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Showing posts from 2015

A Tale of Two Back to School Nights

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Excitement and enthusiasm were in the air as teachers in my new high school in a middle class neighborhood prepared their classrooms by decorating their bulletin boards, displaying student work, and straightening desks. Welcome messages abounded, Remind.com messages were sent, and we opened our doors to meet the parents.
I have done these events for 24 years, four times a year at my former school in South Central L.A. But this year’s Back to School Night left me reflecting, and perhaps shedding a tear.
First, my new parents were fantastic. They were friendly, enthusiastic, and supportive of the new ideas I bring to the school. I knew in them I would have allies to incorporate my findings from my Fulbright exchange in Finland earlier this year. Parent after parent nodded their heads and strongly affirmed that break time was important to students, teachers, and workers in general. They were excited to hear about the summer travel programs I had prepared.
As I looked at their warm and s…

To Be, or Not To Be a Lifer

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What do you do for the third act of your career?
Will you keep the promise of service to a challenged community that you made in your early career? (to drunk colleagues at a Margarita Jones?) ”We’re Lifers,” we all agreed, after our third round of margaritas.
Do you give yourself one final challenge and give yourself to other kids who need you just as much but in different ways?
What will you do when you only have 10 years of teaching left? (ish)
These are the questions that have left the Sensei in an existential funk for the last year or so.
Never bright eyed and bushy tailed, work at my last school (a middle school) was every bit the challenge I knew it would be. Questionable leadership, racial politics, and the massive effects of poverty on students made the teaching conditions there…unique. Yet, still, there were incredibly talented teachers who were making a dent in the system. A system where the odds were against these students and teachers, and little was done at an institutio…

The Sensei Goes to Sacramento

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Did you know that there is a blueprint for California schools? It's a road map that tells where schools are headed, and how they will get there. Check it out here.

Well now that document needs an update and the State Superintendent of Instruction, Tom Torlakson, has asked a classroom teacher to co-chair the update process of the blueprint. A teacher whose school is in South Central L.A...you guessed it. Me!
The Blueprint addresses important issues such as: Educator QualityCurriculum and AssessmentHigher Education and Secondary AlignmentAccountability and School ImprovementEarly Childhood EducationEducation SupportsHealth, Nutrition and Physical FitnessSchool FinanceFacilities and Construction Reform
Working with my co-chair Chris Steinhauser, the Superintendent of Long Beach Unified, will be a treat; I have much respect for someone who can manage a large district and avoid debacles like iPads and tech systems. His union-management agreement on teacher evaluations is a model for dis…

We Got Noticed!

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There's a write up about teacher bloggers in the latest CTA issue. This was one of the featured blogs! It's a bittersweet feeling. This blog was created in 2009 when our school was decimated by budget cuts and layoffs. Six years later the economy is finally recovering, but nothing is in place to make sure it never happens again.

Who tanked our economy? Why were the most vulnerable of our population the ones to bear the brunt of the recession? Why are the majority of public school students in poverty?

I'm really glad that CTA featured this blog and that the issues of students from poverty (and the teachers who teach them) are getting attention. This blog has led me to connect with some amazing educators and leaders from across the nation, especially those who tweet about #educolor on Twitter.

I hope that more teachers are encouraged to step outside of their classroom to blog or tweet and make their voices heard. Each school is its own ecosystem with particular and unique n…