I pen a quarterly blog for IRA. Todays is SPARE US FROM THE COMMON CORE ARMY CHOW.
Kinda funny, kinda true, definitely a blast to write.
I pen a quarterly blog for IRA. Todays is SPARE US FROM THE COMMON CORE ARMY CHOW.
Kinda funny, kinda true, definitely a blast to write.
The other day I wrote a blog which began with the line, “When I enter the schools of other teachers wearing my hat of “YA author” to do student assemblies, I am treated to a rare vantage point.”
First off, I’d be entirely lying if I did not admit how much I really adore doing student assemblies. A variety of reasons exist for this.
To begin with, when I was in high school, I thought all authors were dead. Fact is, well over 90% of the books assigned to us to read in class had been written by dead people. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration. 99% of the books assigned to us had been penned by folks who’d long since kicked. I was underestimating in order not to offend anyone because, as anyone who knows anything about books clearly knows, live authors can’t possibly measure up to dead ones when it comes to elevating the literacy skills of today’s kids.) Truth is, I only wish I’d been a teen who had the chance to grow up in a YA Lit Renaissance, like the age in which today’s young people are now living. I never had a real, live, in the flesh book author come visit my campus. Heck, I’d never even met a professional writer of any type til I got to college. And certainly, I don’t recall anyone ever even suggesting I could make a career out of writing.
For those kids in the audience who hold aspirations to become storytellers or poets or artists or musicians or filmmakers or game designers or dreamers of any sort, really, I get to be the guy who says, “It can come true. No promises but if you don’t ever take the risk to find out, you’ll never know what you can be,” I tell them. “Sure, it’s confrontational, gut-wrenching and requires immense sacrifice but what in this world that is truly worth achieving doesn’t?”
That message plays well. And being able to offer that idea in a school system gone absolutely bonkers with bubble tests as the raison d’etre for public education in America, well… all I can say is I feel honored and lucky to be able to fight the good fight.
And fight the machine.
I mean come on, school and education is about so much more than assessments yet so often I wonder, what percentage of today’s education system is really delivering that message to today’s kids in deeds as opposed to mere [lip service] words?
Plus, since we pretty much cancelled all field trips since NCLB burst gloriously onto the scene, this is sorta like a field trip that comes to them. In a David vs. Goliath way, it’s work that feels important.
Over the course of the past three weeks, I’ve been in Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, Maryland, New York and Michigan. Actually, I’ve to Detroit twice in the past two weeks. There’s only one word to describe it: wow.
Or is it Whoa? At this point, I am not sure.
A part of me can’t help but admire the work being done by teachers being pushed to surreal levels in this city. I don’t want to turn this into a “war stories” post but last weekend, 17 people were shot in the area where I was doing some PD, 10 died and the school lost 3 of its students in the past month.
A school where student to teacher classroom sizes are at 62 to 1. That’s not a typo. Some classes have 58, some a mere 47 but to see it firsthand is to see a secret shame America appears to want to either bury or ignore and I am not sure why.
I’d like to think that Detroit represents a reason why we simply cannot ignore the impact of a community on school test scores. No matter the platitudes or propaganda, no matter the finger pointing at teachers or the heightened rhetoric of the people who promise No Child shall be Left Behind, no matter the non-educators who rant on Capitol Hill or the candidates running for office next year who think that there is an easy answer in things like merit pay, Smartboards for all, or heightened teacher accountability (whatever that means), Detroit is a place that exemplifies what real teachers across the country already know: ya can’t pretend the whole child perspective on viewing academic achievement is irrelevant… because it’s not.
I was told Arne Duncan called Detroit “Ground Zero” in 2009. Well, the 2011 school year is about to dawn for them and all of them asked me the same question, “So what has he done about the problem? After all, he identified it and called us out quite publicly two years ago.”
A moment of silence for those kids – and the educators who are on the front lines – is in order. America deserves better.
And for those who say that class size doesn’t matter, I say, “Why don’t you head to Detroit and see how it looks to teach a class where kids sit on used milk crates, share desk at a clip of 2 students per one seat, and struggle without enough books to even manifest a classroom set of materials in order to teach a daily lesson.”
And, to beat the drum a little more, today’s blog is – once again – thematically aligned to illuminating the shenanigans of bubble testing.
Book rec: Making the Grade; My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry
Call “the most disturbing book I have read in ages” by one reviewer (who thinks it is The Jungle for this industry), I must confess… I had to put it down. Just found it too back-breaking. I mean school is what I do. I live it, eat it, breathe it and love it. And really, this stuff is ripping apart my soul.
Here’s a link well worth reading, a great book review that should suffice enough to inform you about how genuinely out of control this whole machine-of-profit has become.
I mean do all these politicians who got to bat for these tests have any idea about that for which they advocate?
God’s speed to us all.
Today’s blog post is a throw over to a must read article. Here is the link.
I must say, I have had my issues with Diane Ravitch before (not personally; I do not know her) but this piece is entirely exceptional. Perhaps because it is so accessible. Truly, the lay person in the general public can read it and “get it”.
People in schools, parents of kids in schools, Joe and Jane on the street, this is a must read link if you want to know about our schools. We are just crushing our nation’s schools – and what’s worse is that it’s only getting worse.
*head on desk, banging*
Hi, my name is Whit Little and I have hacked Alan’s blog today to talk to you about this most important of seasons.
The season of data.
See, as we all know it’s coming up on testing time and in my role as the DDVP (Data-Driven Vice Principal) I want to make sure that you are properly placing all of your energy into the singularly most important area of a child’s education: their standardized test scores.
This time of year is no joke and we hope you understand the gravity of these tests. Please report all suspicious peers who display a cavalier attitude about the importance of these tests – or the data – to me, Whit Little. (You can just leave a comment below.)
And if you think it’s unethical for me to hack into Alan’s blog in order to relay the importance of the upcoming tests, might I remind you that the powers being granted to me, the DDVP, are currently growing in scale and scope to an unprecedented level.
Rightfully so, too. It’s a new era and this is but one of many changes to come in the near future so get over yourselves.
And yes, there will be a test.
I just made this point in a response to one of my blog posts last week.
More people in the 20th century read Shakespeare than any ever did in the 17th or 18th or even 19th centuries combined. And why? Because of technology.
And the thing is, for me, this illuminates the value of writing. Why? Because writing forces me to think and the thought above is a thought I’d never held before. It came to me through deeply ruminating about the impact of technology on today’s kids and classrooms.
So why do I blog like a fiend, posting probably 3,000 words a week online? Because writing sharpens my thinking and while not all of my thinking is remarkable or original (trust me, I am all too aware that I often score points in the “spectacularly unimpressive” category by people who take their time to read me), it does feed my brain in a way which I do find to be of benefit.
And to poo-poo the impact of all the online writing going on with today’s students is to, imho, disregard the thinking that they are doing in this day and age.
Me, I watched about 20 zillion hours of The Flintstones, The Brady Bunch and so on when I was a kid. Goodness knows how much better off I’d have been having had the ability to interact with my favorite media the way kids do. Instead, my brain was being trained to become passive mush – while being told to shop for sugary cereals and the such.
Sure, we can idealize how much better it was before all these video games and cell phones and blah, blah came to be but the idea that I can make a reference to the voodoo doll in the hokey Brady cave, Bam-Bam and the Fonz and have virtually everyone from my generation understand the reference because of OVER-EXPOSURE to this mindless dribble (okay, The Flintstones was cool, the Fonz in this day and age would get taken out back and pummeled and the Brady family… heck, even back then we knew that this was just weird) just further cements the point that things were not better when we were kids. At best, they were even. But in truth, today’s kids have access to scope, depth, and dynamism in a way which was never afforded to us… and to think that this will not result in a BURST of elevated thinking once they hit their 40’s (my age range) strikes me as cynical and arrogantly dismissive of genuine belief that the next generation can stand on the shoulders of our generation and take humanity to a higher and “better” level.
Recently, a bunch of people have been asking me about how to blog. Or rather, how to build a big readership of blog readers.
While a quick google search will reveal all sorts of tips and tricks and so on, for me, I think that the key element comes through voice. You gotta find your voice.
The truth is, building a blog takes time, effort and persistence. I’ve been blogging now for two solid years. (Really, it’s like my 2 year ann of starting my blog this week.) I used to blog 7 days a week for the first 6 months – now I crank out about 4 or 5 posts per week. Me, being a writer, makes it feel like a duck-in-water type of situation, though. I love doing it and keeping up with my blog is not anything like “work” to me at all. It’s fun. It’s energizing. It stretches me in ways I like. And let’s be honest, not everyone is made from this weird writer fabric where they get their kicks out of banging away at a keyboard as much as I do.
As with all writing, blogging forces me to think about what I really think… and therein I find the personal reward of blogging. Sure I goof around and embed fart jokes whenever I can – cause they’re a gas (get it, a gas? Oh so immature!) but blogging is equivalent to mental exercise for me. As mentioned, it keeps me sharp… and current. (Puts fart jokes in a whole new light, no?). Like most work, I think you have to find some sort of internal reward in doing the work if you are going to produce decent work.
So the answer is that for most folks, to build a blog where you get a decent sized readership, well… it’s gonna take a while and it’s gonna take the creation of a lot of content. And that content has got to come at people from an angle. It needs to have a voice. I don’t think having a “product” (i.e. my books and such) really drives my blog and/or brings readers. It’s that I have found a blogging voice which is my own… goofy and irreverent as it may be.
And if you are going to “be a blogger” you’ve got to find yours.
So if you want to build a blog you have to start writing and writing and writing and then see where it leads you personally. Once you find your own voice I think you will also find more and more readers.
There are no shortcuts these days – especially with so many people blogging. But there is always room for good, interesting, valuable content. (As a reader, I dig reading people that “move” me in some way… and I’d read you if you hit that bar.) Create that kind of blog and you will find an audience.
My best advice is to be persistent, be fearless and be honest. Trying to please others is a recipe for being boring and inauthentic… and who wants to read that?
Thus fart jokes. They may stink, but they are never boring.
With all the WOW stuff flying around, I am thinking about starting a Dear Alan column because I’m getting more and more and more emails from people asking me for my take on matters that really, well… they have no “right” answers.
And so, sharing some of those questions in my blog, and lending my own perspective (while acknowledging, “Hey, this is just my viewpoint but in a world where little is black-n-white sometimes it’s nice to be able to hear about the many shades of gray) feels like something that might catch traction with me.
Anyway, all questions will remain anonymous – for about a thousand different reasons – so if you write to me, know that you can use your real name and I won’t publish it.
Can’t promise I will always post a Dear Alan as a result but hey, in this day and age, it feels like a lot of folks are looking for a place to turn and talk. And if I can even help one person through these efforts than hey, it’s worth it, right?
Anyway, here’s this week’s question:
Hi Alan, Could you please do a blog about rosaries being a sign of gang affiliations? My high school has had six police cars in the last week, added security and two lock-downs. We have a gang problem. Our high school accepted more schools of choice kids than any other district – no background checks – period. We had a rumor this week that someone was going to come in and shoot up the school. It was not substantiated. We had so many students absent on the day it was supposed to happen, it was unreal. Students were scared. Staff was scared.
In our “Emergency Staff Meeting,” I brought up the fact that many of our students are suddenly wearing rosaries and this is a gang symbol. Our administration basically told me that I was absolutely wrong and that it’s a trend. This is the same administrator who after I sent reported a student wearing a tshirt with his gang air-brushed all over it, he called him out of class and made him turn his t-shirt inside out and then sent him back to my class for two hours. It was hell. The kid was furious and was extremely disruptive. Some staff said that I never should have reported it because I could get my tires slashed…
I’m frustrated! Did you ever deal with gang issues in your classroom and was your administration helpful?
I know for a fact that rosaries are a touchy subject, but I also know that many students are strutting their gang affiliation right under our noses and not one person is doing anything about it. Any suggestions?
In short, this is a WOW question. So many things come up.
Today, I am just gonna let you “chew on it”. Tomorrow, you’ll be able to see my response. (Plus, it’ll be kinda long and already we’re at the edge of a reasonable day’s post.)
Is this how abby started? (LOL)
It’s easy to be negative and unmotivated but it takes some work to be positive and motivated. While there is no “off button” for those relentless tapes, there are things that you can do to turn down the volume and shift your focus from the negative to the positive. –Donna Cardillo
Stumbling across the above quote recently gave me pause. Why? Because I think that as of late I have slipped a bit in terms of focusing on the negative.
Now sure, I can justify it because almost all of the major media I mentally ingest has been focused that which is wrong with our schools. That which stinks. That which is abysmal, inexcusable and horrific.
And when I blog about these easy-to-spot elements of our schools, I can’t help but cop to the fact that I am feeding the fire. Which is ironic in a way because I genuinely believe I am working really, really hard to bring about positive, good things for kids, teachers and public education at large (albeit, in my own small way). Bringing positive, energetic, exciting and uplifting solutions to our challenges in schools – particularly as it relates to books and literacy – is the core focus of my career.
And I am convinced that it will only be through positivity that our schools will evolve into the kind of places we wish for them to be.
Of course, because I come at so many of this issues through a tone of “righteous anger” (my own description; other people might give it another name, something that is filled with four-letter words) it would be easy for me to try and rationalize my bloggish attention to these negative elements because hey, at least in my own head, I am wearing the white hat, right? Yet I think, when I reflect, I can do a better job of talking about what’s right, what’s good, what’s commendable and what’s deserving of celebration today.
Cause there’s a lot of it.
Sure, schmucks abound. But for every bozo about whom I can blog there’s at least an even amount of noteworthy folks who are doing good stuff day in and day out, right?
I mean that’s my biggest problem with NCLB anyway. So much energy is focused on what is wrong and so little celebrates that which is right.
So this month I am going to try and do better. I can’t promise permanent reform because roasting the butt heads is 1) a lot of fun and 2) a way that helps me stay sane in the midst of their onslaught of insanity.
But I do feel the airwaves are jammed right now with the negative so I am gonna move over to “a frequency less traveled”, a higher, more positive vibe.
Hey, I’m in California anyway, a land where pre-school teachers have nose piercings and eating granola isn’t considered good enough unless one is eating organic granola. Geography, I believe, is on my side.