Friday, August 31, 2007


Three days of school behind me, three days of weekend ahead of me.

This week we had "new student orientation." Working in a high school makes me so happy that I am no longer in high school. High school is tough! Especially when you're a new student. You're either a) trying to let everyone know real quick who you are and what you're all about, or b) desperately trying not to be noticed so that people won't figure out too soon who you are and what you're all about.

Meanwhile I planned an activity for them today where they worked in groups to create a three-minute presentation, which they then presented in front of all 40 new students. What you guys are probably thinking, which didn't occur to me, is that no high schooler is going to want to a) work in a group of strangers and b) do a presentation in front of a huge group of strangers. Oh my god, it was awful. Bless them, they all did the best they could, but I have never seen such mass anxiety.

Fortunately they all have three days to recover before they come back on Tuesday, where they'll be joined by a whole bunch of returning kids for the whole-school orientation.

High school: Less like this .....

... than like this:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Continuing to pee in my pants with excitement

Good food for thought as I start my job as a career advisor: Minnesota teens do well on the ACT, but contrary to what the research department at ED thinks, most of the fastest-growing careers don't require a college education. Of course fastest-growing should never be confused with highest-paying, as University of Minnesota students will soon find out.

Monday and Tuesday we have parent-teacher-student conferences. Historically the school has had 100% attendance at these conferences, which is amazing considering that when I was in high school I would rather die than have my parents meet my teachers. Since I'm not a "base group advisor" I do not have to attend conferences, but I'll be on hand to answer questions about things like PSEO and college admissions, as well as the seminars I'll be teaching.

This time tomorrow I will have actually met students and families!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Charters in N.O.

In the most recent edition of The Nation, Michael Tisserand takes on the state of Louisiana's attempt to salvage public education in New Orleans through charter schools. One particularly poorly managed charter school is "but one battleground in what some are calling an education revolution." He goes on to imply that charter advocates jumped in to take advantage of an apocalyptic event and further their own goals of the privatization of public schools:
More recently, some advocates have argued that charters represent a superior way to run all public schools. Yet the results of national achievement tests have been inconclusive at best. Those wishing to forge ahead with a full-tilt charter revolution have also lacked a platform from which to launch their crusade. Then the floodwaters rose over New Orleans, sending some 65,000 public school students fleeing.
I tend to agree with Tisserand. The New Orleans charter move came from a sector of policymakers who view charters as "half a loaf," the whole loaf being vouchers and total school privatization. I think putting New Orleans public education in the hands of any nonprofit who stepped forward during a very traumatic time was an extremely misguided, but politically driven, thing to do.

What I don't like about this article is how familiar it sounds. It is basically an illustrated version of the AFT's talking points on charters (and I should know because I used to help write them). Take the argument that powerful people are intentionally starving non-charter public schools and fattening up charters, which don't educate the poorest kids, and which therefore have an unfair advantage in the school market. Tisserand writes that
By selective admissions, parental contracts and grade requirements, charter schools are able to "cream" their students not just by race and class but also by levels of parental involvement.
The New Orleans project, AND the Nation article, represent to me the worst thing about the charter movement in the U.S.: the partisan, Us vs. Them, unions vs. kids, private vs. public discussion. While accusations are being thrown around the think tanks of D.C., charter schools (as well as non-charter public schools) are quietly doing their thing for the benefit of countless needy kids. I'm afraid the lessons of N.O. will get lost in this discussion rather than contributing to a challenging discussion about how charters and districts can work together.

UPDATE: Please take a look at the thoughtful comment left by writer Michael Tisserand. Thanks, Michael, for pointing out where I quoted you out of context.

Staff development

Day 4 of staff development. Kids start making an appearance next week with parent/teacher conferences and a three-day new student orientation. I came home to work since my school is having computer issues and thought I'd write a quick little update.

I am peeing in my pants with excitement about the new school year. It's a new feeling for me to be overwhelmed with stuff to do, but not feel stressed or depressed about it.

During new student orientation, I will be subjecting some kids to the story "Everything Will Be Okay" by James Howe from the collection of memoirs When I Was Your Age. This collection is used a lot in reading-writing workshop, so some of you may have read the story. If you have, you know it is one of the saddest stories ever written. If you haven't, I'll limit myself to saying that it involves a boy who finds a sick, dying kitten in the woods. As Michael Vick could tell you, stories about the suffering of animals are MUCH sadder to the general public than stories about the suffering of humans. I read this story for the first time in a class full of eighth graders, and was only saved from bursting into tears in front of all of them by the lunch bell.

Anyway, that and many, many other things have to be planned, so I'll post another update when I can!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Eine kleine history lesson

The school of bloggers saw the musical 1776 last night at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. It was very, very good – surprisingly funny for a musical about the Second Continental Congress debating whether or not to declare independence from the British Empire. The best performance was by the guy playing Edward Rutledge, the delegate from South Carolina, in a number that charges the New England delegates with hypocrisy for condemning slavery, when they themselves profited from the Triangle Trade.

The production also included this great number, which was taken out of the film version at then-President Nixon’s request:

One more thing - an illustration of what one of my NYU profs called “the New York discount:” after we got our $20 rush tickets and were walking to the theater, I looked down at the tickets and noticed with dismay that their regular price was only $47. They can’t be very good seats, I thought. Then we got to our seats and they were four rows from the stage – we could see the spittle mists coming out of the actors mouths’ and the seams of their powdered wigs. Pretty amazing.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Check in

The School of Bloggers' hearts go out to everyone affected by the I-35W bridge collapse. Thankfully, Chris and I were at Yosemite that day, and no one we know is missing.

It has been a busy summer, which is my only excuse for being such a slacker blogger. I did attend a week-long conference on the EdVisions model of project-based learning held at the Minnesota New Country School. I met some amazing educators and can't wait for the school year to begin. But before that I'll be spending a week with my sister and new baby niece, Lila!