School & District Management Blog

View From the Bronx: An Urban Teacher's Perspective

Ilana Garon (@IlanaGaron) is an English teacher at a public high school in the Bronx, N.Y., and holds masters degrees in both English education and fine arts. In the past 10 years, she has taught every level of high school English, including ESL and AP, SAT Prep, and even math in emergency situations. She is the author of “Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?” Teaching Lessons from the Bronx. This blog is no longer being updated.

Education Opinion A Weekly Round-Up, And Some Final Thoughts
Oh, seemingly intractable social inequalities: Fewer than 15% of undergrads at the top colleges come from the poorer half of American families. At specialized high schools in New York City, only 5-7% of attendees are students of color. Chronic absenteeism and poverty are correlated. And, I'm putting this blog to rest.
Ilana Garon, August 29, 2014
3 min read
Education Opinion School as Home, and the Unwritten Job Descriptions of Teachers in High-Needs Schools
Creating a "home" at school, a safety net for kids who may have limited parental supervision or positive role modeling, creates the best chance for students to succeed. For teachers, this represents an added layer of responsibility, one for which we can't expect recognition within our formal evaluations, but which is nonetheless a vital component of doing our jobs well.
Ilana Garon, August 19, 2014
4 min read
Education Opinion Character Counts: Informing Students' Goals and Values
Both liberal and conservative approaches to poverty treat recipients of social mobility programs as "hollow men," shaped only by economic structures, as opposed to individuals surrounded by certain values and attitudes. These programs tackle only the economic underpinnings, and not the social ones. What role can character education play, and how does it work at the school level?
Ilana Garon, August 5, 2014
3 min read
Education Opinion Talking Shop: How We Teachers Talk About Our Profession
Rather than thinking of oneself as a "bad" or "good" teacher in a macro way, simply focusing on best practices that have succeeded (and on the ones that have not) in our recounting of our work in the classroom is the most surefire way for us to improve our pedagogy, and to better inform each other's.
Ilana Garon, July 31, 2014
2 min read
Education Opinion The Dropouts No One's Talking About: Teachers
Teacher turnover nationwide is 15% per year--and 20% in high-needs schools. Almost half of teachers leave within their first five years. With all the perks--free or subsidized health care, union representation, and all that vacation time--why are so many teachers "dropping out" of the profession?
Ilana Garon, July 21, 2014
2 min read
Education Opinion When There's No Right Answer: Cheating Scandals in Public Schools
I couldn't help but feel some sympathy for the teachers and principal who participated in this cheating scandal, despite its inherent dishonesty. The students in this middle school were learning, as one of the teachers interviewed in the article points out; however, they simply came in without requisite skills to meet certain scores on these tests. By changing the kids' answers to boost scores, the school was able receive extra funds and grants to provide students with a variety of clubs, trips, enrichment opportunities, and most importantly, avoid closure.
Ilana Garon, July 17, 2014
2 min read
Education Opinion 'Goodbye, Columbus': Shutting Down Big Schools Doesn't Solve Problems
A study by the Annenberg Group showed that in fact, overwhelmingly, these late-enrollers are placed almost exclusively in failing schools, perpetuating the intractably low graduation rates, and thus giving Department of Education higher-ups seemingly air-tight reasons to close down the "Big Schools" for low performance and create new "Small Schools" to replace them.
Ilana Garon, July 8, 2014
3 min read
Education Opinion Welcome to the 'Real World': On Socializing Students for Life Outside the Classroom
Ultimately I think the work of fostering good social behavior is equally important to endowing kids with good academic skills, and that schools--for better of worse--are responsible for both.
Ilana Garon, June 25, 2014
2 min read
Education Opinion Grading the Teachers: Evaluations and Test Score Tie-Ins
When the test on which teachers will be evaluated simply offers no incentive for students to complete it, it's hard to imagine a worse indicator of teacher efficacy.
Ilana Garon, June 18, 2014
3 min read
Education Opinion More Space, More Attention, More Success: Keeping High-Risk Kids on Track for Graduation
What struggling students most need is time one-on-one with teachers, or at the very least, time with a teacher in small groups. But when class size is capped at 34, as it is in high schools under the NYC Department of Education, it's nearly impossible for these students to get their needs met.
Ilana Garon, June 11, 2014
4 min read
Education Opinion 'Good' YA Novels and the Magic of John Green
As an English teacher, what I appreciated most about the book "The Fault in Our Stars" was that it pushed the kids to contemplate "deep questions" in an enjoyable manner, without relying on the promise of a plot "payoff" in the form of sex, violence, or mythical beasts.
Ilana Garon, June 5, 2014
3 min read
Education Opinion Doing Time in High School: The Need for Tiered Disciplinary Systems
Discipline ends up being a sort of "zero to 60" system, wherein students' negative in-school behaviors are either not addressed at all, or dealt with in such a draconian manner as to have life-long repercussions. This needs to change.
Ilana Garon, May 28, 2014
3 min read
Education Opinion Legacy Admissions: An Unworthy Tradition
Removing policies that place poor kids at a disadvantage when applying to elite colleges, and instituting ones that will afford them better chances to graduate, will certainly yield long-term dividends in the fight against systemic social inequality.
Ilana Garon, May 20, 2014
3 min read
Education Opinion Coming from Behind: Tackling AP in Inner City Schools
In inner-city schools such as ours, Advanced Placement courses and exams bring many challenges--but that makes our students' successes that much sweeter.
Ilana Garon, May 8, 2014
4 min read