Monday, August 29, 2016

Teacher Wars: Understanding the Chaos of the "Reform" Movement

Our last meeting of The Teacher Wars was a great one!

We continued working on a timeline of notable events mentioned in the book. We also talked about themes in the book. Throughout history, top down reforms have been put into place with little thought for how they will actually play out in schools. Also segregation, both in teacher and student populations, continues to be a huge issue in schools. Many people have concluded that school integration has been a failure, but looking at the history, schools were never properly integrated, to put it mildly. 

At the end of our last meeting we talked about what stood out for us individually, and participants had some amazing observations which I quote here. Jonathan observed how reforms were put into place with little thought of "administrative feasibility" and regard for the paperwork they require. Maureen commented on the "illogic of building instruction around data from assessment." She also noted the "faux civil rights movement" that has played out in education reforms, notably the community schools movement of the 1970s and the current charter school movement. As Maureen put it, some reforms have "manipulated the voice of the community" to gain popularity.  In addition, she noted how personal education is---these are people's children---and how "personal education stories shaped policies" and how "So rarely throughout history have people talked to the teachers." "Amen," said Jen Pour. 

James ended the session by asking about WE's plans for reform and asking how non-educators could get involved. I suggested speaking at SRC meetings, writing editorials, going to rallies/meetings, and staying informed about the issues. Janene suggested becoming involved with a "Friends of.." group at a neighborhood school and talking to teachers

For those who haven't read this book, it's not without its problems, but it does provide a comprehensive history of the profession and attempts at reform of all kinds. I recommend it for anyone who wants to gain a big picture view of the nonsensical and chaotic "reform" landscape of the moment.

Rethinking Gender, Sexism, and Sexuality in Our Schools

Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality met four times this summer to think about our individual selves, our school culture, and curriculum, as they relate to LGBTQ students and educators, feminism, and gender.
Many thanks to our hosts and note - takers, including Giovanni's Room, for making space for us.

One participant wrote about an action that she took following her involvement with this book group!

In our last meeting we talked about the idea of doing low/medium/high risk actions to make our schools and workplaces more respectful of gender and sexuality. We passed out stickers that we could put up in our rooms that said on a rainbow flag "this is a safe space for LGBTQ people." I thought about how I wanted to put it low enough for my preschoolers to be able to see it ask about it. So far, with the exception of my enthusiastically supportive co-teacher, no one has commented on it but I'm looking forward to some object being the thing to start the conversation. Somehow it is easier to answer a question then to come up with the right time to bring up a new topic with children. This small, very "low risk" action has made me more open to the next level of actions I could take, and more excited to explore what the next step will be for me in my classroom.


Here are our notes for all of our meetings.  It's a great document.

Some of the things we discussed as we move forward are... 
- having space to continue this conversation as LGBTQ issues, feminist lenses, and ending sexism, applies to our classrooms, schools, and lives.  
- continuing in the form of an ItAG through TAG Philly this winter (see
- continuing to use this list to share ideas, stories, and resources
- creating a list of different ways to do this work in small and large ways
- creating a list of points for Rethinking Schools that includes feedback about the text
- using resources similar to those from the British Columbia Teacher's Federation that we shared last night.  

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Restorative Practices Project from Two Book Groups

Two books in the 2016 Summer Reading Series focused on the school-to-prison pipeline:  Pushout and Being Bad

If you haven't seen the blogs posts from our two book groups, check them out!
We're excited to come together, share our insights, and pinpoint concrete ways to organize against the forces that align to criminalize youth in schools.  To that end, we are forming the "Restorative Practices Project" (RPP).  This is a space for educators, parents, community members, youth and other allies to explore how to implement restorative practices in a single classroom, a group of classrooms, an entire school or a group of schools.

No one is an "expert" here, but we are committed to figuring this out and using each other as resources.  We plan to meet monthly.  Our first meeting is on Wed., Sept 21 from 4:30-6:00pm at 1500 Locust. We'll be meeting in the lounge on the top floor (press the PC button in the elevator).  (Call Kelley at 215-868-3089 or Mary at 215-680-2950 if you can't find us.)  Please bring a snack or drink to share. 

Please sign up for the RPP using this form -- even if you can't make the first meeting -- so we can share resources with you and keep you updated on any changes.
Please help spread the word and forward this to anyone who might be interested.

Thanks so much!
Kelley, Kate & Mary, on behalf of the Being Bad book group

Friday, August 19, 2016

Disrupting the School to Prison Pipeline

The Being Bad book club had a good second meeting at the end of July. Our small group  discussed how restorative practices could transform how we do discipline in our classrooms and schools and disrupt the school to prison pipeline. One of our members has done significant work  to institutionalize restorative practices across multiple schools. I'm new to this idea, but the working definition I took away  was that restorative practices allow people involved in a conflict  to talk to each other, come to an understanding  of what happened, and repair the damage that was done. In contrast to traditional discipline methods, which are driven by teachers and administrators, in a restorative practice approach the child owns the problem  and takes  initiative in solving it. One crucial element of the practice  is allowing time and space for children to calm down before addressing the problem. There is obviously much more to say about this approach.

For teachers who are interested in exploring a restorative practice approach in their own classroom/schools, our book club agreed to form a Restorative Practices Project. First meeting: Weds, Sept 21 from 4:30-6 at 1500 Locust. We'll be meeting in the lounge on the top floor (press the PC button in the elevator).

{Kate Atkins}

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Dog Whistle Politics

Here are some of the notes from the last two book group meetings discussing and learning from Dog Whistle Politics, by Ian Haney Lopez.  The group continues to explore how racially coded appeals have been used a cynical political strategy to undermine New Deal liberalism and dismantle the middle class over the last five decades. The next meeting is August 25th from 5-7pm at Temple University (Ritter Hall 477A).  See you there!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Needing to Continue the Conversation: Talking Back, Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black, by bell hooks

After tonight's talk, we all left with the need to continue the conversation. We all felt the need that this book reminded us of the many conversations that Black women forget to have. The controversy of Gabby's hair, young girls twerking at picnics, designers refusing to clothe Black and Latina female entertainers, talking too "white" and the reminder that many of us have emulated the words and feelings of the oppressors by taking to social media and running each other through the mud and muck. Repeating the hatred of white supremacy by way of words and actions.

This is why this conversation must continue until we are ALL liberated from our tenuous past.

Read more at:

{Tamara Anderson}

Sunday, August 7, 2016

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood: Critiques and Six Word Summaries

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood had a great third meeting on Thursday, July 29, at Olney Charter School.  The group was a bit smaller than the first two meetings (8, instead of 15-18), which allowed for a more intimate free-flowing conversation.  The meeting before had yielded some critiques of Emdin’s book:  Why doesn’t he ground his ideas within a larger community of thinkers?  Why, especially, does he neglect to discuss the ideas of women of color who have made countless contributions to his line of thinking?  Aren’t some of these ideas already things we do as teachers?  Why the fancy names and very specific directions for the practices?

With these questions in mind, the facilitators suggested that we frame our dialogue around what we found useful and what we found concerning or had questions about.  This provided a helpful frame that led to a productive conversation. 

We summarized the last chapters with 6 word summaries (below), then got to discussing the book, deepening our analyses of what it means to be a White folk (or a rest of y’all too) teaching in the hood. The framework presented was simple, and provided space for folks to express their concerns, while also leading us down some productive lines of thinking about how we can build more trusting relationships with students and their families. 

Six Word Summaries of the Chapters:
Chapter 3 – Find community pedagogues, like preachers, barbers.
Chapter 4 - Choose diversity. Listen. Empower leadership. Repeat.
Chapter 5 – Observe students teaching. Adjust pedagogy accordingly.
Chapter 6 – Build active, mutually supporting classroom culture.
Chapter 7 – Engage in community of our students.
Chapter 8 – Battle education. Street rules. Authentic assessment.

[Kathleen Riley]