Time Flies

The month of September flew by. Woah! A lot has happened since I last wrote. I’ve found a few students who are enrolled in my reading/writing course. I’ve conducted a couple of IEP meetings. I’m fully engaged in the work of a case manager. Some things are easier than I expected (getting up at 5:45 every day turns out to be pretty manageable — if I get to bed before midnight) and others are tougher (it’s not as easy to figure out why some kids can read at grade level and others can’t as it was this summer in Los Angeles). It’s fun being one of a team of teachers who are attacking the problem of teaching 700+ kids to be to be the best kids they can be. It’s not so fun dealing with a bureaucracy that can’t assign an email address and employee ID to a new employee before said employee begins his job. (I can sign up instantly for an email address which gives me access to an entire ecosystem of online tools if I go to Google, but it takes two weeks to get an OUSD email address.)

Edna Brewer is a great school. I love these students. This late life career change is making me pretty happy. I love the look of the school — the older building is really smart looking — red lockers and black and white checkerboard flooring. It’s tended by the best custodian in the OUSD, Melvin Mumphrey and his staff.

I’ve set a pretty aggressive trio of goals for the kids in my class. In addition to making two grade levels of reading growth and 80 percent mastery of the high priority English Language Arts standards, I’m pushing them to engage in a project called “Speak Truth to Power.” It’s a public speaking project that raises the bar for their ability to use the vocabulary of power. Each student will choose a topic and develop a presentation (it may include art, video, music, or other media) that he or she will deliver orally to the class, parents, teachers, and administrators. To enrich the project I’ve set up a DonorsChoose.org page with grant proposal asking for video cameras we can use to create a video component for the presentations. (If you feel so inclined, I’d love it if you’d be willing to make a small contribution or pass the link on to your friends. Huge thanks to my cousin Linda, to Gene at Our Oakland and to my parents, Kathleen and Dave for their early support!)

Because of confidentiality I can’t say too much about my particular students. But I can say that they’re an inspiring bunch of young people, and they’ve completely captured my heart. Nothing will make me happier than to see these kids accomplish these goals. A couple of them are really struggling. It’s a really challenging situation, but there are occasional spurts of progress and I am really optimistic. So far my biggest thrill came on a day when we attacked the goal of learning about figurative language. I read them the poem “Casey at the Bat.” I gave them a choice about how they’d complete an exit ticket for the day. They could answer questions about the terminology and concepts of figurative language or they could write a poem. Two of my 6th graders — the ones who tend to struggle most with reading — decided to collaborate on a poem. Here’s what they came up with:

Save Our Environment

The planet is so sweet and round.
Gas burning by the minute; 
Our sweet planet is dying.
Oh planet, oh planet;
We’re so sad our planet is dying.
What should we do to save our environment?

I think it’s a great poem.

Monday October 4, 2010 — Mark —