Some call me "Flem"

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B.S.Ed, M.Ed I'm a passionate, purpose-driven, public school teacher! Here I write about teaching, learning, public education, public schools, the African American experience, and whatever else might come to mind.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Scott Gordon admits he got it wrong!

“A mistake that we made was the assumption that schools were not successful because they weren’t well run, or they weren’t well organized, or that teachers weren’t trained and supported...that may … be true...our communities face lots of barriers and problems – kids in trauma – that need to be addressed if we’re going to be successful" ~Scott Gordon
[emphasis mine]

So, why then are you still pushing your imperialistic ways in Philadelphia and Camden?

In the spirit of objectivity (and full disclosure since I am quoted in the report), here's the full article

(Semantics question, can it be the "spirit of objectivity" if I then mention in my parenthetical phrase that I'm quoted in the report? lol #foodforthought)

"You know he wants to be a teacher right?"

Whenever I hear of young black men or boys wanting to go into teaching, I'm ready to leap from the tallest new construction site in University City (insert 'smirk') and fly!

Today, as I was explaining our studies in the Constitution, to a guardian, she paused to say, "You know he wants to be a teacher, right?"  Well, back to my intro! Whenever I hear of young black men or boys wanting to go into teaching, I'm ready to leap high up into the sky!! YES!!!!

In a profession that is mostly white and mostly female and where the students are mostly black and brown in urban areas, we need to mix things up a bit!! There are all kinds of stats and research that I want to insert here, but 2%. 2%!! That represents the percentage of black male public school teachers in the United States. 2%.

Back to my student. He has DREAMS of becoming a teacher that include land and lots of it, a museum on campus and an arts academy on campus (no surprise since he loves to draw and does well too)!! Oh and by the way, he's in the 3rd grade! Reminds me of a kid my parents speak of who saw summer as a COMPLETE waste of time! He wanted to bring the kids in off of the streets and engage their minds in reading, arithmetic, and the arts! Summer? Play? Huh?? He went on the be the founding director of the Abundant Life Summer Academy at his church at age 13. A kid with dreams!

Many say that they would discourage young folks from teaching should they express the desire! Me? I say, LET'S GO!!!

In the words of Malcolm Little,
"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today!"

Monday, April 25, 2016

3rd Grade Lawyers

These kids are sharp!!!!
Social studies instruction in 207 includes our delving into the Bill of Rights in our overall studies of American History.

It's important to note, I do present a nuanced, or perhaps "comprehensive", version of American History including the hypocrisy of many those who founded this country and the brutal way in which their imperialistic mindset guided their actions. Many of my 3rd graders are able to explain the hypocrisy of the development of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution. But I digress...

Today, as at other times, I took events from the news, presented the "case" to them and allowed them to argue both sides of it using the first 10 amendments. They were as exceptional today as they've ever been. We discussed the tire slashings in South Philly and the ballot question on abolishing Philadelphia's Traffic Court. They were on it and I couldn't be more proud!!

Honesty moment: not all kids are engaged, so my challenge is to engage the unengaged as well. I like a challenge!

Construction Boom in UCity

Anyone who has been away from the University City sections of West and Southwest Philly for some time would hardly recognize the place!! University City is rife with new construction! Everywhere you look, new buildings and new projects. Chestnut street between 38th and Schuylkill Ave/30th Street looks MUCH different than it used to! The area around CHOP and HUP is awash with new state of the art medical research and advanced medical care facilities! CHOP is also building across the South Street Bridge in South Philly.

The construction isn't limited to medicine. The FMC Tower is being erected on Walnut Street at 30th Street
Drexel and Penn are also engaging in their fair share of construction projects, small and great.

Lots of investments are being made in the expansion, advancement, and modernization of all things UCity!

Meanwhile, across the city most of our public schools do not enjoy similar experiences of investments that bring expansion, advancement, and modernization of all things public education!

Charter schools consume roughly 1/3 of our school district's operating budget, boilers are exploding, technology is scant, computer labs are average at best, libraries are nonexistent and where they do exist, are archaic and largely unstaffed. Some of us still use chalk boards (me) and clap erasers in the fire tower (I use tissues to erase my board because I don't have an eraser and REFUSE to spend a red cent on one). Some of us don't have the simple "luxury"of a BULLETIN BOARD in our classroom to hang student work! If some of us could just bring our classrooms and buildings to the year 2000, we'd be grateful. Now how much of a shame and disgrace is that?!?! It's even more shameful that it's true!!

What should be precious memories of yesterday's school days shared by older siblings and parents at holiday times, are anything but. Yesterday is today and will be tomorrow until someone does something today to make yesterday a memory, tomorrow a mystery and today a moment worth remembering years from now!

Wouldn't new construction of our public schools, fit for modernity be nice?

Wouldn't novel and creative learning spaces be nice?

Wouldn't green space, mini-ponds, and play space be nice?

Wouldn't modern classrooms, fresh and comfortable reading and relaxing spaces be nice?

Wouldn't spaces for creating "whatever" be nice?

Wouldn't arts spaces, visual, musical, and performing be nice?

Wouldn't cyber caf├ęs be nice?

Wouldn't stronger collaborative efforts between these post-secondary institutions and their K-12 counterparts be nice?

Wouldn't international collaborations among elemenary schools using modern and reliable technology be nice?

Wouldn't state of the art gymnasiums be nice?

Wouldn't spaces for teachers and staff to work out or walk a track on school property be nice?

Please don't tell me that these things can't happen!!!
Not with millions being spent on campaigns and the expansion of eds and meds!

I get that I've oversimplified the UCity expansions and created a tenuous argument only in relating those projects to what could be in our public schools. What could be, really could be!! Center City has been the center of our city for dozens of construction projects in the last 26+ years and was to bring economic this, that and the third to the city. But our public schools still look how they looked 26 years ago and we now have cigarette taxes to support our schools and are in heated public media campaigns over sugary drink taxes to help pay for pre-K programs.

I do not mean to suggest that their projects are not worth the price of admission. I'm sure they are do-gooders, bringing construction jobs and seeking to provide top notch care to everybody (ahem). Their causes are noble I'm sure and I really mean that.

But it would be great if the political will and public pressure were strong enough to see these types of projects through for our public schools. Our kids deserve clean, bright, fresh, 2016 facilities as well. Not just when they're sick or if they face the juvenile justice system, but SCHOOL!

Oh and by the way, don't stop smoking and drink all the soda you want to support our schools! Maybe we can get grants for healthy schools initiatives! Oooo and perhaps HUP and CHOP can take real good care of you and your child in their new state of the art facilities when you get sick from all the sugar and tobacco. Maybe they'll even expand...again. Or better yet, research you in those research facilities they've built.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Testing Fail...

This is a particular school's daily gram:

The Testing Monitors have stated that all schedules, calendars, itineraries, and inspirational posters must be removed or covered in all PSSA testing rooms.

I'll leave all commentary to you!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Young Lawyers, 2015-2016 edition

Every so often I choose to reminisce and wax nostalgic over how impressed I was with my class last year as they argued cases before a municipal judge here in Philly! I wrote about it and think about it often! That day, by far, was one of the greatest moments in my teaching career, going back to pre-public school days, even to the mid-90s as a youth Bible class teacher (which I still do, 21 years this year)!

As a part of my philosophy of challenging young minds, today I made up a case for them to argue before me (before a kid usurped my "Your Honor" status, lol, it's cool though).

Joeline (fake name) likes fishing in the Wissahickon Creek. City Council passed a law banning it. The Mayor signed it. Joeline continues to fish there and eventually makes her way to the courtyard of City Hall to protest. She's arrested and charged with protesting and for continuing to fish in the Wissahickon Creek. She's charged, but doesn't go to trial until two years after the charges were brought. Using the amendments we've learned so far, argue.

For a first go 'round and on the spot, defense counsel did a good job of defending their client, although the prosecution (another student) handed them a dismissal of all charges on a silver platter the more he talked! LOL!! It was funny, but also a great learning experience!!

Note: These are 3rd grade students in a REAL PUBLIC SCHOOL in Philadelphia!!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Little Reader's Theatre Drama

For those who aren't aware, I'm a third grade teacher....this year anyway. In an effort to develop reading fluency, one approach is to employ reader's theatre. My class isn't new to reader's theatre. But what I heard today made me chuckle a bit.

They were working/reading in groups of three, a skit on an animal trainer. I overhear one girl say, "How many times I gotta tell you to read with EXCITEMENT? It's a SCRIPT!!"

Ha! How 'bout them apples!!