Sunday, June 28, 2009

Don't throw anyone out

Another wonderful quote from the Daily Ray of Hope:
People, even more than things,
have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed;
never throw out anyone.

-- Audrey Hepburn
I'm afraid some teachers have been tempted to throw some students out, or the equivalent, just moving them on, even though they haven't managed to teach them what they will need to know in the next grade.

I had a student once (high school English in Denmark) whose teachers had unanimously said she wouldn't be able to manage high school, and wanted her to go out and learn a trade. I quickly figured out that she was dyslexic, but had a fine mind, and could speak English at grade level. So we worked on reading and writing skills, and she ended with a C in the class, after receiving D's and F's all the way through grade school. What were they thinking?

Saturday, June 20, 2009


In between finishing off all the writing assignments for my course, I am reading a book that I think will provide me with very useful insight into the minds of our African American students in our classrooms: Through Ebony Eyes: What Teachers Need to Know But Are Afraid to Ask About African American Students, by Gail L. Thompson.

One of the topics she writes about, using her own autobiography, is Resilience. How do some children, with every imaginable condition against them, manage to pull through and get where even a lot of people with "ordinary" backgrounds get.

The LA Times ran an article today about just such a person: She finally has a home: Harvard. The young woman in the story had been homeless most of her life, but she knew she was smart, because she'd tested as a "gifted child" and her mother encouraged her.
As long as she can remember, Khadijah has floated from shelters to motels to armories along the West Coast with her mother. She has attended 12 schools in 12 years; lived out of garbage bags among pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers. Every morning, she upheld her dignity, making sure she didn't smell or look disheveled.
By high school she knew that her gift would help get her out of the squalor she'd grown up in, so she found good mentors, and even a home where she could live the last few years to complete her schooling. And she is already in Cambridge, participating in a special program to help her adjust to the Harvard culture.

I am looking forward to reading another story in the LA Times (in paper format, I hope!) in four years, celebrating her graduation from Harvard. She's just beginning, and it will be extremely hard. But I think Harvard will supply her with all the mentors she needs to get there. I wish her well!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Another quote from my Daily Ray of Hope:
You can't do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.
-- Evan Esar
I think I am definitely expanding the width and depth of my life with my math teacher training, but I could sure use more time to expand into these days. For about 4 weeks this summer I am practice teaching summer school Algebra I with 2 other fellow students, with classes from 7:30 and to about 1:15 pm and at least an hour of consultation and planning afterward. (The verdict so far: I really need to understand classroom management better. For some reason I seem to be tolerating a louder level of murmuring, but the kids in the back of the class aren't necessarily being able to follow along.) Add to that 3 hours of classes every night from 4:30 to 7:30 through next Wednesday plus any group work (see The Adolescent Dilemma) for our project (.) The following week week it will be from 3-7 pm. And then we have many books to read, reports to write, a portfolio to create, and a long "ethnography" which starts now with about 25 pages and will continue through the next 3 semesters. In the Fall, we'll be teaching our own classes (have to learn that classroom management before then!) and having Saturday classes.

So time is important. But otherwise, I'm enjoying it, and definitely broadening my experience of this place I now live, math, and the young people who will be our future, but don't really understand that yet.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Adolescent Dilemma

We need your opinion!

In my Pre-teaching class at Claremont Graduate University, we have read a book called Adolescents at School, edited by Michael Sadowski. Then we formed groups to do a project around one chapter in the book.

My group took Chapter 2, "Joaquin's Dilemma": Understanding the Link between Racial Identity and School-Related Behaviors".

Part of our project is to get your comments to scenarios on our little blog, The Adolescent Dilemma.

  • Please click the link and add your comments, and take the small quizzes. We'll report back in a week.


If you wonder where I've been all this time, I've been right here, typing away at homework assignments for my very concentrated class at Claremont Graduate University, whose motto is:
Commitment to Social Justice and Accountability
We have a 3-week course called Teaching & Learning Principles (T/PL) which covers all the basics with thousands of pages of reading assignments, written reading responses, modeling of teaching methods, writing the first part of our "Ethnography" - our MA thesis - which will be about some of our students. But part I is about us. As well as preparing a variety of other deliverables (business word, sorry.)

Among these is a blog The Adolescent Dilemma, which we hope to have live tonight. Please visit it and comment on our questions when you see it. If you Follow it, you'll be able to read all the comments, and recomment as well.

How to teach...

On the Beach
Originally uploaded by Darrell Wyatt
It's all out there,
floating free,
waiting for you
to pull it down
and anchor it.
-- Ann Bernays
-As used on the Sierra Club Daily Ray of Hope today.