Archive > December 2012

December 21, 2012

Five links to close out 2012

(Note: Pass The Chalk will be on hiatus until January 2, 2013. We look forward to resuming our regular publication schedule in the New Year. Have a wonderful holiday!)

President Obama has been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. . .for the second time. (Obama first received the recognition in 2008 when he became the nation’s first black President.) This year, Time editor Rick Stengel describes Obama as the “Architect of the New America, citing his ”historic re-election last month as symbolic of the nation's shifting demographics and the rise of younger, more diverse Americans.” Go POTUS!

Photo by The White House via WikiCommons 

Pass The Chalk Editors
December 21, 2012

Since its launch just 5 months ago, Pass The Chalk has touched on a broad range of issues, including the Chicago teachers’ strike, how to support students’ mental health, coming out as a teacher or student, life in our nation’s Native American communities, and most recently, the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Conn. But there's also a ton of stuff we didn't talk about. As we approach year's end, we asked some of your favorite contributors to reflect on the most overlooked education stories of 2012. Here’s what they said.

(Note: Pass The Chalk will be on hiatus until January 2, 2013. We look forward to resuming our regular publication schedule in the New Year. Have a wonderful holiday!)

Charter Schools

One issue I’d like to have seen more coverage on is the sheer proliferation of charter schools in Minnesota (and other areas) and the consequences—both positive and negative—it has had. Working in the first state to allow charter schools, I see some massive issues (students switching schools on a weekly basis as they “shop around”), and also some massive strengths (Minneapolis’s Hiawatha Leadership Academy was ranked No. 1 in the state for closing the achievement gap). I haven’t seen tons of coverage looking at both sides of this issue, along with states that still don’t have charter schools. (Blair Mishleau, Twin Cities Corps '12) 

Read past posts from Blair

Chicago Youth Violence 

I was disheartened (though not entirely surprised) not to see more in the media on the violence that wrought devastation in Chicago this summer. For many reasons, the Chicago teachers’ strike not least of all, this story never seemed to own a news cycle. I was particularly curious to hear how educators were approaching this topic in their classrooms. (Ursa Scherer Robinson, Teacher Leadership Preparation and Development)

Read past posts from Ursa

By Stoeffler (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Denise Bird
December 20, 2012

Denise Bird taught in the 2008 San Jose (Bay Area) corps.

It was in early December of 2008 that I hit my breaking point.

My school day had just ended and I sat at my desk with my head in my hands.

That day I had started to implement a 100% scripted curriculum (as required by my principal). I spent a week changing all my routines and lessons to meet the new mandate. Now, my worst nightmare had come true:  Total rebellion in the classroom. Two boys fooled around with crayons in their desks; two of my strongest students yawned in the middle of the lesson; three other students asked why we were doing such boring things today. My kids were miserable. And from the looks of their exit slips from that day, they weren’t learning either.

I joined the corps full of creative and innovative ideas of how to teach. I had always imagined that my classroom would be one full of joy where kids would get to exercise both their artistic and intellectual abilities. And yet here I was, halfway through my first year, sitting at my desk feeling clueless. The mandated curriculum had replaced creativity and joy in my classroom. I saw the lack of enthusiasm in my students every day. Veteran and newer teachers alike shared my concerns—but they were ignored by our school’s administrators.

In moments like these, I would always think, “What would my mom do?” My mother is a pre-school Montessori veteran teacher with over 25 years of experience. Entering her classroom evokes the same feeling I would imagine one would have when walking through the wardrobe into Narnia. Her classroom is a magical place where learning is fun, kids are constantly learning, and there is never a missed opportunity to be creative or curious.

Photo courtesy of Denise Bird

Meghan Perez
December 19, 2012

Meghan Perez is a University of Oregon alumna and a Bay Area native who currently lives in Chicago. There she is a part of the 2011 corps and teaches preschool in the south side neighborhood of Englewood.

As my students packed up their belongings to go home on Friday, one of my three-year-olds excitedly pulled out a bright green squirt gun from his book bag. With a huge grin on his face, he exclaimed, “Look, Ms. Perez! This is my gun!” A wave of anxiety rushed over me as I quickly took the toy and returned it to his backpack, the heartbreaking images and horrific details from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting running through my mind. He furrowed his brow and looked up in confusion, his innocent eyes awaiting a reason for my reaction. “That is not a school toy, Christopher. We don’t play with guns at school.”

Photo courtesy of Meghan Perez

Chris Gueits
December 18, 2012

@ChrisGueits was a 2008 Los Angeles corps member and is Co-Founder of Roots of Hope. This post has been adapted from a personal reflection on Facebook last Friday.

"For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory."

I’m embarrassed to admit it.  The news from Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday didn’t tear me apart.  At least not at first.

Photo by VOA by WikiCommons

Steven Farr
December 17, 2012

Today, Pass The Chalk is running a series of reflections on the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. This post was originally published by withGanas.

I am shaken to the core by the massacre of children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut.

The glimpses of unfathomable horror and fear and pain and sadness have at times been more than I can stomach.  With some shame, I have found myself looking away, turning the radio off, trying to think about something else—hugging my own kids without letting them see my tears.

Image via withGanas

Monica Filppu
December 17, 2012

Today, Pass The Chalk is running a series of reflections on the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

As a Connecticut mother of two children and an educator I have been struggling, like many across the world, to absorb the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I was in a professional development session all day Friday. Even though I was aware that there had been a shooting in a school in Newtown, it wasn’t until the drive to pick up my children from school that I began to process the magnitude of the event and the lives lost.

Photo by DVIDSHUB via WikiCommons

December 14, 2012

Five links that made us think this week.

Our hearts are with the victims and families affected by today’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The terrible tragedy happened around 9:30am on Friday. So far 27 casualties, including elementary school kids, have been reported. Today’s loss comes on the heels of last week’s tragic shooting at the Clackamas Town Center, which left 3 dead in Portland, Oregon. Wherever you might be in your day, please pause for a moment of silence to honor the human loss of today and all of those impacted. 

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Melissa Moritz (née Gregson)
December 14, 2012

Melissa Moritz (née Gregson) is the managing director of Teach For America’s STEM Initiative

In our high-tech world, innovators like Bill Gates, Tim Cook, and Tim Berners-Lee share a level of notoriety previously reserved for rock stars. So it’s curious that computer science, the foundation of their profession, is so often overlooked at the K-12 level. You might not even have known that today is the close of Computer Science Education Week, an event that recognizes both the transformative role of computing and the need to bolster computer science at all educational levels.

Often relegated to the shadows behind STEM subjects with more institutional entrenchment (say, algebra, biology, or chemistry), computer science courses are quite literally the key to preparing our children for the jobs of the future. Microsoft currently has about 6,000 openings—3,400 of which are for software engineers, developers, and programmers. These posts reflect our nation’s wider skills gap, wherein employers can’t find enough applicants with the technical knowledge necessary to occupy computer positions.  “We are creating unfilled jobs,” Microsoft chief counsel Brad Smith has said.

Photo by Paul Keller via Flickr Creative Commons

Laura Dallas McSorley
December 13, 2012

Laura McSorley is a native of Atlanta and the managing director for Teach For America’s early childhood education initiative.

Last month, my hometown of Atlanta welcomed thousands of pre-K teachers, Head Start leaders, parents, researchers, and program administrators at the largest conference on early childhood education the world over. For four jam-packed days, these practitioners and policymakers came together for the annual conference of the National Association for the Education of Young Children to wrestle with how best to educate our country’s youngest learners. As a former pre-K teacher and fervent believer in the remarkable power of early education, I couldn’t have been prouder of our city.

Georgia’s universal, state-funded Pre-K Program exemplifies Atlanta’s dedication to early learning and its leadership in the field. My personal commitment to early education first developed in my own classroom—a community of 3- and 4-year-olds in the Edgewood neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Charged with shaping my students’ first school experience, I came quickly to understand the vital importance of the 10 or so months I would spend with the kids entrusted to me each year.

Research shows that 85% of a child’s brain develops before the age of 5, and that attending a high-quality pre-K program is linked to greater educational attainment, higher earnings, and lower levels of involvement in the criminal justice system throughout a student’s lifetime. It’s one of the highest-return investments our nation can make. Just this week, the New York Times cited lack of early education as a contributing factor in the lingering lag between American students’ math and science achievement and that of their peers worldwide. Without a strong foundation, students tend to fall further and further behind over time.  

Attending a high-quality pre-K program is linked to greater educational attainment and higher earnings throughout a student’s lifetime. (photo via Wikimedia Commons)


About Us

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.

Learn more about Teach For America


The thoughts, ideas, and opinions expressed on Pass the Chalk are the responsibility of individual bloggers. Unless explicitly stated, blog posts do not represent the views of Teach For America as an organization. 

Read more »