Who Will Carry This Torch?

I wrote this poem eleven years ago. I return to it today and just want to weep. What are we doing to our children? Who will save them? Who will carry the torch of knowledge for the next generation and for the generation behind us?

 

No one to close the windows
when the rain storm pellets their beds.
No one to lock the doors at night
and keep intruders from walking in.
No one to warm up dinner and
feed their craving little bodies.
No one to scare away the dragons
who star in their dreams at night.

Abandoned.
Forsaken.
Forgotten.
Alone.

The children are
thrown away –
labeled incorrigible –
impossible –
beyond our abilities to help.

The achievement gap widens.
The terrain becomes more barren.
The house falls into further decay.
The green in the landscape
slowly
silently
serenely
melds into
grey.

When will
no child
be left
behind?

Then, I came across this beautiful hand drawing today and it  gave me new hope. This is drawn by a 15 year old girl from the Philippines and brings hope for change. Let it start here in our own country and in our own hearts.

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How the NYC Department of Education Bullied and Drove Away an NBCT Pre-K Teacher

I am reblogging this from Diane Ravitch.

This is how bad our schools have become. They are children-unfriendly and teacher-unfriendly.

“I left not because I was in an under represented community and not because many children had challenging issues but rather because the lack of support and understanding about what it means to be a teacher was draining the life out of me.” ~ a NYC pre-K teacher who chooses to remain unnamed.

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Diane Ravitch's blog

This is a letter that I received:

I have been following you for the last 10 years and am in awe of your continued efforts to turn public education in the right direction.

I read your article this morning about a teacher who had had enough.

It could have been my story.

I am a retired NYC Department of Education pre-k teacher in an under represented community. I taught pre-k for 16 consecutive years in the same school. I was fortunate that I was able to introduce many innovative programs to support my students not just in academics but the more important social/emotional piece that schools often neglect.

I brought to my classroom American Sign Language, Yoga, Mindfulness, Cooking and Baking, Caterpillars into Butterflies and as much art and music as I could fit in a day.

My students thrived. Sadly, each year it became more and more difficult to…

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Why Do I Teach?

How can I say “no” to them and walk away?

Last week, the dark child brightened up.
Yesterday, the angry child smiled.
Just today, the sad child laughed.
And tomorrow, the child beyond hope, will graduate.

Each child a new challenge.
Each challenge a routine and a painful burden.
Each burden, mine to bear for a brief period of time –
my special chance to help God perform His miracle
in each child.

We teach because we are called to teach.
We teach because the children need us now.
We teach because we need to love them.
We teach because it is life to us.

How can we say “no” to them and walk away?

Teaching is far more than just wanting to

Wonderful and inspiring and challenging words to start the 2015 2015 school year from Frank Bird III.

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The daily meanderings of a teacher

Bird Droppings August 13, 2015
Teaching is far more than just wanting to

“I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. President Kennedy said on one occasion, ‘Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.’ The world must hear this. I pray to God that America will hear this before it is too late, because today we’re fighting a war.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

When I saw this quote earlier today it reminded me that wanting to in any endeavor is a powerful force. A few days back in an email a friend asked about the idea of…

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Getting into the Back to School Mind Set – Two Free Musings

My Back to School Musings for August 4 – T minus 20 days until I meet with a whole new crop of at-risk teens.

Today I decided that I am going to keep track of the aha moments I see this school year. The aha moments . . . when a student makes the connection between text and life;  when creativity is sparked and a new concept is created; when a block is finally taken down and my student can read, speak, or write with freedom and joy; when a student finds boldness and shares learning and wisdom with the world around her. The moments that come from pure “WONDER” and the joy of learning.

Those aha moments are why I teach and have nothing to do with common core or with high stake testing except to place those external aspects of the day in the correct perspective. That too is an aha moment – for me and for my students.

So this year, I am going to keep track of this moments and run with them and let them be the fuel to keep on keeping on.

Aha Man

August 1st is for me the start of the new school year. It is today that I start planning for the next wonderful crop of students. It is today that I start looking at how to revise old lessons and create new lessons. It is today I set a goal for the year and a tone for the first day of school.

It is with more trepidation than ever that I begin this school year. I fear this year will be a terrible one for public education. But today I choose to put aside my fear and cling to a glimmer of faith.

In 24 days, I will meet a new crop of at-risk teens – some of them brand new and some of them returning but all of them ready to be touched by love and by wonder.

All I have so far is my motto for the year – the quote that will go on my lesson plan book and on the bottom of each and every email I send out. It is:

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”
― Socrates

My prayer is that we all catch hold of wisdom and ride the wave of wonder.

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It’s Common Sense not Common Core by Stacy Stelmack Biscorner

It’s Common Sense not Common Core by Stacy Stelmack Biscorner

I’m a good teacher. I know how my students learn best. I know this because I talk to my students like they are human beings. I greet them with hugs and smiles every day. I take time each day to have a morning meeting, where two to three students get to share something. Maybe it’s that their dog was hit by a car and died last night. Or maybe one of them is sad because everyone is talking about making Father’s Day presents and his dad is in prison and he won’t be seeing or spending time with his dad.

What company out there is coming up with ways to add relationship to the CCSS? What will that look like? Will there be a required statement to make at the beginning of each day? “Good morning student A.” Will the kids have barcodes on their foreheads so they can be shoved through the lunch lines faster and get back to class for the next assessment?

Guess what? When I went to college, it didn’t prepare me for what I would face when I stepped into my classroom that very first day 14 years ago! Nothing could have. You see, when working with human beings, young, developing human beings, there is nothing inside a college textbook or any lecture even the greatest professor could give to prepare for that. Why? Because EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT.

I don’t buy into the notion that every kid must learn the same exact thing in the same exact order at the very same rate of speed with the very same words. Differentiate, but use a script, they say. Uh, that doesn’t sound idiotic at all. Use various methods of delivering the lesson, too. What would that be? Reading the script to the kids as a listening comprehension activity? Or having all the students read the scripted lesson as a reading comprehension lesson?

Bottom line here is I’m a good teacher. I know what each of my students need because I TALK WITH THEM, not at them. I work WITH them. I read WITH them. Every single child is unique and learns differently. So how much sense does it make to teach them in a common way? Teaching kids to live healthy lives in an unhealthy way is insane. It makes absolutely no sense. I’m very able to assess and evaluate my students without a rubric on a clipboard in my hand.

Believe it or not, I have found that it works to ASK, not tell my students to explain their thinking and show me either verbally or in writing how they know the information. It also works pretty well to give kids CHOICES. Let them show the way they solved a problem ANY WAY THEY CHOOSE. There’s more than one way to show proficiency and understanding.

Again, Who would have known that having a caring relationship with students and creating an environment where it’s okay to step away from the 15 page lesson plan and use the professional judgment you worked so long and hard for is a great way to foster a love for learning. That it would encourage students to feel safe and willing to take risks. Most importantly, it would actually raise achievement scores because teachers would be allowed to use their intuition, their gut feeling, their professionally trained brains instead of a script.

The lesson plans that are being required are not only ridiculous, cumbersome, and insulting, they are robbing children of what every competent teacher knows their students need most.

Students in poverty? Newsflash, they don’t care about doing well on a test. They can’t. Their little minds are consumed with worry that they won’t get to eat dinner. Their worry isn’t that they won’t get a good score. Their worry is they won’t get to see their parents because they both work two jobs and their older siblings, if they have any, will be caring for them.

Kids don’t need CCSS and all the testing that comes with it. Kids need teachers and all the love, care, compassion and security that comes with having him/her. My students don’t need me writing 15 pages of lesson plans each week. They need my stress free mind, my present, face to face interaction. They need me to be aware of what makes them happy or sad.

My students care about what I know because they know I care. I find time to ask about my students’ interests outside of school that could be embedded into a lesson. How many good teachers go strictly by the written plan? I don’t. Why? Because I’m constantly taking the pulse of my students and if what I have written in the plan is too easy or too difficult or not going well, I ditch it. I teach by reading my students’ cues, facial expressions, body language, etc. If I had to keep reading off a written piece of paper, I would miss all of the things that matter most. Here’s the lesson that this country needs to start implementing all across the country:

It’s common sense, not common core our teachers need the higher ups to implement.

Oh, and another thing. I’ve seen some pretty bad teachers with some beautifully written plans. Which teacher would you rather your child have? One who writes lengthy, detailed, meticulous lesson plans including each CCSS the lesson addresses, but has really no rapport or relationship with your child, or the one who spends extra time thinking of ways to help your child feel confident and excited about going to school?

There’s no time for recess, gym, art or music anymore, either. But that’s an entirely different subject I’ll address some other time. If I didn’t have to spend two hours every night documenting proof to show I know how to be a good teacher, I’d write it tonight.

And does that flawless lesson plan guarantee that the teacher will actually use it? Engage students? Assess by observation and discussion? No, because there’s a script for that.

Wouldn’t you rather your child be with a teacher who can multi task like no tomorrow, move around the room talking to and observing students working, and assessing with their brain instead of a rubric?

This isn’t to say there’s not an outline of the daily/weekly plans. There is an outline, but the teacher is forced to spend the hours writing long, drawn out lesson plans trying to prove she’s worthy of her job. This insults her deeply, by the way, because of all the voluntary training and PSD she attends trying to improve her craft. Which teacher would you want? I want the teacher who acts as if my child has a living soul, a beating heart, and who wants to build a relationship with my child built on trust and understanding. One who knows that my child isn’t like all the other children.

My child, and all the children in the class are special, unique and shouldn’t be spoken to by a robotic adult who treats him as if he’s the next part on the conveyor belt of the public education system.

My child is not a machine. My child needs a relationship, not rigor. Do away with CC standards and codes. Do you really think the teachers have time to memorize them? Do administrators have them memorized?

Will anyone even do anything with the lesson plans, other than glance down at it just to make sure all the teachers obeyed the demand?

Wouldn’t it make more sense if teachers put those hours into making fun activities that will make a lasting impact and excite the students to start exploring and creating and finding real world purposes for their new knowledge?

It’s common sense, not common core our teachers need the higher ups to implement.

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“It’s All About the INHUMANITY” – an Anonymous Teacher’s Tale

Summer School- Turning the Heat Up On Achievement
by – One Fired Up Teacher

NOTE: This was written by a teacher in a high poverty district somewhere in the US. Child and Teacher Abuse in full effect

A time to maintain achievement, right? To prevent the “summer slide” and keep students engaged and excited about learning. After all, it’s building relationships with our students that can extend far beyond the confines of classroom walls.

But what happens when the school offering summer school has no air conditioning? Does that sound beneficial? Healthy? Safe? Temperatures inside the classroom reading 98 degrees on the thermostat. How about that for the student with Epilepsy who’s seizures are triggered by heat exhaustion and dehydration. Sound safe? Healthy? Beneficial?

If that doesn’t have your attention, let’s turn up the heat a little more. Requiring teachers to supervise lunch for the students but not allowing them to eat. Not allowing them to sit down. Oh no, teachers must waste instructional time. While students eat inside the fiery furnace called the cafeteria, their teachers are commanded to stand and do flash cards or another educational task. Teachers are expected to not only suffer these conditions themselves, but to sit by and watch their students suffer, too. Every minute counts, right? Don’t waste precious time walking kids to the drinking fountain, either. The water is not only warm, it’s “against district policy” to use instructional time in too many transitions.

Yes, the fire has been lit, folks. Our kids, who deserve better, are being burned. They deserve the best and brightest education. Your highly qualified, certified teachers and their students are suffering in silence while those at the top are sitting inside their air conditioned offices on the phone with the next best corporation who’s in the running for the silver bullet. The next “new program” they will demand the teachers use in the classroom to bring up those test scores. Here’s an idea for administration and school boards.

If you want to bring up the scores and raise the achievement gap, turn down the heat on your teachers. Take some of the pressure off your teachers. If you can’t do it for them, do it for our students. Provide them with safe and healthy learning conditions. Foster an environment built on the foundation that our teachers and students deserve nothing short of the best. Stop burning the candle on both ends with the corporate world. They don’t know our students. You don’t know our students.

We, the teachers know our students. You want to know why your good, hardworking teachers are leaving the profession? They’re sick, physically and emotionally. They’re tired. They can’t stand being on the front line every single day sacrificing blood, sweat and tears, all to no avail. They, along with their students, are dying inside while fires set by you rage beneath them, threatening to extinguish all they’ve ever known and loved. Each other. Hang up the phone, step away from the computer in your chilled office and save our teachers and students from the blazing inferno you’ve put them in.

Signed,
One Fired Up Teacher

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