"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Schools As Ecosystems Lessons from Sandy

Teachers, who are the first responders when it comes to children, are doing their job here in New York. Despite no help from the Department of Education and the aftermath of the most devastating storm since Katrina, teachers are now free to bring the joy, caring and love to learning essential for success in nurturing the "whole child". Education reform is happening where it matters, on the ground in real classrooms, with or without lights, electricity, heat or buildings. The material needs are great, but the spiritual needs which have been neglected for so long because of the emphasis of high stakes standardized testing, can now return. These teachers might not have text books and databases, but they are free to teach.

Two NYC special Education Teachers  and bloggers at Schools as Ecosystems, are paying close attention to public policy, are changing the conversation and shifting the focus to "real reform" the kind that benefits children, not corporations, shareholders and know nothing politicians. The rage and anger over privatized electric utility companies in NY and NJ with no accountability have debunked the myth of letting the market place take care of things. 

Here's what's happening on the ground, yes, right here on the ground where it matters most.

To my knowledge, all of this work was organized by school staff, students, and families at the local level. We received no support from the Department of Education and, to be fair, should have expected none. Our schools chancellor, after all, has prioritized giving schools "the power to punish" teachers accused of wrongdoing overrenovating toxic school environments. Our mayor has reveled in the wholesale destruction of swaths of our city school system and taken every possible opportunity to attack city teachers. Just last week, his administration channeled massive amounts of resources into restoring the New York Stock Exchange while children in the Rockaways wandered dark streets, looking for a place to sleep. 

Despite their negligence, our school is resilient. Students who hadn't bathed in a week showed up to read Julius Caesar with their classmates. Teachers whose supplies were lost in the flood created new lessons by candlelight. Parents whose cars were swept out to sea rode the bus with their children to make sure they got to school safely. Resilience is a remarkable thing, but we need to make sure we see things clearly. 

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