I am thankful for the amazing senior year I got to have, surrounded by an amazing University and even more amazing friends. (Oh and a National Championship.)
I am thankful for having found something challenging and meaningful to do with my life post-grad. (I am less thankful for the stack of grading I still need to work through.)
I am thankful for the familia, for having in the past year come from thinking TFA sounded like the stupidest idea ever to being really pretty on board with it and being incredibly supportive as I do this whole “transition into being a grownup thing.”
I am thankful for facboardsocial (and the FAC Board generally).
I am thankful for all the people that read this blog.
I am thankful for my wonderful friends— from Gainesville, from Duke and now from New Orleans. I am lucky enough to feel like I can go nearly anywhere in the country (in the world?) and find a couch to crash on.
And thank you to my amazing support system— my family who is always a call away, my friends who are always willing to listen via cell or gchat, my fellow teachers in New Orleans (who are the best), and yes all of you here on the blog. Especial thanks to anyone who has liked a post, reblogged a post, gchatted to tell me you enjoyed something, emailed to say hi after reading, or reached out in any way to make sure I wasn’t going completely off the edge after reading something I wrote.
Tonight I just had high school flash before my eyes.
Coming back home always feels like a weird lapse into a previous era, more and more every time as I am increasingly dislodged from my connections here and increasingly tied down to other places (the image I was going for there was a hot air balloon, but I think I ended up somewhere around “chunk of food trapped in trachia”).
But tonight on top of that, I went to ACR Night at a local bar, the annual event celebrating “Alachua County Residents,” every year on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I had never gone before— the first two years of college there were house parties to satisfy what urges I had to see all my old classmates and in the past years because I really didn’t care enough to bother. But this year not many of my actul friends from high school are around and I was feeling socially antsy and perhaps a little curious what was going on with people a full four years after graduation so I braved downtown parking and cover fees to venture into the dark smokey bar.
For a few minutes I didn’t recognize anyone and thought perhaps I had wasted my five dollars. But then I saw Gene and he pointed me to Ren and there, suddenly, was the Eastside class of 2006.
It was weird and nice and bizarre. Everyone seems to be in in-between places— still finishing a last semester at UF, working for a year before med school, applying to jobs abroad, law school, grad school. A few of us had real jobs (does mine count as a real job? I suppose.) Many people asked how teaching was; I told them it was hard. I practiced how to ask if someone still lived here, without letting my inflection slide towards, “God, you still live here?!" which is a skill that requires constant honing and reinforcement.
We did not really reminisce about old times, which makes sense because these were school friends and acquaintances, not my closest pals from high school, so the memories we once shared are mostly the trivial, superficial ones that have faded from memory in the four years since we all shared space on a regular basis. So we clucked about what we were all doing now in an equally superficial way and moved on to the next familiar face.
The one moment though, that was exactly the sort of moment you don’t want from these things, was when I was talking to a kid I had gone to middle and high school with, and I mentioned this Onion article, kind of jokingly. He hadn’t read it apparently, but did remark, “Still reading the Onion? Not much has changed since high school.”
Go ahead and stab me in the heart.
Isn’t that just an attack on one of those much cherished self-beliefs, the belief that we went off and grew and matured and developed good taste once we left our pastoral hometown? And here was this kid implying that none of that had happened.
(I don’t even think I read the Onion in high school. However, I clearly seemed like someone who did.)
I laughed it off then, but later I wondered— how much has really changed? And how much of the change I perceive is just that— a matter of perception?
With its food trucks, design collectives and rehabbed downtowns, the Research Triangle — the patch of North Carolina that is home to Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and 150,000 college students — seems to be yet another hipster vibe factory.
I miss Durham. (Though NOLA is obviously very cool also.) I hope to someday have a chance to live there as a non-student.
Can it really be the end of November already? Apparently.
This means I have been teaching for three and a half months and the consensus is that the worst has passed.
1) New Orleans gets the whole week off for Thanksgiving so tomorrow I get to head home for the first time since the post-Institute sleeping fest.
2) After a four year run of it (which is actually very impressive), my beloved MacBook has given up the ghost (well actually it gave up the ghost a month ago but I finally reached the acceptance phase of grieving). I have replaced it with a MacBook Pro (Priya: You need the Pro, you’re a grownup now) which I am blogging from right now. It is weird being able to be: not attached to a power cord, able to load more than one app at a time, blogging faster than a snail can crawl. Now the task of getting all of my various stuff on this one and organized.
Thank god for the week off to play with my new baby.
(Danielle, can you name an inanimate object remotely? For me?)
3) There’s a new Board class. These kids are the kids that I ran OWeek for and it makes me sad that I will never know them the way I knew the people I was on Board with. But ah, such is life.
4) Paying for said new computer while not actually that fiscally irresponsible, has put my credit card at a limit that is giving me mild heartburn. BEING A GROWNUP IS NOT ALWAYS FUN.
5) Remember when I posted things that seemed nice abut teaching? Seriously, my last class of the week always kills my buzz. Need to think of something to do about that one. I cannot deal with getting that much ‘tude every Friday afternoon. I was so steamed about it that I forgot all my grading at school and had to go pick it up today. Which means I had to drive to the East which is always annoying.
6) All my Glee music is in one place again! Now just to sync my phone and I will be set to cruise tomorrow. Showtunes and Glee get me through the Panhandle, the most boring stretch of highway anywhere ever.
7) Oh, and btw, there is no WATER in New Orleans right now. Well OK, not quite, there is water, but it’s like contaminated by something maybe and we have to boil it. Because I live in the nicest city in the Third World, not real America.
American public education is a failed enterprise. The problem is not money. Public schools already spend too much. Test scores are low because there are so many bad teachers, whose jobs are protected by powerful unions. Students drop out because the schools fail them, but they could accomplish practically anything if they were saved from bad teachers. They would get higher test scores if schools could fire more bad teachers and pay more to good ones. The only hope for the future of our society, especially for poor black and Hispanic children, is escape from public schools, especially to charter schools, which are mostly funded by the government but controlled by private organizations, many of them operating to make a profit.
A few points
Ravich points out a number of issues with charters as they currently exist. The system is in need of reform - and I’d love to see the elimination of for-profit charters, greater financial accountability (i.e. no more million dollar principals), elimination of “cherry picking” (i.e. not enrolling or exiting students with disabilities), and increased accountability to school boards for failing/substandard charters.
But Ravich also helps perpetuate a number of myths about charters by insisting on calling them “privately managed,” when the vast majority are run with public dollars, by non-profits, and are accountable to school boards.
I think Ravich throws up a straw man when it comes to poverty. Absolutely no one is denying that poverty matters. Absolutely no one is arguing against fighting poverty. The reformer argument as I see it is that we can’t wait for poor students to overcome poverty before we educate them. The power of the charter schools shown in Superman (or the school I teach at!) is that they are all places where poor students have succeeded despite the challenges they face at home. They give us hope that we might be able to get the chicken before the egg.
Ravich seems really mixed about whether we ought to listen to parents or not. She cites the high percentage of parents giving their public school an “A” or a “B” as means of supporting the existing public schools system, yet she doesn’t seem to see the outrageous number of parents entering lotteries as justification to scale up the successful charter models (i.e. KIPP/Harlem Success Academy/etc) of the world.
There is a clash of ideas occurring in education right now between those who believe that public education is not only a fundamental right but a vital public service, akin to the public provision of police, fire protection, parks, and public libraries, and those who believe that the private sector is always superior to the public sector. Waiting for “Superman” is a powerful weapon on behalf of those championing the “free market” and privatization. It raises important questions, but all of the answers it offers require a transfer of public funds to the private sector. The stock market crash of 2008 should suffice to remind us that the managers of the private sector do not have a monopoly on success.
Here, Ravich becomes absurd. Charter schools in no way call into question every students right to a public education. If Ravich is so upset about the for-profit charters (and she has every right to be!) she should focus her attention on changing the laws that allow them to exist, rather than broadly painting all charter schools as part of the private sector.
Please read and re-read point number three in Dan’s argument about a billlion times, because that bolded point? THAT’S THE POINT. We have to educate and deal with the society we have right now WHILE we try to figure out how to fix it for the future.
Also, thank you for figuring out for me what was bothering me about Ravich because I knew there was something but lesson planning 24/7 is atrophying my critical thinking abilities.
By 8 AM today I was convinced my day was going to be awful. Things that were already weighing in the bad column:
I have to teach a full week this week for the first time in a while, it was Monday, less than 6 hours of sleep, it was Monday. Also, my car’s headlights aren’t working so when I woke up to torrential rain, that meant I needed to catch a ride to school rather than just limiting my driving to daylight hours as I had originally planned. Oh, and no coffee in our apartment so I had to make coffee at school where I promptly burned my finger with scalding water.
So. I had resigned myself to a long cranky Monday with the kiddos.
First off, my juniors ROCKED THEIR EXAM. They took it Friday, whining about testing after hours of interim testing, and admittedly, not the hardest material ever, but they ROCKED. 85% class average, 4% up in their tracking overall, no one below a 74%. Five kids moved up a tier in tracking.
Yeah. I almost teared up when I finished inputting the data on my tracker. Because it was really a collective effort— they have worked incredibly hard, I have been working hard, many many sheets of paper have been sacrificed for notes and readings and homework questions— but it paid OFF.
My other lessons went better than expected also, the new seating chart is so far is seeming to help with chatter, and I finally have popsicle sticks for cold calling which is making my life awesomer.
Oh and I have a super cool new powerpoint that does a giant countdown clock that several students told me is “cool.”
8th period went to minor shit, but overall… freakishly good day, out of NOWHERE. Maybe the hardest part really is over?
(RAP WOOD. DEAR FATE, PLEASE DON’T SMITE ME WITH A SHITSHOW TOMORROW FOR DARING TO HOPE THAT THE WORST IS OVER. DID I MENTION ALL THE CRYING I DID IN OCTOBER? I DESERVE IMPROVEMENT. ANY DAY NOW. REALLY.)
Oh and then the new girl talk album (WHICH IS CRACKTASTICALLY GOOD AS EXPECTED) and now there IS coffee in the apartment and I ate a whole thing of mac n cheese for dinner and I feel much more pleased with things than I did this morning. Oh and Harry Potter comes out on Friday and we are all going. And ABell is coming to NOLA next year.
My god, readers, I feel downright happy, in an uncomplicated way right now.
(DON’T QUASH ME FATE. GIMME FOUR GOOD DAYS TO MAKE IT TO THANKSGIVING.)