A place for educators to find thought-provoking news, conversation and support for those who care about diversity, equal opportunity and respect for differences in schools
We are teachers and problem solvers. We are learners. What can we learn from this, we ask. We think ahead, look for the lesson in every situation, find solutions. We do this every single day in our classrooms. When lessons fall flat or when we can’t reach our students, we demand to know why so when the next class comes in, 6 minutes later, we make the immediate fix. It’s the way we survive; the way we feel we can control something.
A couple of years ago a student approached me after history class. Avoiding eye contact, he trembled a bit before speaking. His voice was shaking.
“I am sorry, teacher,” Armando began. “I could not finish my project. My parents were killed a couple days ago.”
In Oakland, Calif., there are a lot of homicides especially for a fairly small city of about 400,000 people. Last July, there were seven homicides in seven days. Victims ranged in age from 15 to 84. Six of them occurred near the school where I taught. One was a friend of many of my former students and a cousin of a little girl I mentor.
When the news about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School broke on Friday, we quickly issued some advice for teachers heading back to school on Monday.
There is no greater blow to a society than when its children are harmed. Today, we are reeling.
My colleagues thought my teaching Lord of the Flies was “perfect.” My seventh-grade class is two-thirds male. The group contains several strong personalities and many “followers,” who often mimic bad behavior. Last year, teachers struggled with this group, several instances of bullying, and a developing culture of negativity. I saw the power struggles on the first day of school and knew I had to address them early.
It’s that time of year again—when former students come into my classroom to vent about the college application process. I’ve already written more letters of recommendation than I can count this year. Now, it’s just a waiting game. My students are not good at waiting, especially when the outcome is out of their control. Not knowing whether they will be accepted to their schools of choice is excruciating.
I recently confronted my prejudices. After teaching for many years in a low-income, high-violence area of Oakland, Calif., I decided to do some private tutoring. I sought to avoid the stress of politics in the district and the uncertainty of having a new principal every year for over eight years. Although I had outlasted all of the teachers I had started working with, I felt guilty because this was the population I wanted to serve.