By Katy Murphy
Sunday, March 20th, 2011 at 5:25 pm in achievement gap, budget, elementary schools, students, teachers.
Today, we ran a profile of one of the 657 Oakland teachers who got a layoff warning this month. You can read it here.
[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]
This is a touching, inspiring and very sad story. My concern, though, is that we are going to get another round of how wonderful all the teachers who are receiving these layoff notices are; and how awful all the teachers who are staying are; the ones with seniority. There are MANY such teachrs in OUSD, yes, even with all the bad press; there are many such teachers, some new, some veteran, some young, some middle-aged, and yes, even some who are old. And this teacher must have started out quite young, since she already has 12 years of experience; she got caught in the layoff because she did her first seven years elsewhere. Had she done all 12 years in OUSD, then she would be another teacher with seniority; would she be somehow different? I’d love to see a story or two or three stories about amazing teachers with 10, 15, 20 or more years of seniority. We are here. We also deplore the situation that makes it seem like the problem is senior teachers and it makes it appear as though the problem is young against old (or new vs. experiened). And that is the not the problem. The problem is that our society has decided to prioritize bailing out banks, rather than school, funding the military (and this new airstrike against Libya) and not supporting education and health care. THIS is the problem, not senior teachers.
Since I’m on my soapbox, let me take one more minute to respond in advance to those non-teachers who think they have some idea of how to just effective teaching: this job involves planning 30 hours a week of engaging activities. That’s everyday, all day. There are no moments of downtime; because the students are there all period, every period. They come with a variety of beliefs and attitudes and abilities and languages, and teachers are expected to be able to engage all of them all of the time, 30 hours a week. One poster to this blog said “Just see if the students are engaged.” Soemtimes ALL of my students are engaged, sometimes 90 percent are, sometimes 50&. Not every lesson is going to hit home with every kid all day every day. I’ve had a dynamic experience with one class one period, and the identical lesson bomb with another class. Same teacher, same room, same subject, same age and abillity range of kids. There are just lots of variables that affect and impact student engagement, including even whether the class is 1st, 3rd or 6th period, right before lunch or right after. Sometimes I have a great run, and you might see all kids on task. Other times, even after 25 years, sometimes I am just on fire as a teacher. And other times, not so much. Overall, more often than not, I’m on target.
I just point this out because I am waiting for the next round of “damn the unions; get rid of the senior teachers!” in response to the report about this one actually rather experienced teacher who is getting laid off. NONE of them should be laid off.
wow you are right Oteach. The public is inundated with layoff stories from deserving teachers, but I agree that there are so many stories among the veterans too.
An interesting story. Sooner or later prospective public school teachers are going to have to get it that this career is not a reasonable one to go into. You can bet that the brightest would-have-been teachers are already getting it and will alter their career choices to more personally productive employers.
This is no different than the long distance operators, proof machine operators and and countless other women’s jobs that have been rendered obsolete over the last century. And then there’s the lesson of the Soviet Factory workers.
Technology, Creative Distruction and Public Policy changes destroy jobs and careers even as they make new ones.
Public School Teacher, “the jobs are going and they’re never coming back”.
Are we to feel sorry for the people caught up in this? I don’t think so. This process of destruction of the public schools started with Brown vs the Board of Education (and the series of related decisions such as forced busing) and gathered steam with every Appellate Court case & legislative action that rendered urban public education undesirable and unsound. And with technology that allows the Charters to run schools over personal computers and webcams with teachers operating from office buildings and their own homes, you can have a Charter up and running overnight statewide. Not to mention the brick and mortar Charters.
There will be layoffs from now on in the urban public schools as they swirl in their downward spiral. Less kids equals layoffs.
The urban public teachers had best get ahead of the layoffs by finding better jobs as quickly as they can. And don’t worry about the incoming teachers, that will slow to a trickle. There’s no one to really blame if the jobs are gone because the schools are not desirable. You can’t sell Smith-Corona typewriters nowadays either.
By the way, Katy: Can you tell us how things are going at Piedmont Unified for comparison? Are they laying off? Are they seeing enrollment drops? Are they losing students to Charters? Are their budgets being cut? Are they increasing class size? Now ask this. Does Piedmont Unified Schools give F’s to students? Does Piedmont Unified expel students? Do they just give out as many A’s as a teacher wants or are grades forced into a grade curve? I rather suspect that Marxism isn’t looked upon favorably at PHS, and the school doesn’t clash with the public’s notions of patriotism. It also seems to get public support and funding as needed to go on as it always has. Is there a political (not just academic) difference between OUSD and PUSD that can explain one school district being durable and the other failing?
While I’m sure the teacher profiled is a very nice person, this mess is what it is. I hope she’s happy at her next job if her layoff isn’t recinded this time.
Brave New World.
I do not think this piece is arguing against senority rights. In addition to having 12 years of teaching experience Lissette is also bilingual. She could easily pass a BCLAD test that is exempting some first year or second year teachers from getting a pink slip. I think this piece points to the injustice that is happening to teachers who do have seniority, who have stayed and persevered in Oakland even through extreme struggles like cancer. We’ve stayed not for the money, but for the communities we are building. I always thought the rules were, “last one in, first one out.” While I’ve thought this can be unfair in certain situations I realized these were the rules under OEA, and realized I would have to follow them I signed my contract. Instead, it seems that these rules have been changed in order to keep cheap teachers- teachers with one year of experience that may have a special credential like Sped, math, science, bclad, or even history in some cases. They may all end up being phenomenal teachers, but I’d argue are not as qualified to teach as a teacher with years of experience. I’ve also heard that certain preservice programs like TFA and OCTC have stronger contracts than the rest of OEA members. I’ve hear that they are guaranteed a job for 2 years. I wonder if all of these teachers are in “high needs” areas? or are there any TFA/OCTC teachers who have multiple subject credentials, but are also exempt from pink slips?
I’ve taught for 10 years, 5 years in Oakland as a 6th grade CORE Humanities teacher. I would love to keep my job at my school site, with the community of students, teachers, and parents I have helped to build. However, I have a mortgage to pay and at this point just hope to have a job. I am more than willing to teach special ed, or take a test in single subject math/science if it means I would have a job next year. I wish I knew these rules before pink slips were issued. No teacher jobs should be cut when the district is out of compliance with paying the required 55% of the budget to teacher salaries.
Oteach, I agree with much of what you wrote (#1), but I think it is important to note that no one quoted in the article put the blame on senior teachers or seniority (as opposed to some other articles and postings). The article ends with the importance of keeping small class sizes and staff continuity, both of which require no lay-offs, and a call to freeze professional development expenditures.
I hope that stories like this convince Superintendent Smith and the School Board to carefully review their budget projections and reduce the number of projected lay-offs as soon as possible. Another story in the Trib pointed out that Oakland was basing its lay-offs on a reduction of $900 per student in state funding, while other state groups have estimated the worst-case cuts at $600 per student. It appears that if Oakland followed the guidelines used by most districts it could rescind 200 or more of those letter immediately. That would be a wise move, since it would prevent losing teachers like Ms. Averhoff to other jobs.
To answer your question about Piedmont:
“The Piedmont school board will announce teacher layoffs at its meeting on Wednesday. . . .
The board also will vote on the collective bargaining agreement with the Association of Piedmont Teachers. The teachers voted Feb. 25 for a contract that would extend through 2014. The highlights of that contract were released Tuesday. The teachers agreed to five furlough days per year for 2011-2014. If the student level of funding is reduced by the state by $200 on or before Aug. 15, the teachers have agreed to a pay cut of 1.5 percent for the 2011-12 school year.” http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_17530611
So much for the theory that Piedmont USD somehow cares about students more than OUSD does; taking furloughs basically means that teachers take a pay cut, AND kids miss several days of school. If they cared so much about students, they would just go with the pay cut, and keep the school year the same length.
I don’t see it that way.
The funding cut is state generated. The district is coping with that. Is there supplemental money generated by the locals that bolsters the state funding?
Is their enrollment shrinking?
Teach for America and Oakland Teaching Fellows ARE getting a pass and that IS NOT OK. I’ve been pink slipped and I am a mixture of sad and angry about it. I DO NOT blame senior teachers. I do think the School Board and the Superintendant are playing slash and burn with people’s lives. OUSD is STILL paying for outside contracts. Half of my school is, if these cuts stand, GONE and I’m at a hills school. It is beyond disgusting that ANY jobs may be cut, in any neighborhood. We are all playing a game that we haven’t been given the rules to and the district plays this blame game. The schools and children of Oakland need their teachers more than they need Si Swun or fancy graphs from EduSoft OR a Superintendant who makes almost as much as the President of the United States.
We need facts. Will Troy Flint present facts before the May 15 deadline? Things get a lot more serious after that date. The public needs that info Mr. Flint. The district, i’m sure, would like Californians to vote for Governor Brown’s tax proposal. How can the community make informed decisions (and votes), without all of the relevant data?
Is the district working on compliance (55% of funds in the classroom)? Or are we going to waste more money on fines?
This is the Bay Area. Why are we paying consultants to handle many of our school’s technology infrastructure? Are you telling me we can’t find any computer science majors to get in a credential program?
For #5 – I think #1 was referring to many of the no minds that get on this blog who consume much of the veteran teacher-teachers’ union bashing and anti-organized labor propaganda. For those ready to bash this please remember the definition of propaganda – the deliberate spreading or desemination of information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc..
For #3, #6 – Every school district is California is facting the same set of questions whose answers will be determined by Jerry’s attempt to get the stat tax increase item extended. Some districts have reserves to maintain current programs and staffing, however even with additional revenues that some communities can generate with their education foundations, they are still going to be in the hole for next year and through 2014, as Piedmont has obviously planned for in the coming years.
Questions: If Oakland teachers agreed to 1 furlough day per month through 2014 (with the agreement to reduce or eliminate the PD Consultants and others) like Piedmont teachers, could OUSD maintain its current programs and staffing?
Also could teachers like Lissette agree to meet at local churches for a “special day” once a month filled with hands-on, community service projects in the alternative? Or would there be liability issues? Again, only if the consultants are reduced or eliminated? Maybe a one Friday per month furlough day could be a day all look forward to in order to work on community projects?
Its obvious who created this mess (Bank bailouts, War funding, House/Senate who voted for both), but it doesn’t look like they are going to come to their senses quick enough to maintain continuity for the students and families OUSD (and others) serve.
Last, metaphorically speaking, many think that May 21, 2011 is “The Day of Rapture” ( http://www.ebiblefellowship.com/may21/ )according to Bibly mathematics. Maybe somehow all of this is going to change the entire landscape of the problems ALL communities in the US are facing as well as our Global families.
The School Board deals with Central HQ Administration every day. That’s who they know and who they’ll listen to. (Whether the choices are tough or not…).
At my school, we have lots of TFA and OTF teachers including myself and we are not getting a pass on pink slips. All of us received pink slips last week.
When these smaller schools were “turned around,” or whatever it was called, in addition to replacing staff, many of these new schools replaced the students as well. Have there been any demographic shifts at these schools?
I used to watch the school board meetings on KDOL. The teachers and families were quite emotional about the whole thing. KDOL probably has archive footage of these meetings.
In addition, there was a lot of mismanagement (and corruption) in OUSD. In many instances, it was pretty flagrant. That did have an impact on morale and on the classroom – crowded classrooms, textbook shortages, supply shortages, lax discipline policies . . .
You must be in year two then. Honestly, there are a lot of TFA and OTF getting a pass. I’m sorry you’re getting one because it stinks, for anyone getting them. I don’t have anything against TFA or OTF if they are in it for a long haul.
Re #4 “Pinkslipped”: “I am more than willing to teach special ed, or take a test in single subject math/science if it means I would have a job next year.”
Unfortunately, despite your willingness, you would not be permitted to work in those shortage areas as this district only hires NON-CREDENTIALED people through TFA or their own Oakland Teaching Fellows or Oakland Teaching Practitioners Program (for special ed). So while you are losing your job, OUSD will at the same time be hiring new people from the outside to fill those positions. Multiple people have asked that at the very least, laid off teachers be allowed to apply for those same programs. The response: It is not possible for next year. It is too late to change the programs.
This is an outrage! I am sad for my fellow teachers and for our students.
First year OTF and TFA also received pink slips.
How is it that our most vulnerable students are being taught by non-credentialed interns? How can they possibly be “well qualified?”
It is an outrage!
I would recommend that all pink-slipped teachers who are interested in working in special education attend the next school board meeting and voice your interest in applying for Oakland’s program!
Special Ed teachers didn’t get pink slipped. Since a subset of those are OTF and TFA, please don’t say “All first year OTF and TFA didn’t get pink slipped.” All my math and science fellow teachers got pink slipped.
Every teacher and administrator at my school except one got a pink slip. That’s the true crime. We are at our school cause we want to be, and now may be forced to leave or move to another school cause of this mess while tenured teachers will get “stuck” at our school and spend all next year trying trying to get out. It really hurts the students the most.
Just came across this OUSD teaching position posted on Craigslist this past Saturday March 19th; wondering how MetWest, a regular district school, not a charter school to my knowledge, can be hiring for the 2011-2012 school year (also this position is not posted on Edjoin, where most teaching jobs are posted);it’s kind of dismaying that this position is not available to an existing district teacher; a total of at least 96 English and history teachers are being laid off; couldn’t one of them have an opportunity here?
Date: 2011-03-19, 3:13PM PDT
Reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org
MetWest High School Is Hiring!
Teacher / Advisor Position Available for 2011-2012
Looking for skilled high school Humanities or English teachers who value close relationships with their students and hunger to work with them around their approach to life, work and community, not solely academics.
METWEST HIGH SCHOOL OVERVIEW
MetWest High School is a small Oakland public high school currently serving one hundred sixty students. In conjunction with their advisors, each student studies core academic skills with a cohort of twenty peers, and also designs an individualized learning plan focused on their interests and passions. The core of each student’s learning plan is an internship that gives students a deep sense of how their interests play out in the adult world, and provides an authentic environment and audience for their work. Our curriculum is designed to teach students the academic skills and habits they need to successfully complete rigorous, complex, real world project work. The work is grounded in a theoretical framework that enables our students to analyze history, literature, and the world around them in terms of institutional, interpersonal, and internalized oppression and institutional, community, and personal libratory action.
MetWest High School is a partnership between the Oakland Unified School District and the Big Picture Learning network based in Providence, RI. For more information on Big Picture Learning, go to: http://www.bigpicture.org. Our own website can be found at http://www.metwest.org.
College-Prep through ‘Real World’ Learning: While MetWest is focused in part on students pursuing their passions in the workplace, it is not a vocational school. Rather than training students to follow a particular career path, the internship structure is designed to foster students’ intellectual development through first-hand experience, and to develop habits of initiative-taking in their education. Our students spend two days a week working with a mentor at an internship of their choosing, learning professional expectations, communicating effectively with adults from different backgrounds, and producing real world work. In addition to their integrated coursework at MetWest and their individualized, internship-based projects, many of our students take courses at Laney College. We expect all of our students to continue their education after high school, and internships, projects, and community college experiences are important opportunities for them to envision possible paths for their lives after MetWest.
OUR EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY
We learn best in the context of being known well. Real relationships between adults and young people are crucial to their academic development. To this end, each Advisor works with a core group of 20 students for 2 years, and maintains regular contact with their families.
We learn best when we are pursuing our own passions and interests. We design and teach curriculum that is related to students’ experience and that helps them understand the world they are living in. Whether that means investigating the different environmental impacts local freeways have on surrounding neighborhoods, or analyzing Oedipus to make sense of human motivation, we work to connect curricula to students’ lives and experience.
We learn most deeply when we connect “mind” work and “hand” work. High schools in this country have traditionally separated mind learning and hand learning, yet we know that in order to learn things deeply, we need to study and try them out. Our students take this powerful opportunity when they study health and the causes of premature birth while interning at Highland Hospital, or when they study Government while interning with a member of City Council.
We work harder when our work has real meaning and value to others. Two days a week, students are doing real world work that support their internship site. At the end of each quarter, our students demonstrate their learning through formal public exhibitions. They answer questions and receive feedback from a panel of peers, teachers, parents, mentors, and community members.
YOUR WEEKLY SCHEDULE
As an Advisor, you will teach Advisory class to your 20 students every morning. Unlike most schools’ “advisory”, Advisory at MetWest is an integrated academic class that includes academic units designed to teach our school-wide learning objectives and the habits of work required for academic and professional success, as well as community building activities. Our approach to high quality lesson planning includes the expectation that every class is oriented towards clearly defined, explicitly stated learning targets and builds in methods to regularly assess mastery. Most units taught in advisory are focused on literacy and critical thinking skills.
The rest of MWF are spent teaching small groups or coaching students individually. You are a teacher, a project manager, and a social support person for your advisees. You will conduct regular meetings and phone conferences with your students’ family members regarding their progress. You will coordinate academic and internship opportunities for students inside and outside of school for the school year and the summer.
The rest of Tuesday and Thursday are spent visiting students’ internship sites all over the Bay Area, meeting with them and their mentors to plan, troubleshoot, reflect on and evaluate project work and internship work. You will coach students through the search process, from creating professional resumes, to making phone inquiries, to conducting informational interviews. You will develop, support, and monitor in-depth, multi-disciplinary projects with students and internship mentors.
SUPPORTIVE PROFESSIONAL COMMUNITY
The staff of MetWest work together 5 ½ hours weekly to create curriculum, reflect on our teaching and our students’ learning, evaluate our results, and plan for school-wide improvement. We plan and implement multi-disciplinary curriculum in teams. We build capacity as we share best practices and teaching dilemmas in a creative, collaborative, supportive environment.
Summer work prepares us for an excellent school year, through home visits to students, student orientations, and 13 days of professional development which includes integration of new staff into our professional learning community, collaborative curriculum planning time, and whole-school focus work (based on our year-long school wide focus).
As part of the Big Picture Learning network of schools, we receive training and support from Big Picture Learning, a wealth of curriculum and technological tools, and the opportunity to collaborate with staff at other schools around the network through video conferencing and school visits.
There are many opportunities to take leadership. Our school has been built by a staff of leaders who come with a desire to innovate. Together, we take responsibility for the continued improvement of our school program.
HOW DO I APPLY?
Please send the following to the MetWest Hiring Committee. We’re currently reviewing candidates. Candidates must possess a current California Single Subject (High School) teaching credential.
1. A résumé with references
2. Two letters of recommendation (one from a recent supervisor and one from a student or student’s parent)
3. A cover letter that describes:
a. Why you would be a good fit at MetWest
b. How you have supported improved student achievement for African American and Latino students
c. Ways you have participated in a professional learning community
d. Your beliefs about the role of education in social change
You can email or send your completed application packet to:
MetWest High School
Attn: Hiring Committee
314 East 10th Street, Huerta Hall
Oakland, CA 94606
Very good question re how MetWest is hiring new teachers for next year rather than those who have been pink-slipped. I have always heard such good things about the school, but hearing that they have 160 students, cannot help but wonder how that cost is justified ($ for admin/custodian/office staff), and especially: how in the world do they qualify for getting an entire new school built? This district makes no sense.
“how in the world do they qualify for getting an entire new school built? This district makes no sense”.
Merely one dysfunctional money pit school district, out of many.
This kind of wasteful spending by school districts are found all over the US. In LA,OAK,DC,Chi and on…..and on.
March 15th on Craigslist, “Teachers Needed! Oakland Teaching Fellows”
The intent to exploit another cohort of temporary teachers and in favor of denying equal opportunity to even the hidden positions..
Has anyone estimated a cost-benefit analysis of paying for a breach of contract with OTF and TFA? And how that would play out?
How about the NLNS which is a comparable organization with the intent to hand-pick and exploit “interns” versus hiring those who’ve paid thousands of dollars to get fully credentialed only to be undermined?
What is CTA and UAOS doing about this legally?
Again, this corporate HR protocol has been in the design and development stages for a few years at least since 2004…why haven’t these been opposed by those who are supposed to have been protecting fair employment and equal opportunity in hiring and firing practices?
It’s time go to the school board meetings and ask these questions. Even if we don’t get answers, it will make these practices public. I teach in Oakland, and had no idea that OTF was recruiting until I read this blog.
Also, good questions re Met West. This should be brought up at a school board meeting.
And not much word out of the OEA. I know they spoke up, very casually, at one of the Board’s Committee meetings. But they seem to reserve their more vocal, political campaigning for either broader social political issues happening locally (like the gang injunctions), or supporting Unions in other States (Wisconsin, etc.).
Meanwhile their core advocacy on behalf of teachers and schools here in Oakland?
Oh, well, we’ll get around to it one of these days. When? Maybe when cuts are announced this summer and its already too late? When school is out and teachers aren’t around to add support?
The OEA doesn’t deal in anything measurable(except taxpayer supplied pay and benefits). The gangs, and criminals need to be pinned to the wall not coddled(they don’t own jack or pay taxes), and the police should be able to step on their behinds. The miserable little creeps deserve what they get.
OTF hires only high needs areas for middle and high school, like math science, pe, and special ed. The english, history, and humanities teachers, as well as elementary teachers are not affected.
If you want to go back to school and get a math, science, pe or special ed credential, the district would gladly put you there. But if you don’t have that credential, then it’s simple, you can’t teach in that position.
Actually, it is not true that they district would be happy to hire you if you get one of the above credentials. Most of their programs like Oakland Teaching Fellows (math and science) and OPTP (Oakland Teaching Practioner Program for special ed)only allow UNcredentialled teachers to apply for slots. If this doesn’t prove that there is a conspiracy to lower the average salary of teachers in OUSD, I don’t know what would. They are happy that many of these people don’t stay; that maintains the status quo of a young, low paid, and mostly uninvolved in OEA teacher force. “Out with the old and in with the new!”
I wonder why young teachers are uninvolved in OEA teacher force. As a young 2nd year teacher who will stay teaching in Oakland and came through OTF, I can say it is just not at the top of my priority list to dedicate time to OEA. Instead I choose my students.
We just got a site rep this past month at my school site and I have never received a single e-mail from OEA about meetings, etc. When young teachers have a million things to focus on and there is not readily available information about OEA, I don’t blame us for not reaching out.
I guess I am also just sick of this young vs. old debate in Oakland. We all teach for the same reasons-to impact student achievement for the youth in Oakland. I know I haven’t been here as long as a lot of others, but that doesn’t mean my priorities are different when it comes to our youth.
Hey JR, r u what happens when Nextet marries JR Ewing? Or Marion Morrison?
I agree the Police should b able to do their job, but advocating over reaction doesn’t help anybody (including the Police).
John Wayne + Conservative black lawyer(who no doubt saw benefit from reverse discrimination policies)no, that doesn’t add up(humorous though it is). I don’t think the proposed measures are over reaction at all, just an attempt to take some freedom from the troublemakers and give some freedom back to the decent law abiding tax paying people. To be able to walk our streets safely at night should be the norm. Check out this film of how beautiful and peaceful Oakland and the surrounding areas used to be:
People who lived in Oakland in the days portrayed in the film on post #31 are the ones who best understand what has been done to the People of California. Many of us also understand what is just ahead of us, 5 and 10 years out.
I suppose the People of California did it to themselves although there was a lot of help from the National Democratic Party and the Irish Collectivists who dominated it in the Mid-20th Century.
What we are facing is something like post Katrina New Orleans. Or worse. Don’t think the baby-boomers are going to hang around California in their retirement.
Too bad. It was once a really nice place.
You can only run a welfare state for so long before you lose your nice place. I remember the history classes and reading about the baloney that the Soviet Union put out to themselves about how wonderful Socialism was going to be for everybody. The Israeli’s have always believed the same garbage since the formation of their nation (of course they don’t have the “diversity” we do – so the decadence takes longer).
My advice for people just edging into this is to study the fall of the Soviet Union – and what happened after the fall. That’s what’s coming here but with a Katrina flavor.
This is an education blog – I post these comments because education is the leading edge of this disaster and maybe a way to slow it down. The pink slips and the furloughs are really a precursor and a warning for the smarter workers to plan accordingly and maybe change occupations – if they want to live well.
The Ella Baker Center has launced an action inspired by this story.
Good work! There have a letter addressed to all of the Republican senators that are refusing to let the tax extension bill go on the ballot. I signed it.
I am a newly credentialed teacher, waiting for a job (lol).
The battles going on (unions vs. charters, budget cuts vs. taxes, seniority vs. new, etc.) have no resolution in sight. I think that someone determined to make these “divide and conquer” issues, and we have been caught in the headlights. They are the ones to blame, not each other, but, blaming doesn’t really help.
I’ve worked in schools long enough to see that there is enough money for classroom supplies, to hold meetings and assemblies, have sports competitions, use existing equipment for social networking. But, we are prevented from doing so!
Here is a vision: students come to school and meet in the gym. Whoever does not want to participate can remain in the gym and do normal academic day studies. Areas are labeled: community work (including physically getting out into the community and working – mainly manually, to improve parks, litter patrols, etc.), fixing up the school (so that two janitors are not left to it) academics, phys ed., yoga/meditation/civics, communication (learning non-violent techniques), tech (including taking classes online together – there are zillions of them out there). Students go to one of those areas, based on a yearly plan – maybe they do two per year/five per year, whatever the overall plan is to make the student a functioning and productive member of society upon graduating. Teachers lead groups with project-based learning and work collaboratively to make it happen.
After (or during) lunch, students return to the gym. The morning is reviewed – in videos taken by students who captured their experience on flip cameras, by teachers, and in a recap by the principal. They have a pep-rally about their great work and then go to an afternoon area, which may be different from or a supplement to their morning work.
At the end of the day, teams reassemble and discuss plans for the afternoon and evening. Students connect on social networking after school and find out that an elderly neighbor, Ms. G needs groceries, and they go help her. Or math students meet to finish measuring their playground so they get ahead before school the next day (like I used to work after work in the corporate world to keep up. By the way, in the corporate world, I was paid well, but was not squelched by outmoded rules and regulations about doing things. I just talked to my project manager about my ideas and usually got the go-ahead!)
I’m finishing reading “Three Cups of Tea,” and connected with the Central Asia Institute to see whether their schools have the internet. Some do. Imagine working at a school there in those conditions. Let’s try to maintain perspective. The economy is bad all around and we are going to have to learn to rely on each other rather than fighting.
Thank you for letting me unleash some of my ideas. Yes, I’m a dreamer. Sorry to say that I have met teachers who are so bitter and hateful, they will never change. I hope to see many creative school reformers around the neighborhood.