In the Room

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Rocking the Boat - Assignment

When I first read the description and the introduction to this book I wasn't sure exactly what it had to do with me or MSUrbanStem but as always I was intrigued. As I started reading the first chapter I still wasn't making the connection but my interest was peaked by the term tempered radical. I found myself reading the meaning of this several times. I continued to read on visualizing the the different people and situations described throughout the book. I enjoyed the fact that as I read i started mentally making connections to my own situations at work and seeing myself and some of my colleagues. When a book or any piece of literature can do that for me I enjoy it because I'm not a reader. After finally finishing the book I was frustrated with myself for not prioritizing this reading with all that I had going on because it would have helped me be more reflective. Myerson did a good job of helping me understand that the strategies you use to influence change don't equal a label that categorize you as a type. I never would have picked up this book but after reading it I'm adding it to my professional library and sharing it with my new principal.

How am I different?

Being African American and working in a school is that is predominately African American students and staff makes it difficult for me to sort out my differences. However if I had to choose away in which I'm different it would be "Philosophical differences that conflict with prevailing values of their organization". I say this because I believe in the education of the whole child especially the social emotional development of children. With this said I truly believe that when you establish sincere relationships with children and are empathetic to their situations they will overcome their barriers. Unfortunately CPS as an organization doesn't support this because students have become products and data points for high stakes testing that help them negotiate federal funding amongst other things. On a local level some my colleagues haven't bought into this way of thinking and as a result quite a few of our students are falling through the cracks. As the middle school department chair I am truly a tempered radical because the middle school team understands the importance of student relationships and over the years we have been very successful win wrapping around our students.

Becoming a tempered radical

Prior to getting a new principal I would have been "resisting quietly and being true to myself" , "Turning personal threats into opportunities" and "Broadening impact through negotiation". Now that I have new principal "I'm leveraging small wins". I'm sure that I was supposed to pick one starting point but because of the complexity of my relationship with my former principal I was literally all over the continuum. My formal principal had a very clear belief that students living in the Englewood community were typed by others as being ignorant, dumb and poor and he would often say this in assemblies and in his speeches to the students. I asked him to stop saying that because being African American he was talking about me and other African Americans and I wasn't sure who "they" was. He insisted that he was just trying to motivate our students by getting them rise above the stereotype. These speeches went on for the first three years of his principalship until the middle school students started asking him why he was saying this and this question arose because we started having conversations about stereotypes and why its not okay to say certain things. Eventually he stopped saying it.

I can relate to a few lessons in this book as I reflect on the development of our middle school when I first started we were self contained but me and few other teachers wanted the upper grades to be departmentalized . I really wanted to teach science it was my passion and I thought it was a grave disservice to the students that science wasn't being taught. We've fully departmentalized for the last 12 years and awarded Illinois Horizon's middle school to watch designation. Science is also being taught in all grades because my advocacy for science instruction.

As I continue to grow as an educator I see my self becoming more of an activist. I would like to advocate for equal access to education, funding, and resources for all students.

Facing Challenges
Meyerson discusses four levels of challenges. These are:
The difficulties of ambivalence.
The incremental lures of co-optation.
The potential damage to ones’ reputation.
Frustration and burnout.

As a teacher leader in my building I am most concerned with "The potential damage to one's reputation" and "Frustration and burnout". Being a leader causes you to straddle the fence between your colleagues and administration. I worked hard to gain the trust and respect of colleagues. I am really proud of my reputation and the fact that my colleagues feel that they ask my opinion or look to me to help find resolutions to their problems. As Meyerson stated being a tempered radical often puts in positions of influence and power more so than the actual people in charge. I agree whole heartedly with this because there are times that I feel like I have more influence over my coworkers. It has taken me along time to own that because it is so fragile and shouldn't be taken for granted. On the flip side I have managed to have very good relationships with my former and current principal, they have on occasion sought my advice and opinion on various situations and I enjoy that they trust and respect my opinion. When working in CPS the struggle is often real because there is always the threat of cuts, layoffs, and availability of resources being constantly aware and concern will eventually contribute to my frustration and burnout. When I feel myself getting caught in the politics I refocus and remember why I got into teaching. I often remind myself that I will teach until I can't and thats all I have to hang on to.

Setting Goals:

Ten years ago I would have loved to have talked about short and long term goals however working under the current conditions of CPS makes this very difficult. In either case I digress as I think about this past week and what my students were able to accomplish in a ten week time period makes me hopeful that everything will just work out for the sake of the children. In my timeline I stretched a series of stem challenges for my students over the course of ten weeks. Missy asked why I did this and I don't think I responded and for that I apologize. So we were presented with an opportunity to compete in a stem design challenge taking place March 10th, 2017. Of course I was thrilled because this was essentially taking my ImagineIT to task and forced me push myself and my students. The only way I felt my students would possibly be ready for this competition was to ensure that they had multiple stem challenges prior to the competition hence the aggressive timeline. My idea for my ImagineIT was to have students have a genius hour each week where they completed various stem challenges in hopes of really understanding the engineering piece in STEM and to give them problem solving skills that would help the see science beyond the classroom. Doing these challenges and participating in the challenge has given focus and taught me a lot. At this point in my teaching my short term missional goal would be to ensure that all students that see me for science have the opportunity to engage in a stem challenge at least once or twice a month. My long term missional goal would be to mentor more advocates for STEM and science in my building and eventually branch out and become an advocate for Stem challenges and science within CPS and the city. I know this big and far reaching but on March 10th, 2017 I was inspired despite the crazy politics and threat of more furlough days, one day strike, and a June 1st date for the end of the school year. Meyerson would say that despite my inspiration I'm still very much aware of the politics that plague my profession.