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Homecoming at Oakland Tech

Lillian Mongeau and Becky Palstrom from Oakland North, a UC Berkeley School of Journalism blog, captured a quintessential slice of high school life in an audio slideshow about the Oakland Technical High School homecoming game (and the basic rules of football). Mongeau took the photos, and Palstrom interviewed the students and collected the audio.

I was highly entertained. You can find the slideshow here.

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Kids: Want a crash course in astrophysics? Juggling?


photo courtesy of Shuai Chen, co-founder of Splash

If you know a middle or high school student who has a free day this weekend and might be interested in, say, neuroscience, dancing, artificial intelligence, juggling, or painting, keep reading!

More than 100 Stanford University students are playing teacher for the weekend in a marathon learning session on the Palo Alto campus. It’s called Splash, and it runs Saturday and Sunday. The full price is $40 for both days (and $20 for siblings), but the event organizers say that participants who can’t afford the fee can just say so and they don’t have to pay anything.

You can learn more about Splash, and its (literally) 209 course offerings, here. This is the third time students have organized the event, and they expect up to 1,000 kids to participate. Those who haven’t registered online can just show up on Saturday or Sunday.

Can’t make it this weekend? They’re planning another one in April.

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Oakland’s first high school ice hockey team


photo by Ray Chavez/Tribune staff

Last year, I wrote about the 100 Oakland Technical High School kids who woke up extra early, three days a week, to skate at a downtown ice rink for a class started by P.E. teacher Kelley Haskins. (It’s still going strong this year, I’m told.)

Out of that unexpectedly popular class — and generous community support for the program, in the way of equipment grants, expertise and time — a coed hockey team has emerged. I went to the program’s first practice of the season yesterday, a clinic with the Sharks, and talked with players Rachel Potter, Katy Ramos-Thompson, Calvin Washington, Monica Elvin and Kamrin Lewis.

A story about the fledgling team, which will face its first opponent in January, will appear in tomorrow’s paper.

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Oakland high school teacher heads to Capitol Hill

Yumi Matsui, a Life Academy and Bay Area Writing Project teacher, heads to a Congressional briefing Monday to talk about digital storytelling — specifically, about the immigration-focused project she and another teacher led at their East Oakland school, and how the medium helped students become better writers.

Interested? Check out this 7-minute video about the Life Academy project, produced by the Pearson Foundation:

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A long view of public education in Oakland

Steven Weinberg retired in June after a long career in Oakland’s public middle schools. His wife, Georganne Ferrier, also retired from OUSD; she taught English at Oakland High. (True story: They met in 1967, on their first day of student-teaching at McClymonds). Weinberg will share his insights with us, from time to time, as a guest blogger. -Katy

When someone retires after 40 years of teaching, it is only fair to expect that he be able to offer some insight into the changes that have taken place over that period of time. There seems to be a general feeling that things are getting worse in American schools, but when I look back at the really dramatic changes in the past 40 years, all of them have been positive:

When I began teaching in 1969, there were students in my regular eighth grade English classes who could literally (or illiterately) not read 10 words. These were students who entered school before President Johnson’s War on Poverty had set up the Head Start Preschool program and Title One funding for schools in low income areas. Although we still have many students who read far below grade level, the complete non-reader has disappeared from regular classes at the schools where I have worked.

In my early years of teaching, I would have to send students on a daily basis to the nurse’s office to have essence of cloves put on their gums to give them relief from untreated dental problems. Between the fluoridation of water and the Medi-Cal dental program, these problems no longer interfere with students’ abilities to learn.

In the late 60s and early 70s, our school had to call ambulances regularly (certainly several times a month) to take students to the hospital for drug overdoses. Continue Reading

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Tips on getting into — and out of — college


photo by Laura A. Oda/Tribune

With the help of Matt Krupnick (and the quick thinking/typing skills of our guest, Cal State East Bay’s VP of enrollment, Greg Smith), I survived my first “live chat” this afternoon. We weren’t exactly overwhelmed with participants, but those who did join the discussion asked some good questions.

Sorry you missed it? Don’t be. You can read the entire thread Continue Reading

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A few curmudgeonly thoughts on responsibility

Late last month, I invited a recent high school graduate to write an advice column for an upcoming Sunday project that’s running in the Tribune and Contra Costa Times — a guide for college-bound middle and high school students and their families.

The student agreed, and we set an Aug. 10 deadline. On Aug. 11, after not receiving email responses in the previous week, I called to check in. The student was at the doctor’s office and couldn’t talk.

An hour or two later, this Twitter-sized message pops up in my email inbox:

“im pretty sure. i wont be able to do the column, i been feelings horrible lately.” Continue Reading

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Ink-free, 21st Century cheating

When I was in school, the kids who got busted for cheating on tests usually had smeared writing all over the insides of their hands. In this era, cheating is much neater – and, potentially, much easier. 

It’s also quite pervasive, according to a new report by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that advocates a safe and sane use of media and entertainment.

Here are the key findings from a recent poll: Continue Reading

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Two choices

Leo Jerald, a sophomore at Fremont Federation’s Media Academy, won a $500 scholarship for this essay in a statewide contest.

I am a young black male growing up in East Oakland. Where I come from, black males are given two choices in life, either school or selling narcotics. This may seem like an easy choice for you, but when your family is hungry and you are the man of the house, you can’t bring a school book home for dinner.

Continue Reading