Thursday, October 11, 2007

Can We Get There from Here?

First, a shout out, much love and a thank you to Komplex, who came to visit us today to share some of his music and hip hop poetry. If you haven't had a listen, treat yourself. I can't wait for his final workshop for us on Tuesday, our poetry coffeehouse.

I'd asked him to focus on the themes of the course, which are peace building and non-violent conflict resolution. The kids free write daily, as a way to "get their heads on paper" and focus. Daily writing builds fluency. It also makes the curriculum about them (always everyone's favorite subject) and I can see it's also allowing them to really connect with the characters in the Freedom Writer's Diary. They've asked if we can bring Meip over to visit; she's in her 90's now, so that's not likely possible but why not a "real" Freedom Writer or two? I don't see why we can't make that happen. I'm looking for grants and will challenge the kids (and my colleagues) to think of ways we can fund raise. But at the same time, I find myself asking the question I always ask when funding raises its nasty ugly head: don't we all pay taxes? Isn't this why I pay taxes? Why are teachers being asked and encouraged to write grants for "special projects" when those are kinds of things that bring a curriculum alive and that therefore should be the standard, not the exception. And doesn't expecting grant writing discourage overworked teachers from doing that "extra mile" thing, when precisely the opposite incentive is what we want? Do I feed a broken system by helping it continue to limp along? Educational leaders and theory types talk so much about "teaching the whole child" (including character and citizenship education, for example), but when educators are atomized and disincentivized, is this possible?

I was reminded in reading Freedom Writers with my students that over half of teachers leave within 5 years, and understood again as I prepared to research a grant or two why.

Can we get there from here?

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