Day 40 Sunday May 23, 2010: Carry On

 

Today is Sunday, May 23, 2010, and Day 40 of my time left at the Mont. Day 40 if I count ALL of June, including the furlough days which shorten the year AND the weekends and Memorial Day. Oops, I’m still one off. Okay, so it is now actually Day 39. How Slavic of me to adjust the calendar. But it is 23 days remaining of actually going to the Mont.

 

By now the letters have gone out, informing those who applied to remain to find out of they stay or pack their stuff. I do not envy them that sort of crushing message, extinguishing hope. Nor would I wish to trade places with those who have chosen to remain, committing themselves to a plan doomed to failure.

 

Doomed to failure.

 

Because instead of actually raising test scores (which seems to be what this is all about—with a little union-busting thrown in for good measure), it will lower them.

 

But that is okay. Superintendent Cortines will call Mr. Balderas a hero, no matter what. If the test scores drop, it will be because of the teachers, not the chaos resulting from this metamorphosis. If they go up, whether it will be because Mr. Balderas will have the 9Rs removed from Fremont before next year’s CSTs, or whether we, as teachers and counselors, actually did something right and the score climb, as they have been climbing before Mr. Balderas arrived at the Mont, then he will take the credit—and be a hero. “Heroes are not known by the loftiness of their carriage; the greatest braggarts are generally the merest cowards.”—Jean Jacques Rousseau. “Calculation never made a hero.”—John  Henry Newman

 

According to Superintendent Cortines. According to Dr. George McKenna III. According to Judy Elliot. According to those who teach classes in the administration program.

“Heroes are those who can somehow resist the power of the situation and act out of noble motives, or behave in ways that do not demean others when they easily can.”—Philip Zimbardo. “Aspire rather to be a hero than merely appear one.”—Baltasar  Gracian. Or, to quote “Babylon 5,” which I haven’t done in a while: "To celebrate this latest victory against the tyranny of a fanatical few who have endangered the lives of our citizens, Clarke proclaimed today a planetary holiday. Curfew has been extended two full hours until 9 PM Earth standard time, so go out and enjoy."

ISN broadcast by Alison Higgins, The Illusion of Truth

 

Will any of them be heroes to the students, the ones whose lives are affected? “True courage is not the brutal force of vulgar heroes, but the firm resolve of virtue and reason.”—Alfred North Whitehead

 

Maybe the word “hero” needs to be examined a bit more closely. I don’t pretend to know entirely what a hero is. But I know what is not a hero. When you risk nothing, that is not heroic. To be told that if the scores stay the same or drop, you’ll be lauded as a hero, that belittles true heroes. If success lands in your lap because of the efforts of others, and you are given credit for those successes, you are not a hero. When you skew the results, spin-doctor them to cast you in a favorable light, you are not a hero. When you treat people you consider your subordinates in disrespectful ways, you are not a hero. When you wash your hands of any responsibility for your actions, and blame your superiors, you are not a hero. “Nurture your minds with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes heroes.”—Benjamin Disraeli “Hard times don't create heroes. It is during the hard times when the 'hero' within us is revealed.”—Bob Riley

 

Tonight the twelve teachers who will be speaking with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tomorrow at 2:30 met online. We joked, others not in the SCA actually making references to “Henry V” and the St. Crispin Day speech, which always makes me mist up I actually have gotten free drinks because I can sit in the bar and do that one, as well as the “Once more unto the breach, dear friends,” and the first 43 lines of ACT III, Sc. 3, with Henry scaring Harfleur into surrender:

“If not, why, in a moment look to see
The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand
Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters;
Your fathers taken by the silver beards,
And their most reverend heads dash'd to the walls,
Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,
Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused
Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry
At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen.
What say you? will you yield, and this avoid,
Or, guilty in defence, be thus destroy'd?


Yeah, Kenneth Branagh rocks. But I had to spoil it and bring up Bluto’s Pearl Harbor speech in that other classic, “Animal House.” Yeah, when things get too serious, I make jokes. Think I even managed to site the cliff scene from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

 

The humor is there. It takes the edge off what we do. You can meet us at: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/

 

We talked about what we need to say—and do. Anthony Cody and I will be discussing “Safe & Successful Schools” as one of the six topic areas. Here’s what I hope to be saying, some of which will seem familiar if you followed what was said to the School Board on May 11th (see Day 52, “Like a Rock”):


“I work at a school undergoing reconstitution, a high school in an impoverished part of
Los Angeles. It was originally built to serve 2400 students, but now serves over 4600 students on a multi-track calendar.

“The new year will start in some 40 days, without being fully staffed by credentialed teachers. We are unable to plan: How many experienced teachers will have been lost? How many have pledged not to return? The counselors’ caseloads increased by 25-30%, and LAUSD has admitted that that the education of the students will be negatively impacted for at least three years. This whole approach is counterproductive.

“When we propose “turnaround models” and “reconstitution” as the fix, we ignore the wider-ranging issues of poor student attendance, high student transience, a large proportion of English language learners, and students who do not care much about academic success, issues all directly related to poverty and social inequity. Students need emotional security as well as physical safety to thrive.

“Getting rid of all the teachers or even half the teachers does little to address the deeper problems. The key is to personalize the learning, to develop relationships. At
Fremont, each Small Learning Community is 400 students who share the same group of teachers, reducing the number of students who "slip through the cracks." One of our successes is what I call the Legacy Effect: Brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews and cousins who share the same group of teachers, building family trust and enhancing learning.”



We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. To quote B5 again, "I'm delirious with joy. It proves that if you confront the universe with good intentions in your heart, it will reflect that and reward your intent. Usually. It just doesn't always do it in the way you expect."


G'Kar, Epiphanies

 

 
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    Chuck Olynyk is a Social Studies teacher who saw the effects of reconstitution upon John C. Fremont High in Los Angeles. These are reposting of his original blogs from the Save Fremont website.

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