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Archive for April, 2008

The NECC 2008 Merch Table

Scott McLeod issued a call for button designs mid-April, for use at NECC, working with the slogan, "I'm Here For The Learning Revolution."

My submissions wandered a mile or two from his chosen theme (distractable, can't help it) so I won't hold my breath for the win. I will, however, take this moment to announce the grand opening of the dy/dan mercantile.

Buttons

Tees

Pricing

Buttons: $75.
Tees: $90. Two for $180.

Leave your order, size, and credit card number in the comments. I'll take care of the rest.

Ravitch:

And I envision a curriculum that in toto amounts to not more than 50 percent of the school day, so that there would be many variations and additions depending on the state, region, and locale. I also envision a curriculum that encourages projects, intensive study, and creative teaching.

If we're to turn this job into a profession, is consensus too much to assume here?

Saturday PD

a/k/a Homecoming!
a/k/a Mostly Gratuitous Entry!
a/k/a Best To Move Along, Seriously!

6AM

I woke up early on Saturday and drove to Sacramento, CA, to make up some professional development hours which I, uh, accidentally missed last week. This was also my first visit to the area since I unceremoniously evicted myself two years ago so I thought I'd lump in as much nostalgia as eleven hours would allow.

Twitter Interlude

Photo Interlude

Keynote: From Survival To Success

Francisco Reveles came up in the streets of Segundo Barrio, Texas. At the end of his keynote he announced his candidacy for California State Superintendent. His talk, therefore, wandered purposefully along the path from that first sentence to the second.

For my money, he is the only sort who oughtta run a gang-beleaguered school, the sort who pushes past reactionary responses (eg. more enforcement more enforcement more enforcement), who recognizes that gangs fulfill specific psychological needs for their membership (eg. actualization, power, structure, camaraderie), who then deploys school resources to satisfy them1, 2.

His whole keynote served largely to tease his later breakout session but one remark stood alone: "teachers with low expectations for their students are the most frequent victims of assault."

Twitter Interlude #2

Breakout Session: Pop Art Stencils

Awesome and useless! I can't believe I scored PD hours for this one.

You take a photo and trace out its shadows, midtones, and highlights onto separate sheets of cover stock. You cut them into separate stencils, lay them down one by one, and spray on black, gray, and white. Awesome.

No way this ever figures anywhere into my classroom but

  1. it made for great reflection. This is, after all, exactly how I see teaching: on first blush an overwhelmingly complicated job which anyone can then disintegrate into smaller, more manageable tasks (tasks, which, once upon a regrettable time, I dubbed "slices"), and
  2. whatta mother's day gift!

Photo Interlude

The Road Mix

Nostalgic Interlude

I rolled through Davis, CA, past Fountain Circle Apartments, Alvarado Ave., 7st St., Anderson Rd., and anywhere else I ever spent more than twenty minutes in college. I realized I was old enough to have taught some of the undergrads running around and cursed.

I saw my old friend, Josh Yoon, drive by in a Honda and flipped a u-turn as he parked only to realize as he got out of his car that he wasn't Josh, rather, another Asian guy who looked only somewhat similar. I acknowledged that the nostalgia (and careless racism, let's be plain) was hitting my head a little hard, cursed again, and moved along.

Twitter Interlude #3

5PM

On my way out, I stopped by my old mentor's office, looking to share news of the largest return on his investment, the most recent, most curious development in his protégé's short career. But he wasn't around, so I beat a path out of my past and returned home.


  1. Damian's kinda guy, basically.
  2. Make that any kind of school, beleaguered by gangs or otherwise.

Sobriety

A Year Ago

I wrote:

I can count on one hand the number of educators I've met (in real life or around here) who believe that hard work trumps passion in this job, that the latter follows the former, that caring's the easy part, that "passion" has become loosely defined through overuse. And even then I'd have three fingers I wouldn't know what to do with.

Our shot at professional credibility still seems like a long one but in the week preceding my last post I read some extremely encouraging assessments of teaching's present and future state. I bring you excerpts.

Marc Dean Millot

Marc Dean Millot puts the professionalism angle to rest with an outstanding twofer:

His model of peer review is a stunning display of good sense.

Assume a teacher is charged with the educational equivalent of malpractice after a half dozen students failed to achieve proficiency as measured by state tests. The educator’s case would be reviewed by his peers, against a standard of care established by teachers, applied to the circumstances surrounding these six students.

Like a lawyer or doctor, he would not be accountable for student failure per se. The professional question would be whether this teacher did what any teacher should have done in this situation with these students.

What a teacher "should" do will obviously be the subject of intense debate, but the question is far from unanswerable.

He ends with a glance at my bedside diary:

It seems to me that teachers should not only welcome this approach to a review of their individual performance; they should be clamoring for it.

Grant Wiggins

Over at The Faculty Room, Grant Wiggins places blame for teacher attrition on the equal compensation (financial and otherwise) enjoyed by good and bad teachers alike, as imposed by their union, which, of course, puts this all back on NCLB.

We will never attract the best and brightest in large numbers under typical school working conditions. And as long as union contracts keep up the fiction that we are equals, that we are “all” professionals, then teachers will be treated more as laborers than experts with appropriate executive control over important decisions. (Don’t you see that as long as we are all equals, there can never be 6-figure pay for the really excellent among us?) We are going to need 2 million teachers soon. Anyone who truly values creative control, collegial collaboration, and professional decision-making opportunities would properly think twice about teaching as a career – even if those of us who still think of teaching as a calling are offended.

George Parker

The president of the Washington Teachers' Union offers a self-recriminating op-ed which goes just to the line of saying, "Our priorities have sucked."

As president of the Washington Teachers' Union, I have a duty to represent more than 4,000 teachers. I also have a responsibility to work with our schools chancellor to improve the learning environment for students and teachers. At times it may appear that my duties of teacher advocacy and management collaboration conflict, which is not the case. The old-school paradigm of union rigidity must give way to a new-school approach of working productively with school leaders to improve student achievement.

Sarah Weisz

Sarah Weisz worries we scare off a lot of talent by obliterating "training" at the expense of "calling" in this job.

When we think about attracting new people to the profession, people who may want very much to teach without feeling “born to teach,” I think it’s important that we make a place in the rhetoric for them, too.

Deborah Meier

Similarly:

To dramatically improve schools, we need to transform the profession—making it attractive to thinkers and do-ers.

Maybe We're Better Off Without Them

I won't ask you to alter your vision for this job to reflect mine. I won't even put a value — positive or negative — on either vision. I will make two closing claims, though:

  1. You likely overestimate the intersection of those visions. It makes sense to me — intellectually and anecdotally — that the teachers who are most motivated by the intangible rewards of this job will most resent tangible assessments of their performance. Moreover, whatever improbable combination of the two you harbor in your heart, the predominate rhetoric surrounding teaching emphasizes intangible calling over tangible training.
  2. Both groups inflict profit and loss on teaching but, put plainly, any corps that emphasizes emotional feelgoodery over the scientific method (to the overwhelming extent that teaching has) will suffer the endless resignation of effective, coldhearted curmudgeons.

Eric Hoefler:

I left teaching a year ago and took a corporate job. The people with whom I work are talented, smart, and exceedingly professional (and still manage to be fun, interesting people in the process). The job serves the Children’s Bureau’s efforts to review and continually improve the Child Welfare Program … a noble goal.

None of my co-workers write poems about the nobility of their calling.

I’m not saying you’re a bad teacher if you write poems, but my personal experience tells me that the best teachers are far less concerned with the noble calling than with getting the job done, and done well.

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