IT ALL IN THE NARRATIVE

Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

“a woman should have every honorable motive to exertion which is enjoyed by man, to the full extent of her capacities and endowments. The case is too plain for argument. Nature has given woman the same powers, and subjected her to the same earth, breathes the same air, subsists on the same food, physical, moral, mental and spiritual. She has, therefore, an equal right with man, in all efforts to obtain and maintain a perfect existence.”
Frederick Douglass

It was early afternoon on Sunday, as I lay on the couch watching the Pro Bowl with my 9-year-old son, that a message scrolled on the bottom of the screen – Kobe Bryant killed in a helicopter crash at age 41. I must admit the news felt like a physical impact. It’s always hard to grasp that individuals that have made a life out of defying mortal bounds can still be brought to earth by common causes.

My thoughts on Kobe have always been a little complicated. Early in his career, I was not a fan, I felt he was a selfish player that often put himself before the team. When the rape allegations surfaced in 2003, I was horrified. The case was ultimately dismissed when the accuser – after months of having her reputation dragged through the mud – refused to testify and a civil suit was later settled.

As Bryant’s career wound done I begrudgingly began to respect his tenacity and his relentless pursuit of excellence. He was a testament to what hard work and commitment could deliver. There was no denying the inspiration he brought to the next generation -on and off the court.

Last year, my son Peter fell in love with the NBA and naturally gravitated toward the exploits of Kobe.  At bedtime, we read excerpts from his book The Mamba Mentality. I really had to think about how we approached this. The lessons on committing to the pursuit of excellence and developing a strong work ethic were vital but equally important was the discussion of how we treat women and the limits of privilege.

Some have taken exception to Kobe’s rape case being brought up during this time of mourning. They point to the change Kobe had made in his personal life since his daughters were born as evidence that he had merely made a bad decision as young men are prone to do. I disagree, rape is never just a bad decision. But I also feel that a lifetime is not defined by its worst instance. We are all complex creatures filled with both good and bad.

Kobe’s life story can not be told without telling the story of the rape case and its role in the fortifying of rape culture. How many women watched the case unfold and came to the realization that the best course of action if sexually assaulted is to just keep quiet? How many have watched the celebration of Kobe’s life and drawn a similar conclusion? It’s a part of the story that can’t be ignored and even while mourning we must remain sensitive to messages sent, both the intended and the unintentional.

Yesterday the Tennessean ran an op-ed piece by Nancy Armour that in my estimation really got it right. She closes with the following statement,

Bryant was neither a god nor a demon, though at times he resembled both. He was flawed and complicated, and it’s OK to acknowledge that.

Overshadowed by the death of an icon, are the other lives that were lost in this horrific tragedy. Eight lives besides Bryant’s were taken on Sunday, 3 of whom had not even reached voting age. Who knows what incredible things they would have gone on to achieve had the events on Sunday not transpired.

Sunday’s tragedy should serve as another reminder that life can turn on a dime. We need to treasure each moment and hold those close, a little closer. Try to live a little closer to our best selves every day. No matter how high we fly, none of us are immune to the natural limits of life.

A CLOSER LOOK AT LITERACY LEGISLATION

Like many of you, I’ve been doing a great deal of thinking of late on literacy. The Science of Reading has replaced Common Core as the new engine that sucks all the air out of the room. In a recent blog post reading specialist, Timothy Shanahan raises some points that have been running through my head.

All the conversations about the Science of Reading center around a perception of what is happening in classrooms based on a few observations and adopted curriculum. The reality is that few teachers practice rigorous adherence to one strategy and often modify in an attempt to meet the needs of their individual students. It’s a practice that is unlikely to change.

As Shanahan illustrates,

Imagine a veteran second-grade teacher, Ms. Jones. She’s always received good evaluations from her principals, the parents are happy to have their kids in her classroom, and whatever this or that test may say, she can see that her students make progress. They can read.

Now, the leveraging starts. We want that teacher to teach more phonics, or less. We want her to build knowledge instead of reading skills, or to work with harder books. Leveraging thrives on urgency, and its black-and-white rhetoric often sounds like, “If teachers don’t do what we say, kids won’t learn.”

But Ms. Jones has 15-years’ experience that tells her that the rhetoric is BS!  

She doesn’t do whatever the leverage is touting, and yet she knows for a fact that her children are learning to read. Her own success is one brake on reform — why change if what you are doing is working? — but the overwrought rhetoric is a second. Why change if you can’t trust the people who are urging you to change?

Let’s face it. Our problem in reading isn’t that nothing works. It’s that everything does.

Shanahan goes on is his piece to explore ways in which to encourage teachers to buy into changing practices. In my opinion, this anecdote also illustrates another important consideration worth exploring – how we employ our accountability system is hindering innovation.

Standardized testing has created a “gotcha” culture where teachers continually feel under attack. How students perform on standardized tests impacts the trajectory of a teacher’s career. Why would a teacher who is consistently a level 5 teacher, or even a 4, put that rating at risk at the behest of some policy wonks and advocates who have never before been in the classroom?

Especially in light of the fact that if those new practices and policies turn out to be failures, the wonks and advocates walk away while the teacher is left being held accountable. A position they’ve been left in all to often over the last several decades.

As a result of this “gotcha” culture, what ends up happening is what has been going on for decades, teachers ignore state and district mandates, they close their doors and they teach how they know best. You want to change that? Dismantle the “gotcha” culture.

I thinks it imperative that before we throw millions of dollars more at curriculum and policy, we take a deeper look at current practices and culture and assess how it is facilitating or impeding student outcomes. Shanahan files this under “last mile rhetoric” and offers the following advice.

That’s where Ms. Jones and the last mile become significant. As long as our rhetoric fails to correspond with her experience, we can lever all day long, but won’t deliver significantly higher reading achievement on scale because the last mile won’t be implemented.

The last mile rhetoric shouldn’t be a hair-on-fire message, but one that acknowledges both the current successes and the need to do better.

“Ms. Jones, we need your help. Studies show that kids can do better in reading if they receive a substantial amount of high-quality phonics instruction. Research also shows that hasn’t been happening in enough classrooms. We know you’ve been successful in teaching reading, but the goal line has moved. We need to get kids to higher levels than in the past and that’s going to require some changes. Doing what we ask won’t change everything (and it’s not a criticism of your past efforts), but it will be better for your students and we all want that.”

Perhaps the strong rhetoric will move the levers, but remember we also have to persuade Ms. Jones in the last mile.

That’s a whole lot different than the prevalent rhetoric that abounds today. If we don’t change the rhetoric we won’t change the outcomes. Pretty simple.

SHORTCUTS

In what is starting to become a pattern, a ChalkbeatTN article revealed yesterday that the TNDOE did not go through a competitive bidding process or the legislature’s fiscal review committee to secure its contract with ClassWallet, the Florida based vendor hired to manage online payments and applications for the state’s voucher program.

This is even more significant given that when the voucher bill was approved last year amid fierce debate, lawmakers were told that the program would cost about $771,000 this year. But the education department already has entered into a two-year contract for $2.5 million. Not to mention that they are struggling to cover the cost of staffing necessary to build the program earlier than expected due to the governor’s desire to get things rolling quickly. Why do I get the feeling things will get worse before they get better?

Starting to hear widespread problems with technology and WiFi across the district. Not a good thing seeing as TNReady testing is fast coming upon us.

It appears that author Robert Pondisco is in town visiting schools, Pondisco is the author of the recent book How The Other Half Learns. It’s a book I abandoned about halfway through, an action I’m having second thoughts about. Hopefully, a copy is still available at the library.

Yesterday in Wilson County, Spenser Alan Boston appeared in court on a simple marijuana charge. While addressing the judge on how he’d like to marijuana legalized he proceeds to pull out a joint and light it, take a few hits. He was quickly hustled out of court and charged with another count of possession and given a 10-day sentence for contempt. Just when you think you’ve seen it all.

POLL QUESTIONS

Let’s take look at the results from this week’s poll questions, The first asks for your opinion on the loss of veteran teachers – whether you thought it was intentional or incidental. 33% of you thought it was purely intentional with another 31% of you saying it might not be intentional but the powers that be were certainly enjoying the fruits. Only 5% of you thought it was accidental. Remember that trust thing we talked about earlier?

Here are the write-ins,

I think they haven’t given it enough thought. 1
Teachers are underpaid for district mandates 1
The ones I know chose to leave on their own. 1
Intentional! Fewer people to point out stupid curriculum choices 1
Veteran teachers are tired of this crap 1
I think it has happened as a result of past leaders being out of touch 1
Too many veteran Ts don’t put Ss 1st, deficit mindset 1
Churn and burn. Veterans aren’t valued 1
By product of a hot mess of a discipline plan 1
Intentionally! It’s the only thing that puts sense in the nonsense!!

Question 2 asked about whether you felt Dr. Battle had made the right move in regard to Dr. Majors.  31% of you said you hoped it was a harbinger of things to come, and 29% said it was sad but necessary. Only 3 of you felt she was a little harsh. All in all, it’s pretty clear that this was something that needed to happen.

Here are the write-ins,

I think people are wondering why he wasn’t fired for stealing 1
Too little too late in terms of the damage done. 1
It was a great decision! 1
Not enough 1
not harsh enough 1
Is he still employed? Then, no. 1
Yes. She always does right thing despite criticism 1
Absolutely. Keep looking for more corruption. 1
Fire him. These are reasons CMs use to deny funds. 1
Absolutely! Her actions bring hope as they align with her priorities. 1
Get rid of Jill Petty next 1
Why the hell does he still have a job? He’s a Thief!!!!

The last question asked for your take on the new HR chief. In this case, the majority of you were employing a wait and see position. Here are those write-ins,

Did we just create a new 100k position for Majors demotion? Smells fishy. 1
He’s a white male so you aren’t even looking for previous mistakes or skeletons 1
I will wait and see if he can run his department fairly and competently 1
Whoever can get teachers raises I am for. Long overdue. 1
One less “ good ole’ boy” can’t be a bad thing 1
I assume he can’t do much worse 1
Just get rid of Tony. He’s a liar and a thief. 1
another bozo at central office

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page, where we try to accentuate the positive.

If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight and share, send it on to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Any wisdom or criticism you’d like to share is always welcome.

A huge shout out to all of you who’ve lent your financial support throughout the year. I am eternally grateful for your generosity. It allows me to keep doing what I do.

You can still head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Or you can hit up my Venmo account which is Thomas-Weber-10. I don’t need much – even $5 would help – but if you think what I do has value, a little help is always greatly appreciated.

Don’t forget, if you have student-written blog posts you’d like to see reach a wider audience…send them on. I’d love the opportunity to share them.

 



Categories: Education

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