A Blog Covering D.C. Education [ABCDE]

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap

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“Why do we value people who can shoot a ball through a hoop, or hit a baseball with a bat, or kick a soccer ball, but we don’t value our classroom educators?” Education Secretary Duncan posed this question before a screening of American Teacher, a new documentary that attempts to present, to the public, the…

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May 23 2011

A Student Raps About His Teacher

One of my students is an aspiring rapper. He’s so serious about music that he doesn’t want to go to college; rather, he’d like to make mixtapes and hit the rap circuit pronto. Recently, this student told me he’d been working on a rap in my honor (it is titled my first name). I laughed…

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Student 1: “Killers” is the realest. They call him the modern day Tupac. Student 2: Tupac? Who’s Tupac? Everyone else: #$!#!%#[email protected]@%!!#!*& WHAT!?!?! (small riot ensues) Student 3: I’m dead serious now—do you know who Tupac is? Student 2: I don’t know who Tupac is. Everyone else: … (stares of disbelief) Student 3: Okay, okay, so…

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TFA is lucky to have the support of many individuals and organizations. Catherine and Wayne Reynolds, two wonderful philanthropists, happen to be major supporters of TFA here in DC. They sponsor me and my classroom. Anyways, I was recently asked to write a reflection on my two years as a Teach For America teacher here…

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Several members of the District of Columbia Fire Department visited our school today to give a presentation on career options to the senior class. In short, joining DCFD is a way to secure a job and a future. I was pleasantly surprised by students’ attentiveness for a presentation that didn’t have much beyond the whole…

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How far up the ladder of needs do we put education? Psychologist Abraham Maslow came up with this diagram to help us think about our innate needs as humans. One book I read this weekend got me thinking about where education fits into this hierarchy: Jon Krakauer’s Three Cups of Deceit, a short expose (a Byliner) that alleges…

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May 04 2011

Harnessing the Broader Community

One of my frustrations with public education today, at least as I’ve seen it here in DCPS, is that the schoolhouse is typically isolated from the community it was built to serve. Somewhere in the evolution of our public education system, systemic pressures built two silos of learning opportunities–those originating inside schools and those outside…

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Student 1: (proudly sharing cell phone photos with other students) That’s some Patron in my hands right there. See? See? Teacher: (concerned expression on face) Not good. Patron’s not good. How old are you again? And put that away! Student 1: (ignoring query and instruction) What do you prefer, Mr. K? Student 2: (loud interjection) BOOKS!…

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Apr 28 2011

Problems at the Top

Today, I have another guest post from two educators responding to a recent Washington Post article on charter school leadership. I’ve certainly dithered on how much weight to put on school leaders in thinking about the bottom-line effect on student achievement. They are undeniably important, but to what degree, people will disagree. The question worth…

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The astute observer will have noticed the appearance of a few recent guest posts. This was not a coincidence. I’m trying to expand this blog’s scope a little bit. And I welcome all comers! So, if you have something to say about education, education reform (I guess it’s different?), TFA or any other cool thing…

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It is possible to fall into the trap of thinking that, because public education is a public service (that is, something provided to all people for free), it is something that all people actually receive in the same way and to the same degree. By this framework, we might see education as an intangible, invisible…

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One thing that bothers me is how, for some social problems, the “problem within the problem” is that people are not using the knowledge, resources, and strategies already available to solve them. For example, when it came to the “problem” of education, I discovered (as recently as last week) that many of my students were…

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I can’t get away from education, even when I’m on spring break (500 miles from DC, by the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee). Here’s the story: Our goal was to hike inside the national park today, before becoming Nashville-bound tomorrow. But the traffic stopped us. For some reason, cars were bumper to bumper on a…

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Apr 12 2011

I Almost Cancelled Our Trip

studentreading

For a second, I thought about cancelling our trip. Independent reading time was over and I meekly made the announcement: “Okay, students, today we’re going to the local public library!” The outburst was overwhelming: “Oh naw! I ain’t going there!” “I’m not moving–sorry.” “Why the hell are we going there?” As the cacophony finally died…

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Apr 11 2011

An Open Letter to DCPS…

Nearly 2 years on, IMPACT, DCPS’ pioneering teacher evaluation system, still has many kinks. Every day, I hear the draining talk of IMPACT this, IMPACT that: “My master educator just rated me ‘ineffective.’ Should I drink my sorrows away?” “Did I put a SMART objective on the board?” “I hope the master educator doesn’t come in during…

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Student: (pleadingly) “Mr. K, I’m telling you, I don’t do anything but As! I just don’t do it!” Mr. K: (matter-of-factly) “I hear you. When I was a student I didn’t do anything but As, either…” Student: (dramatic pause and then an SMH) “You gettin’ me guh.” -Star student, attempting to gain some sympathy from…

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Apr 06 2011

And I Thought TFA Was Selective…

Here’s DCPS hiring by the numbers (modeled off of The Quick and the Ed‘s “Quick Hits – By the Numbers”): 10,500 Number of applicants expected for SY 2011-2012 lead teaching positions. 400 Number of applicants projected to make it to the 4th stage of the application process (i.e. “live teaching audition”). 200 Number of applicants…

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Apr 01 2011

The Finland Phenomenon

One of the beauties of teaching and living in DC is that education is “big” here. The average person here “cares” about education. This is not to say that people elsewhere don’t “care.” But if we measure how much people care about education by tallying the number of education-related events, then one might rightly believe…

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DCPS made the front page of USA Today today. Unfortunately, it was for the worst of reasons. The headline reads: “When test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real?“ What follows is an in-depth report that highlights the controversy brewing around one Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus, a K-8 DCPS school. At over 4,300…

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Mar 27 2011

Sunday Rhee-ding

It’s funny–life is so “normal” with Chancellor Henderson now at the top that it’s as if Rhee was never here. Michelle Rhee has been out of DC and DCPS for quite some time now. Things are back to normal here, after the uncertainty over who would succeed her petered out. Our new Chancellor, Kaya Henderson,…

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Mar 23 2011

On Doodling

I like doodling. It’s therapeutic. It’s fun. It’s a way to pass time. It’s creative. It’s helpful. When I doodle, I mainly draw geometrical shapes: ovals of all shapes and sizes; nested rectangles; all variety of triangles; my own made-up shapes. I confine myself to these basic figures because, let’s face it, I truly lack…

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Mar 21 2011

Spring and New Beginnings

Spring is a common literary motif. It’s supposed to symbolize new life and optimism. It is ironic, then, that the first thing that I saw when I opened my eyes this morning was a flash of lightning. The first thing I heard (after my alarm clock) was the deep rolling thunder, its timing staggered in…

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Mar 18 2011

On Exemplars as Tools

Exemplars are powerful teaching tools, I’ve discovered. An exemplar is basically an ideal model–an archetype?–of what students should aspire towards for any given assignment. If, for instance, students are writing a literary analysis paper, what might an “A” paper look like? How might it be structured? For an 8th grader, maybe something like this. Indeed,…

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Mar 13 2011

The Next “Survivor”?

SurvivorLogo

A fellow teacher forwarded me a hilarious email a few days ago. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s hilarious because it smacks so much of reality or because it is a vision of teaching taken to a parodied extreme: Next Season on “Survivor”… Have you heard about the next planned “Survivor” show? Three…

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Mar 11 2011

“I was walking down Georgia”

We’re currently reading literature from the Middle Ages as part of a unit on storytelling. The accompanying writing assignment is to write a modern-day ballad (a contemporary story that uses the format of a medieval ballad like “Lord Randall” or “Get Up and Bar the Door“). The 5 characteristics that we discussed are as follows:…

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About this Blog

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

Region
D.C. Region
Grade
High School
Subject
English

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