Celebrating National Black Poet Day: 10 Black Poets You Should Know

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I often get annoyed with these National Days that seem to be every day, but there are some I do actually enjoy. One is today. National Black Poet Day was established in 1985. The day is designed to celebrate the importance of black heritage and literacy. We should also celebrate the contributions made by these black poets. The day is recognized in honor of our country's first black poet, Jupiter Hammon. October 17 was chosen because it was the day he was born in 1711. In honor of Jupiter Hammon and National Black Poet Day here are 10 black poets you should know for their brilliance in the world of poetry and their contribution to the community:

  1. Gwendolyn Brooks: Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Her winning poem was "Annie Allen." 

  2. Alice Walker: Alice Walker widely known for her famous and award winning book Color Purple. She also wrote many of her first poetry books while being a college student at Sarah Lawrence College. She is an advocate for Social Justice and many of her poems speak to the harsh realities of the civil rights movement.

  3. Nikki Giovanni: Nikki Giovanni is well known for her poetry which speaks to race and social issues. She has also written for children’s literature. She is arguably one of the most famous African American poets. She was nominated for a Grammy for her album: The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collections. She is currently a Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech University.

  4. Sonia Sanchez: I was introduced to Sonia Sanchez by her book Shake Loose My Skin. She is a well known poet, who is credited for introducing black-studies courses into university curricula. She has written 18 books of poetry.

  5. Etheridge Knight: Previously married to poet Sonia Sanchez, Etheridge Knight is well known for his 1968 debut poetry Poems from Prison. This was inspired by his eight year long prison stint for robbery back in 1960s. He is one of the most powerful voices in black poetry. While known as a stalwart of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. He also spent some time in Indianapolis IN.

  6. Mari Evans: Born in Toledo Ohio; however, she is most certainly considered a Hoosier. She taught at IUPUI from 1969-1970. She later moved to Bloomington to teach African-American Literature at Indiana University.  From 1968 to 1973, she produced, wrote and directed the television program The Black Experience in Indianapolis. It was her second collection of poems in 1970 I am a Black Woman that gained her national attention. She died in March 10, 2017 at the age of 97.

  7. Rita Dove: She was the second African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for Thomas and Beulah. She is the first black poet laureate in the country. Many of her poems focus on her personal experiences as well as some politics. She is currently a professor at the University of Virginia.

  8. Lucille Clifton: Lucille Clifton is a winner of the National Book Award. She was also a poet laureate of Maryland. Her work has earned her two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. She is well known for her work around spirituality, womanhood and African-American identity.

  9. Maya Angelou: Maya Angelou’s work speaks for itself. She is the “Queen” “The Godmother” of Black Poetry. She is truly one of the gems of not only black poetry community, but the black community. Oprah said it best when she said, “She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.” Her work lives on in so many ways. Phenomenal Woman was a book to celebrate women and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings illustrated how love can help overcome racism, oppression, and trauma.

  10. Langston Hughes: In 1951 Langston Hughes, “The Father of Black Poetry” wrote "What Happens to a Dream Deferred?" One of his best known lines and arguably one of the best poetry lines in history. He is synonymous with the Harlem Renaissance. His work has inspired generations of black poets.

On this day, I encourage everyone to find a work by these great poets and share it and read it with your students.

  

 

Comment

David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

My Weekend at the National Black Male Educators Convening

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“God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.”

There are moments in time where African Americans have a chance to shine. In 2002 at the Oscars when Halle Berry and Denzel Washington won the two most prestigious awards for Best Actor and Best Actress, we shined. In 1999 and 2002 when Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys won five solo Grammy awards in the same night, we shined. There are other times when there is just black excellence everywhere. To give you glimpse of my weekend at the inaugural  National Black Male Educators Convening held in Philadelphia, try to imagine those events I previously listed, NAACP Image Awards, and Black Girls Rock all wrapped into one with educators. That’s what this weekend was for me. Having the chance to be in the room with over 500 black male educators was simply breathtaking. Not to mention having the opportunity to hear from some amazing educators doing incredible work. I also had the chance to facilitate the session “Elevating the Black Male Voice in Education.” Read more about that in an upcoming blog post.

This weekend, I was fortunate enough to sit in a room full of educators basically the who's who of black education and have my mind blown away with their wisdom, their insight, their passion, and most importantly their love for our black babies. Here is the recap from my weekend at the Black Male Educators Convening.

Friday Night:

Friday Night was the opening ceremony. The night was kicked off with words from Pennsylvania State Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera. He talked about the important work that was ahead of us as black educators. One of the most memorable things he said was, “Having just one educator of color changes perspectives for a lifetime for all students.” Those words were powerful because it reminded us that our work as black male educators has an impact on all students not just the black students. He spoke with so much passion and love for education and the work of education students of color. Next, was Shavar Jefferies, President of Democrats for Education Reform. Mr. Jefferies challenged us to fight harder and push harder to ensure black students receive a quality education. He spoke about the importance of not giving up. He said, “The education of a black child is inherently a political thing.” That quote reminded me this work of educating black children is ingrained in us and it is part of the fabric of who we are as educators and a nation. Those two speakers were just the preview of the greatness that was about to happen.

Saturday: 

 Bright and early at 8:00 over 500 black educators packed the ballroom on the third floor of the Sheraton in downtown Philly ready to celebrate this inaugural occasion and learn and receive insight from some of the brightest minds in education. The opening panel picked up right where the speakers the night before left off. The session was titled Stay Woke:  Taxation without Representation - The Invisible Tax on Teachers of Color. This session of heavy hitters including former US Secretary of Education John King, School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite, former Executive Director of White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans David Johns and it was moderated by one of my favorite educators Kaya Henderson, former Chancellor of DC Public Schools. This session comes from an op-ed written in the Washington Post by Secretary King about the invisible tax.”   

Sometimes you get a chance to sit back and listen to excellence and that panel was every bit of it - so many gems dropped. Here are some of my favorite quotes. David Johns spoke about the importance of self-care. He asked a question that had everyone thinking, “How can we as educators do our best for kids when we are not at our best?” Secretary King said, “We have no future as a country if we fail to educate low income students or students of color.” These students represent the diamonds in the rough that will be the beacons of hope and prosperity for our country. For too long they have been left in the dust and it is time now for us as educators to ensure their future.

Immediately following lunch was the second of three panels for the day. This panel was titled The Movement:  Then and Now. This panel featured Head of School for Edison Charter Salome Thomas-El, Marquette Professor and Educational Expert Howard Fuller, and CEO of Wayfinder Foundation Chris Stewart. These three gentlemen kept everyone on their toes. You couldn’t help but to switch back and forth between the three of them.  Just as with the first panel, there were many gems shared during this session. Principal Thomas-El hit the nail right on the head when he said, “One day with a great teacher is worth more than a lifetime of study.” In a room full of teachers, he reminded everyone the power a teacher has. It cannot be underestimated how important the role of the teacher plays in the lives of students.  

Sunday:

The final panel of the day really brought home the theme of the conference, “Stay Woke.” During the opening session CEO of The Fellowship Vincent Cobb spoke truth when he said, “Being here is an act of protest. We are taking a knee and in fact reclaiming our time.” This panel was called Radical Educators:  Activism in our communities, classrooms, and schools.  Why there can be no separation between activism and education.  The panel featured Derrell Bradford, Robert Simmons, DeRay McKesson, and Brittany Packnett. DeRay kicked it off by challenging us to not just love the idea of equity, but to also love the work that comes with equity. One of the highlights for me of this panel and probably of the weekend was when Brittany Packnett said, “Go and be your black selves. Have the audacity to be authentically you.” I felt chills. She spoke truth and power during that session and definitely left everyone feeling inspired and excited. She was right. By being our black selves it gives black students the permission.

After a full weekend of unapologetic blackness and black educational excellence, I left Philadelphia and returned to Indianapolis inspired. I have a new fire lit inside. I have to take all the gems I learned over the weekend and I have to put it into action. It is time to go to work and do the work necessary. The most important thing this weekend taught me was there is power when you get black male educators together. The rally cry for The Fellowship rings ever true “2% is not enough.” It is not enough and we must inspire more black men to become teachers and we must also support and retain the black men that we have. Thank you

to The Fellowship for hosting this convening it was much needed and all too inspiring!

 

 

Comment

David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Weekend Links (10/15/2017)

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

It will take more than money to diversify the teaching profession

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In an effort to address Indiana’s teacher shortage and hopefully diversify the profession, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education's Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship was signed into law on March 22, 2016.  This scholarship offers $7,500 a year for four years to high-achieving high school seniors who either had to be in the top 20% of their class or have a top 20% ACT or SAT score.  After graduating with an education degree and obtaining a teaching license, the scholarship recipient must teach in an eligible public or nonpublic Indiana school for five years or pay back the scholarship.

The first group of 200 recipients, who began classes this fall, were mostly white females. According to this report, “only 11 of the 200 recipients were underrepresented minorities and 31 were men.”  Unfortunately, I’m not surprised.  You have to do more than throw money at minority high school students to get them to choose teaching as a career.  The reality is many professions are trying increase the number of minority employees and many of those professions do a better job of convincing high school students to go into their field instead of teaching.

When I was in high school I signed up for cadet teaching, but this was of my own volition.  When I went to my teachers for reference letters, it seemed they had forced smiles and one told me to keep my options open.  No one at school encouraged me to become an educator, but I was encouraged to consider technology, various science fields, and the medical field.  Promotion of other career paths continues in schools today.  It’s a shame the teaching profession is not promoted in the most obvious place, the school.  

The lack of promotion of the teaching profession is not the only reason there is a lack of diversity.  This past weekend I was reading everything I could about the first national conference of the Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice when I came across the article “Why having more black male teachers matter.”  A quote in the article resonated with me, “so few (black males) are moved to enter the profession — many had discouraging or even traumatizing experiences in school, for starters.”  Although some minorities enter the teaching profession so students can have a teacher who looks like them, others don’t want to return to a place that wasn’t pleasant for them during their childhood.

The application for the 2018-19 Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship has been available since September 1, 2017 and closes on November 30, 2017.  To ensure diverse applicants apply, high school students have to see teaching as a viable and valued profession and school as a place they want to return to day after day as a career.  If Indiana wants to decrease the teacher shortage, the profession has to be elevated and promoted to students in the place they attend every day, the school.

I love being an educator. I love seeing my minority counterparts lead countless discussions in their classrooms as they work to shape the minds of our children. The Hoosier scholarship program is open to everyone. If we want to change the makeup of our profession, then minorities must be encouraged to take advantage of opportunities like the Hoosier Educators Scholarship, even if they’re not encouraged to do so in the places where students are being educated.

If you have the opportunity to speak to high school students, encourage them to consider teaching and to take a moment and complete the application. It could change their lives.


 

Top 5 Questions to Ask at Parent Teacher Conference

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Many schools are wrapping up the first quarter of the school year. Students have been in school for 9 weeks. There have been homework assignments, tests, quizzes, and projects. For many this is the first opportunity for parents to have a chance to talk to their student’s teacher(s). Parent Teacher Conferences are important because students do better in school when their parents are involved. One of the most critical relationships is that between parent, teacher, and student. It is very important for parents to attend these conferences especially in the beginning of the year. By attending in the beginning of the year they are able to intervene quickly if their student is struggling. While it’s great to meet with your child’s teacher, parents must also be equipped with the right questions to ask.

Here are 5 questions for parents to ask during a parent-teacher conference:

1. Where do you feel my child needs to improve the most? 

This is a great conversation starter for the parent. This sets the tone that you are focused on how your child can improve. Parents need to know that the teacher sees your child differently and they can see things that as a parent you may not see. An important thing to remember is you must be ready for the response, listen, and have an open mind. Do not try and argue the response, but ask what you can do to help with any improvement.

2. Is my student performing at grade level? 

This is a great academic question. Parents should be prepared to discuss and hear observation and feedback from the teacher about their students work. Parents should see this work and immediately ask does this mean their student is on grade level with state standards. Parents must remember this isn’t about comparing their child to other children in the room, but more about how they compare to where they should be.

3. What is my student’s biggest strength?

After asking two question that may or may not be positive it is important to ask a question that will promote a positive conversation about your child. It is good to hear what it is your child is doing to that is impressive to the teacher. This is also a great question for parents to ask to see if their student’s teacher can identify the positive qualities that your student has. It is easy to see where your student is struggling, but it is impressive if they can articulate the positive attributes you student possesses.

4. Can I take a moment to address a concern from my child?

With almost 9 weeks of school, I am sure your student has come home with some complaints or concerns. Through those complaints and concerns, it would be a good time during the parent-teacher conference to address any that you may have wanted more information about. Let the teacher know that you are just trying to get more clarification because your child came home and seemed bothered about this.

5. What can we do to support our student?

This question is about setting the expectation that you are in this to be a partner in your child’s education. Asking this question the teacher can provide you with things to do at home to ensure your child can get all the support they need.

 

Comment

David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Speak Up and Speak Out: Five Ways to Prevent Bullying in School

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October is National Bullying Prevention Month. This is a nationwide campaign founded by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. The purpose of this campaign is to unite communities and to educate individuals on the effects of bullying and how they can raise awareness to help prevent it. Over the past decade, there has been an increase of bullying across the country. One place where there has been a major increase in bullying is in schools. StopBullying.gov defines bullying as, “any unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” The school is supposed to be a safe haven; however, some of the worse bullying incidents are happening in school. We all know the effects that bullying can have and where it can push those who have been bullied. It was reported that Dylan Kiebold and Eric Harris were bullied in school, which is what led them to murder eight of their classmates on April 20, 1999. As we are in National Bullying Prevention Month here are five ways schools can speak up and speak out to help prevent bullying in schools:

1. Recognize when bullying is happening and respond immediately

Bullying can take various forms in schools:  verbal, written, or physical. Schools must educate and train teachers, students, and parents on ways they can recognize bullying and how they can respond. Often times bullying is happening and many do not recognize the signs of someone who is being bullied. Schools must know the areas where bullying often happens which are: to and from school, in the cafeteria, at recess, or in the restroom. Another major forum is social media. There is an uptick in cyber bullying especially with the increase of technology and social media sites. Mayra Rodriguez wishes she would have responded better when her son 11 year Julio Ortiz told her he was being bullied. He eventually took his own life.

2. Create a Safe and Inclusive School Community

Schools must also create a safe and inclusive school community that promotes the acceptance of everyone. The culture must be one where ALL students feel respected and valued. It is difficult for schools to completely stop bullying from happening, but schools can create space for those who become victims of bullying. Having leaders within the school that can be there to support students who feel as though they are not a part of the school community is key.

3. Zero Tolerance Policy for Bullying

There are many who do not like zero tolerance in schools; however, zero tolerance policy discourages certain behavior. There are countless studies that show schools that have a zero tolerance for fighting are less likely to have fights. I believe that all schools should have a zero tolerance for bullying. If you are caught bullying another student  through writing, verbally or physically, you must be dealt with severely. Just as we believe the school is no place for drugs or weapons, it is also not place for students who bully other students. Earlier this year Gabriel Taye, an eight year old from Cincinnati killed himself in his bedroom days after he was bullied and being knocked unconscious at school.

4. Engage Parents

We know that the more engaged parents are the better a student performs academically. The same can go with preventing something like bullying. Whether the school believes the child is the one being bullied or doing the bullying, it is important to engage with parents. Schools should educate parents on how they can talk with their child(ren) about bullying. At the first sign of bullying, schools should bring parents in. Bullying can only be prevented in school when the lines of communication are open between school and parents. When students know the school and their parents are on the same page, this can prevent and deter them from bullying or it can encourage them to speak up if they are or know of someone being bullied.

5. Speak Up/Speak Out

We must speak up louder about the effects of bullying. The highly popular Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why, based on the novel by the say title by Jay Asher, told the story of high school student who slit her wrists in her bathroom. The series hit home for many because it spoke about how for years she had been bullied and no one did anything about it. Many of her classmates were aware or they had an idea that she was being bullied, but no one spoke up. Speaking up for those being bullied is a must. Often times, they are the ones who cannot speak for themselves, so if a student is being bullied and someone knows about it they must speak up. Schools must educate their students to speak up for their classmates if they know they are being bullied.


 

Comment

David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Mental health matters not just for students, but for their teachers too

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This year marks the 25th anniversary of World Mental Health Day.  This day was founded by the World Federation for Mental Health and is celebrated on October 10 each year.  This year’s theme is, “Mental health in the workplace.”

Over the last few years, mindfulness and social emotional learning have become buzzwords in schools.  Unfortunately, when these buzzwords are used they are typically in reference to students and do not include teachers.  I believe for our students to be well and aware of their mental health it must begin with a mentally well teacher.

When I first transitioned from teacher to academic coach, I had these lofty goals of swooping in and partnering with teachers to help them improve the academic data in their classrooms.  I quickly learned this would not be the reality.  As a literacy coach, helping teachers master content was only a third of my job, another third was classroom management and the other third was being a listening ear for the stress, anxiety and depression teachers were enduring because of the school and/or personal issues.

Teachers struggling with mental health is not just an American issue; it plagues teachers worldwide and contributes to the teacher shortage.  Almost half of teachers who participated in a survey in Scotland said their mental health was poor.

I didn’t need to begin coaching teachers to know their stresses, anxieties and bouts with depression.  Teachers, many times, know who the struggling teachers are.  We know who is taking too much medication to cope, drinking too much alcohol, engaging in other risky behavior and who lives are falling apart because they are trying to reach the bar of being a great educator that seems to keep moving ten feet higher any time they get within reach.  

If I am going to be transparent, I have to also note mental health has also been a struggle for me as an educator.  Not only is this a taboo topic to speak about as a teacher, it is also taboo in the black community and the church.  Attending a black church throughout my childhood, it was almost sacrilege to even discuss mental health or to seek treatment from a therapist.  I found this out the hard way as an adult.  

I have suffered from chronic pain since I was thirteen. It wasn’t until I was 23 that I found out why.  I have a severe case of endometriosis.  Finally knowing the root of my pain was a relief, but I also learned I had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and fibroid tumors, one the size of a golf ball.  The most damning news was to learn my fertility was compromised because of it.  My doctor told me without any intervention, I had between ½-1% chance of ever having my own children.  

I did what I do best; make a plan. I was working on my master’s at the time and I decided to begin paying for infertility treatments in addition to teaching middle school English.  Typically, when I make a plan, I can work hard enough and make adjustments to make it work, but the fertility treatments kept failing.  It was taking a toll on me mentally and my well meaning church friends weren’t helping.  If you know anything about the black church, you know they have a saying for whatever your problem is.

I was told, “Remember to P.U.S.H. - pray until something happens.”  I thought, “For how long?  I don’t want to be like Sarah, in the bible, having a kid when I’m old enough to be a grandparent.”  I was told, “God has a blessing with your name on it.”  I thought, “How do you even know if it is a blessing for a child?”  The one comment I heard the most that drove me crazy was, “The Lord never gives you more than you can bear.”  I thought, “But why does it feel unbearable?” It was the type of unbearable where I had to negotiate with myself to go to school each day.  

To top it all off, I had a student who was pregnant who decided to confide in me about it.  It was middle school; I wasn’t her only teacher. Why me and why then when my fertility treatments were failing?  I decided I couldn’t go on like this, so I got help.  My husband and I entered counseling for couples who were struggling with infertility.  It didn’t change my life overnight, but it helped me become more focused, a better functioning educator.  It helped me for the road ahead.  It helped me make a plan for my life if the treatments eventually worked or if they never worked.

The fertility treatments did eventually work, but I had a high risk identical twin pregnancy that resulted in me being rushed from my school to the hospital in an ambulance and spending four months on bedrest (two of those months in a hospital).  Despite the four months of bedrest, my sons were born ten weeks early.  They stayed in the NICU for two months and I had to learn how to walk again.  People remarked how well put together I was.  I wasn’t necessarily well put together, but I had learned how to be aware of my mental health and how to take care of myself.  I learned to ask for help.  I learned not to be ashamed to say I have been in counseling.

Some people who will read this know my story because my husband and I speak publically about it, but unfortunately there is still a lot of stigma about saying you are under mental stress, saying you need to take a mental health day especially if you are a teacher.  “You guys get breaks throughout the year; you don’t need to take off any more days.”  That’s not true.  You don’t know that teacher’s struggle.  You don’t know that teacher’s pain.  You don’t know how much time that teacher has been negotiating in the morning whether or not to go to work that day.  

We have to change the culture in schools to wellness for all - from students, to the bus driver, to the instructional assistant, to the teacher, to even the principal.  How can teachers lead wellness and social emotional learning initiatives when they are not well themselves?  Struggling with mental wellness should not be a taboo topic.  Many teachers I have coached know I advocate for taking care of yourself.  A few know I have been in counseling myself.  I’m not ashamed to share my story and I hope I can help others not be ashamed to share their story and/or seek help.  Mental health has to be tackled in the workplace, but we also have to remember schools are workplaces too.

 

Weekend Links (10/8/17)

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

NCAA Scandals Remind Us What’s Really Important in Higher Education: Sports

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By Andrew Pillow

If you follow sports at all then you have undoubtedly heard about the latest NCAA scandal. If you haven’t, the long and short of it is this: Several schools, most notably Louisville, were caught in an FBI investigation funneling money to prospective students in exchange for commitments. Essentially schools were paying students money under the table to play.

“*pretends to be shocked*”

“*pretends to be shocked*”

The NCAA and the media are treating this like a bombshell, but it’s not. It’s not even a water balloon. It’s the confirmation of what virtually everyone who follows college sports has known for years: Schools will do anything to win. Including cheating and prioritizing athletics over academics.

You see college sports is big money, and the better your team is, the better the money. Therefore, teams have a pretty large incentive to win. There are probably some teams that do everything by the book. But when you incentivize cheating, a certain percentage of people always will, and that is what is happening now. In today’s scandal, that looks like paying student-athletes under the table. In yesterday’s scandal, it looks like throwing stripper parties for recruits on college visits. In tomorrow's scandal, it looks like creating fake classes and degrees as funneling programs for athletes.

For the next week, month or however long this takes to blow over, people are going to be “outraged”. They will pretend like this is a bastardization of college athletics. But it’s not.

They will point the finger at the University of Louisville. And why not? Louisville is an easy target. Already on probation for a scandal involving recruits and strippers, Louisville was caught paying for a commitment. It has since come out that Louisville’s athletic director, Tom Jurich, made more money than the entire budget of several academic departments. Tom Jurich made $5.3 million last year. To put that into perspective the University of Louisville’s entire English department had a budget of $4 million. Pretty crazy right? Louisville is surely all alone in their level of disregard for academics and jock worship right?

Not quite. Maybe other schools are not prioritizing athletics over academics on the same scale as Louisville, but we are talking a difference of degree not category when it comes to college athletics. This idea is pervasive.

You want proof? Google the highest paid state employee in your state?

Was it a football coach or a basketball coach? Because in all but 11 states, it is one of those two.

courtesy of DEADSPIN

courtesy of DEADSPIN

Louisville’s scandal was not the first exposure we have had into the underworld of college athletics. It will not be the last. As long as big-time college athletics brings in money, some schools will prioritize it over academics. Your econ professor will tell you that… if he hasn’t been let go to cover the salary of an athletic director.

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

World Teachers' Day 2017

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World Teachers’ Day is held annually on October 5, the anniversary of the signing of UNSECO/ILO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization/International Labour Organization) 1966 recommendation concerning the status of teachers.  This recommendation addresses teachers’ rights worldwide.   This year’s theme is “Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers.”  

This day not only celebrates teachers and their accomplishments, but it also is a vehicle to address challenges in the profession such as the global teacher shortage.  UNESCO Institute of Statistics reports, “The world needs 69 million teachers if we are to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030.”

I believe this year’s theme is spot on and is key to addressing the teacher shortage, but we also need to focus on retaining teachers currently in the profession.  We cannot focus on recruiting more teachers if we don’t address why current teachers are fleeing the profession.  Yes, money matters and teachers need a livable wage, but money is not the only reason teachers are leaving, lack of freedom and lack of empowerment are.

Although teachers are referred to as professionals, many times they are treated like dummies who have no knowledge to bring to the table.  “Mrs. Smith, teach from this book on this day, ask these questions, and administer this test and have the results in the gradebook by five p.m.”  Our creativity is killed by curriculum planned even before we meet our unique students and since our district paid thousand of dollars for a consultant to tell us what to teach, we better not question it.

My question to educational leaders is, “How are you empowering your educators and giving them freedom to implement what they have been trained to do?”  Many of my friends will say, “There is no way I could be a teacher.”  I know I’m not the only teacher who has heard this.  Since many people make that proclamation, this means they are not willing to take the place of the educators who are leaving.  We have to do better to support our current educators while we are recruiting new educators to the profession.

One way you can support educators is to encourage them.  If there is an educator who has made a difference in your life, reach out to him or her and write a letter.  That piece of encouragement just might keep that teacher in the classroom a little longer while our educational leaders loosen the reins and give teachers more freedom, more respect and more power.