Mr. Collins is generous, knowledgeable and beautifully articulate. He says a poem should travel on the page the way we read an eye chart. Like the big E, the poem should start clearly to give a reader a solid footing, and then as things get smaller and smaller, the reader should have to squint and figure things out. “Good poems begin in Kansas, and end in Oz,” Collins told us. Give a reader a concrete place to begin: a walk in the neighborhood, a classroom, an image, and then that reader will follow you into the sky, into the dark, anywhere.
I am dazzled by Collins and by my peers and come away full of strategies, lists, resources and email addresses.
On the subway home, I begin to re-write my poetry unit.
New York City teachers discuss how they have used Share My Lesson as a resource for lesson plans and ideas. “Just the idea of having a place, a database where you can go and get really good lesson plans – that is like gold for a teacher,” says UFT President Michael Mulgrew in the video. Share My Lesson, created by the AFT in partnership with the UFT, had its New York City launch on April 19 and 20.
Was it a spur to critical thinking or was it an insult to nationhood punishable by termination? Or both? Was it a sacrilegious act or a thoughtless slip of discretion or immature judgment? Or neither?
Is this educator a menace to public sensibilities or an inept and unsavvy practitioner of defensive education who bravely or pig-headedly refuses to play it safe at the expense of intellect-building?
Was it, maybe, stealth propaganda or just a bad joke?
According to the Daily Caller, quoting WIS (a local NBC affiliate), a teacher in South Carolina was yanked from the classroom and consigned to extended administration leave and possible eventual firing for allegedly throwing an American flag on the floor and stomping on it. It is not claimed that he did it as part of a meltdown or fit of temper. What he apparently wanted to do was graphically demonstrate to his students the concept and potential dangers of symbolism and misplaced passion. It was about proving a point.
He had reportedly introduced the lesson by drawing several symbols. including a cross,which, as a segue, he uncritically identified as a symbol of Christianity.
Michael Copeland, parent of one of the teacher’s students, told WIS that the teacher took down the American flag and explained “This is a symbol, but it’s only a piece of cloth. It doesn’t mean anything,” and then proceeded to step on it in order to show, according to Copeland, that “there would be no consequences.”
Inarguably it may just cost the teacher’s job and just as inarguably there are far bigger implications for us all. More »
A hard plastic pencil case hits the floor with a resounding thwonk. As pencils and pens clatter across the linoleum, children duck to retrieve them. The abrupt noise momentarily silences the chatter of six-year olds, adding a percussive flourish to the classroom soundtrack that heralds the start of a new school year.
“As if this batch of freshly minted first-graders weren’t noisy enough,” I think, and silently curse the school supply store that prices hard pencil cases so irresistibly to the parents of schoolchildren.
I have twenty-seven new faces in my self-contained, English as a Second Language classroom this year. Even though I am entering my sixth year of teaching self-contained ESL in elementary school, very little seems rote. My students speak five different home languages, and each child exhibits a unique and complex personality. Every time I am faced with a new class, it feels, well, new, because I have to learn all about these living, breathing entities, sitting sloppily in front of me.
I spend the first few days of school wishing I had my old kids again: Karen the desk roving perfectionist, the shy and grateful Julio, and even the class braggart, William, who learned over ten long months, how not to step all over the feelings of his classmates.
Last year’s students, however, have blossomed over the summer into taller and wiser second-graders. Some have even tested out of ESL, and now sit in mainstream classrooms.
That is how we ESL teachers measure success. More »
ShareMyLesson.com, a new teaching resource site developed by the AFT and TES Connect, the digital arm of the UK’s long-running Times Educational Supplement, was officially launched at the AFT convention this summer. As teachers and students head back to school here in NYC, it’s a good time to check out what the site has to offer.
From the AFT:
Developed by teachers, for teachers, Share My Lesson already includes more than 250,000 resources, and that collection is expected to grow rapidly as more educators add to it. The user-generated content will be supplemented by tens of thousands of contributions from hundreds of content partners, including Sesame Street, Oxfam, GreenTV and Encyclopaedia Britannica. Educators can register and start using the site immediately, for free, utilizing its offerings or contributing materials of their own.
Tell me how you determine the value I add to my class.
Tell me about the algorithms you applied when you took data from 16 students over a course of nearly five years of teaching and somehow used it to judge me as “below average” and “average”.
Tell me how you can examine my skills and talents and attribute worth to them without knowing me, my class, or my curriculum requirements.
Tell me how and I will tell you:
How all of my students come from different countries, different levels of prior education and literacy, and how there is no “research-based” elementary curriculum created to support schools or teachers to specifically meet their needs.
How the year for which you have data was the year my fifth graders first learned about gangs, the internet, and their sexual identities.
How the year for which you have data was the year that two of my students were so wracked by fear of deportation, depression and sleep deprivation from nightmares, that they could barely sit still and often fought with other students. How they became best of friends by year’s end. How one of them still visits me every September.
[Editor's note: The author is a social studies teacher at Washington Irving HS, Manhattan. He delivered the following speech at the Jan. 31 public hearing on Irving's proposed closure.]
I began teaching at Washington Irving in the fall of 2002, not knowing a thing about what I was in for. I had moved to New York from Chicago a few months before, and before that I had been in San Francisco. As well, I had never been inside a public school. After two days, I felt sure I would fail the students and myself. After two years I thought I could last a couple more years maybe. Now I look back and see how this experience of teaching at Irving has sustained me and given me purpose. As well, it answered this question: what is New York City?
My whole life I had been in awe of New York, amazed by it, and when I moved here I thought, I’ll finally understand what New York means. I went to Midtown, hated it. Went to Coney Island, loved it, but it felt like 1898 mixed with desperation. Went to Ellis Island, the ocean was beautiful, the halls were inspirational. But where was this New York I needed to find? The bridges amazed me, Brooklyn neighborhoods reminded me of the other cities I had lived in, or had those reminded me, in retrospect, of Brooklyn?
Finally, I realized New York wasn’t in any of those places the way I hungered for it. But New York, the New York I needed, was right in front of me, in my classroom. These kids come from all over, the Heights, East New York, Q-Boro, Parkchester and the Lower East Side. I even taught kids from Staten Island — they grew up where Wu-Tang grew up: Shaolin, my friends.
My students are the New York I searched for. More »
David Z. Hambrick of Michigan State University concludes his piece with an appeal to common sense:
As a society, we have decided that it’s fine to pay a heart surgeon more than an electrician. We didn’t need to run a regression analysis to decide this — it’s important to keep the lights on, but only if there’s someone to keep them on for — and we don’t need to run a regression analysis to decide that we don’t pay teachers enough. A little arithmetic will do. In Michigan, where I live, the average starting salary for a teacher is about $35,000 for nine months. That works out to about $20 an hour. A bartender can make double that. Which job do you think is more important?
I’d like to begin by thanking my teachers in the fifth, sixth and seventh grades, Mrs. Pulaski, Mr. Burke and Miss Elmer. They taught us percentages and showed us how to “round down,” which I am doing now. The U.S. population is 312,624,000, and we have 3,198,000 public school teachers, which computes to 1%.
But this is not the 1% composed of Wall Street fat cats, professional athletes, entertainers and other rich people. I guarantee there’s no overlap between the two groups. The average teacher today earns about $55,000. At least 75 CEOs earn that much in one day, every day, 365 days a year. According to the AFL-CIO’s “Executive PayWatch,” the CEO who ranked No. 75, David Cote of Honeywell, was paid $20,154,012, for a daily rate of $55,216.47.
Whether posting a memory to Facebook (@storycorps), thanking them on Twitter (@storycorps, #thankateacher), taping a tribute on YouTube or sending a ‘thank you’ card, the 2011 National Day of Listening will send a powerful and necessary message to teachers across the nation: they matter, and we as a nation are grateful for the impact they have on our lives.
You can also record a face-to-face interview with a teacher—or anyone else you’d like to honor for the National Day of Listening—using the the tools on this page.
In case you missed it, the Times last week published a op-ed column by Charles M. Blow entitled “In Honor of Teachers.”
UFT President Michael Mulgrew, in an email to members, called it a “powerful piece” that “shows just how harmful and senseless an effect the rhetoric and contempt of so-called reformers is having on our children and profession. It will make you proud to be an educator who makes a difference every day. There truly are people out there who understand and support our work inside the classroom.”
[Editor's note: José Luis Vilson is a math teacher, coach, and data analyst for a middle school in Manhattan. He blogs at The Jose Vilson where this post first appeared.]
You’ve got to be wondering what a teacher like me is doing marching against the “reform” trends. For those of you unfamiliar with my background, I graduated with a degree in Computer Science from Syracuse University. A year later, after 6-8 months of unemployment and a stint as a data entry person at an educational database firm, I went into the NYC Teaching Fellows program, an offshoot of Michelle Rhee’s New Teacher Project. On the surface, I’m a perfect candidate to follow the corporatist thinking about education, and should be easily molded into the dominant thinking from elites who ostensibly believe they’re going into education for the common good. All it takes is the right amount of fear, the right amount of frustration, the right amount of ignorance, and the right amount of failure to tip people into the hands of those who wish to rotate our profession backwards.
Fortunately for me, I lucked out. And if you’re reading this, I’m thinking the same goes for you.
You see, I teach at a school that, somewhere along the line, decided to value veteran leadership and collaboration. They fostered a culture of discussion and unity that stems from decades of hardship from a neighborhood and administration standpoint. As leaders changed and gangs ran the block, teachers fortified the brick walls of the edifice. When I first came to that school, that legacy was indoctrinated in me in ways the teachers who mentored me probably didn’t realize. That first year, ideologies and trends changed so often, the only resort for me was to seek stability. I found that in the most experienced teachers in my building. More »
[Editor's note: Lisa Wilde is an English teacher at John V. Lindsay Wildcat Academy, a second-chance charter high school in Lower Manhattan. "Yo, Miss" is a graphic memoir she is writing and drawing about her experiences at the school. From time to time Edwize will post images from her forthcoming book, which tracks the eponymous Miss and eight of her (fictionalized) students over the course of a school year. Click on the image for a larger version.]
Are you ready for this? Be seated , because the news you are about to receive will be jarring. OK? Here goes:
Researchers at the University of Houston suspect that the stress that teachers undergo in the classroom may actually not be healthy for them, mentally or physically. A $1.6 million federal grant will fund an inquiry into how chronic stress impacts the classroom.
The stress of teaching surpasses that of practically any other career activity. The pressures are many-layered and often intractable. The rewards can be commensurate, which amount to a very rewarding professional life indeed, so certainly there’s a trade-off. But anyone who has actually worked “in the trenches,” knows that the wear and tear on the body and psyche can be momentous. More »