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Lead from the Start: May 2006

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Teacher of the Year and Surfing

Recently my career has felt like surfing. Before I became an NBCT I felt like I was always trying to fight the breakers. Waves of apathy, burn-out, difficult kids, desperate families, negative peers or situations. I was always struggling to maintain my "spark." My "verve" my personal "it." I knew if I could get past the breakers I could catch a wave and ride it.
Now, since my NBCT certificate, I feel like I finally broke past the breakers on the shore. It didn't happen immediately. I had to keep struggling for a while. Then, when I felt like I was going to get sucked back onto the shore, I dug down deep and came up with a very simple phrase that has given me the strength to keep paddling, know matter what.
I became Relentlessly Positive.
You may rememebr the post. But, since that time. I know I will not go back. I can see the waves, and not only the waves, but the whole ocean of education, filled with other teachers like me. Trying to make a difference and get out past the breakers. There are a lot of them on the Teacher Leaders Network. There are even some in my school division. I am surrounded by surfers.
I am out able to see waves coming. I can see past the breakers to the waves of opportunity. Today I was given just such an opportunity.
I was honored to find out I have been chosen as teacher of the year at Carver. I sincerely appreciate the support of my colleagues. I know that this is a strange year at my school because so many teachers are leaving next year. The only team that will stay together is the PK team. Every other grade level will lose 1-4 teachers. I really hope this will help me gain some credibility with my peers in the upper grades so that we can begin building a culture of change and support.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Education Week

I have only included part of the article. For the full article you can sign-up for a free account that lests you read two articles a week.
here is the web link:
Education Week

Payne's Pursuit

A former teacher with a message on educating children from poor backgrounds is influencing school leaders anxious to close the achievement gap.
By Bess Keller

More than ever before, reams of test results confront teachers and administrators with what many have recognized for a long time: Poor children are often shortchanged in schools. The interest in the former teacher's ideas reflects educators' craving for a workable remedy, one that is not couched in blame or changes they can't effect.
And while Ms. Payne's work is not without controversy and has a scant research base, it has attracted passionate support from educators in schools around the country. They often say her insights make sense out of their own experience and stick with them long after other pedagogical advice has faded.
Ms. Payne delivers a pointed message. She argues that the lens of economic class, specifically the "hidden rules" that people learn in their family and neighborhood environments, can help educators start consistently connecting with those who do not come from middle-class backgrounds. And she says that teachers need to help students in a less symbol-based home environment learn to process information in the ways formal education demands.
The alternative, she says, are stunted choices for the students and a tremendous waste of human capital. "Communities that do not develop the minds of their children will not have wealth," she declared in Chicago.

To survive in poor communities, Ms. Payne contends, people need to be nonverbal and reactive. They place priority on the personal relationships that are often their only significant resources and rely on entertainment to escape harsh realities. Members of the middle class, in contrast, succeed or fail through the use of paper representations and plans for the future. They value work and achievement.

But educators who build relationships of mutual respect with students are opening the door to learning even where middle-class resources are lacking, according to Ms. Payne.
On the other hand, teachers must recognize that children from poor families often benefit from explicit instruction and support in areas that could be taken for granted among middle-class students. Those include the so-called unspoken rules, mental models that help learners store symbolic information, and the procedures that it takes to complete an abstract task.
A teacher attentive to the needs of her low-income students fills the day with pointers and checklists. She puts tools for organizing information into her students' hands, and helps them translate it from its "street" version to its school one. She spells out reasons for learning.
Ms. Payne likes to contrast the behaviors—they come off almost as foibles—of poor parents and rich ones. It helps make the point, she says, that one set of rules isn't better than another.
A mother with a background of two or more generations in poverty might react to a problem at school by threatening to "whup" the teacher. A wealthy father tries to pull strings with the school board, using a personal connection.
It does not help in these circles that Ms. Payne is an unabashed proponent of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which she sees as a necessary part of honing the nation's competitive edge, or that she has parlayed a pastiche of mostly other people's ideas into a booming cottage industry.

Despite what her audiences usually assume, Ms. Payne grew up middle-class and Mennonite in Indiana and Ohio. She had her first brush with poverty as a student at Goshen College: The Mennonite school's service requirement landed her in Haiti for three months.
But a more significant exposure came when the high school English teacher married at 23 into a family of straitened circumstances. The marriage, which produced a son and lasted until two years ago, also introduced her to the society of the wealthy when her husband took a job in Chicago as a bond trader.

The dispute over the value of Ruby Payne's ideas seems to be taking place far from the trenches of public education. There, the opinion is largely pro-Payne.
When the Hamilton County, Tenn., district launched a project five years ago to turn around its nine lowest-performing elementary schools, local school leaders chose Ruby Payne as the first of several A-list consultants to speak to a gathering of the faculties. Since then, two administrators in the district, which includes Chattanooga, have joined the ranks of the 1,400 trainers Ms. Payne's group has certified.

One is Natalie Elder, the principal of Hardy Elementary School, where in the past four years students have shown among the greatest improvement on state tests of any school in the state. Teachers in her school are studying Ms. Payne's Framework together.
"It is the most powerful thing to me that you can give a teacher who has not really worked in an urban setting," says Ms. Elder, who, like almost all of her students, is black. "It brings into focus the kids they are serving."
Kathleen Flanagan, a teacher at an elementary school in Columbia, Md., was so excited by what she heard at a 2004 seminar conducted by Ms. Payne that she called her sister and urged her to drop what she was doing and get to the talk.
Ms. Flanagan had been puzzling over why a mother would storm into school and berate a teacher over what seemed like a minor incident. What if the mother had been unable to protect her child from abuse meted out by, say, a live-in boyfriend? She might show she does love her baby by coming into school and reaming out the teacher because it's a safe environment, Ms. Payne suggested.
It was an "aha" moment for the teacher, who is white and grew up in a middle-class house. "Once you are able to look at even a few of these events and say, 'Oh my gosh, I'd do that also; this makes sense,' you have a kind of empathy you couldn't have before," Ms. Flanagan said.

A workshop on Ms. Payne's ideas seven years ago near the start of his career had a similar effect on John M. Holland, a Head Start teacher in Richmond, Va.
"For a teacher to move from seeing their students as having no 'home training' to seeing their students as better at some skills than they are themselves because of their 'home culture' is a really powerful experience," the nationally certified teacher wrote in an e-mail.

But the enthusiasm is not universal among teachers.
Deborah Bambino, a longtime Philadelphia teacher who is studying for her doctorate in education, says Ms. Payne's analysis bothered her, though she found "kernels" of truth there. While teachers need to start doing right by poor students in their own practice, as Ms. Payne suggests, it can't stop there, Ms. Bambino argues.
"If, in fact, all of our kids scored at 'proficient' and above, the jobs aren't there for them," she says. "To me, that's a fundamental question."
Another veteran teacher now in graduate school, Nancy Flanagan (no relation to Kathleen Flanagan), says she has heard colleagues at Michigan State University disparage Ms. Payne's work as "simplistic and judgmental."
And yet, "I think that speaks more to the disconnect between theory and practice," Ms. Flanagan asserted in an email.
"Her insights help teachers deal with real situations."
Coverage of leadership is supported in part by a grant from The Wallace Foundation at
Vol. 25, Issue 34, Pages 30-32
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"Upward Journey," March 29, 2006.
"Against All Odds," November 9, 2005.
"The 'Failure' of Head Start," September 25, 2002.
"Report Relates Better Schools And Diversity," September 18, 2002.
"Broad Effort to Mix Students by Wealth Under Fire in N.C.," May 22, 2002.
"Welfare-to-Work Reforms No Boon To Children, Study Says," April 24, 2002.
"Study Links Income Boosts, Academic Success," November 28, 2001.
"From Worst to First," April 11, 2001.
"Schooled Out of Poverty," December 13, 2000.
For background, previous stories, and Web links, read Achievement Gap and Leadership .