by thanker212, via flickr.com/creativecommons
This morning on NPR, there was a show (I tuned in late, but I think it was this segment on “Talk of the Nation”) dedicated to thanking a teacher who had made a difference in your life.
I thought of my sixth-grade English teacher, Mr. Belloumini, a quirky man who rarely stayed on topic and loved to tell long, circuitous stories. But Mr. B was the one who made me see writing as something other than a formula or a set of rules, who guided me through my first real short story and my first poem. I might have pursued another (more sensible!) career, had I not fallen for writing in his class 20 years ago. And yet, I’ve never told him that.
On this Thanksgiving weekend, what teacher would you like to thank? Tell us about them. And teachers: How often do your students or families express gratitude for your work, and how do they do it? What does it mean to you when they do?
Lara Trale, who teaches the sophomore English classes at Oakland High School’s Environmental Science Academy, wrote this piece about an ongoing class project — with help from some of her students.
photo courtesy of Katie Noonan, co-director of Oakland High School’s Environmental Science Academy
Stop by Lake Merritt most Tuesdays, and you’ll see dozens of high school students pulling up samples of the lake’s algae-rich water, squinting into refractometers, and peering down as a lowered Secchi disk disappears into the murk.
This is routine for the 70 sophomores of Oakland High School’s Environmental Science Academy, who have been recording water quality data since September 20 as part of their ongoing monitoring of Lake Merritt. They analyze the lake’s turbidity, salinity, density, dissolved oxygen levels, and acidity. They record water and air temperatures. Microscope analysis of a plankton tow reveals some of the smallest marine organisms living in Lake Merritt.
photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group
Teachers from two East Oakland elementary schools are on a mission to shake up the status quo in the Oakland school district.
This fall, they voted to turn their schools — ASCEND and Learning Without Limits – into independently run charters so that they could have more control over staffing, curriculum, budgeting and other things, such as the school calendar. Hearings on those charter conversion petitions and others begin at 6 p.m. Monday evening in the district office at 1025 Second Avenue.
But the teachers at these two schools have goals beyond charter conversion. They want to organize like-minded educators around some of their ideas, such as changing the way teachers are evaluated. They also want to do away with a layoff system driven almost entirely by credential and years of service in a district (though they’re not against including seniority as a factor). They, like the union’s current leaders, think teachers should have more say in what materials they use to teach children.
At the Oakland Education Association’s membership meeting last week the teachers circulated a flier that said: Continue Reading
photo from Brian Sims’ site on flickr.com/creativecommons
Before the Nov. 2 general strike, some Oakland teachers said they wished they had more time to prepare lessons about the Occupy movement. Now that two weeks have passed, I’m curious to hear how teachers have approached the subject in class.
It must be challenging to teach current events like this, as the situation can shift in a matter of hours. On the other hand, given Oakland’s role in the movement, I imagine it’s easier for students to connect what’s happening nationally to their own lives. It might also be an effective way to bring to life topics relating to the economy, banking and government, such as tax rates and the power of campaign contributions and mass protests such as this.
So, tell us: How are you teaching it? Have your class discussions reflected multiple points of view? I found this lesson plan on the New York Times website. The author also invites students to add their comments here.
I welcome students (and parents) to add their comments, too — about the movement and what they’d like to learn about it.
I’ll be blogging about the general strike for the Tribune tomorrow, and I’d love to hear how the day is shaping up for staff and families in the city’s schools. If you think of it, send me an email (email@example.com), message me on Facebook (facebook.com/KatyEMurphy) or post a comment below with your plans, thoughts and stories.
If you’ll be posting photos and updates on Twitter, send me your name so I can follow you! Mine is @katymurphy.
Here’s what I have so far:
- All district-run schools will remain open tomorrow.
- OUSD has gotten 268 requests for substitute teachers, compared to 24 for last Wednesday. Continue Reading
On Wednesday night at Oakland Technical High School, the Oakland school board votes on a staff resolution to close five elementary schools, Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe. But the board is expected to be presented with another downsizing proposal, too: The faculties at two other schools, ASCEND and Learning Without Limits, have voted to secede from OUSD and operate those schools as independently run charters.
You can read more about it here. That story will be in Tuesday’s Tribune. (And here is a link to a Sunday story about school closures.)
David Braden, a technology prep teacher and Bay Area Writing Project consultant teacher at Oakland’s Bella Vista Elementary School, wrote this essay after learning two of his colleagues would be moved, or “consolidated,” to different schools next week — in mid-October. I wrote about the issue too, in this story. – Katy
The Merriam Webster app on my Droid tells me the word “consolidate” has three different meanings: 1) to join together into one whole, 2) to make firm or secure or 3) to form into a compact mass. I looked it up because today our principal informed us that our school would be consolidated.
Leaving the third definition aside for a moment, it sounds like a pretty good thing. Unity, firmness, security are all admirable qualities that would be welcome in any environment, but especially an elementary school. A staff that is united around discipline with consistent rules and consequences gives students a sense of security. If a staff unites around a clear curriculum, then students will have a firm grasp of what they need to know before graduating to the next level of schooling.
These qualities also describe what we want for our students. Continue Reading
Today, I wrote about the practice of moving teachers from school to school, weeks into the school year, to balance the budget. It’s happening to five Oakland teachers this year, including Breianna Davis, shown above with her kindergarten students at Carl B. Munck Elementary School. Next week, she’ll be at another school, and her 22 students will be divided among the remaining kindergarten and first-grade teachers at Munck.
Three other elementary schools will undergo a similar adjustment: Bella Vista (which is losing two teachers), Laurel and Community United. All but one are kindergarten teachers.
According to Brigitte Marshall, the district’s new director of HR, the original list of consolidations was at least three times as long. Troy Flint, the district spokesman, said 400 fewer students enrolled than expected (and 28 fewer at Munck), creating a $1.4 million deficit. As I’ve written before, many families don’t show up on the first day — or even the first week — of school, which makes it hard to make staffing changes early in the school year. They rely on a count taken on Day 20, which is in late September.
But I imagine such explanations make little sense to the teachers and families making this kind of adjustment on the eighth week of school.
Stay tuned for a guest blog post from a teacher at Bella Vista.
A new report calls for school districts to publish student disciplinary statistics by school, race and gender, to help teachers learn how to keep order in their classrooms without kicking kids out, and to create a disciplinary system that doesn’t result in out-of-school suspensions of large numbers of students — particularly black students.
The policy brief, by the University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center and UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, reminded me to check in with what’s happening in Oakland Unified on the discipline-and-race front.
A plan proposed by the Oakland school district’s African American Male Achievement Task Force would do some of the things suggested in the report — and even go beyond.
One of the task force’s recommendations, listed on page 14, is to identify teachers who refer a certain number of black students for suspension based on “defiance” — the vast majority of cases, according to spokesman Troy Flint — as well as principals at schools high expulsion rates for black males: Continue Reading
photo of Kristen Casaretto by Hasain Rasheed Photography
Did anyone watch Education Nation on NBC last week? It highlighted the work of three teachers, including Teach for America alum Kristen Casaretto, who teaches fourth grade at Think College Now in East Oakland.
Talk about courage — the segment includes a live video feed from Casaretto’s classroom during a math lesson. (The above link takes you right to the Oakland part; to see the whole “Classrooms in Action” segment, go here.)
At one point, `Today’ show host Ann Curry says to Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach For America: “In this particular school, the numbers — I’ve gotta be honest with you — are not great … but these numbers are going up dramatically every single year.”
Kopp responds by saying she saw “a whole different set of data,” particularly for math — numbers that put the school on par with schools in Palo Alto, a district often used to illustrate the top half of the achievement gap. She went on to praise the teaching staff at Think College Now and its turnaround.