Graduation. It’s an iconic scene. It’s the same everywhere. A universal passage of sorts. I experienced my sixth graduation from Camp El Valor, six graduations in three years. And now my summer job is over. Graduation. It is always so final. A coming of age ritual that symbolizes the end of something and the beginning of something else. The graduation for the second half of Camp El Valor brings a bit more symbolism for me. Another summer gone; my favorite job of all time over again for another year. I hope not forever. The August graduation symbolizes back ...


Institutionalized discrimination. What is it? “If a particular group is disproportionately absent in comparison to the pool of those possessing the relevant skills, discrimination is occurring even if it is impossible to document specific individual instances.” – Jo Freeman Have you noticed that minority students are disproportionately absent from high school graduations across this country? It is a fact that Black and Hispanic youth are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to drop out of high school. In 2004, 12 percent of blacks and 24 percent of Hispanics ages 16 to 24 had not graduated from high school, compared with 7 percent ...


Today at Tech Camp, my friend/colleague told me her story. She is taking a serious pay cut to switch from public schools to museum education. A $14,000 pay cut. She told me she loved the kids but couldn’t deal with the crazy administrative rules that, I believe, stifle the true art of teaching. A few things really summed up her five plus years as a public school teacher, but one story stood out in her mind above the rest. My friend was evaluated for her performance in her Kindergarten class. She was a first-year teacher at the ...


Two weeks ago, I was on vacation in northern Minnesota and I was in the country. Midway through the week, we were running low on necessary vacation beverages, so my husband and I drove 30 miles on dirt and paved country roads to the nearest convenient store. While in “town” at this shop, we took a few moments to watch FOX-ified CNN on the television that hung prominently in a well-viewed corner. (Note: Over the bar.) I learned three things in less than 10 seconds. The Dow had dropped by 300 points, Lindsay Lohan was off the wagon and, horror ...


After returning from a week long vacation, I am back at Camp El Valor for the second four-week session and I must admit, I am very excited! We have the same curriculum, but new faces and new challenges. The first difference I've noticed is the wider range of ages. Last session saw mostly fifth and sixth graders. This session has quite a different split: several incoming fourth graders, as well as several incoming freshman with a strong showing of all ages in between. I find teaching in multiage classrooms incredibly exciting and rewarding. My first job teaching was in a ...


In her blog last week, New Terrain, Jessica Shyu posed the question, "Why do teachers stay?" I think a lot about why teachers quit. But Jessica’s question demands optimism, something that is easy to lose in this profession. I teach because I want children to reap the benefits of problem solving, the enjoyment of reading and the pride of finishing a well-written paper. I want to help each child develop a positive self-image in order to appreciate the beauty of life, and the critical thinking skills needed to determine the injustices of the world. I teach because I love ...


We have entered the fourth and final week of camp session one. We just returned from camping in Mokena, IL, a first for many of these children. I’ve enjoyed seeing them in a new environment. We met a skunk, a groundhog, a coyote, two gray wolves and a raccoon from the Big Run Wolf Ranch, a federally licensed non-profit educational facility specializing in North American wildlife. We helped replant the prairie at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. We identified caterpillars in the wild and studied butterflies gently swooped up in butterfly nets. We learned how to watch for birds ...


Two cheerful and gifted girls sit in the back row of my morning technology class. “Are you having fun at camp?” I asked. “We love it!” they replied in unison, like best friends often do. “What do you love most?” I questioned, secretly hoping for a few compliments. “We love science class!” the bolder one remarked, while the quieter of the two smiled and nodded away at her friend’s proclamation. I must admit, my ego deflated slightly even though I felt elated to hear two sweet, smart and beautiful girls professing their love of science. “We love the projects,” ...


Recharge. This is what teachers do in the summer. My batteries run out of juice around April. By mid-June, when Chicago Public Schools let out, I feel completely deflated—and not from the students. This past year I started my own business to meet the needs of after school programming because I was unable to find a job in a school suitable for me. Sounds a little particular for someone with no health insurance, but I had worked in an unsuitable school before—a junior high with metal detectors and aggressive guards, where I witnessed the principal slap a kid across...


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