Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Snow Day

After working in the private sector (part time between teaching appointments) I have come to appreciate snow days even more. One day the boss calls off work. Its amazing. For the kids it is, undoubtedly, the best days of the year. Few of them use the time to catch up on the school work that sometimes grinds them down in their hyper-preparation for college. It is as if everyone goes into suspended animation.
The American personality is one of a workaholic- until these magic days. I've often wondered, if we can all call it quits every-once-in-awhile is it really necessary to move at the breakneck speed we usually assume? Are we all as important as we think we are? Our schools do little to keep kids from thinking that all work and no play is the national expectation. Or else why would we pay any attention to this study?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

Today is a school day. I walked my usual route an hour later since snow has delayed the school opening. Because of the delay, the tests that were originally scheduled -high stakes, end-of-course tests for many of our students - have been postponed. A light snow fell yesterday covering over all the rough places as only new snow can, making them a shimmering, blanket of white. The sun is shining. The air is cold and clear.
Providence is at work.
At least that is the way I choose to view these serendipitous events that make it possible for our students to view history being made. Our first African American President is being sworn in at noon.
My students need to see this.
I need to see this.
It is the culmination of all the reasons we toil in classrooms every day, living the promise that is America. It is what I believe school is all about. Education: free to whomever wants it. Education: the great equalizer. We can BE our dreams.
I'm sure I'm going to cry today.
Though our new president has many hopes riding on his shoulders, I cannot bring myself to give up on the hope that this man will be an icon for so many of the disenfrachised youth we serve, those who have shown up for school, but for whatever reason, have been unable to take what is there for the claiming. If he does nothing else, my hope is that the representation of dreams realized through his presidency will inspire legions of children to take their place in creating a better world. It is the lesson I learned as a child in school. I want it to be true for all of our children.
Today, the lesson is: We Are One

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sidwell Friends

So...the President-Elect's children started in a new school yesterday. Everyone can relate to that. As an instructor of journalism I would have never taken a pass on this story. It has everything: cute kids, timeliness, wide appeal to every parent, pathos - all you need to build reader interest.

But this is a special school - a private one. Sidwell Friends is a Quaker school. (As a disclaimer, it is not far from where I grew up. My first cousin sent all five of her children there. Three attended the school while Chelsea Clinton was in attendance.) If I were President of the United States with a ten and seven-year-old child I would NEVER consider sending my children to a public school, so I don't fault the Obamas for their decision. I would make the same one. The safety of my children would supercede any other consideration - including how it might be perceived by the general public. I also applaud Obama for setting a great example for parents everywhere - arranging your work schedule around what is best for your children and making sure they had a smooth beginning to an important transition.

But President Obama has stated publicly that he wants the same thing for every child that he wants for his own: a good education with well trained teachers. Ever wonder what that is?

The Sidwell Friends website states a philosophy that fits with what I would want for all the children that I serve now. For instance: The faculty works to instill a feeling of self-worth and self-confidence in each student while also requiring that he or she recognize the needs of others. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal with a balance between freedom and discipline.

And: All classes, with the exception of one third grade class and one fourth grade class, have team teachers. Individual class sizes range from one teacher for every ten students in the lower grades to one teacher for every sixteen students in some fourth grade classes.

And: We offer these students a rich and rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum designed to stimulate creative inquiry, intellectual achievement and independent thinking in a world increasingly without borders.

Out of curiosity, I put the word "tests" in their search engine and could find no schedule of standardized testing with the exception of the SAT test. Sidwell serves as a testing site for the area.

The school sounds wonderful. The Quakers have always believed in quiet reflection and serving the surrounding community. I think all schools should be like that. In addition, there are many PDF files attached with great information on what to expect from developing children. My favorite was an outline on how to stretch teenagers without stressing them since academic pressures have an inverse effect on a teenager's well being.


Check it out here for yourself if you want to know what the President would like for every child in the United States. They are currently advertising for two PE teachers and an Art teacher ;-)