April 2012 Archives

Twenty years ago, the guidance counselor at my school was in middle school. His house stood on a corner lot in a gang ridden, Hispanic neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. He told me he would be doing his homework in his bedroom and hear shooting outside. Instead of getting down low, he would go to the window to see the action. He'd see the shooter, the runner, and the get away car. Then he would go back to doing his homework. Last week, exactly one block away from the counselor's childhood home, another shooting occurred. This time our ...


Sometimes I wake up to the sweet sounds of Cameroonian children singing in my head*. They are singing, "Oh, we thank you for what you've done for us!" Then I ask myself, what did I do for them? They have changed my life! If you have followed my blog for any amount of time, you probably know my story: Grew up poor and in the 'hood on the South Side of Chicago. I was the 6th of eight of children; my mother stayed home to raise us while my dad drove tractor-trailers across America. Except he didn't always bring the ...


When I went to Cameroon, I was famous. Or at least a really important person. An American teacher who has come to see how educators there can improve their practice. First I did a live radio interview. Then I traveled around to schools, observing classroom instruction, and meeting with teachers and administrators afterward. They had hard questions: *How can we teach students science without any science materials or equipment? *How can we effectively lesson plan with virtually no teacher guides? *How do we teach when none of the students have textbooks and only a few can afford to buy notebooks ...


Water. Every living organism needs it to survive. One of my least favorite principals used water as a weapon. Of course he would deny that. The water cooler in the main office was expensive to maintain, he'd say, and it was a discretionary item, not a necessity. He told his staff to stop filling up our water bottles—only so much in a cup and not to keep coming back for more. But what's a teacher to do when her throat runs dry from educating students all day? Apparently we were consuming too much of the water so the principal...


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