Thursday, December 23, 2010

TFA REPORT: Fall 2010

Here is what I have discovered. Each of my 3 new kids is crying (with real tears) to me about the conditions they face. They get little to no support other than to tell them what to do, but not how. In one case, there was not a face-to-face conversation about teaching with an AP until November. In fact that was after I first saw her. As I said in one comment box, they have been dumped nostril high in quicksand and no one is helping them out except us. I don't know what the other field specialists working with TFA kids are saying but this seems to be a wide spread thing.

We have here another example of the stress these kids are put under. The reason for the 2s are because this R. and my other candidates have no time do those things at a higher level. Even with that, The emails I get from them are often addressed at 4:00 AM, yes, 4:00 AM because of all of the non teaching work they are forced to do on top of the real work of planning, assessing, and providing feedback.

In fact because of all the forms they must fill out for TFA and their school, (even this), and the other time consuming anti teaching rituals they are forced to do, not only don't they have the time to accurately assess their 130 students as we would like, they cant even devote the time to good lesson planning, so they work with the worksheets and other cookie cutter LPs provided by TFA or these schools following the I, you, we format or some other such "workshop" model. They run to TFA headquarters in Manhattan to find and make copies of "teacher- proof, formulaic, guided worksheet-lps.

There is little teaching going on. They are caught between a rock and a hard place. They see the value of what we give but are afraid to use it or they will be accused of not following the rules the school has set for them. When I ask if it would help for me to talk to their APs or supervisors, they decline. They are afraid, especially if their immediate supervisor is a TFA trained person. This is different from the several schools where I have had great chats with principals and APs who are open to a myriad of ideas.

My first years talk to me about trying to make their kids responsible for their work and training them to learn skills like taking and organizing notes, but it doesn't fit the LP structure they are given. As a result one receives warnings and "U"s. I have watched her in two classes, and with proper training she, as all three of my TFAs this year can and will be good teachers, but not under the conditions they work in now and using the types of planning and assessing they are being told to use.

RESPONSES so far:

MB: I work with Principals and assistant principals, they are not getting any support from the system and are so very young that they really need a senior supervisor to mentor them.Both new teachers and new administrators need to learn how to get along and play well with each other.

RR: As much as I hated the idea of having a field specialist to report to 10 times my first year, our meetings were the only practical mentoring I received. I would have drowned in the quicksand without you, Dave! Hopefully your new TFA group heeds your advice on how to become a true teacher.

MD: Preach!

Mark Naison This is so depressing. We are setting up these bright idealistic people to fail. We have created schools systems filled with fear because of the constant pressure for "assessment and accountability."

JB:I'm not on Facebook, so I did not see it - and thank you for sending it to me. It's amazing and it makes me pissed off all over again that they are bending smart and creative people to their ideology and telling them they are not good teachers (which is absurd, because at the beginning it's all about potential). And they're so overwhelmed and afraid of some asshole administrator (who probably only taught 3 years anyway) taking revenge because they're not teaching according to their TFA-dictated objectives that they suffer through it, when it doesn't have to be that way. The observations that the TFA people give them is all bullshit lingo anyway, it means nothing, gives you no guidance, and it gives them a way to come back on you if the organization gets tired of you.

And the goddamn crap curricular stuff that they give you! My God, it's worse than worthless because you think it's good ("teacher proof!") and then you bring it into the classroom and you start using it and you realize that it's USELESS, and by that point, chaos has ensued and you don't have a backup plan. I just found a hundred copies of some crap reading worksheet from TFA that I had run off in my frantic first weeks while I was cleaning out the apartment; the benefit of hindsight (and experience) is that I was able to look at it and realize WHAT absolute garbage it was.

Although I sorely miss the kids that I taught and I regret leaving them, I think traditional route is a much better option. TFA makes you think that you'll be blacklisted from teaching forever and everywhere if you leave them, but I just got my sub certificate and I'm volunteering with middle schoolers at an after school program, so I'm getting back into the game.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sometimes Superman- And Lois Lane- Live Next Door- What We Can Learn About Teaching from the Pruitts of E 168th Street

Sometimes Superman- And Lois Lane- Live Next Door- What We Can Learn About Teaching from the Pruitts of E 168th Street
Dr Mark Naison, Fordham University
Today, I had a chance to spend time with two members of the most amazing family of educators I know, the Pruitt’s of East 168th Street in the Morrisania Section of the Bronx. The Pruitt family, who moved a small row house on 168th Street in the early 1940’s when the neighborhood was mostly Jewish, had five children all of whom became teachers- Harriet ( McFeeters) who worked more than 40 years in the Bronx as a teacher, principal and assistant district superindent James, who taught social studies in Bronx High Schools along with a stint running the Upward Bound Program at Fordham; Bess, who was a gym and dance instructor at Evander Childs High School and founded one of the first dance promotion companies run by a Black woman, and Henry and Janet, who were teachers and school administrators in Englewood and Newark, respectively.
At a time when improving our public schools, especially in poor and working class communities, has become a national obsession, it is astonishing to me that no one in the New York City Department of Education has sought to draw upon the experiences of this remarkable family for clues to how recruit and retain talented teachers Every one of these remarkable individuals spent their entire professional life as teachers and school administrators and achieved remarkable success in inspiring students who worked with them and teachers who worked under their leadership.
But the idea of recruiting lifetime educators seems to have low priority for those guiding America’s school systems. Teach For America, the largest and most prestigious alternate certification program in the nation, actually promotes teaching in poverty schools as a pathway for entering more prestigious careers ( TFA once put up a poster at Fordham explaining how joining TFA could improve one’s chances of getting into Stanford Business School!) and keeps only a fraction of its recruits in the classroom for more than five years. Under the Bloomberg/Klein regime in New York, the Department of Education has made a concerted effort to replace veteran teachers with newcomers from alternative certification programs, many of whom burn out and leave in two or three years. The idea of recruiting people who grew up in working class neighborhoods and giving them first class training so they can return as teachers to the neighborhoods they grew up doesn’t fit in the business models dominating educational policy, which look to maximum flexibility and mobility in the educational workforce
However, when it comes to teaching, flexibility and mobility may not be the traits we are looking for. The best teachers do more than impart skills and subject matter to their students; they build relationships that last a lifetime. I have seen this first hand with the two members of the Pruitt family I know best, Jim Pruitt and Harriet McFeeters.
You cannot go anywhere in the Bronx with these two individuals without running into someone who was one of their students, or their colleagues. Invariably, there are hugs, kisses and comments to me about how the person I was with either changed their life ( if they were a student) or helped them do their job better ( if they were a teacher or principal). But my evidence for this is not just based on individual encounters. I had the privilege of attending the retirement party for Jim Pruitt when he finally left teaching that was attended by more than two hundred people, most of whom were his former students from Morris and Kennedy High Schools. I also, almost every year, drop in on the Fordham Upward Bound Reunion, where more than 50 Black and Latino men who grew up in the Bronx reminisce about the experiences they had under Jim Pruitt’s mentorship.
There are a few things about the Pruitt family history that might provide clues to their success. They grew up in an African American family working class family where learning and public service were held up as ideals irrespective of the wealth one possessed. Each child attended New York City public schools and attended New York public universities. And two members of the family Bess and Harriet, lived in the family house in Morrisania during all the years they worked in the Bronx public schools, years that included an arson and abandonment cycle that decimated many portions of their neighborhood, a fiscal crisis took music, arts and after school programs out of the public schools, and a crack epidemic that destroyed many young people and their families. Through all this, Bess and Harriet remained in their neighborhood and remained in Bronx schools, guiding young people who others gave up on and mentoring new teachers who came in to work for them.
If you are looking for Superheroes, educators whose experience may hold the key to helping young people growing up in poverty embrace education, the best place to look may not be in the Charter Schools of Harlem, but in a little row house on East 168th Street between Prospect and Union Avenues in the Morrisania section of the Bronx.
I know that’s where I go when I’m looking for inspiration, along with a great public school in the Bronx, PS 140, headed by a remarkable principal, Paul Cannon, who grew up only two blocks away from the Pruitts.
Maybe someday, when the people running our schools stop looking to Wall Street or Hearst Publications for guidance, they will turn to the people who have a proven track record for educating inner city youth, and who did it- and are doing it- in the neighborhoods they grew up in.
Mark Naison, December 22 2010
Dr Mark Naison, Fordham University
Today, I had a chance to spend time with two members of the most amazing family of educators I know, the Pruitt’s of East 168th Street in the Morrisania Section of the Bronx. The Pruitt family, who moved a small row house on 168th Street in the early 1940’s when the neighborhood was mostly Jewish, had five children all of whom became teachers- Harriet ( McFeeters) who worked more than 40 years in the Bronx as a teacher, principal and assistant district superindent James, who taught social studies in Bronx High Schools along with a stint running the Upward Bound Program at Fordham; Bess, who was a gym and dance instructor at Evander Childs High School and founded one of the first dance promotion companies run by a Black woman, and Henry and Janet, who were teachers and school administrators in Englewood and Newark, respectively.
At a time when improving our public schools, especially in poor and working class communities, has become a national obsession, it is astonishing to me that no one in the New York City Department of Education has sought to draw upon the experiences of this remarkable family for clues to how recruit and retain talented teachers Every one of these remarkable individuals spent their entire professional life as teachers and school administrators and achieved remarkable success in inspiring students who worked with them and teachers who worked under their leadership.
But the idea of recruiting lifetime educators seems to have low priority for those guiding America’s school systems. Teach For America, the largest and most prestigious alternate certification program in the nation, actually promotes teaching in poverty schools as a pathway for entering more prestigious careers ( TFA once put up a poster at Fordham explaining how joining TFA could improve one’s chances of getting into Stanford Business School!) and keeps only a fraction of its recruits in the classroom for more than five years. Under the Bloomberg/Klein regime in New York, the Department of Education has made a concerted effort to replace veteran teachers with newcomers from alternative certification programs, many of whom burn out and leave in two or three years. The idea of recruiting people who grew up in working class neighborhoods and giving them first class training so they can return as teachers to the neighborhoods they grew up doesn’t fit in the business models dominating educational policy, which look to maximum flexibility and mobility in the educational workforce
However, when it comes to teaching, flexibility and mobility may not be the traits we are looking for. The best teachers do more than impart skills and subject matter to their students; they build relationships that last a lifetime. I have seen this first hand with the two members of the Pruitt family I know best, Jim Pruitt and Harriet McFeeters.
You cannot go anywhere in the Bronx with these two individuals without running into someone who was one of their students, or their colleagues. Invariably, there are hugs, kisses and comments to me about how the person I was with either changed their life ( if they were a student) or helped them do their job better ( if they were a teacher or principal). But my evidence for this is not just based on individual encounters. I had the privilege of attending the retirement party for Jim Pruitt when he finally left teaching that was attended by more than two hundred people, most of whom were his former students from Morris and Kennedy High Schools. I also, almost every year, drop in on the Fordham Upward Bound Reunion, where more than 50 Black and Latino men who grew up in the Bronx reminisce about the experiences they had under Jim Pruitt’s mentorship.
There are a few things about the Pruitt family history that might provide clues to their success. They grew up in an African American family working class family where learning and public service were held up as ideals irrespective of the wealth one possessed. Each child attended New York City public schools and attended New York public universities. And two members of the family Bess and Harriet, lived in the family house in Morrisania during all the years they worked in the Bronx public schools, years that included an arson and abandonment cycle that decimated many portions of their neighborhood, a fiscal crisis took music, arts and after school programs out of the public schools, and a crack epidemic that destroyed many young people and their families. Through all this, Bess and Harriet remained in their neighborhood and remained in Bronx schools, guiding young people who others gave up on and mentoring new teachers who came in to work for them.
If you are looking for Superheroes, educators whose experience may hold the key to helping young people growing up in poverty embrace education, the best place to look may not be in the Charter Schools of Harlem, but in a little row house on East 168th Street between Prospect and Union Avenues in the Morrisania section of the Bronx.
I know that’s where I go when I’m looking for inspiration, along with a great public school in the Bronx, PS 140, headed by a remarkable principal, Paul Cannon, who grew up only two blocks away from the Pruitts.
Maybe someday, when the people running our schools stop looking to Wall Street or Hearst Publications for guidance, they will turn to the people who have a proven track record for educating inner city youth, and who did it- and are doing it- in the neighborhoods they grew up in.
Mark Naison, December 22 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dispatches: A Former TFA Teacher

. video


My name is John Bilby and I was a TFA teacher from September 2009 until March 2010.  I left the organization because I felt that it does not adequately prepare its people to serve the poorest children in public schools.  I also think that TFA is more interested in power, access, and influence in the federal game of education than it is concerned with resolving educational inequity.  Its "corps members" are merely a means to this end, providing the organization with a front while it pursues the goals of its donors, namely to remodel public education in this country in order to favor a high-turnover, non-unionized workforce in charters run by hedge-fund managers for tax breaks.  I foresee this further stratifying our public education system into one in which children with disabilities, children who don't speak English, and children who do not do well on standardized tests are funneled into a public education system in a constant state of crisis due to continuous budget cutting.  I still believe, however, in the democratic power of public education and the right of the people to vote out those who might infringe upon it, and I am currently enrolled in a traditional route teacher certification program and I am looking forward to getting back into a city classroom soon.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Alfie Kohn has a thought in the Huffington Post

"In recent years, parents have cried in dismay that their children could not read out loud, could not spell, could not write clearly," while "employers have said that mechanics could not read simple directions. Many a college has blamed high schools for passing on students ... who could not read adequately to study college subjects; high schools have had to give remedial reading instruction to boys and girls who did not learn to read properly in elementary schools..."

On and on goes the devastating indictment of our education system. Or -- well, perhaps I shouldn't say "our" education system, since few of us had much to say about school policy when this article appeared in 1954.

Similar jeremiads were published, of course, in the 1980s (see especially the Reagan Administration's influential and deeply dishonest "Nation at Risk" report) and in the 1970s, but one could argue that those, like today's denunciations of falling standards and demands for accountability, reflect the same legacy of multiculturalism, radical education professors, and the post-Woodstock cultural realignment that brought down traditional values inside and outside of schools.

But how does one defend such an argument when it turns out that people were saying exactly the same things about America's dysfunctional education system before Vietnam, before Civil Rights, before feminism -- and displaying that same aggressive nostalgia for an earlier era when, you know, excellence really mattered?

And if pundits were throwing up their hands during the Eisenhower era about schools on the decline, about students who could barely read and write, about how we're being beaten by [insert name of other country here], the obvious question is: When exactly was that golden period that was distinguished by high standards?

The answer, of course, is that it never existed. "The story of declining school quality across the 20th century is, for the most part, a fable," says social scientist Richard Rothstein, whose book The Way We Were? cites a series of similar attacks on American education, moving backward one decade at a time. Each generation invokes the good old days, during which, we discover, people had been doing exactly the same thing. ("Grade inflation" is a case in point: Harvard professors were already grumbling about how A's were "given too readily" back in 1894, only a few years after letter grades were introduced to the college.)

Of course, this phenomenon isn't limited to schooling. As I've described elsewhere, claims that parents are too permissive, that they fail to set limits, and consequently that "kids today" are spoiled and self-centered, can be found in articles and books that date back decades, if not centuries.

To dig up strikingly familiar observations or sentiments offered by people long dead isn't just an amusing rhetorical flourish. These echoes deprive us of the myth of uniqueness, and that can be usefully unsettling. Whenever we're apt to sound off about how contemporary education -- or any other aspect of modern life -- is unprecedented in its capacity to give offense, the knowledge that our grandparents or distant ancestors said much the same thing, give or take a superficial detail, serves to remind us of an observation once offered by Adrienne Rich: "Nostalgia is only amnesia turned around."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Teachers As Scapegoats

So lawyers for NYC are fighting for the release of Teacher Data Reports to the press. Why do they only want to publish Teacher evaluations? Why not evaluations for police officers, firefighters, sanitation workers and yes, School Chancellors and Mayors? Another sign that Teachers are scapegoats for the failures of the political and economic leadership of this nation to address poverty and racism.

Notorious Phd

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Teachers Talk Back on Bronx Net

Link To Bronx Talk Show on Teachers and Teaching With Tom Porton of Monre HS Campus
and Dr Mark Naison of Fordham University

Funny The Way It IS #3

This is absolutely hysterical. and tooooooo true.