Tag Archives: change the game

Where Relationships are Made and the Magic Happens

 Home Visits: Where dinners become walks and relationships are formed
A young lady  sat silently in my front row the first week of school.  I greet her like I greet every other student with a hug and a “Good Afternoon.”  She accepts my hug with a small smile.  However, she barely raises her hand when the class is asked a question about Wonder, the book our 4th graders are reading during shared reading. It’s the first week of school and all students are shy.  That is to be expected.
During Writing Workshop on Friday of that week,  Ireri wrote a wonderful piece and I encouraged her to read it to her teammates.  She spoke eloquently and really shared her thoughts.  During dismissal, I saw her mom to tell her about the shock that I had that this young lady was able to share so effectively with her team.  Her mom was actually shocked, because she said her daughter is very shy and never talks. I was surprisd because that was not what I saw when she stood in front of her teammates and presented her ideas.  After having this discussion with the mother,  I laughed and told her that I am sure that this is the year of change for this beautiful child.  As a teacher in my past life, that would be the end of our communication until another dismissal or parent teacher conferences.  Luckily for me, this was the perfect time for me to ensure that I could schedule a home visit for Ireri and her family.
One of the key levers to excellent teaching is having a relationship with the students’ families.  One of the things I have learned to love about being a teacher at Rocketship is being privileged to be invited into our childrens’ homes to see them in another element.   It is a time to really get to know our families and the goals they have for their amazing children.  It is also a time to get to know the parents because without parents our work would be so much less effective.  Home visits may really be the best thing that happens to us as teachers.
During back to school night the second week, I spoke to Ireri’s mom about how proud I was of her amazing daughter.  After finishing our conversation, she said, “Make sure that you don’t eat, I want to cook for you”.  I’ve had some impromptu dinners and have had some  good food during these amazing home visits, but when a family tells you that you are going to eat, you really get excitied.  I went with earnest expectation of that night.  I was greeted by a myriad of hugs (mom and dad know I am a hugger from the Welcome Barbecue and have accepted it).  That night was full of family games including speed puzzles (timing to put together puzzles) jokes, and then dinner.  Before that day, I had never had a tamale and it was amazing.  After dinner and questions, it was the perfect segue to go.  As I prepared make my exit, Ireri asked me if I would go on a walk with her family to the Washington Park.  Still in my heels from school, and looking at the time, my first reaction was an honest no.  However, upon thinking about this evening’s conversation and how important it was for Ireri to trust me, I enthusiastically said yes.  At around 7:30 I walked with my student and her family to the park.  I sat and played with the children I also talked a little to some people from the community.  It was the most humbling experience I’ve ever had.  Not only was I getting to know this family, but I had conversations with people in the community.  It was a blessing and it was really amazing.
The aftermath of that home visit and many others have allowed me to be the best teacher I could for the children in front of me. I began to teach with their families in mind.  Students like Ireri began to give their opinions on the day’s readings and take initiative in group and classroom projects.  The coolest thing about this, it is only September.  I cannot wait until December.  The relationships I formed during home visits that I have completed like with this student and the other 20 (and more to come) have been the driving force in my instruction this year.  I am so happy that home visits were something that I was asked to do.  It has renewed my passion for eliminating the achievement gap.

Rules of the Game

If you create the game, you create the rules. And if you are just do you, there’s no way you can lose!

–India Arie

I was excited this weekend when I found out (rather late) that India.Arie released a new album Songversation recently.  True to form, Arie uses true life to influence her music in an eloquently poetic way.  They lyrics that really stuck with me made me think about life and how there are many rules this game called life.

I just finished Catch-22 this weekend.  I was intrigued how these young men, who were somewhere around my age had no control over their lives and when they tried to there were rules that inhibited them from doing what they wanted.  Don’t get me wrong, they did this comically and interestingly, but it was a little sad.  The rules of their game was simple, do a certain amount of missions and you can go home.  The rules change when they up the amount of missions, it drives people to unexplainable extremes to get what they want.

So what does that mean for education?  My professor once told me how states tend to change the test, when they find that too many students are reaching the advanced or proficient mark. This was the explanation as to why 60 percent on most standardized tests is considered proficient.  I really like that the playing field is a bit leveled with new standardized tests and standards.  I thin the standards encourage teachers to push their students to the highest levels of critical thinking and creativity.  What I hope it doesn’t become, let’s figure out what’s on the test so that we can teach the content and then hope that our kids pass.   I think in order for this to work, the test should be used as a way to gauge gaps in college readiness, not only proficiency in the grade.  How will we (educators) use this data?  Will we use it to empower or punish?

The flip side is that the new standardized tests, require schools to also teach their students from a young age to be computer literate.  Now of course , this is necessary and most 3-year olds know how to use an iPad, however if teachers are just looking at the standards for their grades, they may neglect the fact that there are technology standards and that developmentally students should be proficient in using the mouse and the home keys on a keyboard by the end of second grade.  The new test, the PARCC  (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers)will completely be on the computer, but what happens when schools are unable to satisfy the technological needs to take said test?  I ran across this in the blog section of Education Weekly this past week:

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2013/07/tech_challenges_lead_oklahoma_.html

SO…everything happens for a reason.  It’s no coincidence that I finished reading Catch-22 listened to this awesome album, and finally paid attention to the alerts that crowd my inbox every week.  I think it is really important  that as we think through the changes that we make in our instruction.  I think that if we set the the bar high enough that our kids can be successful.  If we only aim for the bare minimum then we will only get the bare minimum.  MY hope is that when we look at the PARCC in the next two years, that schools will not look at the test and say “Man, we suck” but rather rejoice in knowing that their children are almost college and career ready.   There is a game: a game of ensuring that we get all children regardless of ability college and career ready.  As educators, we created the rules, now it’s time to face up to them.  In fact, if we were to do what we know to be the best, irrespective of the technologies or the income, all of our children will in fact succeed.

Marva Collins is one of America’s great educators, proving that with love and dedication and high stakes, that all students can succeed no matter what their background.  She  said in her book Marva Collins’ Way

Trust yourself. Think for yourself. Act for yourself. Speak for yourself. Be yourself. Imitation is suicide.

That is how we can change the world and make sure the rules work in our favor.

Be yourself!

–Say