Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book Recommendation

Before I take off for Iceland this week and check out their penis museum (no seriously, check this out), I have to recommend you read The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch. 

This book provides an excellent history of the education system in the United States and offers some critical analysis on the new direction reform is taking. Honestly, reading this book was an eye-opener at times: I have seriously begun to question some of the people and things Teach for America supports (Joel Klein for one). 

Anyone in the trenches of teaching can appreciate this book's critique of teacher accountability and high stakes testing movements. Ravitch herself admits that she was once on the testing and accountability bandwagon; she then explains why she changed her mind and why she hopes it's not too late for others to do so either. It's a book for both sides of the debate to read.
If you're even interested somewhat in education, get this book. Or borrow it from me. Whatevs.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bloomberg Launches Young Men's Initiative

I know I'm supposed to be on hiatus, but a lot of people have been asking me my opinion on Bloomberg's recently announced Young Men's Initiative (read about it in the New York Times here). In-depth detail on the initiative and their goals can be found here.

To summarize, the program has approximately $130 million to use in a variety of ways to help reduce the "disparities slowing the advancement of black and Latino young men." This targeted strategy wiill include establishing new fatherhood classes, mentoring and literacy services, opening job-recruitment centers in public-housing complexes, retraining probation officers to help those who have been incarcerated from repeating criminal offenses, and finally, assessing schools based on black and Latino students' academic progress.

Overall, I'm very excited that we're finally not taking a "one size fits all" strategy to fix education. 

In my two years of teaching thus far, I probably haven't seen shit compared to master teachers who have ten, twenty, even thirty years of experience. However, I have learned a lot about education, family, poverty, and class. I don't think programs like Teach for America are the answer in closing the achievement gap; Teach for America is great in that it gets people who normally wouldn't have considered education to take a look. But it's not going to fix a deep-seated issue such as educational inequity or poverty by itself. You need the will of the people and political backing for that.

It's my belief that the answer will ultimately come from fixing a child's support system and extended network. Then, we can focus on better teachers, schools, etc. The Young Men's Initiative seems to target just what we need to target first. If a student has a strong foundation of people to push him or her, then it really doesn't matter how great or terrible their teacher, school or district is. They will find a way to learn, prosper and succeed.

I have to say, I respect Mayor Bloomberg. The guy may have made some bad choices with regards to education in the past, but he doesn't stop trying. He isn't afraid to try something new, see that it doesn't work, and then try something else. This is more than what we can say about others in his field. Plus, he's pumping $30 million of his own wealth into this program, that's admirable. What politicians do you know who have the balls and heart to do that? I can think of a few who did quite the opposite, local and international

I still think Bloomberg is in the wrong about his "testing and accountability" initiative, which hurts students more than anyone else. Let's hope he figures that out soon.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hiatus #2

August has to be my favorite month of the summer: it's not too hot, there's always a nice breeze, and fall-time television is right around the corner. And by fall-time television, I'm talking about the upcoming sixth season of Dexter. What am I going to do when this show ends?
What makes August even more significant is that it kicks off "back-to-school" season. I can almost smell it in the air. It reminds of me of carrying around a school supply list at Wal-Mart while my mom pushed a shopping cart full of one-subject notebooks, folders, pens, #2 pencils, markers and of course, a new lunch box that indicated to the world what cartoon I was into at the time. Cowabunga, dude.
In September, I'll start my third year of teaching high school mathematics at a transfer high school serving over-age, under-credited youth. From now until I return to the classroom, I'm going to maximize "me" time. I'm talking Christian Bale in American Psycho style "me" time where he can't help but look at himself in the mirror and flex while having sex. Oh yeah. And let's face it readers, there's nothing better than time with me. Isn't that why you're reading this instead of updating those TPS reports? No wonder you people want to hang out with me so much. It all makes sense now.

The plan is to exercise, read, watch mindless television (season four of Jersey Shore in particular) and enjoy New York City for two weeks. This will be followed by a two week vacation to Iceland, which I'm really looking forward to. One week driving around the island, another week in the capital city of Reykjavik.

I may write a short post here or there in the mean time, but don't expect anything too juicy until I return. That's what she said.