As the coordinator for the Detroit Future Schools program, I get to visit 12 classrooms all over the Metro-Detroit area every month. Grades range from third grade up through twelfth. School focuses range from the basics to aeronautics. Class sizes ranging from ten to thirty-five students. I’m learning more right now about schooling and learning (the two are not synonymous) than I did as an undergrad earning my teaching certificate. Every class has a unique personality–a unique pulse–but one thing remains the same…
In every classroom I’ve visited, I hear the phrase “I don’t know.” It is most commonly used in response to a teacher asking a student a question and the student...
The statement on the board read, "The government should censor what is on the internet."
This instigated the 55 minute self-facilitated debate that got my 122 eighth graders so impassioned that they turned an organized 22 foot-wide circle into a 5 foot-wide huddle in under an hour. The huddled group of students were throwing out examples to support their positions that included Egypt's organization through the net, pornography, cyber bullying, digital justice, trust in one's government, internet addiction, wikileaks, freedom of speech, net neutrality, the origin of the net, necessary factors for a healthy democracy, fictional literary examples, historical examples, etc.
Purpose. It's a word that has been thrown around in conversations I've been in or observed for weeks now. It became most pronounced lately after viewing the movie, Race to Nowhere ; a film directed by Vicki H. Abeles, a mother concerned with the pace of her children's schooling.
The film delved into the world of competitive, even exclusive schooling and the need to always be better, do more, and be perfect. Students in the film spoke about health issues, self-esteem issues, suicides in their communities and their feeling of overwhelming gloom. What was it all for?
However, my close friends and I found ourselves perplexed by the film. It seemed, number one, that the film really...
Have you ever read something alone in a room and found yourself verbally shouting out "YES!" and "SO TRUE!" and gesticulating your passion for the truth before you like a maniac (because, after all, you are shouting and throwing up your arms alone in a room)?
I always like to read 2-3 books at a time because I easily become worked up when I read great books so I need to temper my cathartic outbursts by switching reads. I've recently had the above experience reading The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner and simultaneously reading Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It was a mistake to read these two books at the same time; there was no escaping maniacal readings.
"What do you mean my child needs to love the 'F' she has in your class?" asked a very concerned parent of mine last week.
Yes, this has become my classroom philosophy since I discovered my students' absolute fear of failure/fear of not getting the "right" answer--a condition some French researchers are calling "intellectual timorousness" (read this article for more information on the French's "Festival of Failures").
Out of 130 students, 127 of them have "F's" in my class three weeks into the school year. As my last entry explained, the default grade in my ELA class is a "C"; however, after my first pre-assessment, it was discovered that the majority of students have skills below...
I saw my students for the first-time this past week. I've been preparing for their arrival, metaphysically, since man was first created; philosophically, since I was born; and officially since teacher training started on August 16th
Things quickly got heavy with my new eighth graders as soon as I passed out the class syllabus which contains the following paragraphs (selected because they caused the loudest sighs of exasperation and/or shouts of defiance from my students):
*CRITICAL INFORMATION* “C” is the default grade for any assignment, NOT an “A” since an “A” means going over and beyond what is requested of the skill and requires further independent research from the student. See...
It was never my intent to move around in education as much as I have, but life is funny that way. I officially decided to resign from the public school system that I've waited six years to get into simply because I discovered a school that rocked my world.
The school is part of a national network of charter schools that not only talk about getting kids out and learning in the "real world" but actually build their schools inside public spaces (like museums and art colleges). My school is built into the first 3 floors of an art college where students in grades sixth through twelfth interact with faculty and college students in this prestigious art school in...
School has been out for a weekend now and as soon as the last bell of the school year rang, a couple of my friends and some of my students got right to work on our presentation for the U.S. Social Forum. Our presentation is called "Urban School Awakening: Critical Elements of Urban School Reform."
For our workshop, I've invited several students to help facilitate the break-out session of our presentation. I selected students who over the years have demonstrated the product of true liberating education. And what's the litmus test? I am getting wind that these students are getting in trouble in other classes for speaking up for themselves.
Now, I'm not one for protests, especially not protests that end after a one hour march around some political building with people going back to their homes feeling they've done their best. However, I was moved to read about the protests of thousands of students in New Jersey this week (read all about it in the NYTimes here).
What moved me about this student-led protest is that at such a young age, these students recognize how to magnify their power through unity against a single injustice: school cuts that compromise their education. From one Facebook invitation to protest these cuts that pulled their injustice triggers, 18,000 students were moved to the streets with signs and their...
You know that line we say when someone goes overboard: "He threw in everything but the kitchen sink." Well, some boys at my school wanted to make sure to include the sink into whatever they were mixing because they ripped it out of the wall in one of their bathrooms.
What does this have to do with democratic education? It's a clear sign that the type of education they were getting was anything but. I remember reading Ain't No Makin' It by Jay MacLeod and it was in this book that I first learned about how acts of disobedience can sometimes be a way for someone to regain or attain power he/she has lost. This made me look at gum chewing, skipping, cursing, graffiti, and now sink-pulling...
Paul, one of my friends in high school, proclaimed that North Dakota didn't exist. He'd ask, "Have you ever met anyone from North Dakota? What's ever come out of North Dakota? We've read about it--but have you ever been there?" I've never really stopped wondering about North Dakota being a conspiracy to validate South Dakota's existence, but Paul's words have been louder than ever in my head since I've taken on my new teaching job as a literacy intervention teacher.
Last semester, I was thrown into a teaching position wherein I had 150 students to tend to--and that experience was more an exercise in control than in instruction or teaching. This semester as explained in my last entry...
On January 29th, I received my official letter of termination. Our district has lost more than a million dollars in funding and any new teachers were immediately cut. On February 1st, I received my official letter of re-assignment. This story has a happy beginning.
Title I funding was used to bring me back (me in all my un-tenured glory) as a literacy intervention teacher. I have a class size cap of 10 students and the freedom to build this course from the ground up.
First assignment: I had students watch this video clip:
A video on how to teach a dog to roll over using operant conditioning. Students were utterly confused, wondering what sort of class they were put in, and I...
Paolo Freire writes, "Human existence cannot be silent nor can it be nourished by false words, but only by true words, with which men and women transform the world."
Our man, Freire, is calling us out--PUT YO' MONEY WHERE YO' MOUTH IS! Words without reflection are pointless. Words without action are likewise pointless. It is only when we balance our words with reflection and action that we can call ourselves thinkers and transformers. (Sigh. Where are the Freires of the world? 'Cause I'm single and ready to mingle! If you're there--mouths silently--call me.)
All kidding aside, this is exactly what I have moved to implement in my classroom--a movement from thoughts and words to...
My friend and partner, Khadigah Alasry, in the fight to make education real again, developed a vision for a model of reform last year. We started presenting this model within the U.S. and over the internet. We've been invited to present in Dublin, the Cayman Islands, Hawaii, Dubai, Paris, and other places but due to our lack of funds and now time, we have had to kindly decline.
We developed this model for educational reform while I was out of the classroom for a year and Khadigah had just graduated from undergrad with her newly minted teacher's certificate. For a nine minute synopsis of our model, watch our video:
This video summarizes my vision for my return to the classroom. My...
I've been gone a while--I know. But such is the nature of democratic education. Let me explain.
If you've read my previous entries, I hope it was clear that I had a vision for my classroom and I was going to strive to make this vision a reality. The path had been set and the last time we communicated, I believed that I needed to condition my students to be unconditionable. I quoted Audre Lorde and questioned her belief that we could not use the master's tools to dismantle the master's home.
So several weeks later and after lots of reflecting, I'm totally retracting my statements. As adamant as I was that my students needed to be conditioned through the use of grades and external...
So, there I stood. In front of my thirty 9th graders, hour after hour, watching them write letters to each other, put their gum under their desks, talk to their neighbors while the assigned worksheet on the parts of speech I just spent the night before diligently creating fell silently to the floor. Think I am being melodramatic? I wish! In one class, I laughed to myself for a solid thirty seconds (a long time in high school time), after I spent three minutes going back and forth with a student as to why throwing wads of paper at a girl he did not like was unacceptable.
"Stop doing that and apologize."
"What? She doesn't care."
"She's not going to tell you she cares, but I do....
My first week into teaching after my year in graduate school, I was filled with grand ideas and ideals as to what I would do in my classroom to help my students liberate themselves from the intellectual shackles of US public education. I entered my classroom and my school with the belief that my students and I would revolutionize the educational experience in Detroit forever--no hyperbole intended. This is how deeply I believed in my students and their potential to be positive change agents in a world which deemed them failures or equally insulting, average at best.
Critical pedagogy was my tool of choice: an educational philosophy accredited to the late Paolo Freire, which...
I'm 5'2" and about 105 lbs. I'm small--so walking through the hallways of the new school in which I just got a teaching position, I get mistaken all the time as a student, by students and teachers alike. This gives my students the impression that I'm a pushover, and staff the idea that I won't last in this school past a couple of months. But what my misleading physique grants me is a world into the daily feelings of my students inside a building they will spend four of their formative years in--if they make it through four.
Posted on Oct 19, 2009 - 10:14 PM by Ammerah Saidi
Posts by Ammerah Saidi
Ammerah Saidi graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a B.A. in English and Psychology certified as a secondary teacher. For three years, Ammerah taught in Detroit, Michigan and for one year in Al Hada, Saudi Arabia at an international school. She graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with a Masters in School Leadership and is a coordinator for the Detroit Future Schools Program.
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