Thursday, October 23, 2008

When it rains...

What do you tell an intern after a her learning activity deteriorates into random choas peppered with Carlos Mencia racial humor? And then, how do you answer her question of "How do you do that?" after observing me teach the "dancing class" at a frantic pace in which the young freshmen argued like third graders and answered all questions at a volume appropriate for a DMX concert?
I wish I had the answers. Instead, I went to therapy with my assistant principal. "This effort is not sustainable," I told him. "How do you handle all of this," I continued.
I'll leave it at that. My promise: The next post will not be about my classroom experiences.


At 1:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought this might interest you.

I spent the morning visiting classes in a different school, today. The place is Bronx International High School, housed in an amazing gothic structure that is one of the oldest school buildings in the Bronx in one of the poorest congressional districts in the city.
100% of its students are not born in the US. 20 to 40 different languages from four continents are spoken (depending on whether you count dialects as different languages). Few of the teachers know any language besides English. I was with a colleague, and altogether we visited 6 different classes. Some of the things we noticed:
• the overwhelming pedagogical approach was one of facilitation. (That is, except from a brief mini-lesson on past tense in one class, the teachers modeled and then facilitated the work of the students.)
• the teachers built the work around educational issues that were real to the students, (example, they had taken the students to Columbia University and Central Park the day before to have them interview people on their take on the issues of the election. The students found it difficult to get people to stop and answer their questions. Some students felt racism was a factor, so the discussion in the Global studies class revolved around the subtle gradations of racism in their lives and in American history.)
• error was accepted by the teachers and therefore by the students as an important step in the learning process, not an indication of failure or fault (Students were grateful for spelling and tense suggestions.)
• the unmistakable culture of the school is that students help, not hinder, each other. In one class, when two students got into an argument, the teacher got them outside the room. Then came back to the class to open a discussion on how such activity affects them and the mission of the school. When they were ready to proceed with the lesson, she brought the combatants back and focus was regained.
• the teachers obviously work hard to find or create text that is only slightly above the students’ comfort level.

The thing is, although the teachers we saw were all doing excellent work, it was the administration that encouraged and guided the school’s mission and helped to craft the school’s atmosphere. I know you want to make changes in the culture of WGASH but I also know that to do so you will have to find a way to create conversation with the administration, or your attempts will be lost in the gale.


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