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Showing posts from 2017

On Strike

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The public supports us.

Being on strike makes me proud. To see and hear the support of the public every morning on the picket line, I am further convinced L.A. teachers made the right choice to leave the classroom. It is not an easy choice for many single income teachers, but it is one of the reasons we are striking. Teachers should not have to live paycheck to paycheck when educating society's children.



But our strike is about more than that, and it seems the public is aware of what we have been concerned about for years. In the middle of one morning's picket session I realized that the education reformers had been so very wrong in what they were telling us. The public knows and understands that we know what's best for children in schools. They place their precious children in our hands to educate, and want us to do our job unencumbered by district edicts and structures that get in the way.

The public supports us.


Being on strike is not what I thought it would be. It is be…

FULBRIGHT: It is NOT a vacation

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Friday the 15th of December marked the last day of the school semester for me at Los Angeles Academy Middle School in South Central L.A. It also meant that I would not be returning to work until August of 2018.

Goodbye, 8th grade students matriculating to high school.

Goodbye, parents with whom I have collaborated for many years.

Hasta luego, colleagues and friends who will remain on the front to keep pushing our school forward.

It was not an easy farewell. But confoundingly, I was wished a happy vacation by various people. I smiled, and corrected them, but apparently this is a very common misconception encountered by Fulbrighters while on leave.

Imagine having a burning curiosity on a subject related to your work. Mine was the education system in Finland, and whether we could implement some of their best practices in the USA. You wish you had the time and the money to explore this esoteric topic, but everyone thinks you are crazy for even believing it could be possible. Except the F…

FULBRIGHT: I'm Moving to Finland

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When I tell people that come January, I will be living in Finland for 5 months, the reactions are shock, wonder, and admiration. "I wish I could get away for 5 months like that!" is a common reaction.

The truth is it is not so easy.
Your Job 

Most teachers who apply for a Fulbright tend to be intricately involved in the management of their schools. They are department chairs, coaches, coordinators, and many times all of the above. Aside from that, we have our own rolls of students we are committed to.

I had the opportunity to leave the classroom this year for the first time in 22 years. My Fulbright award definitely swayed me into the direction of taking on a full time Magnet Program Coordinator role. If I wasn't personally in charge of 150 students, it would make my departure easier to bear.

But no matter your role, knowing you will be leaving your school is a tough decision.  As January approaches, the decision is still a tough one to deal with.
Your Pay
Although Fulbr…

Dino-Mite

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FULBRIGHT: The Application; Am I Worthy?

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As a classroom teacher, milestones that determine your accomplishments are quite different than in other professions. Managing an unruly department can be an accomplishment. Applying for and earning a school grant is laudable. National Board Certification? Props.

But would these be enough to qualify me for a Fulbright?

The application itself was formidable. You can peruse it here.

The main focus of the application was previous travel experience and qualifications. Moving to a foreign country for 6 months is no joke, and I saw the questions as a way to gauge your sturdiness in adapting to foreign cultures. While  Finland is not dramatically different than the U.S., the climate is. Going from the land of eternal sunshine to 5 hours of daylight upon arrival will take some adjustment.

For my letters of recommendation, all those commissions in which I participated came in handy. I did not hesitate to ask leaders in education for a letter. They not only obliged, but cheered me on.

For my p…

FULBRIGHT: It Was One Year Ago Today

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In the midst of my 21st year of teaching, I get the email about applying for a Fulbright. It gave me pause.

When you have worked a career that involves so many moving pieces, it seems impossible to tear yourself away from your work. Who will take care of my Advanced Studies Program? How can I walk away from a school that faces dire challenges due to the surrounding poverty in the neighborhood? How could I afford this opportunity, if an unpaid leave of absence might be required?

Then I remembered that my students and families watch what teachers do, not what they say.

My whole career has been dedicated to affording the best educational practices to my students, regardless of their background. And when you think of the best, you think of Finland.

Maybe you've seen the Michael Moore video on Finnish education.



Maybe you've read Tim Walker's funny and informative posts on moving to Finland and learning about the schools and culture (my favorite was My Amathophobic Finnish Wif…

No to Gangs, Yes to STEM!

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Swimming with dolphins. Dissecting squid. Learning about conservation. Visiting a turtle rehabilitation center. Conducting water sampling. Visiting a coral reef. These are just some of the experience we have put together for the students who choose school over all the negative influences in the neighborhood. Would you consider donating and sharing? I THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!!!

No to Gangs, Yes to STEM!

Letters to the President

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Our very own alum, Elizabeth Chimalpopoca had her letter to the President published in this book! Congrats, Elizabeth!