Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Three days into my second summer with Steppingstone Academy, the obvious differences between the program and the urban public school I work at are glaring. Some of it, if I'm honest, rests in the fact that my Academy students choose to dedicate their summer to learning but the public school students are forced to attend. But the most noticeable difference is the level of stability.
Since last summer, the Academy has experienced both growth and change. I am the only carryover teacher from the prior summer. Two key individuals in the "admin" office moved on. And yet, it is business as usual. The scholars show up and work hard. The routines have not changed. The vision remains the same.
Since last summer at the public school, our principal has moved on, a vice-principal has moved on, and our superintendent has moved on (all of this in the last month). We are losing teachers--still not sure how many because our education budget has yet to pass the town vote. And in contrast to the Academy, I feel a great deal of uneasiness. What is our vision? What is our purpose? Our students were not succeeding under the previous leadership with their own view of how to move forward. Now, we are going to change visions again, start all over?
Why is it that the students in our country who need the most stability, the most continuity, are given the least amount of it? It's just not fair.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Education Serenity

*Risky Business Ahead: Anytime I bring into this blog the realities of my daily grind, I run the risk of offending. But this blog has always been about my experiences; and if I'm to continue blogging, I have to tell the truth of it all.

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;

I cannot change the short-sighted nature of the voters in the town I work in. That this town has yet to pass their education budget for a student population in need of local support wreaks of either ignorance or intention. Both are dangerous.

I cannot change the number of hallwalkers distracting the valuable education going on in the classroom. That our school community allows students to wander our hallways in packs wreaks of either indifference or inability. Again, both are dangerous.

Courage to change the things I can;

I can change the interactions within the walls of my classroom. That I fell into the trap of apologizing for the content (Teach Like a Champion) wreaks of either selfishness or apathy. Both are dangerous.

And wisdom to know the difference.

Honestly, this will be difficult. I feel this insane need to fix things--some say it results from that Y chromosome. There is potential in our district for something special, a place where low-income students prove that they can compete academically with the wealthy. We can be something special, a place where competing cultures come together and form a truly American community.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Harkness help

During this year's summer program, I will teach three literature courses--one course per grade level. We have rising seventh, rising eighth, and rising ninth graders. The course is designed to promote healthy discussion and dialogue concerning each text. With the emphasis on discussion, I've decided to research the Harkness method used by many independent schools, but made famous by Phillips Exeter Academy.
I have found some resources to help guide my preparation, but have yet to come across a video showing the method in action. As a visual learner, I hope to find something to watch that goes beyond telling about the method.
I am excited to begin, especially considering some of the texts I get to teach:
A Prayer for Owen Meany
Lord of the Flies
A Separate Peace
The Chosen
The Old Man and the Sea
"The Necklace"
"This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona"
"A Good Man is Hard to Find"
"The Most Dangerous Games"

There are many more short stories as well as the text, How to Read Literature Like a Professor. I feel energized, reinvigorated.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Can't Make it Up

I overheard a fourth grade student in our district respond to her teacher's pleas for greater effort by saying, "Why should I work hard? The government will give me money."
The country wants to blame we teachers for our failures to educate. However, too many of our students have already received an education that we might not be able to overcome. Work hard, we say. Riches will be yours. Feel good about yourself.
But why, mister, my mom feels real good about that check she gets every month.

I hate to be so surly at the end of a school year, but it is this attitude, combined with the lack of soliving our hall-walking problem where I teach (high school), that has me wondering "why bother?"

Why bother working harder than the other teachers? Why bother creating community building events? Why bother believing all students deserve a chance? In the end, they've already been taught.