‘Reach Out to Community -Posts’ Posts


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.


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.


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


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?

Two Outstanding High Schools Get News Coverage

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While it’s all too rare, it’s great to see when two outstanding high schools get news coverage. The Chicago Tribune, in it’s “Trib Local” online edition spotted, somehow, that the two Downers Grove high schools, in Chicago’s west suburbs, are doing great things to help kids strengthen their reading in all subject areas, with teachers across the schools participating in in-depth PD. I’ve visited Downers Grove South, and you can read about it in the soon to be published 2nd edition of Subjects Matter.

We need more of this kind of recognition!

Passionate Parent Speaks Up Against Common Core Testing

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She may now be a darling of Fox News, but at least this passionate parent speaks up against Common Core testing. Watch her on Youtube (sorry if an ad comes on first – you can skip past it). We’re going to need lots of people speaking out like this if we are to stop the endless march of testing that is inevitably going to hurt kids in poor neighborhoods the most. A blizzard of state-wide piloting of new tests will be coming to Illinois in the spring. Perhaps that will wake people up, here.

If Only the Public Knew How Things Really Work in Schools

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If only the public knew how things really work in schools . . .

They would be so much more supportive of us! But we’re the only ones who can explain it to them. Here are two examples, one rather discouraging, the other more hopeful.

So in California, teachers are beginning to learn how “close reading” will be tested by the Smarter Balanced assessments. Anthony Cody shares a guest post by a teacher describing her growing dismay as a presenter stresses that students will be expected to analyze texts like the Gettysburg address without having any background knowledge about it. As an exercise, the participants are to analyze the “Little Miss Muffet” nursery rhyme, after which they’re told it was actually about Mary Queen of Scots — which would of course alter the entire meaning of the text. This is what we’re spending billions of taxpayer dollars on. And by the way, even David Coleman conceded that background knowledge was a good thing. But after his first condemnation of it, the test makers apparently never heard the retraction.  Anyone want to comment?

Next up: Peter Smagorinsky responds, in the Atlanta Journal Constitution to the many online commenters who propose dealing with school budget cuts by eliminating everything but STEM subjects. Peter describes the power and success of an outstanding theater program and its teacher, Michelle Thorne, in Conyers, GA, and how essential it is to the students, the school culture and the whole community. One wondering, though: he sympathizes that budgets have to be cut, since funds are short. But I have to ask: in this recovering economy, why are education funds short, when the stock market is zooming? Anyone want to comment?

But if you comment, don’t just say it to Teachers Speak Up. Tell it to your community