Wednesday, April 26, 2006

social freaking justice

I am writing, as usual, so that you will share my pain with me. I have to do an assignment for my student teaching seminar which will also be included in my "portfolio" (due in a month. Have I started? Of course not. Do I care? Not at all). I have been putting off this project all year because I think it is the epitome of the essence of quintessential bullshit. You know, it doesn't even warrant the gift of calling it bullshit, because I would much rather do something related to, or in conjunction with, the poop of cows, rather than this assignment. This is more like death by a thousand tiny but stupid lasers.

The assignment is a Social Justice Action Project. What is that, you ask? I answer: something that makes me want to weep and also whirl around and around like the Tasmanian Devil or a Dervish until I start to drill into the ground and then, upon entering the core of the earth, are exempted from this assignment. Here are the instructions I was given:

VII – Social Justice Culminating Project – Due April 13, 2006

Drawing upon your coursework and student teaching experiences related to diversity and social justice issues, develop and enact a social justice project. As a student teacher, you must check with your cooperating teacher and school on the viability of whatever project you decide to pursue. Choose one of the following options:

  • Invite a guest speaker to your class who will speak on issues of political accountability and educational equity. This person might be a local political office holder or a community activist. Following the speakers presentation, develop and instructional activity to be used with students that draws upon the presentation that was heard.
  • Develop a reading buddies program for your students, where they are paired with elementary students and engaged in an after-school literacy endeavor. You may choose to make this an extra-credit project for your students.
  • Involve your class in community activism. This might include student participation in a community event such as New York Cares Day.
  • If your school already has a service learning program in place, involve your class in one of the projects.
  • Develop a professional development experience for teachers that attempts to address and remediate the most pressing social justice issue at the school. Present your ideas to your colleagues at the school.
  • Develop and implement your own justice-oriented action project.

Your presentation of the social justice action project should include the following components:

An introductory description of the activist project (2 pages):

    • Page 1: How do you conceptualize a justice-oriented citizen? How do you make meaning of social justice and connect it to justice-oriented citizenship? How have your experiences as a high school student and as a student teacher exposed you to differences in resource allocation in schools?
    • Page 2: Which of the above action projects did you choose? What was the purpose of the project? Explain the features of the project you developed.
    • Lesson Plans: How will you debrief with your students? Will they have written reflective assignments? A class discussion? Please provide a detailed plan for how you will help students make meaning of their experiences, and think about future civic involvement.
    • A reflective journal describing the process of the project: What was your time frame for developing and enacting the project? What bureaucratic barriers did you encounter? How did you go about organizing the project? How did your colleagues and students react to the project? Was the experience meaningful for you and your students? Will you attempt these types of action projects in your future career?

Crazy, right? My personal favorite idea is to develop a social justice professional development for the teachers at my school. I can only imagine how they would react to something like that. I would probably be skinned alive. Another thing that I like is the reflective journal. Don't we all love reflective journals? I know I do. No one asks us to keep reflective journals on our teaching, or whether our kids are actually learning a goddam thing, but we have to keep a reflective journal on the process of a social justice action project that is ill-defined and which no one seems to be able to explain the purpose of? GREAT. THANK YOU, ED SCHOOL. I'm sure this is going to be so helpful to me in the future. Especially if I am on a game show called "Name That Ridiculous Ideological Nightmare" or "Things I Am Ashamed of" or "Something that Will Never, Ever Help a Student; Not Ever." Although I guess I haven't heard of a game show title with a semi-colon in it. But hey, I also had never heard of a social justice action project, and yet here it is.

The next question is: what am I going to do? Well, that was my question two days ago when I called my Mom crying and asked, "What am I going to do?" My biggest problem, other than the fact that I think taking up school time with this ridiculous nonsense is not only a waste of time but actually morally questionable (given the obviously partisan tone of the project and how far behind my students are in real school), was that I have my class of kids only 3 times a week. In the next month, seeing them 3 times a week, I have to get these kids from Industrialization through World War II. I have calculated that I have less than 5 days for all of World War I. So even one class period is precious. I could do it after school, but I actually use that time to plan actual lessons. That kids will actually learn from. So I was upset and convinced I wouldn't graduate. Which, considering, would not be too disappointing. As it is, I plan to never speak of this school or degree ever again, unless I have to. "Do you have any master's degrees, Laura?" they'll ask. "Only from the school of hard knocks," I'll say. Anyway, my mom, being a very sensible lady, pointed out that I am teaching the Gilded Age right now, and had a lesson coming up on the vast gap between rich and poor, and that I could use that! Think of it! Doing a for an assignment in grad school! She is truly brilliant. Seriously, people, you just wish you had a mom like mine. She flies and stuff.

So now it is time to write this up. I'm somewhat afraid that I will be failed on this assignment. However, I will keep my dignity and self-respect anyway. I will keep you updated. Send your prayers, or, if you have the power, please fire the people responsible for this project. Hey, you never know who's reading. (i.e. God).

Sunday, April 23, 2006

funny blog

My friend has a really funny blog dedicated to his love for Taco Bell and his rage that there aren't any in Midtown. Check it out:

some updates

--My bus ride back from Boston last week featured a crying baby (well, sometimes crying, sometimes just loud high-pitched happy noises), an 80 degree bus, and traffic so bad that it took us 45 minutes to get from 60th St to 42nd street, which then caused class lateness and panic. Feel sorry for me. I sure did.

--Interviews went pretty well. Fingers crossed for my first real paying job in 2 years.

--Have to do a portfolio to graduate from ed school. Has to have some kind of "cohesive theme" that "illustrates our journey" through the year. I'm thinking "Frustration," "Disappointment," or "Seething fury." Suggestions welcome.

Friday, April 07, 2006

oh man

Things have been crazy busy here on the home front. (I suppose I shouldn't say that, since we are actually in a war. ) We just finished the Civil War unit in my student teaching class (oh, and one of the kids stole the test from my shelf ahead of time...yeah he's in HUGE trouble), I've had a couple papers due for ed school (completed in just over 1 hour, thank you very much--you know, I USED to be a good student!), and I've had 1 interview in Washington and now have 4 in Boston, so I've been traveling all over the place. And all this while trying to pay my bills, eat, maintain proper hygiene, etc. So it's been pretty hectic.

Yesterday my student teaching seminar was really depressing, because people started getting on that whole "these kids...(fill in the blank with excuses about why they can't do school)." I know (I KNOW) that urban teaching is really difficult, but I think what they don't know is that the school structure and attitude can change everything! These are smart, well-meaning people, but they're coming out of ed school with this horrible defeatist attitude about urban kids, and they're all applying to teach in Westchester and Long Island instead. The other ones, who do want to teach urban kids, say things like "why do we have to shove kids through this system when they don't like it? Kids are so curious, but we don't let them explore their own interests. Why don't we go back to a Dewey type model of school?" My instructor said, "That's a very good point." Nobody said anything about how Dewey was actually a FAILED teacher when he wrote his philosophical musings. Then there was this whole discussion about how some kids just "aren't good at school" and we should have more options for them, like technical training programs. Now I agree with that--some people just don't like the school structure or book learning or whatever--there were kids like that at my high school who I am sure went on to be successful pilots or plumbers or whatever. However, you know they are not talking about just any kids going to technical school--they are saying that poor, minority children should go to technical schools. Which perpetuates the class structure they are always bemoaning anyway. Unless you are willing to accept a Booker T. Washington-esque gradualism in solving economic and social inequalities. It's just so frustrating that there are these schools that are so wonderful, and are getting their city kids up to and beyond standard, and yet no one knows about them!!

But let me turn from the bad news to teh good news. There is a movie coming up this summer that is going to be AWESOME. Here is a short piece about the movie in Newsweek (April 10, 2006):

The script is pure Hollywood schlock. A witness under FBI protection is flying from Hawaii to Los Angeles. A mobster wants him dead before he can testify. But how can the bad guy get to him? A selection from the script: "Hundreds of oxygen masks DEPLOY, dangling over the seats—but it's not just oxygen masks. IT'S SNAKES."

Forget Cruise. Forget Hanks. The summer's most buzzed-about movie is a grade-C thriller about passengers besieged by a plane full of snakes, and it's called ... wait for it ... "Snakes on a Plane."

Just when you thought the world had no innocent joy left in it, someone goes and makes a movie whose very title makes you love all of mankind. Snakes on a Plane. Thank you, God. And you too, Samuel L. Jackson.