Three months in, new teacher tries to stay positive

akwokresize.jpgThe latest print and multimedia installment of the Tribune’s My First Year series, which follows novice biology teacher Andy Kwok, came out today.

Kwok, 22, says that although half of his students at EXCEL High School are failing biology (an improvement from the last marking period, believe it or not), he tries to focus on the progress some of the teenagers are making.

To all of you teachers out there: What got you through your first year? What have you learned about motivating kids who don’t seem to care about school? If you have stories about students who turned the corner, feel free to post them as a comment or e-mail them to me at kmurphy@oaklandtribune.com.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Caroline



    EXCEL High School is a new small school at the McClymonds Educational Complex opening Fall 2005.

    EXCEL High School’s mission is to prepare all students for a four-year college and the career of their choice through a rigorous curriculum, experiential activities, project-based learning, and internships.

    EXCEL will embrace the rich cultural and historical experiences of West Oakland and continue to build a network of graduates who contribute to this community through service and activism.

    We will provide an environment that values and honors all individuals, our collective histories, and our shared and diverse cultures within a positive school climate marked by high expectations, academic rigor and a relevant curriculum. Students will be empowered to be change agents and critical thinkers with the ability to problem solve and effectively communicate who they are through various forms of expression.

  • Concerned Oakland Parent

    I read the article in the Oakland Tribune. How will EXCEL afford to stay open if the following information is correct? A statement similar to “In the 6th period class there were only 10 out of 16 students in the classroom. This is typical for EXCEL.” Is the ADA only counted at the beginning of the day? So, if they show up and leave, it’s okay?

    Also, playing movies and music in the classroom? When did that become a situation that students prepared to learn should have to put up with? Or when did it become something the teacher should have to endure? I understand that it is disrespectful for the teacher to say “Shut Up!” to those making noise and creating havoc, but it sounds like those students are being catered to more than the students who are prepared to pay attention and learn.

    Half of the biology class is failing – that’s down from the 75% that were failing before something was done about the homework. Where are the high expectations, academic rigor and positive climate?

  • Doowhopper

    Mr. Kwok is obviously a dedicated teacher doing his very best to make science interesting and meaningful to the lives of young people at EXCEL.We need many more instructors like him.
    That being said,I also cringed at his honesty in his description of a typical classroom at the school.The small classes are absolutely necessary at a school like EXCEL so as to provide as much individual attention as possible.Yet it is inevitable that as the year proceeds certain students drop by the wayside for a myriad of reasons,not necesssarily because they are truant.
    The issue of music and watching movies on portable players never ceases to amaze me.WHY is there not a school policy banning these items from OUSD campuses?I ran into a situation at another school where the policy of the teacher was to”confiscate”any electronics equipment,including cell phones!As a substitute teacher,you can imagine my reluctance to try to enforce THAT policy with students much larger than myself!To me,the only sensible solution was to have a strict rule prohibiting these distractions and then this situation would not even BE an issue in the classroom.
    Additional comments would be appreciated.

  • Concerned Oakland Parent

    After placing my comments in this blog, I went home and asked my daughter what she felt the biggest obstacle to learning all she could learn at school. “The noise. People talk when the teacher is talking. They tap their pencils and hands on the desks. The teachers want to be nice so they give one, two three chances, by then it’s time to move on to something else.”

    I then asked my 8 year old daughter what she thought was a good solution. “The kids who make noise get one chance. If they don’t follow the rules then they stay after school. After school they are taught manners. They are taught about indoor voices and outdoor voices, they are taught loudness, pitch and tone. They are given the tools they need. And if they choose to continue to make noise they have to move on to somewhere that kids can make noise. Because, in the end, everyone needs to behave. That’s what people do, even when they want to scream, they behave.”

    I also asked how much more she could learn in a day. She says that she would be able to work through 2 grades, maybe 2 1/2 grades worth of work each school year if she could have the classroom quiet enough to work. In the quiet of her room, she completes her weekly homework packet in under an hour with near perfection.

  • Concerned Oakland Parent

    Question for Doowhopper:

    I also cringed when I heard the complete honesty of Mr. Kwok. To hear him talk of the number of students failing, the absenteeism, and the typical classroom experience was painful. It gave little hope for the future.

    But my question is – If the dirty laudry is not aired, don’t we run the risk of the coverup and grade changing? Don’t we run the risk of pointing out the two or three students who excel and then igore the rest? We have found that in businesses in the United States that not airing the laundry leads to Enron, MCI and other failures. Is it not the same for educating our youth?

  • Caroline

    I agree with Concerned Oakland Parent. As an education advocate who vigorously questions the myriad “it’s a miracle!” supposed solutions that special interests are forever promoting — and that Bill Gates et al. pour megamillions into — I do wish we could come up with a TRUE miracle (or at least a promising path that eventually would lead to success).

    Coverups and puffery not only do nothing to resolve the challenges — I believe they take us in the wrong direction. Couldn’t those Gates/Broad/Fisher/Wal-mart megamillions be used for something POSITIVE rather than fads and pseudo-miracles? So we do need to air that dirty laundry. Coverage like this (great story, by the way) is a beneficial step toward truly illuminating the problems.

    But oh, that poor kid (the so-young teacher, I mean).

  • http://www.roomd2.blogspot.com TMAO

    It would be unfortunate to use this article to condemn Mr. Kwok, EXCEL, or the Oakland Teaching Fellows. Mr. Kwok has been a teacher for about 10 weeks; were he not struggling to be successful in one of the most demanding environments, we’d need to carve his image in granite somewhere. EXCEL is attempting to reverse the inertia of failure that runs generations deep; were there no difficulties, we’d need to take its stellar principal and elect her president. The Oakland Teaching Fellows bring committed, talented individuals into the schools and subject areas that are most difficult to staff, especially in the SpEd; were this easy, OTF would have no reason to exist in the first place.

  • teacher

    I am so glad the reality is out there. I’m sure Kwok will pay dearly down the line for his honesty, but it is a service.

    What is happening in our schools and communities where the (shrinking) middle class and upper class daren’t tread makes a mockery of all our grand ideals about America.

    The bottom 40 percent of the country control 0.3 percent of its wealth, while the top 5 control 60 percent. So why are we suprised that children in Oakland fail?

  • Oakland Hills Parent

    Teacher, it’s not all about wealth vs. poverty. Yes, wealth comes with privileges that others can’t afford, but poverty isn’t an excuse for not prioritizing education. There are plenty of poor Asians, for example, that instill in their children that education is the way out and up. It’s the way to a better life. Other minorities need to do more in their homes and in their communities to prioritize learning and strive to make their children succeed in the classroom. No, it’s not all about money. It’s about reading to your children, it’s about talking about their day, it’s about getting kids to bed ontime so they get enough sleep, it’s about getting kids to school ontime, it’s about volunteering in the classroom and/or attending PTA meetings and teacher conferences, it’s about teaching kids how to behave in school, it’s about instilling respect for teachers and education and so on. Most, if not all, of those things are “free” and can be done by parents regardless of income. So, no, it’s not all about the money. It’s about having the right attitude towards learning.

  • Doowhopper

    To Concerned Parent:
    I most defintely agree-expose the dirty laundry! How else can it eventually become clean?
    I go out to these schools and I often sigh in deep despair. Why is behavior and language that is never tolerated in polite society considered the norm in our school system? A couple of years ago I was at a certain high school where posted in the office was a flyer signed by the principal stating, “Today we will take assertive steps to eliminate the N word and the B word from our vocabularies”. Yet when you stepped outside into the hallways,you would hear that word literally dozens of times in the course of five minutes! No consequences at all. And what is so infuriating is that school staff just walk on past it and pretend to ignore it completely as if saying, “Well, you know how THOSE kids are.”
    I think administrators know that if they REALLY enforced the basic rules of common courtesty and proper classroom decorum, suspensions and detentions would number in the hundreds and they simply do not have the human resources and inclination to impose these kind of measures. So what happens is that teachers, security and administrative staff conduct holding actions every day just trying to keep a lid on things.
    Meanwhile, the dismal test scores keep repeating themselves and hundreds of students leave the OUSD unprepared for the rigors of the “real” world where walking in fifteen minutes later with a bag of french fries and can of Coke and thinking “its all good” is simply unacceptable.

  • Concerned Oakland Parent

    Teacher: I understand the wealth issue. But if you have extreme poverty in your home what are you doing with a laptop to play DVDs? Why would you bring a portable DVD player to school and what would you use to play music so loud that it disrupts the class? There are many choices people make every day. There seems to be two schools of thought: Broke is a temporary state of being that means there is very little money. Poor is a permanent state in which you have let your values, morals, ethics and education fall into the abyss. I wish that many more students had the state of Broke rather than the state of Poor.

    TMAO – I wish the principal of EXCEL would ban all electronic devices from the classroom – period! This means that if a cell phone rings – it belongs to the principal until 4 pm on the last day of school in June; if a laptop is turned on it belongs to the principal until 4 pm on the last day of school in June. Every parent, guardian, and student must sign the sheet acknowledging the rules. You cannot EXCEL if you don’t pay attention, don’t do your homework and can’t pass the class. At least do one thing that will change the atmosphere for all students. Doing what you say and saying what you do help everyone understand the expectations.

    Doowhopper – I agree that the suspensions would rise. As an Oakland taxpayer, I would be willing to give the ADA to a school that suspends a student for using the N word. As above, parents, guardians and students must sign the rule sheet. Then let the suspensions happen. We wouldn’t let a white person, principal, teacher use the N word for other students. It’s one of the worst forms of racism and keeps the students down who are trying to rise out of “poor.”

  • Katy Murphy

    Your responses to this story have been thought-provoking and very interesting to read.

    One point of clarification: Although Andy Kwok, himself, plays educational movies from his laptop (projected onto a screen), I didn’t see students with laptops or watching movies.

  • Doowhopper

    Another point I take issue with is in the first post by Caroline where she outlines the goals of EXCEL and states that the school is designed to prepare all students for college.
    Hold your horses.ALL students going to college?Many students are not interested in college and would be much better off in vocational programs that could prepare them for high paying skilled jobs that do not require a college degree.
    I understand the thinking of the lets prepare all kids for college advocates.If truth be told,for many years African American and Latino kids were tracked into dead end classes and were not encouraged by their counselors to go to college.I work with quite a few adults in their forties and fifties at my other job who most definitely had the ability to flourish in higher education but because they were black and from West Oakland they were relegated to non college prep classes.
    That was completely wrong yet now the opposite situation is occuring.Now the emphasis is on getting every student of color into a university and that is highly unrealistic.Many SHOULD be on this track yet many more are taking classes that are way over their heads.There are some Geometry classes where over 70% of the students are failing.All that does is make for more disciplinary problems in the classroom and ill serves the youngsters taking these classes who feel overwhelmed and stressed.What happened to Auto Shop and Carpentry?Many kids would love to do hands on work that had practical aplications.Its a shame these classes are no longer available.

  • Caroline

    I wouldn’t condemn any of them, TMAO (certainly not the valiant Mr. Kwok!). But I do discourage the notion that it’s oh-so-simple if you just implement (fill in the blank) reform — in this case small schools (“Small School Save Lives!”). As you’ve noted if you’ve read the sfschools blog, that does involve disparaging the educators at the evil “other” — in this case, larger — schools — people who by and large are just as committed and hardworking as Mr. Kwok.

    It’s never that simple.

  • Doowhopper

    Yes,Concerned Oakland Parent is right on the mark.It IS the most condescending type of racism that allows so many”responsible adults”to tolerate language that is racist ,sexist and often pornographic in its vulgarity.
    By all means ban music players and portable video players from school sites.And to Oakland parents as a group-do you ever LISTEN to what your kids are tuning into?Believe me,they are not listening to Mozart or Coltraine.They are ingesting lyrics from very disturbed people who advocate criminality,brutality and rampant promiscuity.The “artists”themselves are making millions and live far away from the chaos their music is enabling.The poor kids who think this music is actually”keeping it real”will end up on the corner,dead or locked up for many a year.

  • Concerned Oakland Parent

    You’re right, I reread the article. They did not have laptops with movies. They had music players. I still maintain that if any electronic device is played in class it belongs to the principal until after the close of school in June.

    I also agree with Doowhopper about trade schools. I know a couple of really bright, mechanically inclined kids (well 22 year olds) who actually learned to repair cars through an agreement with Mercedes. It’s a fine career that provides a good living without a college education. Mercedes updates their training annually. There are many ways to be a productive member of society. Many of us actually worked our way through school, attending at night and on the weekends. It builds character and skills. When you graduate, you more widely respected because you have a work ethic. I think that’s what may be missing is some of the students at EXCEL, there is no work ethic. Either their parents are on aid and they have not witnessed what working is or their parents / guardians may be working but giving them “things” to make up for what is perceived as a poor childhood.

    Even if the kids who are not paying attention make it to college, without the work ethic of paying attention, completing and turning in homework and learning the material (including learning how to pay attention and study) they with FAIL in college. This is about self-motivation.

  • teacher

    Hills parent: I never said it was only about money. Certainly the cultural/historical legacy issues are HUGE. (You should remember, however, that many middle-class minorities send there children to private/parochial schools where their test scores are not so scrutinized.)

    (Remember, though, that for every kid from China making it here, there are a million sweating it out in a sweatshop or rice paddy over there, in ignorance.)

    The point of dropping in the factoid about who controls the wealth of this country is to say: Why are we surprised that poor children are being taught by underpaid, undertrained, undersupported teachers like Kwok. No offense to him — or myself! — but you can’t deny that rich America simply is not bothered by the conditions of our schools. If it was, it would lobby to have itself taxed to fund the “War on Poverty” instead of fighting in Vietnam, Iraq, etc. We pay military officers and prison guards a lot more than teachers, so go figure the priorities.

    Are the students and their families part of the problem? Of course! But you have to understand the context: Kids who don’t trust any authority figure, who have never seen the world beyond their projects, who have been made a bunch of promises by television and their teachers, and on and on. Many of these kids have even been sexually or physically abused. Many of my students are, quite frankly, basket cases. It is hard to look at; in a matter of a few yearsthey will be the junkies and streetwalkers of tomorrow. But c’mon, do we tell the mentally ill to “suck it up and get with the program”? The sick? The elderly? We try to give tools to those that can use them and care for those who can’t.

  • Concerned Oakland Parent

    Teacher: There are many of us who grew up in seemingly middle-class homes who also had sexual and physical abuse. My mother was psychotic and delusional. My birth father was nowhere to be found – he lived with his heroin addicted wife. I had a lot to overcome. I was also told I would not amount to anything. I was also not trained about systems of government, or that the odd numbers are on one side of the street while the even numbers are on the other, or that education mattered.

    But some of us chose to look around at our school or schools. I went to 27 different schools before I even hit high school, not including those that I returned to when my mother went back to her, then current husband. What I did was pay attention. I paid attention to the kids who chose to learn and those that did not. I paid attention to those teachers that cared and those who did not. I often lived in poverty. I remember many times when we had $20 to last 2 weeks for groceries. So, teacher, it is about choosing to be BROKE (a temporary situation) or choosing to be POOR (a lifetime affliction).

    I bet you would have tossed your hat in the ring to my streetwalking and drug use; my cum file had others like you. But as it turns out I was broke, my whole childhood, and my young adulthood, I was broke, but never poor.

  • Ja2007

    I am the parent of an EXCEL student. There is a school-wide policy that students are not allowed to have cell phones or electronic devices in classes or the hallways. There are many signs in hallways and classrooms stating this. It is up to the teacher to enforce the policy and take away the devices if they are out in class. In fact, they can call a security officer if a student refuses to part with it. From what I understand (and my daughter did have her phone taken at one point in the year) it is up to the teachers to enforce the policy in their classrooms and not turn a blind eye.

  • Student

    To TMAO, it is not fair for teacher or principal to take student’s electronic devices. What happen if their parents have to call them, and it is emergency? They can’t contact the school right away, because they don’t have the school number and what if their parents barely can’t speak English? If there is a policy no electronic devices on campus for students, there should be one for teachers and staff.

  • Mr. G

    There are successful schools in Oakland, some of them small, some of them not. What are they doing differently? Is anyone studying their success and trying to duplicate it?

    It seems that each time there is a story of a school’s failure everyone looks for a place to lay the blame. “It’s the lack of parental involvement. It’s the fact that we underpay teachers. It’s the district. There isn’t enough money. It’s No Child Left Behind. It’s Bill and Melinda Gates.”

    If a school is successful, there is always a whisper – sometimes more than a whisper – that it is an anomaly, or the result of a massive cheating conspiracy. Maybe they expel half the school right before STAR testing. Maybe they have been cherry picking all the smartest Asian kids from all the schools in Alameda.

    So what do we have? With failure, there is an utter lack of personal responsibility and accountability. Success is met with skepticism and negativity. Is it any wonder that the district is struggling?

    Teachers like Mr. Kwok are where the rubber meets the road. Without question, I’m sure he works hard every day. It must be a real challenge, and I do not envy him his position.

    We’re all responsible for his frustration. We’ve lowered our expectations. Everyone involved in the process has. Being late is unacceptable. Cursing or being disruptive is unacceptable. Not doing homework is unacceptable. Being disrespectful is unacceptable. Having a quarter of the class absent on any given day is unacceptable. But all of this has become the norm. Enforcing the rules is difficult. Expelling trouble students is hard. But if the kids refuse to learn, their parents refuse to get involved, and the school has just finished giving them their 10th shot at playing by the rules, maybe it is time to cut ties.

    Everyone should have access to strong public education, without question. But all you can do is lead a horse to water. At some point, if a student refuses to participate and is actively sabotaging the process, there needs to be another option. We are sacrificing the whole for an uncooperative and uninterested part. It is self-destructive. The reason teachers often feel like they are beating their heads against the wall and making no progress is because that is the reality in many classrooms.

    Show the kids that you will accept nothing but their best. Hire great teachers and support their decisions. Remove students who are obstacles to learning. Follow through on your discipline. Stop being negative about testing, funding, politics of the school board, and everything else that is beyond the control of the classroom. All of the sudden, babysitting turns to teaching. Daycare turns to learning. Teachers don’t burn out. Students grow. The only reason it isn’t that simple is because we make it hard. We wave away success and focus on failure, like we’re craning our necks while driving past a traffic accident.

    Let’s see what is working, duplicate it, expect more, and enjoy the progress.

  • Concerned Oakland Parent

    Mr. G:
    I agree with you about removing students who are disruptive, uncooperative and curse at the teacher or other students. In my daughter’s second grade class that would be 3 students out of 20 that would immediately have to go. Two of whom are students of color. I can only imagine what would happen when the same 3 students continue to remain in class and get to middle school.

    I believe that if you really need to be that attached to a parent, you need to call them at lunch from a designated spot on campus. I do not buy that there are so many issues and emergencies that the phone needs to be accessible all of the time.

    As an employer in Oakland, It is really difficult to explain to people asking for a job that your personal needs and your family’s needs are secondary when you are working. Several people have lost their job at our organization for that very same reason – their work is interrupted by child protective services being at the house, again; parents stopped by the police and unable to communicate, again; siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles in jail, again.

    At some point one must take responsibility for their education and their employment or they will not escape poverty, incarceration, or being controlled by others. You earn self-control and freedom by making wise choices. Interrupting a classroom for your or your family’s personal needs is taking away the rights of others. Something you have no right to do.

  • Oakland Hills Parent

    Just a few years ago (or a generation or two ago), we all survived fine without cell phones, ipods, etc. They have no place in the classroom and should absolutely be banned with strict penalties for disobeying the rules – confiscation, etc. If that really happened, kids would learn quick that bring electronic devices to school won’t be tolerated. What’s wrong with schools, teachers, administrators, parents and students today? I’m sad and angry that things have been allowed to fall apart as they appear to be doing at many schools (and in many communities).

  • turner

    Teachers are the best people to enforce the rules and keep the classroom as a learning place and not a place of chaos.

    But, I know of teachers who step up to enforce the rules only to have their authority undermined by the principal or the central administration after complaints from parents and threats of lawsuits.

    If you want the teachers to manage the kids better, give them the power and then stay out of their way. Let them teach!


  • Doowhopper

    Turner said it perfectly.
    I am a firm advocate of enforcing rules. As a substitute, I find my authority questioned even more than the regular instructor. If I felt that I would have administrative backup, believe me, cussing, playing music and not coming to class without proper materials would result in a swift exit from my class and an immediate call home to parents. Without that support from the office, my disciplinary efforts won’t amount to a hill of beans.

  • teacher

    Simple prescriptions sound great. Practice is more complicated.

    — Many children want to be thrown out and look for a “soft” confrontation in order to do so. We want them in class so they can hopefully learn something; a blind eye is thus turned to some minor infractions (i.e., having ear plug cords dripping out of a backpack.)

    — Many children don’t care about grades and aren’t afraid of suspensions, so it is hard to gain leverage. Since public schools are committed to teaching EVERY child, expulsions only shift the problem kids around.

    — Some kids are mainstreamed who have what amounts to oppositional disorder and other behavioral disabilities. Special ed folks are usually overwhelmed and can’t be in every room..

    — Teachers will be dinged if they send too many kids to a swamped office. We are told that if we can’t control our class without referrals, we are not doing our job well. Teach better and we will have no problems is the message.

    — Schools and administrators are punished by the system if they have a high rate of suspensions and expulsions. The pressure is thus systemic to lower the rate of both, whether the behavior of the students improves or not. Many Oakland schools have seen their rates drop, which is then trumpeted as improvement whether it was warranted or not.

    — Parents are often extremely enabling, and sometimes have more pull with administrators than teachers do.

    — Some teachers are afraid of their students. Direct confrontations over valuable electronics in front of peers is a serious escalation which can eat half a period. Security is often not available to remove a student who refuses to comply OR leave. If the student only receives a warning from the school, the teacher now looks weak in front of the whole class, which can damage the whole year.

    — If you send a kid out in the middle of class, there is no guarantee they will go to the office. Now you have a troubled kid wandering the school — or leaving school to face other dangers. If you walk them to the office, your class will go off the rails while you are gone — and you will be breaking the rules by not monitoring them.

    I’m not saying any of these are VALID excuses for laxity. Successful teachers generally are pretty strict but fair. Some teachers run their own afterschool detentions and find every parent who can help. But giving advice from the cheap seats is pretty easy and not really that helpful. The situation is a lot more messy and at its root is a basic fact: Unless they committ a serious crime and are locked up, children over 5 are REQUIRED to be at school all day.

  • Caroline

    Teacher, could I get permission to re-post your comment (immediately above) on my blog, http://www.sfschools.org , anonymously of course?

  • teacher

    Caroline: Sure. These are just my observations, of course, not the results of empiracal study!

  • teacher

    … or empirical study, either!


  • John Willson

    The (original) state administrator, Randy Ward, came to Oakland from Compton where he had the same gig and where he focused on hiring cheap inexperienced teachers and getting rid of the expensive experienced ones – in the name of getting rid of dead (& more expensive) wood. His focus there and here was more on dollars than academics. Replacing a lot of experienced credentialed teachers with struggling young teachers without credentials is good for a district’s bottom line and bottoming academics. But hey! Whatever it takes to get the district out from under state control. And I must say the Tribune’s young struggling inexperienced teacher series makes for some interesting reading, a lot more interesting than reading about some old tenured teachers who getting dumped and treated like raw sewage to save the district some bucks.

  • Concerned Oakland Parent

    How is the attitude about learning changed? If kids are looking for a way out, how do we change the attitude?

    I also agree that many people believe grades do not matter. They don’t matter to me – although they mattered to my parents and my second grade daughter is dying to get the A, B, C type of grades rather than 5, 4, 3 type of grades. So, in your humble opinion what would constitute being suspended? In a previous post there was mention of a middle school student suspended for swinging his friend around in the hallway causing a broken nose. If behavior interferes with other students or safety is it a suspension offense or not?

    How do we let students of varying types of backgrounds feel safe at the same school? My daughter, for example, feels unsafe if there is a lot of yelling that she can’t determine is anger or not. She’s just not a noise kid. But that may not necessarily be unsafe, just not her favorite environment. Also, I don’t believe kids should just shuffle quietly down the halls, either.

    If you could fix it – meaning specifically middle school at this point – what would you do to pave the way for high school commitment and learning?

  • Doowhopper

    Teacher made some valid points. The problems in Oakland schools are systemic. The same hijinks, lax attitudes toward tardiness, obscene language and failure to exert any effort on the student’s part I observed in 1989 are in full swing almost twenty years later.
    I seriously believe there ARE no real solutions. Teacher is quite correct when stating the law that we must teach ALL students and they must attend school the entire day. So bottom line is the whole system of failure will continue unabated.

  • Concerned Oakland Parent

    Check out what’s happening at Montera middle school – I think it’s the walk softly and carry a big stick mentality. I don’t know how it’s affecting student achievement, but more kids in the hallways are taking care of business, no more cell phone noise, no more MP3 / iPOD cords dangling, no more underpants showing (pants are pulled up to where they need to be, no more halter tops in the freezing cold.

    There are more afterschool classes, and more participation in the classes after school that have existed before the new principal, there’s more cleanup and “beautification” by the parents and the community, and there are more parents considering Montera as a valid middle school choice.

    So Katy is it time to take another look at the new principal in his first 12 weeks of school?

  • Katy Murphy

    Concerned Oakland Parent: Actually, I’m finishing up a story and video this week about Mr. Mesfun and Montera.

  • teacher

    Concerned Oakland Parent asked: “If you could fix it – meaning specifically middle school at this point – what would you do to pave the way for high school commitment and learning?”

    I’d LOVE to see middle school COMPLETELY overhauled. Nothing about it fits children at that age developmentally. Many have a couple intense academic hours in the morning and everything else be well-thought out curriculum involving group projects, mural-making, outdoors stuff (like Outward Bound), sports, conflict management, personal development, quiet work time, arts, music, dance, theater, etc.

    Keeping kids that age cooped up in class all day toether with textbooks and overwhelmed teachers is nuts, I think. Too many hormones, not enough sophistication.

    That’s pie in the sky, though, right?

  • teacher


    Sorry, i meant to write: “MAYBE have a couple intense…”

    Going to fast. Shouldn’t be on here on my lunch anyway…