April 1994

This Issue
Vol. 05, Issue 07

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Following is a list of selected resources that teachers and their students may find useful.

Community Involvement.

NEA Ponders Year-Round Contracts

The National Education Association has taken a step toward putting year-round teaching contracts on the school reform agenda. The union's board of directors voted in February to distribute a report advocating 12month contracts to all of its state and local affiliates for what officials describe as "planning purposes.'' The report, which also recommends that teachers devote at least half their time to professional development, has been presented to other national education groups, as well, according to Gary Watts, executive director of the NEA's National Center for Innovation.

Herbert Kohl, whose new book is excerpted beginning on page 26, urges teachers to practice "creative maladjustment''--which he defines as "breaking social patterns that are morally reprehensible, taking conscious control of one's place in the environment, and readjusting the world one lives in based on personal integrity and honesty.'' Put more simply, it means: When the system is wrong, buck it.

One of Kohl's earliest maladjustments was against the "notion that the demands and structures of schooling were normal and the students were problems if they did not adjust.'' That meant recognizing "practices and texts that were racist or sexist, as well as coming to understand the mechanisms for tolerating professional incompetence and for marginalizing children who are outspoken or different.'' Sometimes, he concludes, students are right "to resist the education being forced upon them.''

With a loud, forceful crash, a contingent of officers from the Wichita Police Department and the Sedgwick County (Kan.) Sheriff's Office kicked the door in and yelled, "Police! Everybody down!'' I was the eighth or ninth person of our search-warrant party to enter the cluttered living room of this known crack house. It was 11 p.m.

Throughout the evening, the police had observed drug buys at the address and waited for the right time to enter and begin their search for the valuable, but deadly, crack cocaine being produced by the tenants of this dark and trash-strewn home.

To illustrate the division process of fractions, she sets out three Styrofoam plates and starts separating the cookies. She places one cookie on the first plate, another on the second, and a third on the last plate. By the time she's on her last round of cookies--with four Oreos now visible on each of the three plates--almost all of her students are raising their hands to offer the answer to the equation. Some are even raising their voices, trying to get Passi's attention--however they can-- even though she cannot hear the sounds.

What makes this classroom scene noteworthy isn't that the teacher is deaf; all of the students are deaf, too. What makes it unusual is that everyone in this class can communicate in the same language. And, as Passi and a handful of deaf and hearing Twin Cities parents and teachers discovered, that's not the norm for many deaf students. That is, not until they started the Metro Deaf School.

Jaime Escalante, arguably the most famous teacher in America, is standing just inside the entrance to his classroom at Hiram Johnson Senior High School in Sacramento, Calif. It's 1:15 in the afternoon, and Escalante, wearing his trademark corduroy cap and cardigan sweater, is holding the door open for a trickle of incoming students. The hot sun beats down on the sidewalk that runs along the outside wall of the stucco building.

An Academic Issue

As a veteran teacher who has spent 20 years teaching middle school health, I was appalled by the item "Academic Shift'' in the Current Events section of your February issue. The article, which reported that students today are taking more "academic'' courses than students a generation ago, was a slap in the face to many excellent teachers who have constantly had to defend their "subject'' or job.

Following is a list of application deadlines for grants, fellowships, and honors available to individuals. Asterisks (
  • ) denote new entries.

GRANTS AND FELLOWSHIPS

It's midday at the Manhattan International School in New York City, and the lunchroom is serving up a thick linguistic stew. Spanish, Chinese, and Polish predominate, but there is also a dash of Arabic, Bengali, and Lithuanian, not to mention, of course, English. In all, there are 18 languages spoken at this unusual school, which opened its doors last September.

'Morally dangerous places for children.''

The striking phrase seemed to hang in the air, resonating with complexity. "Is that what our public schools have become?'' the Boston University professor of education Kevin Ryan was asking me. I had been traveling around the country visiting schools, searching for values, and I had ended up on Professor Ryan's doorstep. Not by mistake, of course, for he's been thinking about the issues of character and values for many years, and he's an old friend, as well.

So he teamed up with a colleague to convert a rezoned house into an early childhood center grounded in the philosophy of developmental psychologist Jean Piaget, who stressed the importance of movement and play in children's early learning.

To balance the cognitive skills children were practicing indoors, Jambor planned an outdoor play space that would also enhance their physical and social growth. Dusting off skills he picked up studying drafting in high school and designing substations for the Wisconsin Electric Power Co. before he went to college, he blended trees, tires, sand, and other pliable materials to erect a swinging, swaying, running, jumping, and climbing paradise.

April 5-May 3.

The Arts & Entertainment Network presents a five-part series based on Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. During each one-hour episode, the young Saxon knight fights to win back his lands from the conquering Normans. The segments air on consecutive Tuesdays at 7 a.m. (EDT), beginning April 5.

These teenagers--who are African-American, white, Korean, Puerto Rican, and Indian--have come to the school in the wake of a snowstorm to talk about prejudice, analyze slang, and "rap about race.'' They're taking a break from classes at their respective suburban, urban, and private schools to take part in a test run of "Ethical Choices: Dealing With Diversity,'' a video curriculum developed by the local public-television station to address the problems of ethnic, racial, and cultural bias.

Some 1,500 copies of the video and accompanying teachers' guide will be shipped out to high schools across New Jersey and New York City, courtesy of WNET and a local health-insurance company. And the sponsors of the educational package are hovering around this seventhfloor schoolroom today to see it in action for the first time.

Miss Harrington was a stout woman in her mid-60s who leaned on a cane. We were the sons of impoverished immigrants who respected teachers. Miss Harrington's age and infirmity evoked compassion besides. Her first two initials led naturally to her nickname, "Empty'' Harrington, but we spoke it a