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I found the blog!

October 22, 2014

Honestly, I couldn’t find this blog. Didn’t remember what I’d named it and so used another one recently.  Perhaps I should consolidate them?  I’m just no good at this stuff. My deepest apologies, always!


Goodbye Leadership (and hello long-neglected blog)

June 17, 2013

I’m on my way North!  To Seattle!  I have no job!  I only have a little money!  Devon and I are getting married in August!  Excitement and terror are present in equal measure, and in 9 days we go.  Wow!

Hardest thing so far: LEAVING THE KIDS!  LHS ended up being a very good spot for me to grow in my first two years of teaching and I’m also really ready to move forward.  I’m not grieving the loss of the institution, but all those relationships with all those students!  Intense.  There were many tears and much recrimination and a whole lot of craziness going on.  A lot of my students were very angry with me and felt abandoned and acted out a bunch.  Overall, it really struck me (and I was talking about this with Beth Silbergeld, my now ex-principal) that students held their relationships with me in a different light than I did.  Part of that is just age, but another part of it is the Leadership student-teacher relationship dynamic.  Which, in my opinion, is a little crazy.  The kids get really attached.  The Advisory system in particular seems to really intensify this, although only some of the students who were having a hard time with my leaving were advisees.


+ Good to have those strong relationships, even if it makes leaving harder.

– Boundaries are still really important.  We have to teach our students this, they should be able to have the following internal process: this person is my teacher, not my parent or friend, and they may leave this school.  They may have other relationships in their own life that supercede their relationship with me and that is normal and healthy.

Well, onwards and upwards until we meet again!

And the PowerPoint for Intro. to Kindred and Octavia Butler

January 9, 2012

This was adapted from my friend Katy Zaugg’s work.Kindred

My Really Cool Intro. to James Baldwin and “A Talk To Teachers” for the 10th graders!

January 9, 2012

JBContext&TTT  Check out my PowerPoint!

The 99% and Housing and Displacement and all that…

December 12, 2011
Recently, there has been an ongoing thread on a listserve I subscribe to about gentrification in the Bayview, 
Some thoughts:
As a person who does not feel hopeful that I would ever be able to afford a bay area home (regardless of neighborhood), I struggle to understand what that experience would even be like.  But, I have been the only or first white resident on several streets I’ve lived in throughout my life, so on that front I can identify with one aspect of being a gentrifier.  On another front, being a person who is watching her mother (a woman who has worked like a dog for disenfranchised communities) stuck in an upside-down loan on a condo outside Detroit that is eating through her retirement and causing her to work when she really shouldn’t any more along with tremendous anxiety; I am pissed about what is happening around housing and displacement in our country.  And in S.F., displacement has been rampant since long before I was a young homosexual living in the Mission and the Bayview in the early 90s.
In many ways I feel that it is not the inevitable cycle of urban neighborhoods that is the real issue (although that is not to minimize the tragedy of it) but rather the fact that poor people and people of color always have to live where nobody else wants to.  Once that was the Mission and the Bayview, now it’s far East Oakland or San Lorenzo or Fresno, or all the tents in the middle of downtown Berkeley.  It’s such a fuck-you to be told to get up and give up your seat, over and over and over.  Especially when there are so many other fuck you’s happening constantly.
I commute from the East Bay to teach H.S. at a charter in the Excelsior where my student base is 98% kids of color.  Right now, I have two students, one a 9th grader and one a 12th grader who are losing their home due to eviction.  It really sucks.  There are tears and anxiety and a disabled mother with two teenage sons who may have to move into a shelter if things keep going the way they already are for her and her family (and yes, I have put her in touch with as many resources as I could shake up).  Displacement is a real and graphic tragedy that tears apart people’s lives.
The thing that is so important and so powerful is the conversation and being open to it.  For me, the stance I take in both interacting with and in serving marginalized communities that I do not belong to is that I need to listen and to be honest.  It is not my job to define the experience of my friends, students or neighbors.  I cannot say that because I try to be a good neighbor, teacher or friend that that makes me less culpable as a white or more “down” with the experience of others.  It is an understandable impulse to want to understand what others are going through, but for me, it is a necessary part of being an ally to admit that I don’t really understand and that what I need to do is just listen.  To take out my own need to be helpful and good and right and open up to the idea that people talking about oppression and displacement and pain isn’t actually about me.  It’s about oppression and displacement and pain.

December 11, 2011

Some thoughts on grading and The School to Prison Pipeline

December 11, 2011

Grading is the pits!

Not to put too fine a point on it, but for me at least, it is the absolute worst part of teaching.  I suffer with the essays and the interpretation of what in the hell some kids are trying to say and the myriad errors and the rewrites… particularly the rewrites that aren’t rewrites.  Those are the worst.  You read the whole thing only to find that the only thing they bothered to change were the spelling errors!

Also, fairness is a huge worry.  If you consider that every young person has their own special blend of pre-existing skill, home support (or lack there of), and effort it becomes very hard to see the students with more home support, more pre-existing skill but little effort walking away with higher grades than students who make huge efforts and have greater struggles.  Not fair! The balance between scaffolding both work and expectations to suit each learner and still meeting standards and benchmarks is very delicate and occasionally makes me dizzy!

I’m finally to the bottom of this pile of essays and was able to send out prelim. grade reports to the 11th grade advisors.  There were some excellent rewrites and some almost-no-work-involved rewrites along with a few really confusing choices…  Sigh!

I love them, I cherish them, but still I feel deeply depressed about how little most of them listen to what I say in class, or even what I write on their papers.  It can really feel like they are trying to do the least work possible instead of learn.  Actually, it’s not all of them, but that is most definitely what MANY or maybe even MOST of them are doing.  Sigh again!

This all tracks back to my host of feelings about the mandated nature of the educational system.  I’m really not a fan.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it is the duty of a good government to provide support and education for all students, I just don’t think that the system we currently have in place is working.

We had an ASM (all school meeting/assembly) on Friday about the School to Prison Pipeline with some very inspiring speakers. They  spoke eloquently about their experiences being funneled from Middle/High School into Juvenile Hall into prison.  They had both served 20+ years, to emerge blinking and fearful into a world they knew little about, having basically grown up in jail.  The kids were pretty receptive.  One of my favorite parts was when the main speaker said, “Prison looks a lot like this, a lot of brown and black people and a couple of whites.” The speakers stressed how investing in education is the best way out of bad situations, out of poverty and out of danger.

I agree, it’s just that I wish the road out was less thorny for our students.  I wish that the system was built to suit them instead of middle class white students.  I wish I could say that they would be judged on their merit and their work instead of on their scores on some stupid test.  Ahhh, there lies the rub!