It is a Saturday morning. By yesterday afternoon I was so exhausted I left school without some of what I need to plan, albeit only for Thursday and Friday for my AP classes. When I got home I was too tired to sleep - the conflict between desperately needing sleep and being unable to fall asleep. So I began to reflect, a process that continued subconsciously when I finally slept, and during the two times I awoke during that almost ten hour before I awoke a short time ago.
Reflection can be a deliberate process, a slowing down, stepping back, examination of things about oneself, around oneself. My training as a teacher has always included that as an essential element. It can also be something else - a not fully rational process, something operating almost in the background while one is in the midst of doing other things, but which arises and insists on full attention when one ceases the activities which have kept in in the background.
I find I now want my reflection to be deliberate. For that to happen, I write. So it is this morning. Hence this diary.
My support for NCLB remained strong until November 30, 2006. I can pinpoint the date exactly because that was the day I realized that NCLB was a failure.
This is a book review. Those words appear on p.99, which however odd a starting point is critical. I learned about this event contemporaneously from the late Gerald Bracey, who informed some of us by email and many more in this Huffington Post blog. At a conference at the American Enterprise Institute called to answer the question of whether No Child Left Behind was working, we learn from Bracey
Charged with summarizing the day, former assistant secretary of education for Bush I, Diane Ravitch, declared that the answer to the conference title's question was clearly, "No!"
I sit in my living room on a day when I expected to see my students for the first time after a ten-day absence due to weather. Not to be - yesterday evening we were informed that students were not coming to school today, although all staff are required to be there on a two-hour delay - in a sense this is a make-up day for last Friday, which was to be a professional day for teachers. Yet the lateness of the decision will cause major problems in our school, because today was to be the makeup day for our science fair - originally schedule for last Wednesday - and I now wonder about our ability to get anything close to the normal compliment of outside judges our fair normally draws, an important part of the experience for a school that has within the past decade had the national winner.
I worry about my students, for the loss of continuity in their education. And with time to reflect, I also worry on their behalf for the loss of continuity in our governance. Only weather is less of an excuse for the Congress and Administration.. And the damage it done to the future of those students - who are the future of this nation - is potentially far greater than one school year with excessive disruptions due to weather.
Last week, we introduced Kenyon Farrow of Queers for Economic Justice, Calvin Williams of the Generational Alliance, and Althea Erickson of the Freelancers Union. They shared with us a brief summary of how their organizations had adopted some online tools.
This week, they delve into some of the challenges they faced along the way, and some insight into how they overcame them:
When teachers are forced, against their better judgment, to focus on teaching test content to the exclusion of almost everything else, I can only conclude that the high-stakes testing movement nourishes totalitarian regimes.
If the title did not grab you, I suspect that if you really care about what is happening to American public schools, that quote should get your attention. It is from the introduction to the final book by the late Gerald W. Bracey, taken from us too soon this past October.
This is a book that will give you all the ammunition you need to oppose the so-called reformers who, despite their professed best intentions, are destroying American public education.
The book has an additional subtitle, Transforming the Fire Consuming America's Schools, which makes clear Bracey's opposition to much of what has been happening in the past decade or more. I invite to you come with me on a further exploration of the book, and of Bracey.
Regular readers of my diaries are aware that it is not unusual for me to focus on an event of the day, perhaps a birthday, a death, an important event. Some days, such as the birth of Beethoven (Dec 16) or Mozart (Jan 27) are ingrained in my DNA as one intimately involved with music since my earliest years. Others, such as the 1963 Civil Rights March (Aug 28) I know because I was there. Then of course there are the personal dates - the birthdays of my spouse (Jan 29) and me (May 23), or of our shared events (encountering one another at the Bryn Mawr train station - Sept 21; 1st date - Sept 27; wedding - Dec 29).
Each day I check on the events connected with the date, in part because as teacher I often find teachable moments, perhaps for my students, perhaps in my writing. I use a number of sites, among which is Scope Systems (which is sometimes a bit off, so I do crosscheck their info).
This morning I cannot focus on one event - I find myself overwhelmed with history.
Imagine a political leader saying that. In fact, imagine a conservative political leader saying that. Imagine him saying:
We do need good sex and relationship education. That education should teach people about equality and the sort of country we are - that we treat people the same whether they are straight or gay, or black or white or a man or a woman. It is important that ethos is embedded in our schooling.
You don't have to imagine. It happened. In Britain. The words are from David Cameron, Conservative Party Leader, and the main probably possibly poised to become the next Prime Minister of the UK. You can read about it in this piece in The Guardian.
Once upon a time conservatives in America looked at what the Conservative party in Britain did for their model of what to do, e.g. Maggie Thatcher on privatization. Perhaps we can remind them of that as we suggest they read this article?
KathyinBlacksburg asked that I cross-post this. It was written specifically for Daily Kos, and some of it is specifically related to that website/community
I teach government. I have periodically wrestled with whether I could continue to do so. I have come close to walking away from it, because I what I saw worried me sufficiently that I wondered what point there was - signing statements, Military Commissions Act, abandoning Geneva as "quaint" "enhanced interrogation methods," extending executive privilege to energy executive coming to the White House to craft policy could have their identities kept undisclosed, Scalia flying on a private plane across the nation to go hunting with Cheney while the last issue was pending before SCOTUS, ... was there still a meaningful constitution and political system about which to teach my students? Meanwhile, educational policy distorting the very process of school itself, depriving those most in need of real teaching and learning of the opportunity to do much beyond prep for low level tests.
Each time I hav wrestled with these issues. Each time I decided to keep teaching - "for now" - in the belief I could make a difference, and that the nation would come to its senses.
Uh, oh. Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell has informed all of us that he favors "pay for performance" for public school teachers in Virginia. Perhaps McDonnell might want to do a bit of research in the history of many failed attempts to develop merit pay plans. What are some of the problems?
The most obvious problem arises from the fact that possible money available for extra pay for meritorious teachers varies. Government income is inextricably tied to business cycles. When hard times come, all of a sudden the number of teachers able to earn the designation of "best" teacher and the money that may come with that magically shrinks in order to save tax dollars.
The second, and in my mind the most important flaw, is the near impossibility of deciding who deserves extra salary for meritorious teaching. Is it that teacher who works year after year in a school in a low-income area where many parents are disengaged with their children's education? Is it those who work in schools where grinding poverty drags students down and far too many turn to crime or drugs? I don't think the best of those "warriors against ignorance" would be the first to receive recognition for the work they do.
Jonathan Kozol termed the situation in America's schools "Savage Inequalities" in his 1991 book. Believe me, things haven't changed much since then. The schools he highlighted don't see the big jumps in standardized tests that buy teachers merit pay. Yet, those schools hold many of the best teachers in America, teachers who count small victories every year as they work to inspire students to rise above what fate has dealt them.
Then, there is the ease with which merit pay can be manipulated to reward those teachers who please the superintendent or principal, those who coach the football team, those who may not deserve merit pay at all.
The last time there was a hue and cry for merit pay for teachers - or "pay for performance" if you wish - was in the 1980's during the Reagan years when 29 states initiated some form of merit pay. By the end of the 1990's, almost all of them had dropped their plans.
This week's Training Tuesday takes us back to Democracy for America's Campaign Academy in Gettysburg, PA 2009. For the last couple weeks we brought you lessons from the Organizing 2.0 conference, and we still have plenty more to come.
Anyways, first things first, a little history on the DFA campaign academy:
although perhaps not in the sense that some may expect. I cannot help that. As I write this, 2 days before Christmas and one day before the historic vote in the Senate, I am in a somewhat reflective mood, fed in part by jotter, or rather, his daily listing of diaries. Jotter includes top ten lists from the previous two years ago, and that led to my rereading two things I have written in the past few years.
Two years ago today I wrote It's not the stuff of which dreams are made. in which I explored how the dream of generations of most Americans that their children would live better than they did was being - or already was - lost. That is almost a year before the final financial meltdown of 2008. And in rereading the diary and the comments, I encountered a reference to one of the more cogent diaries I have written, Teaching is my essential political action. Rereading those two diaries, at the same time as I am reading David Plouffe's The Audacity to Win cause me to step back and reflect. This diary is the product of that reflection.
Last week, we covered the basics of managing and organizing a campaign budget. If you know little-to-nothing about campaign finance but would like to, or if you are just about to start putting together the budget for a campaign, you should definitely check out last week's Training Tuesday. Today is not for the basics. Instead, we are using this Training Tuesday to share with you four very important tips that will help you out along the way:
Originally posted by Will Urquhart (Rusty5329) at Sum of Change. Please check out the new comment widget from Ameritocracy that we just recently installed at the bottom of every page at Sum of Change
Every political campaign and organization must spend money to maintain serious levels of activity. Increasingly, campaigns must raise significant amounts of money to become and remain competitive. Although we can protest the growing costs of campaigning, the reality for any campaign is that without these funds, there can be no staff, no office, no phones, no computers, no signs, no media coverage - no campaign.
-From the Democracy for AmericaCampaign Academy Training Manual
I was, perhaps appropriately, listening to a recording of the Brahms Requiem when I saw the email: Greg Kannerstein had passed away. Let me quote two paragraphs from Haverford College President Steve Emerson's ('74) email:
A mentor, student, teacher, colleague, coach and friend to thousands, Greg recently stepped down from his role as our Dean of the College after a 41-year career marked by boundless enthusiasm for Haverford. He had begun work on his new appointment as a Special Advisor to Institutional Advancement and Lecturer in General Programs when emerging health issues forced him to take a medical leave last month. His illness was diagnosed only weeks ago.
My heart aches at the thought of losing Greg. I believe it is fair to say that every Haverfordian who has passed through the College since 1968 has been touched by Greg's spirit. Whether in his role as coach, teacher, Athletic Director, Dean of Admissions, or Dean of the College, Greg was always there for Haverford, and for everyone in the greater Haverford family.
And that got me thinking about the thanks I want to offer -
Reaching your potential voters is (obviously) vitally important to any campaign. But what is the best way to reach this crucial audience? This week, Kendra Sue Derby from Democracy for America's Campaign Academy is going to speak about four methods of reaching voters, some of which you should try and some you should avoid. First, she'll talk about direct voter contact, such as canvassing (which she favors) and mailings, which allow to personally speak with, and listen to, your potential voters. Next, she'll talk about online resources, such as websites, Facebook, youtube, blogs, etc, which can be great for your supporters, but might not sway the opinion of an undecided. The last two videos are about items that some volunteers love, but aren't going to win you any elections, lawn signs and chum (promotional items such as hats, frisbees, wooden nickels, and anything else you can print you name on).
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