Friday, February 16, 2018

Code Red

Code Red, is anyone ever ready for such a code? Think about all the hotel fires, plane crashes and train wrecks and hurricanes ask yourself if you are ever ready? 

In real life we never do drills, plan for accidents or disasters as we do when we are in school. When was the last time you found the emergency exit, understood how the floatation device works and have a kit in one's car or home in preparation for an emergency?  I thought not. Code Red

In life we live what we think is a well ordered and planned life and then something happens to throw those plans into the wind.  For me I entered Teaching at 30 to find a career and stability after a youth of being a Gypsy.  I thought it would suit me as I am pretty much a master of my domain, highly organized, like structure but day to day 9-5 is not my strong suit. I suck at politics and the ability to network and brown nose and the rest.  Education, however, is all about politics and lacks structure so what did I know? Well I know that now 20 years in. Code Red

There are many many essays from Teachers who have decided to toss in the towel such as this one from the UK Guardian (no different than her American counterparts) or this from Edweek or this one from a woman who hit the guardrail at the fourth year, when the majority of new Teachers quit. I too barely made it that long. And there was an essay in Salon by a gentleman who's story could have been mine.  A professional entering late into the profession of teaching and finding oneself utterly frustrated with the rudeness of colleagues to the endless mid level managers and admins that dominate the school, bleeding it dry of both money and soul and the children who for good or bad are almost always the same regardless. Code Red

But what is notable is that while all come from different backgrounds, different trainings and grades they teach many share the same sentiments.   I look back again over 20 years of walking in and back out of schools as a full time Teacher, long term and short term Sub, the memories I do choose are the good ones.  I chose to recall the students and few Teachers who mattered and it's funny it was not about academics or even behavior it was about them as children and the adults I could see them becoming.  I am not sure it all worked out as life has a ton of code reds and they change you in the ways you least expect but in a moment in time I was lucky to know them and I am grateful for those moments.

Today I sit and wait for the end of the day. When I came back to teaching I thought it was temporary, I tried briefly in Oakland which lasted a month.  I was not prepared and not in the right place to be with kids that were struggling but then again this was Oakland and it at the time was as well. Then when I landed in Seattle I needed the gig and thought however it was temporary.  Eight years later is one long temp gig.  But I look at it as the best way to learn the profession of Teaching. And that is how all Teacher trainees should start. Long before the classes with the bullshit curriculum, taught by Professors who were either failed Teachers or never Teachers in public schools; Long before reading absurd books about the "inner city" or texts on Maslow's Theory or any other social-psychological  even pedagogical text is handed to you.   Substitute teaching taught me more about myself, kids and the profession of Teaching than Western Washington University ever did.  It was a garbage program and as they say, garbage out garbage in.  (I changed it to suit how I felt in that program and when I entered the classroom) And here I sit 20 years later and pretty much can say the same given what I have witnessed by the current crop of Teachers.  Just another Code Red.

The idea of a Code Red on the irony of Valentines day was not lost and it was intentional when that young man planned his assault on his former high school.  It was as insidious and as destructive as Columbine and he could have done more had he chosen to. The chaos in the school showed that despite the best efforts and all the planning, nothing would change and lives are lost despite it.  And really do you and can you plan for this and why? Why are we planning for this? That alone is a Code Red.

And the stories about kids and their defiance and emotional problems, the move to restorative justice and all the rest do little to actually predict or ensure safety of anyone behind the walls.  A kid stays, a kid goes, a kid comes back with an arsenal of guns but they come back.  Sandy Hook was the oddity as he had never attended the school nor had any association with it but most children go to what they know and perhaps for him elementary school is where it all began.  What began? I have not a clue but I see these tortured kids, humorless, angry, disengaged but glued to their phones non stop. The ability to read, to communicate unless through a device is all what seems to matter. I am sorry I signed up to teach English, to teach History and to share the experience of living through others eyes as well as my own.  Share and share alike. I have plenty of my own anger I don't need yours. Code Red

I am done with Teaching. I really cannot wait until the last bell rings and I never have to set foot in a school again.  And the kids,  I wish I could say that there was one just one I would miss but this town has made that impossible.  Right now there is a new Police task force formed to handle the cluster of Juveniles wreaking collective havoc on the town through car jackings,  armed robbery, shootings and other acts of criminal behavior. Wow its a gang only without Ma Barker.  It is a tragedy better left for song and I am sure there are ample singers here who will do just that.  They could call it Code Red.

I read this book and his story is nothing new.  Set to fail. How many enter a profession knowing that? Well in Education you are and I have been in more classrooms that make that inevitable for both Teacher and Student. Code Red.



The Myth of the Hero Teacher
By JOHN LELAND
FEB. 26, 2016
THE NEW YORK TIMES

Maybe you have had the fantasy: Chuck your day job to teach in a public school in a blighted neighborhood. The money is lousy, of course, but that’s part of the fantasy — no one wants to turn around the lives of poor children just for a paycheck. Then you decide that maybe today is not the day, and go back to your life. Sound familiar?

Ed Boland went a step further. An executive at Prep for Prep, a nonprofit organization that places minority children in elite private schools, he quit to teach ninth-grade history at a low-performing public school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He had seen movies like “Dangerous Minds” and “Stand and Deliver,” in which heroic teachers reach into the lives of at-risk adolescents and make a difference. Mr. Boland believed he could be one of them.

“I thought, I can do this,” he said the other day, at a coffee shop near the Henry Street School for International Studies, where he arrived as a first-year teacher in fall 2006. “I thought, I want to work on the front lines. I want to be one of those teachers that kids really like and listen to and learn from, and you can turn a kid around.”

On his fifth day, as he describes it in his new memoir, “The Battle for Room 314: My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School,” his students schooled him in just how wrong he was.
“On the other side of the room, someone had hurled a calculator at the blackboard,” he writes. “A group of boys were shoving one another near a new laptop. Two girls swayed in sweet unison and mouthed lyrics while sharing the earphones of a strictly forbidden iPod. Another girl was splayed over her desk, lazily reading ‘Thug Luv 2’ as if she were on a cruise.”

When he turned to the girl who had started the disruption, he found her now standing on top of her desk, “towering above me like a pro wrestler on the ropes about to pounce.” She moved her hand in an obscene gesture, then told him to perform an act that was anatomically impossible.

The class erupted in laughter.

“Man,” came the verdict that would follow Mr. Boland until year’s end, “he can’t even control the girls.”

“The Battle for Room 314” arrives in a charged atmosphere, where public education has somehow become a contentious topic. “Teachers are definitely talking about it,” said Christopher Emdin, 37, who teaches science education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and is the author of a forthcoming book, “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood … and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education.”

For Dr. Emdin, Mr. Boland’s book wrongly blames students for what is really a failure to train teachers, especially those working with students from backgrounds that are different from their own.
“Teaching in an urban school is a specialty, like surgery,” said Dr. Emdin, who urges teachers to see beyond the thuggish behavior of difficult students, which might be a performance that itself involves great strategy and talent.

Teaching minority students, especially from poor backgrounds, requires “a particular skill set that you can develop,” Dr. Emdin said, emphasizing that those skills take time to emerge. “But I would not have my internist performing heart surgery. And I would not have Ed Boland teach in an urban school. He’s not trained for it.”

Mr. Boland agreed with at least part of that assessment. “Of all the hours I was at graduate school, I don’t think there was all together an hour devoted to classroom management,” he said. “We were developing beautifully crafted lesson plans that no one could use. I was learning esoteric phrases about test design. I spent two semesters doing a research project. I just wish somebody told me how to get a cellphone out of a kid’s hand.

“I just wish, when that girl stood on top of that desk, I knew what to do.”

The teachers at his school, Mr. Boland said, often shared their frustrations at happy hours at local bars. They gave the sessions a name and announced them on the white board in the teachers’ lounge. “Security meeting at 4 p.m.” meant to bring a thirst.

Teacher training, especially in classroom management, has long been a point of contention between teachers and the city’s Education Department, said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, the city’s largest teachers’ union. Often, the least experienced teachers get assigned to the most difficult classrooms. Then they quit, leaving vulnerable students with a parade of rookies, falling further behind each year. “We need to move toward having residency programs, like they do for doctors,” Mr. Mulgrew said. “Like you have a teaching hospital — it sounds funny, but you should have a teaching school.”

Others saw Mr. Boland’s failure as a product of a school culture that accepts that teachers will founder for their first year or two.

“There’s a mind-set that it’s O.K. to make your mistakes on the job,” said Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education research and policy group. “Nobody says to an air traffic controller, ‘Everyone crashes a plane their first year; you’ll get better.’ It’s not acceptable that that’s part of the profession.” (Mr. Pondiscio briefly worked for Mr. Boland as a consultant to Prep for Prep.)

For Mr. Boland, the year did not get much better after that fifth day. By spring he was sleeping poorly, realizing that he had become like the cynical teachers he once disparaged — those who gave thanks when students skipped class or fell asleep at their desks. “I thought, Where’s your self-respect?” he said. “How can you let a kid who desperately needs an education fall asleep? Six months later I was like, Oh, my God, please go to sleep.” When Prep for Prep offered to take him back, he thought quitting would be an admission of failure — then accepted the job.

Mr. Boland said he hoped people would not conclude from his book that the students were to blame for their chaotic classrooms, or that poor kids could not be taught. He wrote the book, he said, to dispel the myth of the hero teacher, and the idea that just caring was enough. In the book’s final section, he blames poverty for the school dysfunction, nodding only briefly to the teachers and the methods that succeed with impoverished students, even where others fail.

As he prepared for publication, Mr. Boland said, he contacted as many students as he could, to tell them about the book and to apologize for his shortcomings as their teacher. Most were gracious, he said; they had too many clueless teachers to get hung up on one.

He took heart from reconnecting with one of his classroom’s success stories: Nee-cole, a homeless girl who went on to earn a college degree despite her turbulent family surroundings.
But this story, like the book’s, does not have a happy ending.

Nee-cole (a pseudonym) is now working part-time at a Whole Foods in Westchester County, unable to find full-time work, Mr. Boland said. “She gets up at 4:30 in the morning to take a bus to Whole Foods and cut vegetables for four hours,” he said. “That college she went to, she overstayed her term in the dorms, so they just served her a summons that they’re charging her $4,000, and she has to do $75 monthly payments. How dare the richest country in the world take this kid who did everything right and harass her like that?”

He seemed on the verge of angry tears. “That’s supposed to be my success story,” he said.



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