A Blog Covering D.C. Education [ABCDE]

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap

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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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Aug 03 2010

“Now is the Time”

Summer brings with it transitions of various kinds. First, a climatic transition, in which the lesson is learned that there is a direct correlation between clothes worn and sweat excreted.  Second, a mental transition, from a state of pure focus to one of less-than-pure-and-more-like-relaxed focus (“it’s summer-time!”).  Third, a physical transition, away from the spaces…

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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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My students recently criticized me en masse for doing too much.  I told them we’d have “work” to do every day until the end of school on the 22nd.  Today, I discovered that the first day of “doing too much” wasn’t really doing too much.  I will present a simple and effective poetry lesson that…

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Jun 12 2010

A Premature Goodbye

One letter changed everything.  An Assistant Principal (AP) had entered my classroom with the letter and solemnly handed it to me.  At 3:15pm on Friday, I learned that I had been excessed by my school. The explanation from the administrator went like this (note: I am taking serious liberties in paraphrasing): “Our school enrollment numbers…

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I’m apparently doing too much these days.  My classroom is chugging along, despite the massive end-of-the-year truancy problem that our school must somehow cope with.  Yet, because I am administering a final exam that takes place over the course of three days, my students are easily irritable.  One recent comment annoyed them to no end.…

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The second of my five “core” classroom posters (how education pays; The 3 Rs: Be Responsible, Respectful, and Responsive; our class’ “Big Goal”; our motto, “Work Hard…Get Bright!”; and a guiding principle, “Don’t be afraid to take risks or make mistakes!”) had fallen off the wall when I entered the classroom yesterday morning.  Perhaps this…

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May 26 2010

On a Series of Unfortunate Events

I look forward to reading Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events this summer.  This is a book series that many of my students read and enjoy.  I think I will connect with the book too; I’ve recently experienced my own series of unfortunate events. O, hear, hear! Let me tell you a tale about…

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“Mr. K, why you always gotta have everything for a solution [sic]!?” -Groaning student responding to teacher’s suggestion that she stop complaining about the rain on the National Mall and instead share a spot under the teacher’s umbrella. ***** “They don’t even let you put your head down; they make you pick it up! And,…

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“DAMN! It feel good in here!” “HALLELUJAH! Hallelujah! Hallelujah.  I’m sorry, I just needed to sing that song.” “Oh damn! Let me walk back in here again. (exit and reenter.) Damn son!” “AWWW yeah! It feel goooooooooood!” “Un-unh!  This not happenin’!” -2nd period English students at 10:19am, surprised by the sudden sensation of A/C-caused cool…

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May 05 2010

A Dagger in My Teacher Armor

It came without warning.  I was certainly unprepared and, moreover, shocked that a student like RT could utter those words from his mouth. Near the beginning of 4th period, while instructing my ancy, heat-distressed students (it has been well above 80 degrees this entire week and the school doesn’t switch the the A/C on until…

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May 04 2010

A KWL Interlude

As part of a final synthesizing assignment in one of my grad school classes, three of my classmates and I were tasked with creating a slam poem inspired by and modeled after “What Teachers Make” by Taylor Mali (I’d say the best slam poem around):

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Doug Lemov, managing director at the Uncommon Schools–which, along with KIPP and Achievement First, ranks among the highest-performing charter school networks in the country–came to our last Professional Development Saturday, where he led a 2-hour session focused on Strong Voice, one of the techniques that he has discovered great teachers use consistently in their classrooms…

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Apr 29 2010

A Runner-to-Runner Conversation

KN is a budding track and cross country star at my school.  Furthermore, she is one of the half dozen or so students whom I have had the pleasure of teaching since the beginning of the year (i.e. across both semesters).  Slender, petite and self-motivated, she exudes the vibe of a dedicated runner. That KN,…

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As standardized tests descend upon the K-12 institutions across the District of Columbia–in the form of the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (affectionately, “DC CAS”)–I find myself amazed by the entire show. Here are 4 key points: Standardized tests reveal ironies. Standardized tests create stress. Standardized tests induce sleep. Standardized tests bring out the best in…

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Apr 11 2010

The Beauty of Grading

Part of the beauty of grading is the unpredictability of what the teacher encounters.  The “best” students will sometimes do the stupidest things: ES, for instance wrote, “you was not hear” for a Do Now on the day I feigned a migraine and stayed home in order to evade a burnout (shh! Don’t tell anyone!). …

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We found ourselves in a magical place: a school where the disruptive signals of cell phone communication would not reach.  A location so pure that AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile bars exist solely in one’s dreams.  Instead of electronic beeping, we heard the soft and steady pitter patter of rain on the roof of the classroom. …

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This is a follow-up to my first “Economics and Education” post (available here).  In it, I compared the weak school culture that many poor schools exhibit to the deflationary spirals that countries in economic crisis often experience.  One of the major points I made was that schools could get “stuck in a rut” of poor…

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Mar 24 2010

On Territory

One thing that I’ve observed throughout the year is that students at my school like marking out their territory (theme song for this post here. The Joakim Remix is appropriate too).  Like marauding packs of wolves, they stake their claims on various pieces of school and community property.  Pencils, pens, markers, whiteout, spray paint–students will…

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This is the second in a three-part (maybe more?) series that applies economic theory to aspects of education (introduction in Part 1). ***** I suspect that an ingrained notion exists among CMs that student achievement is a function of expectations.  Once a teacher raises the bar for what is expected in the classroom, students will…

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This is the first in a three-part (maybe more?) series that applies economic theory to aspects of education.  I was not inspired to do this by anyone or anything.  I am not “forcing” the connections either.  Instead, this series recognizes the fact that when I think of issues in education I often think in terms…

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Feb 26 2010

Cradling the Community

I’m slowly feeling like a part of my local community.  I care about local politics, I am concerned about local issues and I am participating more in whatever forums I can.  This slow increase in civic engagement makes me happy.   It also makes me understand the value and impact of TFA’s mission. ***** I recently…

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I Rhee-cently read this piece by Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools.  I suggest you Rhee-d it too.  Rhee-ly.  I Rhee-lize that I haven’t commented on a “macro issue” in a while; with Rhee’s help, I make my Rhee-turn now. (No more word play.) Rhee’s thesis is bold, but gave me…

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Feb 06 2010

Epilogue to Volume I of [ABCDE]

Dear Library Donors, With semester one over, I have closed one volume and have begun another in my [ABCDE] series on teaching.  Volume II is already overflowing with surprises, since I am following three almost completely new groups of students.  (This is, alas, what happens when your school is on a 4×4 block schedule where,…

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Everyone around me knows that I like to drink the TFA Kool Aid.  I sip it for breakfast, imbibe it at lunch while I’m resting and gulp it down before going to bed.  Being the nerd that I am, I’ve had the TFA Core Values up on the corkboard in my room since I arrived…

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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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