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Posted by on in General

tears

The new year is but 47 days old and, in that time, there have been multiple school shootings in the United States. The most recent slaughter occurred on Valentine’s Day at a Florida high school. Students and staff were tricked by the shooter into responding to a fire alarm and then senselessly sprayed with bullets as they streamed into the hallways. Seventeen young lives were extinguished in mere moments. The lives of far more were assaulted and altered for eternity.

Condolences have been sent. Candlelight vigils have been planned. Memorials will be temporarily erected, and flowers will be strewn all around them.

And nothing will change.

The cries for change pour from the strained vocal cords of victim families and members of the law enforcement community and members of the education world. These are shouted down by those who want the status quo untouched, unchanged, unchallenged.

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Posted by on in General

Most of my seventh graders know who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was, and most have heard at least portions of his “I Have a Dream” speech from 1963. Most know that he fought for the civil rights of African Americans. Most rejoice in the fact that they have no school on the man’s birthday in January.

However, most of my kids do not know much about the Civil Rights movement or any of the other events of the past century. My college students are not much better.

So this year, I took two weeks to delve into this topic. We learned of King - his life story, his ability to speak and to write and to lead change. We analyzed the “dream” speech and also his final “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. That led us to a discussion of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy who spoke to a group of mourners on the night of King’s assassination. That led us to the story of Kennedy’s presidential campaign and his own assassination immediately after thanking supporters for his California primary win. And this led us to an emotional story of Juan Romero, the 17-year-old Hispanic busboy who held Kennedy’s bleeding head from the cold floor of the reception room as pandemonium erupted all around him.

My school’s population is primarily Hispanic, but other groups are represented as well - Caucasian, African American, Arabic-American, Asian-American - they’re all Americans. Here in the twenty-first century, many are a mixture of two or more races.

I used to say that, as I look out on my classes, I don’t see color, but that is not true. I see the diversity before me, but it doesn’t affect how I see or treat the kids before me. To me, they’re just kids.

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Posted by on in General

After another 11-hour day at school which "ended" with me dragging a box full of four more hours of work to do at home, let me say two things. First, I still love my job. Heck, when I was a young teacher, I worked 15-hour days and 5-hour nights!

More importantly, I want to say, "I'm sorry" to all the teachers who allowed me to be their assistant principal and principal and who still talk to me today.

I am sorry for all of the new initiatives I placed before you, expecting them to be instantly incorporated into your classroom procedures the following day and fully integrated with the new initiatives from the previous week(s).

All this I expected as you complied with ILLPs and IEPs and 504s and behavior contracts and breakfast counts and lunch counts and lesson plans and assessments.

All this while you were learning how to use the new computerized student information system, the new assessment technology and the new scope and sequence technology.

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Posted by on in General

My teaching career began thirty-five years ago in Coolidge, a little Arizona city located midway between Phoenix and Tucson. Before I received the call for an interview and subsequently traveled the desolate 70 mile freeway drive from the Valley, I barely knew of the city's existence.

By day, I taught Biology to freshman at the high school. By night, I taught their mothers.

Coolidge is one of those towns, much like fictional Mayberry, where everyone knows everyone else, and nobody's business is their own. Everyone is connected somehow.

Mrs. Ramirez, who taught Spanish down the hall from me, moonlighted at nearby Central Arizona College as some sort of director in order to supplement her family income. She was working closely that semester with the women in town who were employed by the Head Start program. These ladies needed a science class added to their transcripts in order to continue with their employment. Mrs. Ramirez marched into my science lab between classes and informed me that I was just the person to get the job done. I didn't protest. I was a new teacher - I hadn't learned how to say no yet!

Despite the fact that I had never taught adult learners, and despite the fact that I had just begun teaching high schoolers - the first time with my own kids (student teaching didn't count) - I accepted the challenge! I was green, yes, but I was not easily frightened!

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Posted by on in General

There have been numerous education initiatives proposed, adopted, and later left on the side of the road during my teaching and administrative career. Initiatives involve ideas, programs and techniques that often are created, analyzed, and deemed viable options by the individuals farthest away from the students who will be impacted.

Teachers are sometimes selected to serve on steering committees which will make recommendations to administrators. However, administration has the option of accepting such suggestions or discarding them and making a completely independent decision. Unfortunately, many initiatives are chosen not on the basis of student success, but upon financial savings instead.

And many of the teaching strategies that follow are misguided, failing not only students but their teachers as well.

When I started first grade in 1965, I was already a good reader. Despite the fact that my parents had little money, they provided my siblings and me with books and plenty of one-on-one support in learning how to read those books on our own.

I entered school, and my love for reading was instantly extinguished. There was a heavy emphasis on phonics - in sounding out the letters of every word before we could read the stories in our readers. Phonics is an extremely important piece of the reading process, but I was already far ahead of my classmates, and I did not need the constant drill. Differentiation for all students had yet to become a buzz word, much less a highly-regarded practice in American schools.

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