Thursday, October 5, 2017

Long time absence, first time administrator

Hey Everyone,

It's been quite an absence. I had this and my podcast up until around the start of 2017, but then a baby, admin class, applications and eventually getting a new job as a vice principal at a middle school has kept me from updating.

Some obvious observations:
- Whereas before I was able to know about politics, but ignore it when I wanted, I am thrust into the full game of politics and ignorance can lead to me losing a job.
- It is odd not being 100% immediately embraced by new staff (like new teachers generally are).
- Difficult conversations are difficult.
- Communication is something everyone appreciates.
- Fighting to find the positive is absolutely necessary as a vice principal, lest you be overwhelmed by the negative.

More thoughts and discussions to come. Just give me time.

- Tony

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Class Reflections Part 2

An interesting internet meme has been showing up on my Facebook thread over the past week. In it, a black female writer (I cannot find the post currently) observes that people who decry violence at protests and tell protesters to harken back to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message of nonviolence, have missed his message entirely. She points out that Dr. King refused to harass or denounce those who committed violence at protests, even if they were at one of the protests he participated in. He did not denounce them because he understood their pain, but he also understood the importance of a threat to those in power: deal with me or you deal with them.
Reading this analysis on top of the stories of cyclical oppression both in class discussions and in 13th make me wonder about the appropriate approach to education. Not to whether we must resort to violence on our end as educators, I do not believe that is the most effective option currently, but whether we may face that violence soon if the system is not corrected. Honestly, all of our discussions, while we talk about how we will lead it and if the system is right or wrong, all focus on the effects our system has on our children. And at what point, with access to technology and the world and the myriad of experiences that they can connect to now, at what point will they reconsider their roles in this system and see the inequity and violence that are inherent in our current system? How long until they rise in rebellion, as students at university and high school have done several times in our nation’s torrid past?
When I first started teaching 8 years ago, there was a story going around in some papers about a girl who simply refused to go to school. Her mother was SARB’ed, she was repeatedly picked up by police and brought to school, where inevitably she disappeared from and ended up at home time and time again. Her mother had removed all of her technology, taken her items, but none of it motivated her daughter to return. My teacher friends at the time spoke of it with amusement and some with condemnation, but behind it all was a thread of fear. Much like the Chicano walkouts, what could seriously be done the day students decide school is not for them? I worry that we are fast approaching that point of obsolescence.
How do you lead positive change from the inside? This class has focused on community engagement but 13th highlighted some issues with that line of inquiry. While any true change must address the community's needs and occur within and with a community, what happens when that community has bought into end goals that will ultimately harm them? As was pointed out in the documentary, black and African-American communities bought into Clinton’s tough on crime stance in the 90’s. They wanted less crime in their neighborhoods. Much like many parents in our communities want less violent kids in their schools, want us to be stricter on bullying and on drugs, how do our actions truly affect our community? How do you build collective trust, where the community feels you genuinely listen to their concerns and respond while also responding to your own concerns? How do you build this without becoming dominant or a savior?
Please don’t misunderstand my writing. I often write to the darker topics, because my background has always forced me to consider the worst scenarios and plans to move up from them. How would I truly build this relationship with a community? Truth and time. I’ve seen so many administrators and district personnel invite their own downfalls through lies and double-dealing. Whether to teachers, their peers or to the community at large. Once that trust is lost, it can never be regained, not in the same way. I feel that that is what is emphasized in the Dual Capacity model, where clarity and trust are mutually built during the establishment of viable, effective processes. One irony of the article is that an individual mentioned as a leader of the model, while they were able to establish that connection with younger students and families, lost their connection with older students and their families because of lack of clear processes and ultimately, a lack of honesty in their statements.
Time is necessary to consider, as it affects us in so many ways. Scheduling meetings at difficult times will discourage attendance and send a subtle message that while parents are welcome, we will not make the time for them. We want results and change immediately, but they take time to achieve. Finally, we give ourselves the time, but too much time allows us to lose our way. Working with the community to balance time effectively is one of the most difficult aspects of being an educational leader. My assumption here is based on how many districts I have seen that have been unable to budget time appropriately.
Much like my last reflection, I am left with many concerns moving forward, and time is always at the top of the list. If I were to observe all the signs and predict which cycle we are in politically when considering oppression, I would say we are swinging swiftly towards aggressive oppression. How many of my students, our families, our communities will be harmed in the coming days? As I move into a leadership position, what will I be asked to do that will fundamentally compromise my core beliefs? What will I refuse to do and what will be the consequences of those choices on my students, my family and my communities? What can I do within the system to truly motivate the change I want to be and see? What allies will appear to help fight against this cycle? Will educators and educational leaders be willing to take a stand against what is wrong, or move quickly for what is right? I do not know.


But I am always down for the struggle.

Reflections on my Academic Leadership Class

Tuesday’s class left me with one enormous impression: though we have talked about the importance of race and racial discussions and equity in our classes so far, we haven’t really deeply engaged the topic more than once or twice. That and the lack of a summative discussions left us in an interesting space. It has always been an interesting thing in the United States that we never want to confront some of the harsh truths out there; the most blatant being that extreme success often is at the expense of others. This is not in relation to athletes, who often credit those around who motivated, coached and trained them and acknowledge that while their drive helped, they wouldn’t be there without the help of others. This is not about those who are moderately successful, those who have worked hard, helped others, and in turn have been helped or guided towards success, their own drives playing a large part. But those who are obscenely successful, their success often comes at the expense of others, or the expense of others during their parents or grand-parents (etc.) generations. We have this fantasy that as long as they do “good works” they are good people. But as I stated in class, Microsoft relies on minerals stolen or bought cheaply from African countries. Facebook started by excluding all those not in college, creating a elitist community ground that eventually allowed others in and as it did so, began to data-mine their every activity. Apple’s production company has Chinese workers locked into a factory where they see suicide as their only viable escape. It’s insane. It was also interesting to see what people remembered or learned from their partners. I tend to pick up details about people as we go along, but it was kind of shocking how little some knew about others. I’m curious if that’s tied to what I see as family building (I make my family from my friends) as opposed to acquaintances, as some see others in the room. I wonder what details find important about others… I think our class is torn in three parts: those who think the system can be repaired and made equitable, those unsure of what the solution is, and those like me who feel that the system may be irreparable. And race, equity, special education, poverty, all dance around that question. Every question we bring up in class all tie back to that one core question, which I am becoming grimmer and grimmer about: Is our education system in its current incarnation worth saving? And if not, what is next? I feel like that is definitely a leftover of my childhood. I mentioned in my cultural proficiency paper that I learned from a young age to abandon that which hurts me and to move on to find things that helps me. Education hurts. Actively, continually, and painfully, destroying the lives of percentage of students we have deemed “acceptable losses” but that we constantly target for work. Society plays a huge part, politics too, but education is the system in which we exist, and the system where we all interact. The question now, truly is, how can we justify allowing the education system as we know it to continue when so many children are lost?