National Education Association Human and Civil Rights Lesson Plan-Susan Anglada Bartley, M.Ed

March 8th, 2016

http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/18141%20SB%20NEA%20HCR%20Lesson%20Introduction_12-29-15.pdf

College Essay

January 17th, 2016

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1b3nYbwPS0Kohl9plwsLubyD7DFLWlidF7DRcsMaEsI4/edit?usp=sharing

Poetry Lesson for Pablo Neruda’s Ode to Criticism/Oda a la crítica

January 14th, 2016

Listening to the Spanish version will honor the Spanish speakers in the room. Neruda listened to in English is not really Neruda–he loved his language so. The English version, a substitute I also must rely on for full comprehension, can be made available in print. It is included below.

I have a secret space (in my garage turned garden shed) where I can escape to study, consider, and occasionally memorize, poetry. I feel that everyone should have at least one space in their life that is too sacred for Facebook; for me, the poetry cavern (which is also hung with an original 1970s basket swing that I swing in while pondering great works) is that place. While I love the basket swing, the 1960 yellow crushed velvet couch that I bought specifically for the poetry cavern, the hanging basket plants, and my garden bench (which always reminds me of a more positive version of Roethke’s Root Celler), my deeper reason for loving the poetry cavern is because it is a place that is free from criticism, pressure, or the demands of work–it is a secret world dedicated only to art, philosophy, music, and of course–poetry.

Neruda’s Ode to Criticism is as liberating for me as the poetry cavern. Sometimes I carry a poem with me throughout the day as a way of returning to that sacred space.

I am looking forward to teaching this poem to students. Here is simple draft of a lesson.

Opening – Play Tupac’s Only God Can Judge Me (note: this song is only appropriate for HS seniors or above unless you use the radio edit) or another song related to criticism while students walk in the door. Place the English version or English/Spanish version on their desks so it is there when they arrive. Place the recording of the Spanish version and then read the English version.

Depending on the level of instruction, you could select five to twenty literary devices from the poem. In my own AP English class, students would already have a vocabulary notebook with 25-30 poetry terms in it that they made over a period of weeks. They use this to annotate and analyze poetry on a daily basis….

but here is the catch–in this poem, Neruda actually directly discusses the experience of having his work criticized and torn apart by those who wish to analyze poetry rather than love it and learn from it.

So today–instead of analysis–the questions for small group discussion & individual assessment become:

  1. In which lines does Neruda discuss the ways in which his poetry is analyzed by critics? How does he feel about this? What is the purpose of the critic? Is there anything positive about criticism? (These questions are foreshadowing for Neruda’s Part 2 of Ode to Criticism, which you can show them on a different day).
  2. Neruda seems to suggest that there is a purpose for poetry that is far more important than the words or reactions of any critic. Find the lines where he suggests this and write two or three down. What do you understand this purpose to be?
  3. What do artists make art? Use this poem as a resource to craft a written answer (you decide how long based on your timing)…and then take a break when you hear the music. Tell students to work hard and take a movement break when they hear the Tupac. After the song, they come back to their groups and share. They then pick one reporter to share with the whole group about the different answers that that they found.

Challenge Assignment: Write your own poem to the critics or “haters”. Allow your inner self to speak back to those who would persecute you for any reason. You may also draw on an experience from your younger days. 16 lines or more…go!!!!!!! Allow them time to write…and then share. If you can, write your own poem to share with students so that they have another model. They will feel more comfortable if they hear yours…and be more likely to share. It will be hilarious.

ODE TO CRITICISM (I)

I wrote five poems :
one was green
another a round wheaten loaf,
the third was a house, a building,
the fourth a ring,
and the fifth was
brief as a lightning flash,
and as I wrote it,
it branded my reason.

Well, then, men
and women
came and took
my simple materials,
breeze, wind, radiance, clay, wood,
and with such ordinary things
constructed
walls, floors, and dreams.
On one line of my poetry
they hung out the wash to dry.
They ate my words
for dinner,
they kept them
by the head of their beds,
they lived with poetry,
with the light that escaped from my side.
Then
came a mute critic,
then another babbling tongues,
and others, many others, came,
some blind, some all-seeing,
some of them as elegant
as carnations with bright red shoes,
others as severely
clothed as corpses,
some were partisans
of the king and his exalted monarchy,
others had been snared
in Marx’s brow
and were kicking their feet in his beard,
some were English,
plain and simply English,
and among them
they set out
with tooth and knife,
with dictionaries and other dark weapons,
with venerable quotes,
they set out
to take my poor poetry
from the simple folk
who loved it.
They trapped and tricked it,
they rolled it in a scroll,
they secured it with a hundred pins,
they covered it with skeleton dust,
they drowned it in ink,
they spit on it with the suave
benignity of a cat,
they used it to wrap clocks,
they protected it and condemned it,
they stored it with crude oil,
they dedicated damp treatises to it,
they boiled it with milk,
they showered it with pebbles,
and in the process erased vowels from it,
their syllables and sighs
nearly killed it,
they crumbled it and tied it up in a
little package
they scrupulously addressed
to their attics and cemetaries,
then,
one by one, they retired,
enraged to the point of madness
because I wasn’t
popular enough for them,
or saturated with mild contempt
for my customary lack of shadows,
they left,
all of them,
and then,
once again,
men and women
came to live
with my poetry,
once again
they lighted fires,
built houses,
broke bread,
they shared the light
and in love joined
the lightning flash and the ring.
And now,
gentlemen, if you will excuse me
for interrupting this story
I’m telling,
I am leaving to live
forever
with simple people.

-Pablo Neruda

Socratic Seminar Model

January 13th, 2016

The Socratic Seminar model is a wonderful tool to use with students of all ages. I am including a cool clip below of a collaborative project that my 12th grade students did with 5th grade students at Atkinson Elementary School. Atkinson Principal, Ivonne Dibblee, who had observed this method in my classroom suggested the idea of getting our students together. She connected me with excellent 5th grade teacher, Nicolette Smith. We have now collaborated for two years in a row! Here are some basic directions for holding your own Socratic Seminar Discussion.

The method is based on the original concept of “the dialectic” which is attributed to Socrates. The Socratic dialectical process is exemplified in the conversation that happens between intoxicated, friendly philosophers in Plato’s Republic. Do you remember reading this in high school or college? I do–I remember when I was assigned this book as a Freshman at New York University. It took me a little while to understand the format of the book, but I soon found myself deeply engaged in the discourse between these interesting characters. I began to understand that Plato was using this conversation as an example, actually, of Utopia. The philosophers, each with their own distinct personality and perspective, argued with one another about the nature of reality, and about the ideal society. Their teacher always responded with a deeper question, leading to a deeper question, and a deeper question after that. In the end, Plato (who was a student of Socrates) argues that communication, dialogue, and questioning –the dialectical process– are the Utopia–the privilege to search for truth is as good as it gets.

Although there are many feminist critiques of Socrates, I see the Socratic Method as a tool for establishing equity in the classroom. Why–you ask? It is a great tool for creating a more equitable environment because an authentic Socratic Seminar is about the supremacy of each individual’s right to question without being put down or debated. It is a celebration of free speech. It is a thrilling spectacle of critical thinking. It is a stage on which to practice free thought. It is about the empowerment of every voice.

There are many ways to facilitate a Socratic Seminar discussion, and just as many people trying to sell the method as their own; however, each teacher has the right to interpret the method in their own way, as Socrates himself is no longer among us–or is he?

Susie’s Socratic Method:

All students sit in a circle or square.

Students ask two questions about a major text they read as a group, an essay, a film or film clip, a poem, or a quote (quotes work well with younger children).

The teacher explains the guidelines:

Two before you (two students must speak before anyone else speaks)

Unheard voice rules (the person who has not spoken yet must be called on before a student who has already spoken)

The student who spoke most recently must call on the next student. If there are no hands up, they may call on anyone.

Silence is golden. Silent moments are not to be feared. They are moments for deep meditation before the discussion blossoms again.

No Side Talk – Please write down your thought and share with the group!

Round #1

After these guidelines are established, every student in the circle must propose their question to the whole group. Just go around the whole circle. If working with high school students, all students must take notes on what every student says, and then star a few who they would like to respond to. If working with middle school students, they should simply take notes on what three or four students asked. High School students must turn in their notes at the end of the discussion for assessment.

Round #2

After all students have asked their question, the actual conversation begins. I often revisit the bolded guidelines above one more time. My role, as teacher, is now to ensure that the students stick to the guidelines. If one student is allowed to dominate and a conversation erupts between two students in the circle, this is not an authentic Socratic Seminar.

In round #2, each student must ask a question about the question another student raised in the first round. It is a challenge for students to drop the practice of domination and debate and simply learn to question one another’s ideas. Sometimes, students may just want to make one remark about what another students said…or to take the conversation in a slightly different direction. Tangents must be allowed. Don’t be afraid of going off topic a little bit. A silence will once again emerge at some point. When it does, let students know ahead of time that this is the moment to return to one of the questions that a student raised in the first round. Those questions are the fuel of the discussion.

Assessment:

Since we know that young people perform best with both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, I do offer points for the Socratic Seminar discussion. The points could look something like this:

Listening & Notetaking – 10 points

Round #1 Question – 20 points

Round #2 Participating and Listening – 20 points

Points can be taken for not following the guidelines. Students are made aware of this beforehand. Sometimes it takes a little practice to get it all going. Hold fast to the guidelines so this can be a great, operable strategy for the school year.

I have far more successful discussions when I require notes and post the points system. Students deeply enjoy clarity!

Does the teacher involve herself? I tell students that by the end of the year, I want to see them operate a Socratic Seminar Discussion alone so that I may film it. However, I do enjoy participating in the first half of the year. If it is about poetry, I can barely stop myself from joining in; however, I TOO MUST FOLLOW THE RULES, RAISE MY HAND, AND BE CALLED ON. The students love this sense of equality. I highly suggest trying it out!

Starting A College Stampede

May 15th, 2014

RACHEL GRAHAM CODY, Wilamette Week , January 29th, 2014
news3a_4013

Image: Christ Onstatt

Giant white sheets of paper cover the walls of Susan Anglada Bartley’s Advanced Placement English classroom at Franklin High School, the long pages listing the 88 seniors in her classes, the colleges they’re trying to get into, and where they have been accepted. The list includes Portland State, Oregon State and Willamette University, but also bigger fish such as Georgetown and Harvard, Stanford and MIT.

What’s remarkable is that the lists exist at all.

For years, Franklin, with its high poverty rate, struggled simply to get kids to graduate. It now boasts a record-setting grad rate and a stampede of seniors headed for college.

Bartley leads Franklin’s Advanced Scholar Program, which she helped create in 2007 and which has cleared a pathway to college for 256 Franklin students, many of whose parents never attended college. Along the way, Bartley and other Franklin educators have made Advanced Scholar the most popular student organization at Franklin. The program has grown from 89 students in its first year to 421 this year and now meets in the school auditorium.

“People don’t talk about ‘if’ they are going to college anymore,” says 17-year-old senior Quinn Nottage, who has applied to Occidental, Reed and NYU. “They talk about where they are going.”

Students, teachers and administrators alike credit the program with lifting achievement at Franklin. In 2009, the school failed to graduate even half its African-American students; now it has the top black graduation rate in the state — 88 percent. Every senior who has met the requirements of Franklin’s Advanced Scholar Program has been accepted by at least one college, and 90 percent have gone on to attend four-year institutions.

“I’ve been at Franklin 25 years, and it has only been in the last three that I’ve written college recommendations,” says William McClendon III, who teaches AP Psychology and U.S. and African-American history and is a longtime mentor in the Advanced Scholar Program. “Now I’m writing dozens.”

These are all outcomes Portland Public Schools officials say they want. The Portland School Board and Superintendent Carole Smith have for years sunk the district’s money elsewhere: millions of dollars to outside consultants and alternative programs aimed at closing the district’s persistent racial and economic achievement gaps.

Meanwhile, Franklin’s Advanced Scholar Program has turned around the high school at an annual cost of $60,000, covered mostly by grants and without a dime of direct support from the district.

Since the program’s start in 2008, Bartley and Franklin Principal Shay James have cobbled together funding from the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association, its foundation, Franklin’s general fund, and the National Education Association, a federal Small Learning Communities grant supported by the Gates Foundation. They’ve also received money from a grant from the Nike School Innovation Fund, which runs out this year.

District officials say they want to keep the program alive, and Smith has pointed to Franklin’s success as evidence of the district’s “focused effort” to close its racial and economic achievement gaps. Other district officials have credited Franklin’s success to Courageous Conversations, a $2.5 million racial sensitivity training program.

Bartley bristles at this suggestion, pointing out that the program was around for years before Courageous Conversations, and last November she asked district administrators to stop taking credit for a program they haven’t funded.

“I can’t peddle myself around, teach four classes and run this program. I’m almost at wit’s end,” Bartley says. “I see all these kids succeeding and getting into college, it’s a dream come true. These kids have the faith to take five or six AP classes and work so hard. Why aren’t they getting supported from the district?”

Bartley, 35, says she understands personally the transformative power of school. She describes herself as unfocused and headed in the wrong direction while growing up in Buffalo, N.Y. “I could have really gone off track,” she says, “but my teachers had such high expectations for me, and that made a huge impact.”

Backed by a federal grant, Bartley, James, school administrators and other teachers in 2007 looked for a way to emphasize acceleration, not remediation, to improve outcomes at Franklin. They discovered that students (especially those whose parents had not gone to college) were intimidated by the whole notion of higher ed, and realized those students needed more support in preparing for college.

The result was Advanced Scholar. Students can join anytime before their senior year. They must commit to four AP classes, maintain a 2.75 grade-point average, stay out of trouble and participate in at least two extracurricular activities (one has to be non-athletic). They meet with mentors twice a month and attend regular Advanced Scholar meetings, where they learn how to organize their time, apply for summer internships and decode financial aid forms. Tutors from Reed College are available every day after school.

Peer pressure brings a lot of students to their first Advanced Scholar meeting, and a sense of being part of something big keeps them there. Advanced Scholar graduates have a Facebook page where they write posts about college, answer questions and emphasize that current Franklin students have a legacy to uphold.

“It’s gotten to the point where no one even asks if you are in Advanced Scholar anymore,” says Jessica Robinson, a 17-year-old senior who says she knew she wanted to go to college but had no idea how to get there before she joined the program. ” It’s more surprising if you are not in it.”

Bartley has done all this on a shoestring: The program pays teachers up to $45 to mentor students for one hour per month, but everyone agrees mentors spend far more time working with students. (Every administrator at Franklin is also a mentor, though they are not paid extra.) Bartley has spent money on a summer planning session and iPads, but also on such attention-getting efforts as Advance Scholar sweatshirts, distinctive graduation stoles, plus pizza and tacos for the monthly meetings.

The district’s chief academic officer, Sue Ann Higgens, has suggested $50,000 for Advanced Scholar in next year’s budget, and another $50,000 to Roosevelt and Madison high schools to start similar programs there. “The superintendent has charged me with improving our graduation rates and closing our racial opportunity gaps,” says Higgens. “This is a strategy that I think anyone can see works toward that.”

Bartley — who last June won the National Education Association’s prestigious H. Councill Trenholm Memorial Award for her work — says replicating success at other schools will require on-the-ground leadership, not planning imposed from the top.

Others agree. “We’ve all been through that cycle where the district gives you a half day of training, you land on the ground at 75 miles per hour, and then they give you two years to produce results,” says Franklin science teacher and Advanced Scholar mentor Dave Sherden. “Advanced Scholar was a bottom-up thing, not top-down. It would be a huge mistake to try to implement this as a whole program.”

Madison Principal Petra Callin says Advanced Scholar has great promise and that it would be a mistake to plunk it down in other schools as is. She’s already removed prerequisites for enrolling in AP classes and is now looking at how Madison can accelerate learning for all students.

“If one structural thing worked and worked exactly the same everywhere, every school in the country, all schools, would be knocking it out of the park,” Callin says. “There are a lot of things we know work, but how they work in any building is different place to place.”

Brenda Ramirez, 17 and a senior who grew up speaking Spanish at home and was self-conscious of her vocabulary and accent, says she had assumed college was not in her future until she joined Advanced Scholar. She’s already been accepted at Portland State and is waiting to hear from the other schools on her list.

“This program,” Ramirez says, “lets you know you are equal to anybody.”

2013 NEA HCR Award Winner Susan Bartley

May 15th, 2014

Award Ceremony in Atlanta, GA, July 2, 2013

Publ. 8/14/13 by the National Education Association

Franklin thrives on ‘culture of smartness’

May 15th, 2014

Jennifer Anderson, Portland Tribune, 11 April 2013

Christopher McBee is deciding between staying close to home or braving it in the cold Midwest.

The aspiring engineering student has been accepted to Oregon State University and Marquette University, in Milwaukee, Wisc., which gave him a nice scholarship offer — but all his friends are going to OSU.

So McBee, 18, a senior at Franklin High School, will spend the rest of the month doing what most of his college-bound peers are doing: more campus visits, more talks with friends and alumni and financial aid officers, and more soul-searching about one of the biggest decisions of their lives.

More than ever, Franklin students have been focusing on going to college — and positioning themselves for success — thanks to a program called Franklin Advanced Scholars. About 400 students school-wide, nearly a third of the school, are participating.

“It does create this culture around college,” says Franklin counselor Holly Vaughn-Edmonds. “It really has pivoted Franklin to this culture of smartness.”

This year, all 66 senior Advanced Scholars will graduate and go on to a 2- or 4-year college, up from 48 last year.

All have successfully completed four AP classes (or three AP and one dual credit) during their time at Franklin, in addition to meeting behavior, grade and attendance standards. They’ve met regularly with their assigned mentor to discuss topics such as resume building and the college application process.

Founded five years ago as Franklin was struggling to increase its rigor and attract more students, the program is the only one in Portland Public Schools and could soon be a model statewide.

Teachers and administrators created the program “at a time when our school was looked down upon,” says Susan Anglada Bartley, the Advanced Scholars coordinator and AP English teacher at Franklin.

Cleveland High, which Franklin is often compared to, has their International Baccalaureate program for high-achieving students. Franklin sought to create a college-prep environment of its own, and “now we have people asking to come to Franklin from Cleveland,” Bartley says.

All of the Advanced Scholars have gone on to college.

Franklin’s population grew more diverse and low-income after taking in Marshall students, and Bartley made it her job to ensure those students were reflected in their most rigorous courses.

Franklin offers 15 AP classes and seven dual-credit courses, in which students earn credit at Portland Community College. “At other schools, tracking happens,” Bartley says. “We don’t allow tracking. Any kid who gets a D in English, or gets sent to the assistant principal’s office — we say ‘Have you thought about Advanced Scholars?’ “

Seniors have until May 1 to make their final decisions on what college they’ll attend.

Seventeen teachers at Franklin, plus the principal and vice principals, serve as mentors for the Scholars. The teachers are awarded small stipends for their time through a Nike School Innovation Fund grant of $10,000 per year.

Nike has committed to funding the program with a $10,000 challenge grant next year, but future funding is uncertain.

Julia Brim-Edwards, founder of the Innovation Fund, hopes the contribution will help leverage greater community support.

“Quite simply, it works,” she says. It “nurtures and drives academic excellence.”

As education funding falls short statewide, state Rep. Chris Harker, D-Beaverton, sees it as part of the solution. He visited in the fall and says he was “more impressed than ever.”

The program “struck me right away as something which schools around the state might use to overcome some of the financial shortcomings,” he says.

Farther from home

Bartley’s AP English classroom at Franklin, room 160, is ground zero for the Advanced Scholars.

Now, as it is every spring, her walls are covered in a patchwork of orange and purple paper as a visual representation of her students’ college application process.

Orange papers with the names of colleges on them signify acceptances; purple papers hold the names of schools students are attending.

So far this spring, the 54 students in Bartley’s two AP English classes have garnered 166 acceptances.

Alejandro Flores is one of the few in-state students who were accepted to Reed College, which admits just 3 percent of its students from Oregon. He was also accepted to Seattle University, University of Portland and PSU, but it will all come down to financial aid.

“I check the mail three times a day,” says Flores, who wants to study medicine. While he’d be the first in his family to attend college, his parents have always expected him to go, he says.

The same is true for Paris Gresham, another Advanced Scholar who was also coincidentally admitted to Reed.

P. Gresham (C. Onstott, Portlnd Trib.)

She’ll soon visit the campus for a second time, not sure yet if it’s the right fit. “When I visited, I didn’t see many students like me,” she says, meaning black. Gresham also wants to be farther from home.

While some make the case that college is not for all students, Bartley says Franklin has made it part of their high school culture because in Oregon and nationally, a college education has become a direct indicator of earning potential.

“While life isn’t all about money, we need to prepare our children with the skills they need to be successful in real life,” Bartley says.

For many, she adds, college is “a doorway into a kind of financial stability that they have never experienced before; even at age 18, they realize that attending will impact future generations.”

It was that line of thinking that prompted senior Yussef Sheikhnur, 17, to change course after coming to Franklin two years ago from the shuttered Marshall Campus.

He was a different person then: “I knew I wasn’t going to go to college,” says Sheikhnur, who was born in the U.S. to parents who came from Somalia. “I was into the wrong things; I wasn’t doing what my parents told me to do.”

He was barely passing his classes, until one day Bartley and Vaughn-Edmonds convinced him to sign up for AP English class.

Along the way, he retook five or six of his classes to get back on track, through summer and night school. And he changed his mind about college, applying to Western Oregon University and PSU.

He thinks he’ll go with PSU, since they have an African Studies program he’d like to pursue. “I can be the first in my family to go to college,” Sheikhnur says. “I want to try to help my community; be a leader.”

Shatanya Banks, 17, and Rebecca Sanford, 18, both Advanced Scholars, will also be first-generation college students.

Banks has been driven since a young age, since her own mother had her at age 16 and struggled to raise her on her own. “I told myself I would succeed,” says Banks, who’s been working afterschool jobs since her sophomore year to help pay for college.

She wants to go to medical school to be an ob-gyn and is waiting until the final financial aid packages roll in until she decides between Concordia University, PSU, University of Portland and George Fox University.

Sanford, who wants to study mechanical engineering, has been accepted to 10 of the 15 colleges she’s applied to. “I want to go to Whitman (College), but it’s so much money,” she says. “I’m basically just trying to go to any school where I can stay under $10,000 per year. My dad is still paying off his loans.”

A Personal Reflection on Serving Native American and Latino Students

February 21st, 2013

Contributed by guest author, Marty Perez, M.Ed

When I think of serving students of color within the educational realm of today’s standards, I cannot help but to think back to previous history and reflect on the practices currently being administered.  I am a product of an undocumented (migrant worker) father from Mexico and an Indigenous mother of one of the nine federally-recognized tribes in Oregon, which in some cases screams a recipe for disaster. When I think about my parent’s past education, I rule out my father’s 3rd or 4th grade education and focus primarily on my maternal family’s educational history.  Traditionally, I grew up hearing stories about stories that dated back before time, and that is how we were taught, verbally, through stories–a tradition dating back thousands of years, before books, pens, pencils, and paper, and this practice is still being used today in the 21st Century.   I can still speak of my grandmother’s education at Chemawa Indian Boarding School in Salem, OR, where she talked about days in which religious figures cut the hair of rural indigenous people to publically shame them, or what they thought to be the process of assimilation, and the dreadful stories of molestation and abuse within educational buildings–the same buildings we were being asked to trust and to believe in their safety.  These stories being passed on were not promising to the younger generations, but we still were encouraged by adult figures to do better than they did in the public education system. 

I cannot help to think about our elders and their help regarding issues that may surface in public education and the potential effectiveness it may bring, but often I am aware of the tools our elders have or do not have regarding appropriate talk in advocating for themselves, their children, and the cause within the public educational system or what many call using, “White talk.”  In result, many of us paid the price of failing or dropping out, because their efforts went unnoticed by people that could have an impact or gatekeepers that kept the doors shut for Native youth.  Even until this day, many of my family members do not step foot into a school because of the lingering memories of how the educational system has failed them and how these memories still meet and greet them at the door of these public institution, thus the cycle continues. 

How can we make an everlasting impression on Native youth with regard to advocacy, serving, educating, promoting, and housing quality education?  How can we improve public education to meet the needs of our diverse population?  The answer is not easy, nor is the equation developed, or as of yet, solvable; but working minds have started to seek out solutions.  As an educator I often look at my own classroom and ask, where is the culture being taught?  Do I have material or resources to promote and scaffold merging cultures, invisible cultures, and the explicit culture that my classroom embodies?  Do I have the community resources available to talk about historical facts that have impacted families, validating their plight?  Why would validation be important some may ask? Validation honors and credits the past and respects the rich historical testimonies that are not told in textbooks that are being used today in each classroom. 

Serving Students of Color—Voices of Black, Latino, and Native American Professionals

February 21st, 2013

(contributing authors listed at end of article)

In a recent Facebook conversation, I asked a group of African-American, Latino, and Native American parents to comment on how white teachers in the public system might better serve children of color. After seeing how important this issue was to my on-line friends, I opened the conversation to a group of professionals of color from my local community. The co-authors live as a far east as New York, and as far west as San Francisco; among them are business executives, accountants, social workers, radical educators, community organizers, and artists.

Edreys Wajed, father, artist, and visual arts teacher commented, “The one thing that I think would benefit all parties are more frequent visits from “professionals” that are African-American, Latino, and Native–professionals of all sorts that may somehow relate to the teacher’s curriculum, which I believe would drive home a sense of ‘why’ the students are learning a particular portion of the related lesson.”

Media Specialist and former AIM (American Indian Movement) activist Jan Donald agreed with Wajed, “Seeing someone who looks like us and maybe has similar experiences can provide encouragement and momentum toward achievement.”

Carlos Gant, a business professional, listed the need for updated technology in the classrooms and homes of minority students, and suggested that minority parents be invited to education forums and conferences to create open dialogue about performance standards in their communities. He also suggested that white teachers should get engaged in minority support networks, and be available beyond the classroom. He asked for teachers to work with parents of Black, Latino, and Native American children to define what performance excellence looks like. Finally, he suggested that teachers update parents on social and legal matters that can impact their children’s ability to get quality education.i

Nakia Sangria, who earned her MBA at Medaille College, agreed about the need to bring in professionals, noting that this would help children to understand what is really required to attend medical school or law school. She also noted, “I’m a fan of putting college or future goals into a kid’s head as soon as they start school, my 2nd grade teacher had us write education plans and I followed mine to the letter! Take children on college tours with parents and show them how to save money that early, even if it’s $25 per month. Bring in a Financial Advisor to show them ways to save for college because by 8th grade it’s too late.”

Shaun Nelms, Superintendent in New York’s Greece School District, directed me to read the articles of Pedro A. Noguera.ii Noguera is a decorated educator who has shown a long-term and unwavering commitment to analyzing inequity in public education and postulating solutions. Among the hundreds of articles that Noguera has authored, I noticed several key concepts. He fights for the elimination of tracking systems that prohibit children of color from reaching advanced classes, and asks for an end to discipline systems that inordinately punish African-American and Latino youth. Noguera also promotes the placement of medical and mental health services inside public schools to create community centers that radiate wellbeing.

Salah-Jason Ross Brown, Development Director of the Arab Cultural and Community Center in San Francisco, suggested that white teachers, “Reflect on who you are as a leader. Revise accordingly. Hold self accountable. Maintain impeccability as humanitarian. Find joy in purpose, create rigor around student interests, and help students deepen knowledge by establishing class culture of independent study. Allow for inclusive evaluation. Let students evaluate you.”
Radical educator and mother Dana Steward Kemp noted, “I am bugged over and over again by the fact that schools are segregated—we learn best when we have the opportunity to learn from others—different cultures, races, classes, and SES. Also, ironic that Obama’s children attend Sidwell Friends—nice school—no high-stakes testing. You don’t see the folks there begging for their children to take a test to prove their intelligence. Children don’t need bubble sheets; they need experiences, and schools can be places for that.”

Social Worker Pedro Anglada Cordero, MSW, agreed with the other parents about the importance of allowing children of color to come into contact with African-American, Latino, and Native American professionals. He also remarked, “I agree with the idea of getting parents more involved with their children’s education. However, schools must provide additional support for children and families of color, especially when the family has limited resources. Doing the work I do, and also based on my past experience working in a high school, I often hear ‘complaints’ or antagonistic remarks from school (or agency) staff against parents of children of color because they are not involved in their children’s education, without considering the fact that they are from a low-income background. As you know, I personally came from a family situation in which my mother was too busy working to be involved in my education. During that time, I had a job: Pass all classes (excellence not required); don’t get in trouble; do not make parent lose work-time because getting in trouble.”

Latino Parent Liaison Raquel Laiz noted that Latino students and their parents face stereotypes in many school communities. She noted that while some non-Latino parents may have the perception that Latino parents don’t care as much about education, they often care deeply, but face a litany of challenges that non-Latino families don’t have to grapple with.

“Misunderstandings of school’s rules and expectations, the English language barrier, long work hours and little flexibility, misunderstandings about the role of parents in schools…sometimes Latino parents are also afraid of attending school meetings or providing personal information to schools, due to their immigration status,” Ms. Laiz said.

“However, there are many things we can do to serve students of color,” continued Laiz, “it is crucial to provide school materials in the parent’s native language, have interpreters available, be flexible and respectful of parent’s schedules, assure frequent and clear communication between parents and teachers, offer training to staff on Latino culture, have available bilingual/bicultural staff to work with parents and create communication pathways that will eliminate all cultural and language barriers.”

Pedro Anglada Cordero, who works as a bilingual state social worker and regularly visits a variety of schools, agreed with Laiz’s suggestions, but remarked, “From personal experience, I know that schools are often very unlikely to contact a family they just don’t feel “comfortable” with; whether it is because of a language barrier, or just because they seem to fear the parent. At times fear comes from never meeting the parent in person, or because the family is not white.”

As a white educator, I didn’t have to go far to hear solutions to the achievement gap problem that perplexes the nation. All it took was a willingness to listen. Since the answers are here, it is no longer acceptable to work toward maintaining the status quo—to do so when one is aware of inequity is the same as knowingly working to maintain racism. Eradicating racism and inequity in schools requires work, funding, passion, collaboration, and the willingness to surrender long-held beliefs and practices in order to create healthy learning communities that celebrate all children. If we are willing to open our ears, there are many answers to guide our path toward change.

i Gant noted that Affirmative Action is currently being challenged, and that parents need to know how this could impact their child’s educational future.

ii Noguera’s articles are available at

http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/m/metrocenter/resources/pedroarticles

Corresponding author: Susan Anglada Bartley, M.Ed
Contributing authors: Pedro Anglada Cordero, MSW, Jan Donald,  Salah-Jason Ross Brown, Carlos Gant, Dana Steward Kemp, Raquel Laiz,  Nakia S. Sangria, Shaun Nelms, and Edreys Wajed.
Helpful Editor: Kate Moore

Speech at 1/21/13 MLK Celebration

January 24th, 2013

Text of Speech given by Susan Anglada Bartley at the New Beginnings MLK Celebration in Portland, Oregon on January 21st, 2013. (Broadcast and webcast by KBOO Community Radio)

statue of mlk

Thank you very much to Kenneth Berry and to all of the staff and volunteers here at New Beginnings Conference Center for the opportunity to speak today. In preparation for this event, I spent time examining the writings of Dr. King. I’d like to begin with a quote from Dr. King’s sermon entitled “Loving Your Enemies,”

“Love is the most durable power in the world. This creative force, so beautifully exemplified in the life of our Christ, is the most potent instrument available in mankind’s quest for peace and security. Napolean Bonaparte, the great military genius, looking back over his years of conquest, is reported to have said; Alexander, Ceasar, Charlemagne, and I have built great empires. But upon what did they depend? They depended on force. But centuries ago, Jesus started an empire that was built on love, and even to this day millions would die for him. Who can doubt the veracity of these words? The great military leaders of the past have gone, and their empires have crumbled and burned to ashes, but the empire of Jesus, built solidly and majestically on the foundation of love is still growing.”

Once again, the historical moment that we are living in requires us to consider how brotherhood might defeat enmity, how love might conquer hatred, and how peace might quell violence.

The conditions around us – all people of every faith, nationality, religion, and race, require us to think about the role of violence in our lives. My first memory of violence comes in the form of generational grief – a memory passed to me by my mother through story – I hold shattered images of my grandfather, an autoworker and former Irish boxer in Detroit, shot and killed by a random murderer by the roadside in the middle of the night. Like many of you, I am aware of the impact that the violent death of a loved one has on a family.

Violence touched my childhood too—I remember when a gun shot pierced the floor of my uncle’s house in one of the toughest neighborhood’s in Buffalo, New York when armed robbers intruded, narrowly missing him. I remember the day when my classmate, Wykeshia Bolden was shot in the crossfire of a drug battle. As school children, we dedicated a song to her, and promised to never forget.

As a teacher, gun violence has touched the lives of those close to me. Fernando Chavez lives in my memory as a bright student who struggled to make it past the difficulties of his troubled youth, –and just when he almost got there, a thief with a gun broke into the house that Fernando lived in. When he jumped out to protect the family that was providing him shelter, a gunman ended his life.

As a mother, gun violence touched my life last week when two men toting military assault weapons stood outside my baby’s daycare to celebrate their right to bear arms, causing the children to huddle in the backroom, and the teachers to lock down the school in fear of another violent incident.

It is impossible to discuss the great work of Dr. King without sharing his message of non-violence, non-conformity, and hope. While it may be hard to hear about violence, and to truly reflect on the ways in which it affects our lives, please let us remember that Dr. King asked us to be honest about the existence of violence and to fight it with love.

In his sermon, “Transformed Non-Conformist” he writes, “Only through our inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit. The transformed non-conformist, moreover, never yields to the passive sort of patience which is an excuse to do nothing.”

Can we each take the time to consider how violence has touched our lives, our family histories, our loved ones, and our inner selves? Where is that place in each of our hearts that needs a safe harbor, a nest of healing, a silent mountaintop? Where is that place in you, friend, that knows the gun shot, feels the beating of fists, hears the cry of children? Where is that place in you that knows the sound of stomping feet, the pain of cruel words or deeds, and the impression that they leave on the heart, and their weight on the soul?

Today we remember Dr. King, and the hundreds of thousands of members of that great generation who were willing to make sacrifices in the name of love, equity, justice, and peace. Among them were educators, musicians, activists, pastors, teachers, small children, mothers, elderly people, and those of all faiths.

niagara river

In my life, I had the opportunity to walk in the leadership of a great educator who walked in the footsteps of Dr. King, taking each step in love. Dr. Charles Hopson was a great mentor who passed this year. At a time in my life where I was searching desperately for a job, Dr. Hopson picked me up and placed me in my position; on his shoulders I stand. He lived his life with the goal of bringing equity for all children in public education. My favorite memory of Dr. Hopson was in seeing the Promised Land together. Through a grant, we had the opportunity to travel to Buffalo, New York, to visit schools before transforming our school. On the trip, we took the Underground Railroad tour, which took us to this spot—the guide explained that this was the exact spot on the river where escaped enslaved people would be hidden in carriages of white allies from a local church. When a light flashed in the middle of the river, the escapees would move quickly to a boat which took them half way across the river to where the boat with the lantern waited in Canadian waters. As soon as they crossed to the other boat, they were officially safe and free.

When I look at this picture, I remember that the promised land many not be dripping with gold and pearls and diamonds. The promised land may come to us on a cold, grey day. We might be most likely to find it in the lowest of places, but if we keep on going it really does await us.

On the other side of this river, I had the opportunity to visit an African-Canadian graveyard. The guide told us that one worn gravestone held the remains of a man who had most likely been taken from Africa, survived the brutality of the Caribbean, lived as a slave in the South, escaped to the North on foot, and made it to Canada by crossing this very river. While his name was worn, one word shone proudly on that stone. It said “Landowner”. When reflecting on life’s difficulties, and challenges I’ve faced, I think of the legacy of those who came before me, and I ask “What is that I say I can’t do?”

In considering how to live the legacy of Dr. King, and of our ancestors, let us remember that firearms are the very cruel tools of encorporation used by Europeans to overpower African people. Firearms were used to humiliate, intimidate, overpower, and imprison Dr. King and many members of his movement. Firearms continue to be used to police African American and Latino communities, and firearms are responsible for the deaths of many young people in impoverished inner city environments where Dr. King’s message is overshadowed by the drama of poverty, and the cyclical parade of violence paying for violence. We stand on the shoulders of those who faced gun-toting police with the well-organized power of love to win the civil rights that we all enjoy today. As we come together to support the work Dr. King and our collective American ancestors who paved our way to greater liberty, let us support President Barack Obama in his efforts to lessen the violence by removing assault weapons from our national community. Let us also take action at the school level by asking for alternatives to violence programs, better mental health services for all children, and greater access to higher education. In calling our legislators, speaking with our school officials, friends and neighbors, let us remember our responsibility to the people who came before us, and that we must create a solid, peaceful place to stand for the next generation—when they look at our shoulders, let’s not allow them to see us ducking, let’s stand tall, and exemplify the everlasting power of non-violent resistance, non-conformity, and most of all, love.

Thank you.