In the dark firelight, my thoughts spin to memories of teaching in the 1970s. I remember, as a young teacher, loading (far too many) preschoolers into my van for a spur-of–the-moment field trip, and on a summer day too hot to play, taking them wading in a fountain signed “no swimming.” Then, in the 80s, setting up early intervention programs, deciding how the programs would work —because who, other than the teachers and parents of these young children with special needs, would know what was needed? And even in the late 90s, in the more conventional setting of a public middle school, putting subjects aside for a full week to celebrate Earth Day with the entire 7th grade, hiking, doing trail work, picking up litter around town, making posters, hearing speakers, and helping students create environment-themed fabric squares to combine into a class quilt.read more
They learned without even knowing they were learning. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? Don’t we enjoy those experiences where we lose ourselves in a topic or a hobby or an interest? I think of the hours I spend on the Jersey shore late each June, umbrella up, sunglasses and sunblock in place, book in hand, lost in a story. All that time, I add to my working vocabulary, to my knowledge of syntax, to my repertoire of voice and cadence … and following the plot, getting emotionally lifted and suspended and dropped, again and again … and when I look up it is time to leave the beach, shower, and find some seafood for supper.read more
So what does all of this data mean? At 30,000 feet, I believe it means that America’s schools are moving in the right direction. It appears that the United States is closing more gaps than other nations in the world. Compared to the 2006 PISA results, America’s gaps between high and low socio-economic achievements have not only narrowed, but they have closed in greater numbers than those in other nations. Within the United States, however, large gaps between high and low socio-economic groups still persist.read more
I’ve been in a public school teacher for 22 years. I’ve read the progressive pedagogy of the ’60s and ’70s. It stands in stark contrast to political timidity of 21st century teaching. We teachers are not revolutionaries. We aren’t even progressive. We are largely instruments of whomever is in charge and cowards when it comes to standing up. I include myself in all this. I’m scared I might get fired, scared I’ll be APPR-ed out of a job, scared someone will notice me.
But enough is enough.read more
As an inclusive educator, I position myself as a person who possesses a mixture of knowledge, talents, and beliefs, as well as Black Holes of ignorance, experience, and ability. This evaluation of self is crucial to good teaching, as it invites reflection and demands brutal truth, and finally, concrete action. I must, in other words, commit to a pedagogy that serves all students and first recognize – and change – those things about myself which hinder students’ access to excellent education at my own hands.read more
With Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States, the scourge of authoritarianism has returned not only in the toxic language of hate, humiliation and bigotry, but also in the emergence of a culture of war and violence that looms over society like a plague.read more