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Mar 09 2011

On the Race to College

I am, by virtue of being a 12th grade English teacher, in an interesting position. I am the last “obstacle” a student faces before s/he can walk across the stage and receive a high school diploma. Fail my class and fail to graduate on time. There are other ways by which I am in a unique spot.…

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Student 1: (frustratingly flops book on desk and gives evil eye to Students 2 and 3) “Excuse me!–I’m trying to read here. You’re being so VERBOSE!” Student 2: “Shut up. You’re not actually reading. Stop making such PRETENTIOUS comments!” Student 3: (long mumbling, incoherent ramble about how she is “guh” because of the intentional use…

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Mar 02 2011

On Black History Month

I’m not going to go into the politics behind Black History Month. Rather, I’d like to talk about how Black History Month influenced my school. There were two narratives for the month of February, one that was uplifting and one that was depressing. Uplifting: Our school incorporated a series of fantastic, truly unique events for…

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Feb 25 2011

On the Influence of Parents

Over the past few months, I’ve fleshed out my own theory about why invested parents matter to a student’s success. One common view is that parents matter insofar as they provide the guidance and nurturing outside of the school building. In other words, they play a role analogous to the teacher in the classroom. This…

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the Washington Post‘s Bill Turque wrote a piece yesterday highlighting the stark funding disparity between two DCPS schools spaced a mere 2.5 miles apart (the title to this post is a play on Jim Ryan’s Five Miles Away, A World Apart, which I suggested as winter break reading). School Without Walls is a pristine school,…

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Feb 04 2011

The Peculiarity of 12th Graders

For whatever reason, I keep moving up the grade-level ladder as each semester passes: Fall 2009: 2 periods of 10th grade and 1 period of 11th grade English Spring 2010: 1 period of 10th grade and 2 periods of 11th grade English Fall 2010: 2 periods of 11th grade English and 1 period of Journalism…

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Jan 24 2011

Fresh Idea for a Fresh Beginning?

Just like that, our first semester ended, almost as soon as it had started, last Friday. And, just like that, Spring 2011 begins tomorrow. As they say, “no rest for the weary.” Objectively-speaking, last semester did not go that well. I certainly had an interesting situation, given my more-than-5-week absence from school due to grand…

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Jan 23 2011

A Resourceful, Humorous Student

While administering final exams, I was patrolling the classroom, checking to see whether: Reading passages were right-side-up, students were alert, students were not copying answers off of each other, and pens were moving. As I passed by BN, something hilarious caught my attention on the desk in front of her: BN’s “Ghetto Ass Notebook” AKA…

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Here is a potential set of assessment items for 9.LD-V.8. (“Determine the meanings of multiple-meaning words by using context.”), a DCPS ELA standard, that shows just how important context can be: “I just bought a case yesterday!” (1) If this statement were uttered by a college student, what sort of “case” would he most likely…

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I’ve only really gone off the negativity deep end once. It was over something as seemingly inconsequential as paper (email me if you don’t remember my password). In reality, though, paper management makes all the difference in a school. It’s one part of the hidden infrastructure that allows a school to serve its purpose of…

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Dec 06 2010

The Dominoes Fall in DC

It’s hard to feel much hope for school reform in DC after the triple whammy of forced departures: First, Mayor Adrian Fenty, perhaps the first to so faithfully link his political fortunes to the fate of education in DC. Second, DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee, perhaps the most hard-charging of school district leaders to walk the…

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Nov 23 2010

The Achievement Gap≠Resource Gap

Warning! What you’re about to read is counterintuitive. But here goes: our public education system does not need more money to close the achievement gap. In America, we already spend a boatload of money on education. Based on OECD data, we spend $11,301 per pupil annually in secondary education.  Let’s put that in perspective: This is…

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Nov 19 2010

You Can Find Me in the (Book) Club

It was my birthday recently. My students had heard this through the grapevine (with Facebook and the ubiquity of cell phones, the grapevine is super responsive). Because my birthday fell before a day off (Veterans Day), students were naturally curious about how I was going to celebrate. Apparently, clubbing is a logical option. Here’s a…

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Oct 24 2010

My Best Decision?

Life is busy, as usual. But somehow–between lesson planning, problem solving and grading–I wrote a piece on my TFA experience in my college newspaper, the Yale Daily News.  Here it is.

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Oct 11 2010

What Does It Mean to Be an Expert?

My students and I recently finished a modified version of Kathleen Cushman’s “Practice Project.” The idea was to invest my students in the idea that practice–even if boring, difficult, or frustrating–matters if they want to become successful.  Students learned that experts don’t necessarily need to hold advanced degrees or have fancy titles.  Rather, experts needed…

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Presumptive mayor-elect Gray and Chancellor Rhee both seem to be in lose-lose situations regarding education reform in DC. No matter what next steps each chooses in the coming weeks, each will be criticized harshly. Neither appears to want to make the first move. Doing so, presumably, would be a sign of weakness.  Jo-Ann Armao of…

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Sep 24 2010

Overheard in a DCPS Hallway…

Girl 1: Where is [the man who stands in the halls during passing period]?” Girl 2: “I don’t know.” Girl 1: “We can go to class, then!” Girl 2: “It doesn’t matter. The bell already rung, girl.  We gotta go to tardy hall.” Girl 1: “Oh, right…” -Pair of students realizing, after exiting student bathroom…

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Aug 27 2010

First Day of School and Politics

The first day of school rolled around and, without much fanfare, everyone made it through alright. My own first few days were uneventful; I had a solid start and I’m ready to work for a new (and old) set of students.  But what was particularly interesting about this year was that many extra eyes–from around…

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“Teachers, when the tardy bell rings, close and lock your doors.  Do not let any students in after the bell.  All students in the hallway will be swept into ISS [in-school suspension].” -Administrator, outlining school’s new hall sweep plan and receiving thunderous applause from staff in return. The sound of these words were beautiful.  My…

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TFA is a data-driven organization. We have mastery trackers, reading growth trackers, attendance trackers, behavior trackers–you name it.  If there’s a dimension to a child’s education that has yet to be quantified, I will bet that someone in TFA–whether a current CM or staff–is coming up with a decent, valid, aligned, efficient way to measure…

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Aug 09 2010

New Beginnings

I realize that I’ve forgotten to answer a question that many readers may have been asking recently: where am I teaching this coming school year? I’m happy to report that I will, believe it or not, be returning to my old school. The explanation is complicated (I don’t even fully comprehend how it happened either),…

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Observers like to point out that TFA is a cult. We have bounteous acronyms that only we, as CMs, know. We all have identical–or, at the very least, extremely similar–views on the achievement gap.  We all go through the same indoctrination process, the same rites of passage.  We all have, as a result, similar teaching…

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Jul 27 2010

You Are What You Eat

Students alternatively call it a “jungle,” a place of “chaos,” a “dirty place” where “kids run wild.” In common parlance, though, this place is called the cafeteria.  Our school’s is no place of comfort, no sanctuary safe for a moment’s rest.  It is, rather, a mess (pun intended?). But what is more important to me…

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Jul 03 2010

On Teacher Buy-In and IMPACT

I’m going to attempt to weave my love of Post-It notes with my reaction to the Education Sector panel on “Finding the Link: Teacher Evaluation and Professional Development.” I’d like to focus on one aspect of this complex discussion: teacher buy-in.  Here goes… As a teacher, I see Post-It notes as my personal guardians. Filled…

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I can best describe the end of my school year as bittersweet.  I went into the last week or so knowing that I had been excessed and would no longer call my school home.  As a result–as with my last days in college–every moment felt like one of those “what-if-this-is-the-last-time?” moments.  I said goodbye to…

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Really, "A Blog Covering Dilemmas in Education": A (former) English teacher's reflections…

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