Thursday, July 31, 2008

Journal 3

Richard Villa - keynote
10th Annual Summer Leadership Institute
Cal State San Marcos

Dr. Villa spoke about the current state of education. He stated that one of the greatest barriers to school reform is the lack of a clear vision.

If we envision the future we have a chance to get to it. If we do not how can we possibly get there? Hopefully, I will join a community (school) which shares this vision. If not, I will attempt to (as I had done in NYC) disseminate this vision to others in an organic manner during each phase of the school year. If I address the vision in terms of the best needs of the students, my colleagues with few exceptions, react positively. All teachers care about their students growth and development.

When I began teaching, I believed that I would focus on only one group of students – those who in my opinion and personal experience had been disenfranchised. My destination has changed. I want to reach out to all and include those who had inspired me to begin teaching.

Equalence in education (equity and excellence)
Democratization of the school system must be accomplished in the future of inclusive education.
Self-actualization of each student based upon their strengths and finding their zone of proximal development must be addressed in every classroom. I find the paring of excellence and equity a uniquely perfect blend as far as education is concerned.

Equity and excellence are powerful when combined. I am hopeful that I will establish this in my classroom, my school and my community. A lot will depend upon whether I can get all of these things: Vision + Skills + Incentives + Resources + Action plan = Change. Dr. Villa stated that they are all necessary to achieve it or confusion will reign. I unfortunately know about the confusion part. I had spent the summer as a Teaching Fellow preparing for a very technology rich learning environment. That was not to be. In fact, I had to spend quite a bit of money simply providing books and other resources for my students including maps, globes, art tools, photos, films and a lap top for the class.


How will I adapt if one of these is missing in my classroom? I know that if something is missing there is confusion and anxiety because I had a lot of anxiety that my students were not receiving the resources they needed to promote change. So what will I do if I am in the same situation? Can I adapt? I honestly don’t know the answer to this. I no longer have the means to simply try to bring in the resources myself. I am guessing that I will have to write grant proposals and call upon my fund-raising skills. Of course I am assuming that only resources will be missing from the equation above. I could also be working in a district without an action plan. If that is so I know that I can use my interpersonal skills to get a movement started because I did that in NYC. I made small incremental changes toward a greater inclusive classroom. But will I be patient enough this time? I don’t know. A year out of the classroom is a long time and I may have to wait even longer to get back there. I have a great sense of urgency and it has not abated. It is the passion which gives me strength to try to accomplish great change but it also makes me very impatient and that has only been exacerbated by this forced sabbatical.

I will try to remember that it’s all about the students.

“The most untapped resource is children themselves”

I will keep this foremost in my mind when I teach. This concept was something I tried to implement in my lessons and home fun. When I came to a method for reteaching or homefun that my students responded to I continued to use it. I often asked my students what they needed from me in order to gain mastery. This included rewriting the text book in world history. The most frustrating aspect of teaching at Martin Luther King High School was that there was no library but we went on field trips to the public library when time permitted and of course I used my finances to embellish the classroom library. This was one example of a “lack of resources” that I found astounding. Another was the lack of technology available to my students who, I started to notice were, due to scheduling, kept out of the computer room as often as possible, probably because of inappropriate behavior. Students often showed up after several weeks absence and had to be kept in the loop regarding the work we were doing in the computer room. There were times when it didn’t go well. Sometimes they had abused drugs before coming to the computer room as well. It was a difficult situation for all concerned. Eventually, I had to drop students off at the “office” when we were scheduled to go to the computer lab. Not my favorite memory.

“It is justice not charity that is wanting in the world.” Mary Wollstonecraft.
In New York City I came across many master teachers who were suspicious of the motives of all the NYC Teaching Fellows. As fellows, we were sometimes viewed as elitist, over achieving, white people who had come to ‘save the kids from the ghetto’. The issue of our pity response was often discussed. I understood that this was not what my students needed. I understood that my students had strengths that were somewhat unimaginable to me and I treated them as such.

We must create “A culture of artistry-If you work with your hands your head your heart and your soul you are an artist.”

• Culture where character counts
• Culture of collaboration
• Culture of creativity and courage
• Culture of differentiation
• Culture that values diversity


Can I create a culture of artistry?
I believe so. I will know that I have arrived at this culture of artistry when I can look at my classroom and see that germination of the seeds of the above cultures have occurred and are growing. I hope that they blow away in the wind and grow out into the school and the community.

My students will come into an environment where they can succeed as people because they will be giving back to the community, because they will be developing good citizenship and because they will feel as though they belong, they are accepted and they are loved.

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