Archive > October 2012

Janiceia Adams
October 31, 2012

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays after Christmas and Easter.  As a teacher in the South Bronx, I used to allow my students to dress up after school. We would get in on the fun as well. Each grade team would choose a theme and dress up to surprise the kids. Two years ago, my fourth grade team dressed up as witches. We had a blast!

But there’s a shadow over this year’s Halloween celebration—and I’m not just talking about the recent events of Hurricane Sandy.

Photo courtesy Janiceia Adams

Robert Rigonan photo
October 31, 2012

When I entered the teaching profession, many warned me about the “disillusionment phase” to come. Though I anticipated some difficulty with teaching, when reality set in, I realized why people call October the dark days of teaching.

My first few weeks of teaching were amazing. I successfully introduced my class to scientific inquiry, found my students engaged with the curriculum, and encountered only a few behavior issues. I was walking on sunshine and telling myself “teaching is easy!”

Then a black cloud rose over my head. An almost paranormal shift occurred after the shiny days of September. Suddenly, the Las Vegas desert heat disappeared, the days got shorter, and my students were no longer perfect little angels. I left my desk each day with a giant pile of ungraded papers, and red Fs littered my grade book.

Photo by André Karwath via WikiCommons

The Editors of Pass The Chalk
October 30, 2012

Our thoughts and prayers are with the students, families, teachers, alums, and staff who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy.  

Photo by David Shankone via Wikimedia Commons

Senator Bill Ferguson
October 29, 2012

Bill Ferguson (Baltimore ’05) represents Maryland’s 46th District in the State Senate.

Several weeks ago, a former student of mine sent me a Facebook message. This student is someone who I'd never forgethe's incredibly smart, talented, and motivated, and he stood out as a student committed to his future.

We hadn't connected in awhile, and it was really great to hear from him. In his message, he wrote, "Mr. Ferguson, can you give me any advice on getting into an office environment? I'd love to work on computers. I don't have the 'education/degrees' as proof, but if given the chance, I know I wouldn't disappoint." My immediate thought was, he's right, give him the chance, and he will succeed. He deserves it.

Photo by Øyvind via Wikimedia Commons

October 26, 2012

Five links that made us think this week:

Remember being sent to the principal's office? It was never a good thing! Little did we know that a principal can have a massively positive impact.  A study recently released by Education Next shows that "the impact of a principal who is statistically more effective than average can translate to seven additional months of learning in a single academic year." So next time you’re sent to the principal’s office, have no fear! It simply means your school principal wants you to thrive rather than struggle (unless, of course, you actually did something bad). 

Photo by Tom Parker via WikiCommons

Cara Volpe
October 25, 2012

Cara Volpe is a member of the 2003 Houston corps.

Cliché as it can seem, there are always a few particular students whose stories you think about and refer to again and again. Often they are the shining successes, the kids and teachers who inspire us and prove what’s possible. But some stories don’t have as happy an ending. . .and there are many whose endings we don’t even know.

When I met Jose, I was a first-year teacher at Jane Long Middle School in Houston, Texas. It was 2003, and on the days I wore a Long MS t-shirt I was often mistaken for a student. I was an idealist, an idealist who didn’t even need coffee to make it through the day at that point in her life. Jose was simultaneously a shining star and what felt like a thorn in my side. In my class, and every other class, he was a case study in disruptiveness, creating constant interruptions, talking back to me and other classmates, and generally diverting attention away from learning.

Photo courtesy of Cara Volpe

Josh Dormont
October 24, 2012

Josh Dormont (New York ’05) taught in the South Bronx.

If you really want to understand what matters to teachers, go to happy hour with some of them. Hell, buy someone a drink. No doubt you’ll hear some funny stories about the kids and colleagues, but most likely you’ll hear gripes about the lack of respectfrom friends, principals, and other adults.

Often, people will interpret this as a debate about tenure. But that ignores a key issue: how we keep and reward the best isn’t about protecting teachers from worst-case scenarios, it’s about how we build a system that recognizes excellence, promotes growth, and embraces leadership.

Photo from FEMA Photo Library via Wikimedia Commons

October 23, 2012


Olubunmi Fashusi is a member of the 2011 Teach For America-Baltimore corps.

“Sooooooo, what are you doing next year?”

In the past few weeks, I’ve been asked that question more times than I can count. Each time, my breathing becomes a little shorter and I feel like I’m having a mild panic attack. If only I could spin around a few times and turn into a pile of golden dust like Michael Jackson did in his “Do You Remember the Time?” video. As an alternative, I’m considering carrying a king-sized Twix with me everywhere I go. That way, I can stuff one of the bars into my mouth and make incomprehensible noises while pretending to try to answer the question and secretly praying that my barbaric eating habits disgust my inquisitor to the point that he or she runs away.

If these nosy individuals could read my mind, all they would see is a big, fat question mark. Though I don’t look forward to the anxiety I experience when asked about my future plans, I’m secretly thankful once my pseudo-anxiety attack ends. The question forces me to think about next year.  

Photo by Zdlr via Wikimedia Commons

Heather Harding
October 22, 2012

So Joel Klein grew up in public housing but that doesn’t qualify him as poor in the ways we now understand public housing as code for poverty-striken? Hmmmm. And because his experience didn’t neatly fit some current definition of “dysfunctional home we typically associate with the truly disadvantaged” poverty, his narrative about the impact of teachers on his life trajectory fails as advocacy for teacher quality and effectiveness because it’s a “misleading” “sleight of hand”? I just can’t buy this.

I have two objections and a short personal story.

First, the role of social class on educational attainment and learning is far more complicated than we are currently allowing for in the education-reform debate. Second, the story of educator impact is universal, and teacher effectiveness is central to all of our work no matter what side of the current debate we find ourselves on as individuals.

October 19, 2012

Five links that made us think this week:

President Obama and Governor Romney have finally put education front and center. Both candidates for the Presidency took their thoughts on higher-ed reform to Time Magazine. I wonder if this adorable video is what inspired them to get the education conversation going?

President Obama provides examples of how his plan has already helped many people across the country attend college, providing ”nearly 4 million more young people scholarships to help them afford their degree. “ If re-elected in November the President promises to work with colleges and universities to cut tuition growth in half and give 2 million workers the resources they need to build their skills at local community colleges.

Governor Romney says we need “to adapt, to compete, to innovate,” and promises he will “work with Congress to achieve fundamental education reform that gives every student the opportunity to succeed.” He also talks about the need to increase college completion rates and reduce financial aid debt. If elected in November, Romney pledges to “provide the leadership we need to meet this crisis head-on.”

Photo by Muns via WikiCommons.


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We believe education is the most pressing issue facing our nation. On Pass the Chalk, we'll share our takes on the issues of the day, join the online conversation about education, and tell stories from classrooms, schools, and communities around the nation.

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