Wednesday, January 03, 2007

More insight on education from the grey lady.

Trying to Find Solutions in Chaotic Middle Schools has one of the better examples of poignant and unflourished journalism about education I've seen in a while.

Last 3 grafs:

The Seth Low seventh graders have their own theories about why middle school scores plummet.

Nadine George, 12, said she is struggling in science class now because she never understood it in elementary school, despite getting good grades on tests. “Not that I knew how to do it, but whatever was in my notes I just copied it down,” she cheerily elaborated.

Jeorge Coronado, 13, said he was distracted now by fights and girls, who were starting to “look mad good.” Fabiola Noel, 12, disclosed that during a recent math class, her mind wandered to the look of her hair. In the note that was torn up in science class, Lillian Safa, 13, had asked a friend why a third girl was ignoring her. Two weeks later, Lillian reported, they are once again friends.

The article itself is focused on a slew of educational trends for middle schools around the city and country, none of which have proven themselves yet.

Now normally, I find newspaper interviews of students patronizing, but for some reason I felt this just ended up being a great example of what middle school is like-- in all its pathetic and miserable glory.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Achievement Gap in NYTM

To remind this blog's readers (I can't believe you still exist, but you do!) about a really, really important Times magazine article discussing the achievement gap. Go read it now! As Ali G would say, "i hope you has listened up, let your mind be opened, peace!"


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Mozy on over to the new hip spot.

fellow-ette's got a brand new game.

Monday, October 16, 2006

First-Year Fellow-ette No more.

It's time to retire AGW.

Well, folks. From the miserable beginning to the musing middle to the absolute high point (that I didn't even write)--it's been a long ride. There were observations, "S"s that I thought were "U"s, secret traps sprung by my principal. Kids whipping up lighters, inviting their "goons" into my room, and threatening each other.
And wonderful moments of learning, bonding, feeling inspired or relaxed (though the later not much).

And then as a coda there was the almost happy ending when regents results came in. And the bittersweet emails from students when they realized I wasn't returning this fall.

This blog will still hang around so that people who type "disgruntled teacher" or "first-year teacher" or "New York City Teaching Fellows Sucks" or "NYCTF quit" or "Bad NYCTF" or even "Teachers Gone Wild" (pervy!) in google blogsearch can still see the entire damn experience, real and raw...just lying in wait for their perusal.

My final thoughts about inner-city teaching, urban teaching, or what have you are a few. First, I really think that the dumbing down of the curriculum, which seems to be a universal problem is a bad way to go. Duh. Oh, and "using the vernacular" to reach kids is a REALLY bad way to go. There ought to be a universal, semester-long grammar curriculum for ninth graders with constant assessment in the forms of quizzes and tests, and class sizes should be no more than 15, ever.
Easier said, I know. But what kids need, more than books that they can "relate to", or group work or do nows that are timed with a kitchen timer, is pride in themselves and where they're going. A sense of community can be instilled in any school beyond its name. "School for Arts and Sciences" is crap unless it's built up to be more by everyone involved. Unless every day, kids walk in and see pleasant facilities, an atmosphere of special care. And if schools like mine are going to become dumping grounds, then they need a patented approach and curriculum for dealing with troubled students.

The program for motivated, not necessarily gifted students, at which I now teach on Saturdays has given me a lot of hope, hope I didn't have last year. So that's a very happy ending for me. Now, on to more frivolous blogging.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What I've Been Up To

Shtuff Fellow-ette's been a-Readin:

Under the Banner of Heaven, By Jon Krakauer
. In Cold Blood stlye true-crime narrative mixed with sickly engrossing details about the ways of Mormon fundementalists, from the inbred horrors of Colorado City Az/Hillsdale Utah, to the raving lunatic who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart and took her as his second wife, so that he could "live the principle." Puts some context behind the soap-operaisms of Big Love.

44 Scotland Street, by Alexander McCall Smith.
An ode to Armistead Maupin's fucktastic Tales of the City series (if you haven't read it, read it!) set in stuffy Edinburigh. Smith's characterization and sympathy are well in evidence here, but the unresolved story lines and unnecessary philosophical meanderings make me long for Precious Ramotsowe!

Empire Falls, by Richard Russo.
I thought this book was a tour de force, a story of fractured, miserable small-town life post-industrial era, with jobs and dignity fled, and childhood rivalries playing out in the next generation. A really straightforward, but tragically deep, narrative with (do I hear it?) echoes of Middlemarch. Or maybe that's Middlesex?

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
A ripping good yarn, and an examination of the tragedy, the layers of violence, that is modern Afghanistan. Perhaps some of the symbolism is too overt, the parallels too pat, but I couldn't put it down!

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bridge's Subway Adventures, Part Deux

Yo, so check it. It was the day of atonement. I hadn't had any food or coffee. I was standin' at my local subway stop, the 1-9-1, when in rolls this train. There are four honeys standing between me and that dirty-ass seat on the A train, which will take me to the house of the Lord to seek entry into that Book of Life.
They take their time getting on board. And suddenly the doors are closing on me, literally, frightening. Like the seasoned New Yorker I am, I push through. I curse, not loudly but with expressive lip-movement. I sit down, flushing with the rawness of the fact that I am mid-sin on Yom Kippur.
I hear giggling. Four of my new students are sitting across from me, having seen the whole thing. Fortunately, I salvage a modicum of dignity by applying dry sarcasm to the situation.
Doesn't this just seem destined to happen to moi?

So the New York Times says reading the Torah makes you a good parent... I always thought being a good parent makes you a good parent. You learn something new every day.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

SNL: You're on notice.

What makes me think Matthew Perry has taken over as head writer of Saturday Night Live?

I decided during last night's premiere that there's something more than a wee bit wrong with SNL these days. The show has become profoundly conservative. Unlike shows on cable run by Stewart, Colbert and Co, (and even Trey Parker and Matt Stone) which critique conventional wisdom and the status quo, SNL parrots our cultural idiocy, jumping on the bandwagon of mocking anyone who is already being lampooned or chastised by the press. For instance, Darrel Hammond coming out in Bill Clinton regalia and calling his Fox News interview a "hissy fit" is simply put, BO-RING, and also rather reactionary. That the big political joke came from an alleged affair between Clinton and Condoleeza Rice is a sign of just how dry the well has run.

The only belly-laugh moments of the entire broadcast came in "Hugo Chavez' political round up" which brought together Kim Jong Il, Ahmadnejad, Chavez and Musharraf... and while the individual caricatures were hilarious, the jokes could have been much more pointed (no Holocaust denial? No reinforcement of the fact that some of Chavez' criticisms might be legit?). The skit ended with a lame gesture to the all-American audience; if the dictators could live in any country, they all averred, it would be the United States. There went the edge.

Seth Myers, who replaces Tina "I want to be a cool girl like Lindsey-Lohan" Fey at the Weekend Update desk, actually had much sharper zingers than Amy Poehler did, and didn't get the applause he deserved. And Brian Williams, who cameoed for five minutes, showed seriously impressive acting chops. Maybe he is the right choice for fillin Tom "Jesus lacks my authority" Brokaw's shoes. Meanwhile host Dane Cook, is quite possibly the worst comedian in the history of the genre: you know who he hates? "Negative people, man." Me too, Dane. Me too.

Also, the Killers were kind of cute and awesome.

over and out.



Nude art deemed offensive; gets teacher canned!

The Times has been on fire with its educational articles recently, revealing just how horrifying American values, as shown in its public schools, can be.

The first piece is the one that, as a certain brother of mine says, makes one want to be a lawyer. A veteran art teacher in the Texas school system took her class to the art museum, only to find herself verbally disciplined, suspended, and her contract under threat of termination because of a few nude sculptures in the gallery.

This is our society. We let our children play with toy guns, watch violent movies and video games, and some of us let them get the crap beaten out of them by way of punishment in school. but NUDE SCULPTURES are unnacceptable? And then of course, a morally and educationally bankrupt school administration stands with the parents and uses the dirty, dirty trick of complaining that the field trip was disorganized/the teacher had other problems on her previously clean record. It's just enough to make one's blood boil, and thik that our public schools should be razed and built again with all the money we're pumping in to foreign conflicts. UGH. Not to mention our pseudo-puritan values.

What were the sculptures, by the way?

"the marble torso of a Greek youth from a funerary relief, circa 330 B.C.; its label reads, “his nude body has the radiant purity of an athlete in his prime.” She passed sculptor Auguste Rodin’s tormented “Shade;” Aristide Maillol’s “Flora,” with her clingy sheer garment; and Jean Arp’s “Star in a Dream.”"

Oh my God! The scuptures had anatomy! Imagine what they would have said had there been Titians and Michelangos on display.

On a more positive note, my first Saturday morning grammar class was on the successful side. I realized that working with these bright, eager, kids, the problems are 90%pedagogy and 10% management, as opposed to... you know. The other way around.


altruism gone wild.
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