Archive for March, 2011

March 28, 2011

Your Health is A Priority

Most teachers work in old buildings and all the dust and pollution can wreak havoc on our skin. Check out this link for beauty tips. Remember taking care of yourself should be a priority.

March 24, 2011

The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off-Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem said “The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off” and these wise words sum up my experience last Sunday afternoon.  Shaun Johnson’s most recent article in The Huffington Post left me dismayed for a moment especially after I read ‘passionate pleas for respect’.  However, I had to be honest with myself, Johnson’s article was candid and inspiring. As teachers we can continue to discuss how much we do as teachers and complain about budget cuts while garnering sympathy, but when it comes down to the truth what good will compassion do? Thanks to Shaun Johnson’s honesty I was motivated to reflect carefully on my experience as a teacher. In the following paragraph I describe how I am taking action during all this turmoil.

Special Chalk is a reflection of my commitment to standing up for teachers. Many times teachers are too afraid to get ‘politically’ involved even at the school level. I have taken on a ‘ political’ position at my school for the sake of seeing change. I’ve experienced the repercussions of such a role, but I’ve witnessed some improvements at the school level. In addition, I keep informed and make myself available to friends that need advice on how to overcome obstacles at the school level. I want to make this support available to teachers. It can be exhausting and even worse when you have no one to turn to. Special Chalk is an outlet for teachers that have been and are currently in the trenches. We need a place to refuel for the long battle ahead of us. The best way to prepare for a fight is to be healthy in mind, body and spirit and with feedback from readers I hope to provide the resources to do so.

March 21, 2011

Zip Code=A Child’s Quality of Education

I took the liberty of giving a title to this piece written by a friend of mine whom has valuable experience in education and law.

In Brown v. Board of Education, the court established “separate educational facilities as inherently unequal.” This decision effectively overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, which established “separate, but equal.” However, 19 years later, the court in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez found it constitutional to finance schools based on local property taxes under the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. As a result, a child’s quality of education depends on where the child’s family can afford to live. How is education equal when school financing inherently creates separate and unequal educational opportunities?

I grew up in Morton Grove, Illinois and attended Niles West High School. Our school had two gymnasiums, an indoor and outdoor track, a science wing, and numerous after-school activities. My school provided the resources to thrive, succeed, and compete in today’s capitalist society. However, my students in inner city Chicago do not have access to the most essential resources. Instead, my students hardly have any textbooks. They must survive in violent and dangerous learning environments. They have little or no access to any after-school activities. Accordingly, inner city schools are predominantly comprised of African American or Hispanic students. These disparities illustrate the fundamental inequalities of an educational system where a child’s education is based on the wealth of their family.

Rodriguez created a departure from Brown, and inadvertently returned to the Plessy standard. To a child’s misfortune, Rodriguez is still good law. However, hope exists. A majority of education funding occurs at the state and local levels. Therefore, we must act by appealing to our state and local legislatures. Let’s retreat from Rodriguez’s model of education funding and create an innovative framework to provide equality.

March 17, 2011

Brown Bag Lunches for Teachers

With my busy schedule I sometimes feel like getting ‘into shape’ is a part-time job. I’ve been making grilled chicken sandwiches for lunch these past few months with a lack of creativity. I squeeze in exercising at least four days a week as a part of my regimen, but I know that the best way to get fit is to eat right. I found myself last night at the grocery store completely clueless as to what to cook for lunch this week. I needed motivation to continue eating right. I thought back to all the recipes and nutrition books I’ve gathered over the years. I grabbed a ball of fresh mozzarella, a tomato, an avocado, and whole grain bread to make a sandwich. (I need carbs during the day to get me through a hectic work schedule.) I also stocked up on some Activia yogurt, broccoli, hummus, bananas and apples for snacks. For the next day’s lunch I made a mozarella-tomato sandwich on whole grain toast with a small chicken salad with avocado.  This lunch will definitely go on my weekly menu because it was so yummy and quick to make. My goal of getting into the best shape has made me aware of portion control, eating the recommended servings of vegetables, fruits, etc. I’ve included a photo of my lunch and I’m prepared for readers to take a look and ask why I would include a picture. As I’ve written in past posts it’s important that as a teacher I eat right. Eating right is a big part of my life because I want to enhance the quality of my health. I’ll be looking for more brown bag lunch ideas to add.

March 9, 2011

It takes a village to raise a child.

Everyone from 13-yr olds to Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook have a solution on how to improve the education system in the United States. Ivy league professors who are so distant from the reality of public education think they have a solution. Evaluating teachers and firing the bad ones is merely a band-aid because our education system is more complex. There’s an old saying, it takes a village to raise a child and in this case teachers need the support of parents, administrators and the community. Let’s not dismiss this education crisis as if it is simple enough to be fixed with a ‘teacher evaluation’. Even if these evaluations could be proven objective, our education crisis needs more consideration. Think you have a solution? Share it on

March 7, 2011

State budget cuts hitting women hard.

So we spend all this money on our military and it is primarily male. State budgets are making huge cuts in education. Our education system is primarily female, well except at the college level.  Many state and local jobs such as teachers, social workers and secretaries are held by women.  Women are getting hit hard in the United States with all these state budget cuts, but we must keep in mind that times have changed and women will not sit around and revert back to the 1950’s. We’ve come a long way to be told to go back into the kitchen.

March 5, 2011

Teachers Leave No Child Behind

Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, author of “Hiroshima In the Morning” chose to leave her children after she realized she didn’t want to be a mom. I bet many readers were appalled after reading her story. Her experience made me think about when good teachers leave the profession. We take on the role of the parent from when children enter the school building to when they leave. There is no choice and actually we commit to becoming a ‘parent’ of 30 plus students when we enter the profession. I believe it’s the constant demand on us to sacrifice creativity and teaching for test preparation that causes us to contemplate leaving the classroom. Testing has taken over the classroom. There is no more time for innovative lessons. We hang on for many years for the children. If you have felt or currently feel like leaving the profession share your story and what’s kept you in the classroom, besides your love for kids.

March 3, 2011

Does it take a smart person to be a teacher?

Yahoo! Education featured an article yesterday, “Jobs For Smart People” and teachers were on the list, though at the bottom due to pay. The author did mention that teachers take on ‘complex’ subjects and present them in ‘straightforward ways’. What the author failed to mention is the special skill we use to deal with several things at one time. I’ve been teaching for many years and there is not an hour in which I am not teaching and at the same time thinking about the next topic/subject I am about to teach. I am constantly asking myself how to best present a specific topic/skill to my students. So do you think it takes a smart person to be a teacher?

March 2, 2011

Resources for Busy Teachers is a great resource for busy teachers. There are many great activities and handouts/worksheets available on the site. Worksheets? Yes, I use worksheets to reinforce skills I teach my students. There are many great lessons that have been created by educators that come in the form of worksheets and I use them for reinforcement and not a lesson in itself. I work with children that need individualized lessons and a great feature on this site is how easy it is to find a specific subject, grade level and topic to meet my students’ needs. Again, is a great resource for teachers that are looking to reinforce a skill or topic, but have limited time. Check it out!