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.
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 email@example.com to learn the details, submit an essay, or recommend an articulate teacher-writer.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org .
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 email@example.com & 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.
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 the 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 the 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)
Rochester teachers are getting slammed by new evaluations that fail to take account of widespread student poverty. 40% of the teachers across the city have been told they are below par and must prepare remediation plans. The Rochester Teachers Association has filed suit with the New York Supreme Court. In Syracuse, even high school gym teachers are finding their evaluations dinged when kids math scores are low. Read about this NOW! And read more on the Progressive magazine’s new website, Public School Shakedown (which we’re glad to see joining the fray).
So will you write to the Rochester newspapers and elsewhere to support these teachers? Or are you going to just wait and hope this doesn’t come to your school? Bystanders all too soon find that they too are in the cross-hairs.
Peter Smagorinsky explains with great clarity what happens for teachers and students when real kids are turned into data points. Cheers for reporter/blogger Maureen Downey and the Atlanta Journal Constitution for publishing Peter’s cogent reflections for the larger public to read.
As the year draws to a close I’ve been thinking about refocusing Teachers Speak Up. While I continue to believe that teachers need to re-brand our profession with the wider public, I haven’t had much success making that happen, even on a small scale. Yes, people tell me the effort is important, and yes, they like to visit this website. But there are so many pressures limiting folks from doing the writing, or getting other teachers to do so. You know what they are, so I won’t recount them. But the options are limited, too, for getting teachers’ stories published in media that will be seen by the larger community. For example, I organized a roundtable discussion with a small group of teachers and editors at a big city newspaper. The editors seemed jazzed by the exchange of ideas, but never followed up, never even answered my later emails. This is not fun. I’m a person who needs some response and success in order to keep going.
I’m not abandoning this effort — but I intend to shift it a bit. This was helped along by a conversation with Sonia Nieto, a courageous, long-time campaigner for a more just and supportive education. I’ll seek to use teachers’ stories to encourage fellow educators to stay with good, meaningful instruction, in spite of the pressures that in many places seem to be undermining it. Teachers need this. Meanwhile, I will continue to invite and share stories of great classroom moments. But I will be putting more effort into identifying individual teachers willing to do this and helping them with the writing (to the extent that they need/desire such help). And I will continue to work on finding venues for sharing those stories.
So in that spirit, here are several such sharing opportunities. I hope you’ll take a look, either to consider submitting something to them, or just for your own encouragement:
- Why I Teach — where educators and share their stories and thinking. This is a branch of the Learning Matters TV education news organization. You may not agree with all that Learning Matters appears to support, but Why I Teach is open to your voice and your ideas.
- Talks with Teachers — describes itself as “Inspiring stories from America’s great educators,” a cross between how-to stories and reflections on teachers’ struggles.
- Scholars Speak Out page of the Journal of Language and Literacy Education — mainly a list of educators’ blogs. But you can propose to tell your story on it by contacting Meghan Thornton (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the University of Georgia.
Joyous holiday wishes to all!
The Courageous Teacher Responds to Governor Christie
OK, people! If you haven’t already seen it, here’s how the teacher herself — the one who had Governor Chris Christie yelling in her face — responded in a letter on her blog. (Incidentally, if he was one of her students, what would be the consequence of such behavior in her class? Actually, I’d hope he’d be sent to a peer jury for a restorative justice experience — perhaps it would help him rethink his relationships with the citizens of his state.)
To tempt you into reading the whole letter, here’s just one juicy highlight (in response to his remark that ‘You people always want more money’:
What do I want? What do ‘we people’ want? We want to be allowed to teach. Do you know that the past two months has been spent of our time preparing and completing paperwork for the Student Growth Objectives? Assessments were created and administered to our students on material that we have not even taught yet. Can you imagine how that made us feel? The students felt like they were worthless for not having any clue how to complete the assessments. The teachers felt like horrible monsters for having to make the students endure this. How is that helping the development of a child? How will that help them see the value in their own self-worth. This futile exercise took time away from planning and preparing meaningful lessons as well as the time spent in class actually completing the assessments.
Christie should receive HUNDREDS of such letters on his website. Of course, his staff will keep them from displaying — but they’ll know we are out there!