Complexities

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OK everyone! Let’s celebrate and share the second Chicago Sun Times Teacher Essay on Kindergarten Complexities, by Mia Valdez Quellhorst. It’s in the newspaper’s Sunday June 22nd edition and on their website under “Other Views.” What a great way to help the public understand that teaching kindergarten is serious work that requires real skill and deep knowledge of child development, and makes a difference in children’s future success in school and life.

Watch for the next teacher-written essay on a timely education issue, which should appear on or about July 3rd. They’ll be published about every two weeks.

And please, Chicago-area teachers: I will need more teacher-written pieces, to keep this series going, so contact me at stv.zemelman@comcast.net .

Teacher Essays in the Chicago Sun Times!

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I’ve been away from this site and plenty busy, especially because of the project I can now proudly announce: bi-weekly TEACHER ESSAYS IN THE CHICAGO SUN TIMES!

Starting tonight in the Web edition and tomorrow in hard print, an essay by a Chicago-area teacher will appear about every two weeks. The first piece, by Chicago social studies teacher Adam Heenan is now online. I’ll keep everyone posted as further essays, on a wide variety of important education issues, get published.

I’m seeking more teacher essays to keep this series going, so send me your ideas or teacher-writer nominations. Here are the guidelines.

This is a partnership between the Sun-Times and the Illinois Writing Project. I’ve been working for over a year to make this happen, and I’m especially pleased that this will give regular classroom teachers more of a public voice in education policy discussions. I’ve been particularly inspired by the partnership between the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and the Hampshire Gazette that provides a similar forum for teachers; and the great teacher portraits and essays by Peter Smagorinsky, published in reporter Maureen Downey’s blog with the Atlanta Journal Constitution. If this kind of communication were happening in cities across the country, perhaps support for public education would be stronger.

 

VIVA Will Offer Writing Help for Teachers

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As TSU followers know, I’m organizing a bi-weekly series of essays by Chicago-area teachers for the Chicago Sun-Times. Not every teacher necessarily feels ready to write a short feature article for a wide public audience. So the very savvy teacher voice organization VIVA will offer writing help for teachers in a webinar scheduled for Wed., May 21st 7:00-8:00 PM. I will be co-leading this with VIVA Leadership Development Director Tina Nolan.

While this teacher-feature effort is for active classroom teachers in the Chicago metro region, we hope that educators in other locales will be inspired to get a similar project going. Perhaps if the public and policy-makers keep hearing more about the powerful work that teachers do in their classrooms, they will be more supportive and consider policies that aid real teaching and learning — instead of impeding it.

If you’re teaching in the Chicago area and would like to participate in the webinar, please contact Tina at tnolan@vivalistens.org .

Breakthrough with the Press in Chicago

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Greetings everyone. I’ve been away for a bit — busy with an Illinois Writing Project conference, working on a new book on teaching and learning with social action, and helping with Restorative Justice at Farragut HS in Chicago.

But I’ve also gained a breakthrough with the press in Chicago and I need help! I’ve worked out a plan with editorial page editors at the Chicago Sun-Times to run a bi-weekly series of essays by Chicago teachers in the web edition of the newspaper. This is a major opportunity for teachers to tell their own story to the public, to counter all the negative, misinformed news about public education and teachers.

Essays must be by practicing classroom teachers in Chicago or the surrounding suburbs, and no longer than 600 words. I’m seeking pieces that both

  • speak to current education issues that the editors want to hear about (standards, testing, teacher evaluation, school closings, diversity, school climate),
  • and provide snapshots of powerful teaching and learning — since so much of the public has no idea what we really do in our work.

If you are a Chicago-area teacher and wish to write, or know someone who is and does, please contact me ASAP at stv.zemelman@comcast.net & I’ll send detailed guidelines.

This is a great opportunity to get thoughtful teacher voices to the wider public, rather than just on blogs and websites that only other teachers see.

Growing Protest on Tests So Why Not Add Your Voice Too

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We see growing protest on tests so why not add your voice too? And it’s coming from a wide variety of places. A group of famous children’s book authors, headed by Maya Angelou, has written to President Obama, pointing out that the tests are destroying kids’ love of reading. 6,000 Long Island students have opted out of the latest tests. PBS Newshour education reporter John Merrow published a letter from a teacher on the testing mania and reveals that his own daughter has quit teaching as a result of this atmosphere. Pennsylvania Middle School Principal of the Year, Greg Taranto, who leads a top-performing school blasts the growth of testing in a letter to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

And today, we find an op-ed piece by New York Principal Elizabeth Phillips in the NY Times on the crazy gag rules that surround the tests.

Who’s ready to stand up next?

More and More Ways teachers Can Use Their Voices

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We are seeing more and more ways teachers can use their voices to speak up on issues like testing. The website http://testingtalk.org just went up a few days ago and already has 174 posts by teachers and administrators as of this writing. You can post anonymously if you’re worried about getting punished for speaking out.

Then there’s the new New York Times “Room for Debate” site that presently features 4 writers’ points of view on the question, “Should Parents Opt Out of Testing?” There are presently 77 comments, many clearly by teachers.

And for your entertainment pleasure, here’s an Indiana parent who points up some of the silliness of the math instruction engendered by the Common Core (Indiana has recently dropped its endorsement of the Core, by the way).

Many Voices Are Protesting Testing

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Looks like the backlash gaining momentum, as many voices are protesting testing. Here’s Diane Ravitch’s tally of the numerous articles, reports, and critiques as March pummels us with unsettled weather. A wide variety of voices can be heard — parents, teachers, reporters, commentators, and – hey – even Texas state legislators! Here in Chicago, one piece of this is the considerable dust-up as public school officials harass kids and parents who opt out of the present obsolete state test.

Teacher JoAnn Gage, writing for theĀ ASCD Express, urges fellow educators to tell the stories of their classrooms to help the public understand issues like these. (Thanks, Jim Davis, for reminding us about this piece.)

And to help keep this process going, here’s education advocate Nancy Flanagan’s guidance in theĀ Phi Delta Kappan for teachers on what to say to state legislators about better understanding of public education and issues like this one. (Thanks, Nancy and also Marilyn Hollman, who called this to our attention)