‘Uncategorized’ Posts

 

Another Teacher Tells the World How Public Education Matters

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Here’s the Chicago Sun Times essay by reading specialist Erika Bolte as yet another teacher tells the world how public education matters and makes a difference for our children. Erika explains how the teacher team at her school helping a struggling student to catch up.

While pundits worry about large-scale standardized test scores, good teachers continue to help one kid at a time. We must keep telling the stories of how teachers make that difference so that community members – taxpayers – come to understand the hard but rewarding work that educators do, and become willing to give it more support.

Teacher Voice Campaign Marches On

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The teacher voice campaign marches on with more essays in the Chicago Sun Times. Read and enjoy these outstanding pieces:

NOW, CHICAGO TEACHERS! SEND US MORE ESSAYS! WE NEED TO BUILD PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF OUR IMPORTANT WORK.

Contact me for more info, or to send a draft – stv.zemelman@comcast.net. Tell a story of a powerful learning moment in your classroom, or a student who changed and grew. 550 words max.

Back and Seeking More Chicago Area Teacher Essays

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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!

What Our Work Really Is and It Is Not Tests

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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!

Chicago Sun Times Teacher Essays Are Back

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We’re excited to announce that the Chicago Sun Times teacher essays are back, with an excellent piece by 3rd grade teacher Evelyn Pollins explaining very concretely how teaching reading oriented to the Common Core destroys kids’ love of books. It’s on the paper’s website as well as in the Monday 3/22/15 print edition.

The series had paused for several months while the paper’s editors were consumed with covering Chicago’s mayoral election battle between Rahm Emanuel and Chuy Garcia (to be decided in a run-off April 7th). This itself is a major education story, with Rahm attacked for having closed 50 schools in primarily black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

The essay can be hard to find on the web, since the Sun Times website isn’t very user-friendly. So just tell your friends to Google “Evelyn Pollins Chicago Sun Times.” Oh, and don’t be shocked to see just above her essay a picture of a message to parents about how great the Common Core is. Go figure!

 

Four Seattle Area Teachers Decided to Truly Speak Up

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WHOA! Four Seattle area teachers decided to truly speak up, testifying to their school board about the agonies that are being visited on their students and themselves by the Smarter Balanced test that is pointlessly discouraging everyone, and declaring that they’ll refuse to give the tests in the future. As you’ll see from their account and their statements, they organized this very carefully and smartly, with a large number of fellow teachers in attendance. Several others came forward to speak as well, including a candidate for the state legislature.

Since time was limited to 3 minutes per speaker, the teachers planned their parts to go in sequence. Their statements were measured but passionate, as you can see by reading them: Becca Richie’s statement, Judy Dotson’s statement, Julianna Dauble’s statement, Susan duFresne’s statement. Several quoted Martin Luther King: “Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.”

And Susan DuFresne explained in her account that both they and the other teachers present experienced a real sense of empowerment and professional pride.

It appears that there are indeed caring teachers who simply cannot remain silent when they see children being psychologically and developmentally hurt, whether their jobs are threatened or not. Let this be a lesson for the rest of us.

Yet Another Fine Teacher Portrait by Peter Smagorinsky

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Please enjoy reading yet another fine teacher portrait by Peter Smagorinsky and published on Maureen Downey’s “Get Schooled” blog for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Smagorinsky emphasizes first grade teacher Becky Cross’s use of laughter in the classroom, in contrast to the Dickensian sooty-factory approach to education that has become current. In light of her leadership and mentorship of other teachers, Ms Cross was asked to become an assistant principal, but she turned down the offer in favor of staying in the classroom.

People across the country, you should all be writing such portraits of outstanding teachers and submitting them to newspapers everywhere. That’s one way we can counter the negative stereotype of public education today.

Fall Action for Teacher Voice in Chicago

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9/11/14  I’m extremely pleased to be contributing to fall action for teacher voice in Chicago — the Chicago Sun Times  teacher essay series that I have organized, will continue through the fall, under the series title, “Fall Semester.” To see all the essays written throughout the summer, simply go to the Sun-Times website, and search “Summer School Teacher Essays”.

Meanwhile, life grew pretty busy and I’m only now alerting people to the latest essays:

  • Let CPS Counselors Do Their Jobs” by Kristy Brooks, published 8/30 — an expose of how the “case manager” role given most elementary school counselors takes up all their time so they can do any counseling with kids
  • When Kids Connect They Learn More” by Phillip Cantor, published 9/10 — explaining how all the faculty at his high school collaborate to learn about and address students’ social-emotional challenges

Now, people: I need more essays! If you are a teacher in Chicago or the Chicago metro area, we want to hear your voice. Essays are maximum 600 words, should provide a vivid picture of some important aspect of teaching and learning and present a strong argument for why and how it should be supported.

Here are the guidelines for writing an essay.

Contact me at stv.zemelman@comcast.net for more detailed information.

The Flood of Testing in Kindergarten

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Just out today in the Chicago Sun-Times teacher essay series is Tammy Haggerty Jones’ well-documented piece on the flood of testing in kindergarten. Is this really how Americans believe very young children should be schooled? Is this how we help them grow and achieve new abilities at home? And does the public really understand how the tsunami of tests is washing over the young people they so love? And will teachers everywhere just go along with this?

Who does not doubt that this is destructive and pointless? I want to know that more and more teachers, parents, and policy-makers are speaking out and acting to change the direction of “reform” in this country. We can’t just moan only to our colleagues. I’ll keep doing what I can to help get our voices heard by a wider audience.

Pitiful Preparation for a Pointless State Test

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If you haven’t already seen it, take a look at this pitiful preparation for a pointless state test, in Chicago. And next here’s an explanation of the occasion for the video, since some people questioned whether it was taken out of context (I hope you can access this — it’s on Anthony Cody’s Education Week – Teacher blog).

So the teacher who outed this has spoken out, though she needed to remain anonymous in doing so.

How much do teachers need to be demeaned before we stand up against scenes like this? Perhaps someone would like to comment on this in a letter to the editor for a Chicago newspaper!