12

A new teacher, a new year

Dan AdilettaOf all the things going on at Explore College Preparatory Middle School, I’m least inclined to spend my free time writing about the big headline: We will be closing at the end of the year.

Perhaps it’s spite. All of our bruises and scars have made the staff a strong team that can hold its own with so few resources. And despite that (or rather because of that), we’re being split. But maybe it’s numbness that keeps me from writing. After all the curve balls slung at me this year, the closing hardly seems surprising. And there are more important topics.

I’ve gained ground, damnit. I’m using my tools more intelligently, and I’m still groaning at how unbelievably simple some solutions to my hardest problems were. My students and their parents are better informed with less effort. Routines and procedures have been cleaned up. Much of this has resulted from the very kind suggestions from The Education Report community. So as I’m finally getting around to my wedding thank-yous, I thought I should extend the sentiments in this direction.

My TurningPoint student response system has been a critical tool. My students all get remotes they use to “click in” the results of questions that are displayed with my projector. My use of this system has improved in three critical ways. I’ve been occasionally asking questions about their behavior using a Likert Scale: “Do you enjoy it when someone calls out in class?”

The numbers don’t lie, and the class clowns have toned down a bit. I find the concepts that students are missing and use them as the review questions. And I’m putting more focus, per the advice of principal Michael Scott, on the questions at the end of class. Students see exactly what percentage of the class was able to achieve the day’s learning target. All of this data is collected and added to their grades (using Easy Grade Pro). Plus, now that I’ve helped myself to an unused printer, I’m giving students weekly progress reports. If a student’s average is below a C, it has to be signed. With five classes and five days in the week, if you know what period you have me, you know which day you’re getting your updated grade.

Sophisticated tools are excellent in building a data-driven classroom. But the most remarkable improvement to my class has been through $15 stamps. Students, even the toughest and most apathetic, enjoy a stamp on their paper. Notebook checks are done simply by counting how many stamps the student has in their notebook. The students understand this system. Do-nows are getting done, and instruction is able to start noticeably quicker. Homework gets stamp if they have it the day it’s due. More students are turning in assignments. I can’t believe how easy that was.

The more difficult change has been my demeanor. My students comment on it all the time. Aggression is how these students communicate with each other, and I am now a speaking their language. It takes a lot out of me, but I bring less tension home. On our last week before the break, we had a new student in one of my most troubled classes. After I snapped rather harshly at a misbehaving student, I heard someone whisper to the new student, “Yeah man, Mr. A. don’t play.” I want that tattooed on my forehead.

Of all the improvements I’ve made, the greatest is accepting the modesty of my position. Yes, I can have a huge impact—I’m not questioning that. Rather, so much of my stress was agonizing over the continued disparity this community was suffering unjustly. I am not here to save anyone. Instead, I’m a just one cog of a greater community effort that, as anyone can see from the discussion on this Web site alone, is doing some pretty cool stuff. Only now I’ve got to find myself a new job from which to help.

– Dan Adiletta, Explore Middle School

dadiletta

  • Teacher

    Thank you, Dan. As a teacher in her 9th year, I am learning a lot from you. May 2010 be a great year for you.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/ Sharon

    All upcoming school closures are the continuation of a domino effect initiated by the three successive state administrators who were graduates of the superintendents’ training program started and maintained by billionaire Eli Broad. Closures will continue as long as more and more petitions for charter schools are approved.

    Keeping low income families with children perpetually destabilized — in the form of repeated school closings and openings — has become the norm in many U.S. cities. This is only one piece of today’s main “education reform” approach, one which was devised and is being driven by the American corporatocracy. The idea was derived from a theory out of the Harvard Business School called “disruptive innovation.” Input from education professionals and others, who also have ideas for how to improve education, is not solicited because their approaches would conflict with the business approach (for instance, the “Broader Bolder Approach”).

    The billionaires of the corporatocracy (Gates, Broad, Walton, Dell, Bloomberg, etc.) are playing a major role in heavily funding and driving this change. They call their involvement “investments” in “venture philanthropy.” In addition, this group directly influences politicians and bureaucrats with campaign contributions and by pursuing intimate personal interactions. At this point, the Ford Foundation is not participating in the scheme.

    Other than seeing great potential for expanded business opportunities by tapping into the stream of eternally provided, tax-supplied public education funding, the basic principal in operation is that citizens in urban areas are simply incompetent, and that it is best if they are managed by miscellaneous members of the business class, many of whom are not local. This is a highly paternalistic view of the masses and explains why every opportunity is taken to declare that the elected school boards are unqualified and inadequate. Of course, members of the corporatocracy never utter a word of criticism about the competence or morals of their buddies on Wall Street, but they are eager to bad mouth public school teachers as a group.

    It’s been a clever tactical maneuver to adopt the pronouncements about education being a “civil right” as a way to justify the turmoil this reform is causing. Note that it is only low income, urban communities being subjected to the many school closures, higher teacher and principal turnovers, the extreme narrowing of curriculum, etc. — all in the name of “reform.” Out of one side of the mouth comes the claim that only the most experienced, highly qualified teachers should be working in the schools which struggle the most. From the other side of the mouth comes the claim that totally new teachers with only five weeks of training, and who will only work for two years, are perfectly acceptable (besides, they are cheap and don’t cause trouble). Even before this recession hit, the corporatocracy was never heard advocating for more competitive teacher salaries & great benefits — two things that might actually draw teachers to the most needy schools.

    Schools used to be respected as anchors in the community, and served as sources of pride and history. They helped give the tapestry of the local neighborhood its strength. If people don’t want more and more of their schools to be permanently closed, they’ll have to organize and raise their voice to demand their their schools to be healed, not killed.

  • Nextset

    Sharon: I agree that public schools are being systematically destroyed. I believe that process was started in the mid-1960′s.

    Because of this the US Population will no longer be educated and socialized together, or to a common standard. Our society is to be rigidly segregated. The various castes will not see or speak to each other except in defined occupational roles. The castes have different mores, language, dress & mating habits just to keep things defined.

    It’s hilarious that all this started with the “civil rights” movement. That legislation was used to get a predictable result the opposite of what it’s stated purpose. This is a common thing in legislation – skilled and cunning legislators craft a bill or an initiative calculated to boomerang on it’s supporters. Kind of like a trojan horse. You see this in consumer protection legislation a lot – like the “Lemon Law” that protects the auto industry from (previously permissible) lawsuits for defective merchandise. Just wait and see what Obamacare turns into – it’s never intended to be any improvement in health care.

    I am sure that this trend is irreversible under the circumstances. And this country will not be recognizable from what it once was.

  • Nancy

    It’s too late Sharon. Come March 15th expect a covert “Avatar” operation in real time: RIF’s, physical relocation of Central Offices impacted by Modernization of Downtown and further publically unannounced slashes to people and programs and without opportunity for redress, so that finally Corporate memtics can overtake those who’ve held the biggest clout and voices in both Washington and Sacramento: LEA’s, local Districts and teachers’ and administrators’ unions. By my watch, this HMO’izing of public education to further clean-up after the social-economic impacts resulting from failed social, economic, and educational public policy over the past 25+ years and failing to protect our borders, etc, etc, has all been going on since September 11th, 2001, for which the local teachers’ union has not even been able to counter or at least run an equivalent attempt comparable to the Chicago Coalition of Rank and File Educators. Furthermore, there is a total reorganization of public funding schemes going on due to public sector corruption causing this greed induced depression, and along with the predictions for the cost of funding for education in the coming years and the inablity to make good dual funding promises a new system needs to arise to protect the interests of the corporate castes. The trend certainly is irreversible.

  • Nancy

    Watch for signs and signals with red flags…read all about them (in partial listing):

    http://www.u4.no/

    Now, what is the agenda for counter-combat as lively as Avatar….?

  • Nancy

    Good read over morning coffee….”Squeezing A Balloon”

    http://www.cmi.no/publications/file/3399-squeezing-a-balloon.pdf

  • Nancy
  • Oak Vet

    “Aggression is how these students communicate with each other…It takes a lot out of me, but I bring less tension home.”

    Keep working to come up with dignified ways to control your students (your students, not THESE students) Our students have a lot to communicate beyond aggression. Once you’ve created a safe environment, they’ll show you. Hang in there. It sounds like you are establishing some effective protocols and methods for feedback. Stay teaching in Oakland.

  • dadiletta

    Oak Vet,

    You’re perfectly correct about students having more to offer than aggression. In fact I’m constantly impressed by the students that are so often surrounded by hostility but have remained kind and resilient.

    I would be happy to stay teaching in Oakland. However, both my school and the placement program that hired me (OCTC) are closing. Things look rather grim on that front.

  • Nancy
  • cranky teacher

    If you want to stay in Oakland, you can stay in Oakland. There are *always* many middle-school openings.

  • Allyson Bogie

    I, too, am certain that you can get a job in Oakland next year if you want one. So glad to hear that your year is going well! Congratulations on all of your hard work.