‘Reach Out to Community -Posts’ Posts

 

Back and Seeking More Chicago Area Teacher Essays

Read full article  | No Comments

OK, so I’ve been absent from this blog for a really long time. But I’m back and seeking more Chicago Area Teacher Essays!

I got plenty busy finishing my new book, From Inquiry to Action, on helping students to identify issues in their school or community, research them, and take action on them. This kind of curriculum not only powerfully deepens student engagement and learning, but develops them as leaders by having them take the leader NOW, rather than in some unlikely future. More on that at the NCTE convention and when the book comes out in the winter.

Now, about the teacher essays: In case you haven’t run across them, the Chicago Sun Times has been publishing teacher essays once every two to four weeks. But as the school year ended, teachers grew extra busy and my supply of essays ran out.

SO I NEED MORE ESSAYS! The authors must be Chicago-area teachers. Maximum length 550 words. I seek stories of exciting classrooms and/or struggles to help a struggling kid. No whining or name-calling. The purpose is to show the public the valuable work we do, to counter all the de-valuing of teachers and public education.

If you’re not a Chicago-area teacher yourself but know one, please encourage him or her to write. Email me at stv.zemelman@comcast.net and I’ll forward the guidelines. Essays should be sent to me at that address.

Do it now!

Latest Teacher Essay That Tears Testing Apart

Read full article  | No Comments

Everyone should read in the Chicago Sun Times the latest teacher essay that tears testing apart piece by piece. Fifth-grade Chicago teacher Rachel Schwartz explains how the test fails to help children learn, causes them mental anguish, eats up days that could be devoted to learning (on top of the other tests that Chicago imposes), and doesn’t even align with the Common Core. And Rachel doesn’t rant educationese. She includes a vignette of a real student’s experience, to help ordinary non-educators understand what the imposition of this badly-designed testing means for our kids.

This is the 16th teacher essay that the Sun Times has published over the past year. WE NEED EVERY MAJOR NEWSPAPER IN THE COUNTRY TO BE RUNNING STORIES LIKE THIS.

What Our Work Really Is and It Is Not Tests

Read full article  | No Comments

Belleville, Michigan teacher Jason Strzalkowski explains what our work really is and it is not tests. Read “I Love My Job. Really.” — a succinct and affirming essay on Nancy Flanagan’s blog, “Teacher in a Strange Land. Strzalkowski explains how he helps his high school history students “navigate poverty, reputation, academics, and self-worth on a daily basis.” And once he’s listed all that he does, he points out that “None of what I just talked about is on a standardized test.”

So please share this fine piece with everyone you know!

Teachers Stating What Matters in Their Classrooms

Read full article  | No Comments

Good morning! We may be snowbound here in Chicago, but I’ve uploaded to YouTube two new videos with teachers stating what matters in their classrooms. You can view one here and the other here.

The pictures were taken in a session scheduled for the purpose at last November’s NCTE convention. Sonia Nieto spoke to inspire us, and then people wrote their statements on placards, used their phones to snap pics of one another holding their placards, and emailed the pics to me. I then tried my hand at editing them into a video. There are free editing programs that enable one to do this pretty easily (it’s time-consuming though, I’ll admit).

With so many voices, mandates, and tests undermining public schools, this seemed like one way for educators to speak up and tell about what’s right in their work. So what if teachers everywhere did this and flooded YouTube with their stories? You should try it!

Multiplying Voices of Teachers and Others Against New Tests

Read full article  | No Comments

There are multiplying voices of teachers and others against new tests. So which do you want first, the good news or the bad? OK, how about sandwiching the bad between the more positive stories.

Let’s start with Michelle Gunderson’s lovely piece on teaching first graders to be thoughtful young people — showing what school should really be about. Featured in Anthony Cody’s blog, “Living in Dialogue,” Gunderson describes how she provides sensitive guidance for two boys to apologize to a girl they insulted, while the girl asks how to respond, in “I don’t know what to say next. Please help?”

Then there’s the in-depth inquiry by Meredith Broussard in the Atlantic on how the total lack of resources in Philadelphia schools insures that teachers won’t have the Pearson-published textbooks needed for kids to succeed on the badly designed Pearson-created PARCC tests — an abomination inside an abomination when you think about it. If you wondered how poor and minority students are being ripped off by the powers that be, this will help you understand.

Finally, here’s a great collection of recent articles, blogs, essays, and presentations by teachers, students, news reporters, and others on the growing backlash against standardized testing, and the many ways it is undermining schools, teachers, and children’s education. Nancy Patterson provides the listing in the 3rd post, after one by Kimberly Feldman and a reply by me, in a discussion about teacher voice on the NCTE Education Policy Forum. Of course the testing problems described are awful, but it’s very hopeful to hear the growing voices denouncing them.

Essays by 14 Area Teachers Published in the Chi Sun Times So Far

Read full article  | No Comments

As 2014 draws to a close, it’s great to have seen essays by 14 area teachers published in the Chi Sun Times so far. They’ve appeared as op-ed pieces, mainly in the Web edition — which is excellent because they stay there to be read by more and more people.

We can’t be sure how large the audience is, but at least Chicago area teachers are getting their voices heard and informing the public of the valuable contribution they make to our children’s growth. Not all of the writers agree on all education policy issues. But only when a wide range of parents and other citizens come to appreciate the complex challenges that good teachers take on, will they be prepared to support public schools with more resources and better policies.

Yes, it’s important to speak out and point out the ways that arbitrary standards and stultifying standardized tests undermine good schools and hurt the very minority children they claim to be helping, as some outstanding spokespersons are doing. But the other essential piece of the argument is to make clear just how valuable public education is and what elements within it need to be promoted.

So if you haven’t already read these teacher essays, please enjoy them now, share them with colleagues and friends, and help get them out to more of the public:

Adam Heenan — Common Core Threatens Good Teaching

Mia Valdez Quellhorst — Teaching Kindergarten, We Work to Find Joy

Jean Klasovsky — How to Make Chicago Schools Safe

Jessica Staff — Choosing Between Testing and True Learning

John Paulett — Teaching is an Art, Not a Science

Tammy Haggerty Jones — Undermining Kindergarten One Test at a Time

Rana Khan — Overcoming Odds in Poor Schools Requires a Personal Touch

Kristi Brooks — Let CPS Counselors Do Their Jobs

Phillip Cantor — When Kids Connect They Learn More

Alexa Lee-Hassan — Teaching Reading — and Tolerance — with Comic Books

Laurie Hendrickson — Making Magic in the Classroom

Christopher Bronke — Embracing the Good in Common Core

Hen Kennedy — Standardized Testing Stops Learning

Lillian Degand — Teacher Home Visits Transform Learning

Happy and meaningful holidays to all!

–Steve Zemelman

Something had to give

Read full article  | No Comments

So much has been happening for me this fall that I had to take a break from posting on this site. Something had to give. But it’s all part of the work. Here are some updates:

  • Teacher essays continue bi-weekly or so in the Chicago Sun Times to let the public know how much great teaching and learning take place in our schools. Enjoy pieces by Laurie Hendrickson, Hen Kennedy.
  • At the NCTE convention just past, the session on teacher voice that I organized featured talks by multi-cultural education expert Sonia Nieto and teachers Adam Heenan and Noelle Jones. Then at discussion tables, participants wrote statements about their teaching on placards and snapped photos of each other holding them. These will be compiled into 2 videos to go up on YouTube. I’ll post the link when these are ready.
  • I’m working pretty intensely on my book, From Inquiry to Action, on action civics. It should come out about a year from now. It focuses on projects in which students identify an issue in their school or community, research it, and carry out actions to help address it. These projects affect students’ learning and attitudes tremendously. If you have or know of classroom stories illustrating such activity, please contact me at stv.zemelman@comcast.net .

Stay tuned!

Hearing More Teacher Voices and More About Teacher Voices

Read full article  | No Comments

Today let’s celebrate that we’re hearing more teacher voices and more about teacher voices. Read Alexa W.C. Lee-Hassan’s fine piece on using comic books to teach reading and tolerance. And then friend Kevin Hodgson’s essay, “Advocating Advocacy: Raising Voices to Make Change” in the journal Knowledge Quest, in which he highlights the necessity for teachers to speak out publicly on the extremely controversial education policies challenging their work and children’s meaningful learning.

Hodgson highlights Meenoo Rami and me as advocates for advocacy, and quotes a teacher who wrote a piece for his local newspaper. But perhaps like so many teachers, he’s still a bit shy about his own role, not mentioning that it was he who began the partnership with his local newspaper to publish those monthly teacher op-ed pieces. It’s he who inspired me.

A note on the sparseness of my recent blog posts: I’m working on a new book on teaching and learning with action civics — through which students research issues in their school or community and take action to address them. I want to help teachers to guide students in using their voices to influence public policy and become active, responsible citizens now — not just in the future. This leaves less time for blogging. But the purpose is really the same as teachersspeakup.com . So please don’t abandon this blog when you haven’t heard from me in a while!

Great Discussion on Teachers Speaking to the Public

Read full article  | No Comments

I hope you’ll read the great discussion on teachers speaking to the public, started by Peter Smagorinsky. Peter is the outspoken education prof at the U. of Georgia who writes essays about education issues and portraits of great Georgia teachers, that are published on the blog of a reporter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. We could all learn from his example. Just think how we could boost attitudes toward public education and counter the widespread anti-public-education propaganda if news media everywhere were regularly receiving and publishing such pieces. (I know, I just keep harping on this).

Peter’s opening salvo on this is on the blog, Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care. If you belong to NCTE you can also read it on the NCTE Spokesperson’s Network.

SO READ IT AND ACT!

More Teachers Step Up to Tell The Public Their Story

Read full article  | No Comments

It’s exciting to see more teachers step up to tell the public their story. The latest piece in the Chicago Sun-Times, by Chicago 4th grade teacher Rana Khan, was not recruited by me for the teacher essay series. Instead, this thoughtful teachers was inspired by the writers who have already been published to add her own voice.

At first I felt a little pang of jealousy — “Wait, this is MY project!” But no, it’s not. Teachers everywhere need to speak out and not wait for my urging.

And if we have been able to get a big-city paper like the Sun-Times to do this, how many other newspapers and online news media are out there that would give teachers the voice that the wider public needs to hear? This needs to be not just a small project by one campaigner like me, but a flood of testimony about the value of public education.