Tuesday, November 25, 2014

An Open Letter to My Black(African-American) Sons!

The decision in Ferguson saddened me. As a mom of two sons, it scares me. As an educator, it makes me realize that we have to empathize with the students sitting in our classrooms.

Hey Man,
I address you as "man". I will never call you "buddy". I know you have heard parents say, "Hey buddy." But I cannot do that to you. Throughout your life there will be too many people who will try to make you feel like you are less than a man. Too many who will treat you as though you are less than a man. I want you to know that you are a man.

As you go through school, you will have to prove yourself. You will always have to prove yourself, and I will fight for you. Your skin makes people automatically question your intelligence, your ability to problem-solve, write essays, to think. You may hear some say that you are "articulate", because that is not something they believe you should be, or could be. But don't worry, hold your head high, and keep moving forward.

Enjoy your friendships with white people. In this day and age, kids don't worry too much about race. It's usually something saved for when people start to age. But be cautious, for you can not do as they do. The consequences for you will be more severe. They may get a warning, you will be suspended, kicked out of school, put in jail, depending on the severity of your actions. It's important that you make good choices.

As you grow, you will come to realize that other's perception of you is not really who you are. People may think you want to be high-fived all the time. They may think you want to grow up and be a basketball player.They may think that you don't know who your daddy is. But that's just the beginning.

People will cross the street as you approach. Store owners will watch you when you enter their store. Hands will clutch pocketbooks to their sides, People will silently debate whether or not they should join you on an elevator. If you run, you are running from a criminal act you have committed, not to catch a bus.

You have to understand that "your" face is splashed across a screen every. single. day. A scary face with the crime of the day posted underneath. You protest, "That's not me!" I know it's not you, but that's not the world's view.

When an individual black male commits a crime, his crime is passed on to all black males. He becomes "every black man.". His crimes, your crimes. His crimes giving police a reason to stop and frisk, to humiliate, to charge you with crimes you did not commit, or worse, gun you down in the street with your hands up.

And I know it's unfair that a white man can kill children, and the media spends more time trying to figure out why he did it and the issues that led him to do it, than convicting him of his crime. And no son, all white people are not serial killers or mass murderers. Just individual white people. That's the way of this world.

If you are fortunate enough to be successful, be prepared for the stereotypes people may have.They may assume that you are a drug dealer, an athlete, or a rapper. Architect, computer programmer, an engineer, a real estate mogul, inventor, these options do not come to mind as easily.
You have to understand, just as I say no one understands what it means to be a teacher, unless they are one, it's the same for you being a black male.

The difference is people can become teachers, and understand how it feels. No one can become a black male.

What we need people to do is understand what it is like to be a black male. We need them to understand what life is like for you. Maybe we will get there.
Hold your head high and keep moving forward. I love you!
Your proud Mom

photo credit: Youth Radio via photopin cc

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Teaching By Due Date: Data Vs. Students!

I am tired of receiving emails that ask me to attend meetings prepared with the data of the Formative Assessment of the Week.
Performance Task of the Month.
Benchmark Entries, common assessments, you get what I'm saying.

I am being asked to teach by due date.
Teach by pacing guide.
Teach by whenever an assessment needs to be entered so that we can look at the data and decide how we're going to group our students, teach our students, etc...

It's supposed to be a good thing.
It can be a good thing.

But, in the reality of classroom living, it's not quite working out that way.

If I stuck to the schedule imposed on me, school would be an endless flow of assessments, One after the other, providing data on information that has not really been taught. How can you teach efficiently when you have to make sure that countless formative assessments are completed by a specific date?

Our poor kids.:(

The other day, Scholastic offered a webcast with Usher who talked about the importance of reading. My kids have a performance task that needs to be completed, and graded, the data posted on a chart.

We watched Usher. My students tweeted his important points. They listened to students in NY ask him enlightening questions. They were encouraged by his thoughts and anecdotes of how he became successful. And they sang along with him when he sang "Without You" ,at the end of the webcast. I have no data to provide for this event.Sorry.

Is data bad? No
Formative assessments? No, I use them in my classroom, and they provide information that guides instruction.

But when a due date for data is constantly imposed, assessing becomes the norm and teaching and learning are secondary.

 photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I Wish...Monthly Student Reflection Survey!

I give credit where credit is due.
I got the Reflection Survey idea from Pernille Ripp, founder of the Global Read Aloud which began October 6! Yeah!

I actually had my students take the survey at the beginning of October. It was interesting to see their responses to the questions I asked. The questions gave them a chance to reflect on the previous month.

When I read their responses, I was blown away by their honesty. I don't know if the fact that I wrote, "An honest evaluation of yourself during the month of September. The key word is honest, I am not judging. No one reads this but me. I received responses from "Great" to "It hasn't been that good."

There were some great insights, but I was really taken with their responses to the phrase, "For October, I wish Mrs.M would..."
A couple of kids said, "Do more fun things." I thought they were doing a lot of fun things! Guess they have to realize it's not going to be "fun" all day long. 
They wanted to have their first Mystery Skype. (done). And they did a fantastic job!
Give us more Quiet Time, (they get 10 minutes after Recess-engaged quietly in an activity),not getting any more than that. They also get a GoNoodle break at 2 p.m.
Teach more, Teach more? I need to revisit that one.:) Luckily, only one student said that one.
Tell more about myself, (I feel they learn a little more about me each day during Morning Meeting).
Sing in class one day. :) (done)
And this one didn't surprise me considering who it came from, "Do less work on the computer."

This was one of her concerns at the beginning of the year, because she did not have a computer at home. I have gone out of my way to make sure she has enough time to access the computer in school when necessary. She felt comfortable enough to share this with me in the survey. Looking forward to see if she feels any better in this month's survey.

October's survey is posted. I am excited about comparing it to September!

Just as adults need to step back and reflect on how things are going, or how they went, it's just as important for our students. The fact that it allows me to reflect as well, is an added bonus!

photo credit: WingedWolf via photopin cc