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Archive for March, 2010

This week one of my students was officially dropped from my class roster. I hadn’t seen Rufus (his Latin class name) in a while and other students told me he was planning to drop out. He’s been a student in my class for almost two years, and with only 2 1/2 months left in his high school career Rufus has walked away. The number of adults who’ve attempted to get him into school and to support him is probably too high to count. There have been calls home and meetings and interventions and disciplinary actions and accommodations made. But in the end, he has walked away.

So who has failed here? Has our public school failed him? Have his individual teachers failed to somehow connect with Rufus? Have the guidance counselors, special education liaisons, administrators, and advisors all failed? Have his classmates somehow failed to help their friend stay on track? If he had more personal relationships with his teachers and adults, would he have stuck around? Have we, in fact, failed Rufus?

Legislation like No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top consistently says that it is the schools and teachers that have failed kids like Rufus. “The schools are failing our kids. Teachers are failing our kids.” That’s what the policy makers say. And ratings that measure school success count the percentage of students who don’t graduate and consequently lower the ranking of each district based on that number. The proposed merit pay for teachers won’t come to those of us who work so hard and so long only to have a student walk away. Policy makers don’t seem to recognize the influences that pull kids out of school: drugs, family crises, financial distress, etc. They only focus on pointing to those who are working so hard for kids to get a student this close to graduating, only to fail in the end.

I’m sad to have Rufus so quietly deleted from my gradebook this week. I hope to see him at some point, to say goodbye and to wish him good luck in the future. In the end I do not believe that our school that has failed. I didn’t fail Rufus. We didn’t leave him behind. One day, he just decided to walk away.

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I’ve been blogging for about a year and a half now and Tweeting for a little less time than that. When I first started blogging I really enjoyed writing about and reflecting on my teaching. Sometimes I shared links or websites that I’d found or talk about what I was reading on-line. Over time I found that what I enjoyed writing about most is what I do with my students in the classroom. I’ve developed new projects and written about the web 2.0 tools that we use to learn Latin, Roman culture, history, and mythology.

Over time I developed a PLN, a professional learning network, a group of educators and those interested in education from around the world. I learn from them and (I hope) they learn from me. I felt comfortable in the blogosphere and Twittosphere because these are open fora. I don’t personally attack or criticize anyone, but I do share my thoughts and occasionally frustrations in my blog and in my tweets. Teaching is sometimes difficult, frustrating work that can leave you feeling isolated and on your own. Through my PLN I have found support and answers to questions. I have also developed  some authority as an educator, based on my writings and perhaps my presentations at workshops like the Blue Ribbon Conference, MassCUE, or EduCon 2.2.

Over the past few months, however, my PLN has changed. This is a natural evolution, I suppose. And, after all, blogging and Twitter are public and open to anyone who cares to join the conversation. In the past, my followers were largely those who were interested in my take on the blending of Foreign Language, education, and technology. They were positive and involved. And they were mostly from far beyond my district and state. When people shared comments, they posted to my blog or responded to Twitter in the same open and public forum. What’s changed is that more people from my district and my school are following what I say. And recently the critiques aren’t appearing in the same venue where the conversations originated. I’ve heard references to my writing at the photocopier or in the faculty room. I’ve been confronted in the hall and criticized at school. To be honest, it has made me question why I blog and what I’ve written. And it has made me silent for the last few weeks.

But I have to come back to my original goal in writing:  this is a home for my reflections and thoughts on education and teaching in a public school. I will have positive things to share – and negative. But the conversation starts here. And I hope that I will start conversations and perhaps invite debate. I’m assuming there will be criticisms. And I hope those who wish to respond feel confident to join the conversation and participate in public debate.

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