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Sarah's Notes


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    Saving Public Education, Saving Democracy


    I'm interested in public education. I'm a teacher. NCLB based "reform" has devastating effects in some areas of poverty. MINE. The story is worth covering. The Educator Roundtable is a story to hear. Fully. Renewal of the act is not , in my view a good move...Here's a piece of my story...

    So here I am. Hello lonely universe.

    I'm Sarah Puglisi and I teach in California, in a town called Oxnard, in a hood really. One where many Americans are never going, never seeing and certainly not thinking about. Not sunny today . I started teaching 24 years ago coming from West Virginia where I taught art. I went to South Central, survived, taught 4th grade and learned the truths of teaching in an area that "war zone" describes fairly well. There almost no one in America would go voluntarily. EVER. Not at night certainly. No child would ever be left there. And yet everyday many are left there. One of the truths of my career is that I have seen America's failures, issues, raw edges...in Appalachia, Watts, in immigrant lives in poverty, in hoods, in gang cultures, abuse, drugs, a kind of urban warfare. All hard, all wearing the faces of our children looking to me, looking to our public school for safety, for nets, for hope for futures. We have been serving, my husband and I on a kind of front lines. And I think it is valuable to speak from a position of a public servant to this thing I have done with my life.

    I often hear "teachers" represented by politicos or as Susan Ohanian says "Standardnistas". But something of that representation is so unlike the teachers I know. Something is very wrong in how teachers are being held out as nationwide scapegoats. And I want to speak for myself a bit. In these now named test "failing" places with children's lives a part of my charge, I do know the issues as a teacher with a real voice, one not heard, and I do not care for the kind of solutions or frames of looking being mandated and legislated as assessment based "solutions" to cover for our supposedly poor praxis, in sappy standardized tests taught to in canned test prep curriculum all year long, done to hold me "accountable", and leaving my kids lost educationally in a political game. It is my view that this is a way, as it has been enacted, of furthering and widening a divide so my kids cannot cross to the other side. I'm contending the American Dream is dying at the hands of a corporate/consultant/looting to take over and say one thing while perpetrating another through the mechanism of NCLB. And I'm pretty damn mad about it. Actually.Sorry.

    I then moved, after South Central, to teach a decade in the Salinas Valley-yes Steinbeck country, teaching bilingually 4th grade transition in a migrant town, moving from this experience to Oxnard as my husband moved into administration. We left two years to work in a very small District connected to serving two Native Reservation Schools in San Diego and then returned to Ventura County. So my experiences are not all in one place...and working with many children who sat at the lower rung of socio-economics. A wonderful set of children who have taught me so much I am trying to write this to share with those who might like to know about it.

    So during my going and coming my current District where I have worked about 13 years went into Under-performance status failing by a few "points" to make it before of course the bar is raised so high no one will make it...and along with real issues Districts face, then had to deal with the nightmare ones imposed on them in the punitive models of pathology our national leadership inflicted as a mechanism to run everyone to charters- failing to pass vouchers in CA and nationwide. The hard fast and dirty destruction of public school with the rhetoric of care was on the ground and detonating. As a result teachers massively retired, losing my peers stung, leadership jumped ship, people lost ethical compasses, it has been the long hard re-inactment of a kind of "Heart of Darkness". So sad for the children. They ultimately are the ones in the sacrificial role.

    And they tell me now when polite about it I'm too creative teaching, too thematic, individual and construction oriented for mandated education now. We now must follow the script, be on the same page, same day, nothing I have to offer is of value, elimination of teacher practice for bought "program". In the process I'm watching good be called bad and worse, as in 1984, war/ peace. It may sound like hyperbole but I have recorded faithfully everyday. I think my truth outdoes any hyperbole I could write/invent.

    I returned to my District to see it all suddenly there ruining a world with much to offer, I hadn't watched a slower change as my peers, for me we came back and it was a nightmare, it was just another universe...after a couple years of being very isolated in another area (me on leave, my husband a Superintendent) and after being ill with cancer, health complications and let's say it had been a time of being in my own world. I returned to a school system being thrust into the NCLB nightmare and during this time I started writing Susan Ohanian and she, in her kindness, wrote me back. I don't know what to say besides I always start with the top. I have an accidental affinity for bumping into the things I most need. My stories, or I suppose thoughts, are on her site at Sarah's Notes and on my own blog A Day In a Life.
    It is at http://sarahpuglisi.blogspot.com
    I've spent a year blogging now and reading, learning on-line things. At 47 I'm always learning, expanding my teaching, understandings. But I was driven really to these things by the further destruction of my school, my autonomy, by ethical and school related concerns. I've been dialogging them as I can trying my best to relate the story of one teacher dealing with these changes.
    Everyday I wonder where the voices of my peers are...wondering how they cannot advocate at the very least for the children. We work with children in poverty and our voices should be shouting.

    This said by way of introduction, I just attended AERA in Chicago where I saw a lot of ed. research. And I'm disaggregating it in my Sarah fashion looking at every piece and categorizing it in my own little way to see what it looks like people are researching. So far this is very heartening as much studies poverty, equity, social justice, technology, reflective practice and so far....studies set in classrooms arising from what we do.....nothing on scripting teachers, removing the arts, removing literature, narrowing the curriculum, mandating focus walls or other items my District has insisted upon as "research based". I am gaining abilities to speak to the issues and determined to do a better job because the students I work with, have always worked with, need the very best we have to offer. And somehow what I see going on...it lacks the luster of giving our best.Actually it makes me wrench.

    The most discouraging things are like this exemplar...I rather forced myself on our School Leadership Team this year...always in the past I was welcome there, but not now. Wanted until it was obvious in the "change" I wasn't going to quietly capitulate to nonsense and I was forced into a status of being treated like a scorned and unwanted stranger. But I'm not allowing this to permeate my being. It is a sad statement on how this entire nightmare was inflicted, to create winners and losers, shunning, nasty actions, unfair and unethical exercises in removing teachers from behaving with community and caring. After reading Nell Noddings just imagine an alternate universe. It's all over the culture I'm afraid anyway..We are losing the heart we had. We are losing our ability to act as a moral compass. We are losing our role as leaders.And so I decided to speak as I can..

    And I'm not going without speaking, as I said I got on Leadership to be trained in our 4th year of Underperformance in Ventura county sessions by being forced to listen to someone like John Hollingsworth paid and touted by our county on his Direct Instructional Model and seeing what his "better teaching research" i think he called it TAPPLE might look like. I attended his talk where I sat in stone silence as he used popsickle sticks and numbers to really to force people to reiterate his own dialog in a forced, scripted thing and watched people cooperate and his narrow and ridiculous monkey lab proceed...this is what teacher training in Scientifically based research models is...here...in Ventura County. A kind of dumbing down beyond my comprehension.
    Well, Nothing at AERA looked like that. Not that research. No session required adults to speak like chanting monkeys.
    Regular, educated, thinking people would not put up with it. Kids surely shouldn't. I am watching public schools and teaching here just become a joke.

    And where was the voice of my peers. At that training none said anything. Like this was normal .
    And that just worries me because in settings they deem safe to talk, they can see this as asinine, and they say so..

    So....I am compelled forward, inadequate...a first grade teacher talking to the issues of watching something I care about more than anything be completely sold....it's just beyond me in one sitting to address the range of feeling and the sound of silence as my days go by.

    And so , here I am.

    I blog about teaching at http://www.sarahpuglisi.blogspot.com because I don't know what else to do to present this and hope for help.
    I am trying to speak out and explain why it matters. I would hope media could fully consider these things. If you go to http://www.educatorroundtable.org/petition.html, the Educator Rountdtable has collected 30,000 signatures to stop the act. More importantly distilled the rationale about why this matters.It needs to be NEWS.

    2007-05-21 07:35:15


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