Archive > February 2013

February 28, 2013

This post originally appeared on TeacherPop. We have reblogged it with permission.

“Oh snap, Scholars! It’s Black History Month,” I began February by saying. “But, we don’t need the shortest month of the year to indicate when it’s time to learn our history.”

My scholars5th graders, including 20 Latino students, four African American, two Cambodian, and one Tongan—are used to such loaded statements.  They know that although February is officially Black History Month and October was Latino Heritage Month, every day in our class is an opportunity to learn more about communities of color, more about our communities.

San Francisco Black Panther Party (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

February 27, 2013

One of the most haunting images coming out of the Civil Rights Movement shows school-age children being catapulted into brick walls by the Birmingham Fire Department with hoses powerful enough to rip the skin off of those sprayed. At nine-years-old my mother, along with her sisters, became one of those photographed children.

May 1963, Children's Marchers pushed back by fire hoses. (File/The Birmingham News)

Pass The Chalk Editors
February 26, 2013


An undated photo of Trayvon Martin.

February 25, 2013

I only know Teach For America’s new co-CEOs from a distance. In Matt Kramer, I see a man who wants to empower others to be agents of the change they want to see. In Elisa Villanueva Beard, I see a woman who has stepped into history as Teach For America’s first Latina CEO. The announcement of their new roles came during the first few days of Black History Month; how apropos, then, for Elisa to be the mother of sons named Langston, Malcolm, and Marshall. These august names of African-American history have three leadership lessons to offer our new CEOs.

Photo by Winold Reiss via Wikimedia Commons 

February 22, 2013

Five links that made us think this week.

I love the Academy Awards—so much, in fact, that I host an annual party complete with ballots and movie-themed food. This year’s Oscars should prove to be interesting as several of the best picture nominees have been deemed controversial for their historical accuracy, depictions of race, and political leanings. Two of them have sparked a particular debate on the portrayal of slavery in the films—the lack thereof in Lincoln, and the extreme violence in Django Unchained.

Speaking of extreme violence, I recently attended a fitness boot camp where the instructor had us play dodge ball as our cardio warm-up. It took me right back to my elementary school gymnasium and I practically hid in the corner while my dad, who came with me, targeted me for his hardest throws. This article in the New York Times regarding the infusion of academics into physical education class, also got me thinking about gym. Is it better to squeeze academic learning time into every available minute of the school day? Or to give kids a break to just be kids?

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

February 21, 2013

This post marks National Engineer’s Week. Luqman Abdur-Rahman is a 2008 Metro Atlanta Corps Member and 2008 Amgen Fellow.

Five years ago, I was about to graduate from Georgia Tech with my Master’s in Mechanical Engineering. I had plenty of job offers with a bountiful financial outlook. But I still was not sold.  

My Teach for America recruiter offered a new challenge and perspective. Of course, I viewed it through an engineer’s lens:

  • What is the data given?:  Educational inequity exists. (Numbers don’t lie.  It is what it is.  Remove the emotion.)
  • What is the unknown?:  Could we actually “fix” this problem? What could our country be?  
  • What equations or models do I have at my disposal?:  Teachers and researchers have identified what works.  I have read tons of books on promising models and seen examples of schools that defy the stereotypes. Plus, I have gathered my own anecdotal evidence of student brilliance in the toughest of circumstances.  
  • How do I simplify my task to achieve the goal?:  Institute.  Five weeks of training and I will know how to become an “effective” teacher.
  • How do I solve this problem, given the process I chose?:  Just get out there and do it. How can I not help when others did it for me?

Photo provided by Luqman Abdur-Rahman.

February 20, 2013

Editor’s Note: Over the next several days, Pass The Chalk features posts in honor of Black History Month. We do so in full recognition that any day, week, or month, set aside to commemorate the history and experiences of a group of people runs the risk of siloing those perspectives in the oeuvre of shared human experience. It is not enough to talk about black history for one month out of the year. But in shining a spotlight on the perspectives and experiences of African-Americans in the coming days, we seek to lend ourselves a richer vocabulary to better understand the challenges and hopes of our shared human condition.

This post was originally published on The Monitor and has been reprinted with permission.

In 1926, historian, philosopher, and scholar Carter G. Woodson declared the second week of February as "Negro History Week."

With the birthday of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass falling in that second week, it was only appropriate to celebrate a history systematically left out of curriculum and national consciousness would occur when the nation was celebrating the lives of two freedom fighters. Woodson’s original intent was that this week would no longer need to exist when Black History was justly represented in the story of America.

Ninety-three years later, I am pushed to consider two questions: Why does Black History month matter? And why does Black History month matter down here in the Rio Grande Valley?

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. [Children near the Washington Monument.] Photo by U.S. National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons 

The Collective is Teach For America’s National Alumni of Color Association. It is founded on the belief that alumni of color play a unique role in helping students achieve educational equity.  On February 1, 2013, The Collective hosted its first School Leaders of Color Conference in Los Angeles.  Rick Esquivel and Melody Levine, two attendees at the conference, reflect on their experience.

Rick: One of the themes of the day was about how to refuel ourselves in this effort to ensure that students of color in this country have equal access to a quality education.  Which parts of the day offered you the most fuel and sustenance?

Melody: I’ll admit that I didn’t have a good idea about what I was walking into.  I knew that we’d be digging into diversity and talking about educational equity issues, but I had no idea that we’d spend that time learning from some of the most successful and inspirational leaders in education today.  

I was immediately taken aback by the opening keynote from former Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent and education leader Dr. Howard Fuller.  Dr. Fuller has been supporting school leaders in charter networks across the country to rise up to be strong student advocates.  Dr. Fuller reminded us that as school leaders we must understand how to achieve educational excellence within school walls, and also understand the context of the community outside of the school.

Melody: Given your experience of growing a school and leading families and faculty through change, I’m curious: How do you inspire and mobilize communities?

Photo by Mosborne via Wikimedia Commons

Steven Farr
February 19, 2013

This post was originally published on withGanas and has been reprinted with permission.

At a gathering of teacher supporters in Memphis last week, my friend and colleague Elisa Villanueva Beard shared a wrenching and unfolding story of one of her students, Julio.  I’ve been struggling to make sense of the tragic injustice of his experiences and to shake the raw heartbreak of EVB’s reflections.

My written words cannot capture the richness of EVB’s relationship with Julio, so before reading my reflections, please hear the story in her own words.  I promise it is worth a few minutes:

February 15, 2013

Five links that made us think this week.

Times are a-changin, not just at the Vatican, but also at Teach For America! The Board of Directors named CEO and Founder Wendy Kopp as board chair, succeeding Walter Isaacson, who will become chair emeritus after more than seven years of service. Kopp will continue her role as founding CEO of Teach For All. The board appointed Matt Kramer and Elisa Villanueva Beard co-CEOs of Teach For America, effective March 1. Villanueva Beard has already gotten some twitter love this week (just in time for Valentine's Day!) for becoming one of the few Latina CEOs in the country. Others took to the blogosphere to thank Kopp for her legacy. Here’s to the exciting org evolution!

For all you stargazers, it looks like something odd is happening in outer space. This morning, a meteorite weighing around 10 metric tons hit Russia’s Ural Mountains. Onlookers captured video footage of the meteorite streaking across the sky and exploding. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just a spectacle. Almost 1,000 people ended up seeking medical attention, some got injured from broken glasses, and around 3,000 buildings suffered damages. Many are wondering if this meteorite presages the Olympic-swimming-pool-sized asteroid passing near Earth later today, but scientists believe this is just a “cosmic coincidence.”  Hmmm.

Photo by C m handler via WikiCommons


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