Category Archives: Getting Schooled

Waiting for the rest of the movie: Why Waiting for Superman was an unfinished film at best

It’s really a bummer when a film you’ve looked forward to seeing for months turns out to be a huge disappointment. but that was the case for me when I saw Waiting for Superman. The documentary seeks to highlight the increasing ineffectiveness of public school systems throughout the United States, and to illustrate the harm these failing schools are doing to our kids–and by extension to our society as a whole, which suffers the effects of a poorly-educated populace: higher crime rates, entrenched poverty, and–according to the film–not enough skilled workers to fill the professional jobs of the future. Continue reading

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Schooled by the L.A. Times: The good, the bad, and the ugly of ‘Who’s teaching L.A.’s Kids?’

I taught writing at SF State for nine years, and during that time, I also taught a semester at Lowell High School and a year at Berkeley High. Before I came to San Francisco, I was a teacher’s assistant in two public high schools in San Diego. I have spent nearly all of my adult life thus far working in education–and that is to say nothing of the 23 full years I spent as a student–from elementary school through graduate school and a year spent earning my teaching credential for secondary education.

As you might expect, all of this time spent in schools has led me to form some opinions about education–about what works and why and what doesn’t. So when the Los Angeles Times published a story earlier this week titled, “Who’s teaching L.A.’s kids?”, I read it with a good deal of interest. Continue reading

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Like George Costanza, I’m Trying to End on a High Note

As rewarding as it can be to have one of the “difficult” students turn around and start taking herself, the material, and you seriously, the journey to that point is mostly just exhausting. Whereas in my first few years of teaching I couldn’t wait to go to work everyday, I now just feel drained most of the time. Oddly, though, my students don’t seem to have noticed: My most recent rating on Rate My Professor notes that I am (apparently) “always perky and nice.” My friend explained why this might be the case in an email to me the other day. She wrote, “You are a teacher at heart, my dear. Which is not to say that you are fated to live the life of a teacher, but you do love your students and what you do.” Continue reading

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College Fail? (Who is to blame for low college graduation rates?)

In a recent article in The New York Times, David Leonhardt explores the premises of a new book called, Crossing the Finish Line, in which the book’s authors, economists William Bowen and Michael McPherson (both of whom are former university presidents), focus on what they see as U.S. colleges’ dismal graduation rates.

The percentage of Americans with a college degree continues to hover around thirty percent–close to one third of the population; it’s a percentage that, according to Bowen and Mcpherson, could and should be much higher. Leonhardt readily accepts this premise and makes it clear that it is high time that colleges be “held to account for their failures,” failures that are a product of an environment that, according to Leonhardt “[focuses] on enrollment rather than completion.” In other words, our colleges and universities spend more time wooing prospective students than they do ensuring the success of the students they’ve already coaxed onto their campuses. Continue reading

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Concerted Effort: Whose fault is it when kids just want to “get by”?

Because I am a writing instructor, I grade my students’ essays by assessing how well they fulfill their purpose in their paper; in other words, I grade the actual writing: Do they have enough content? Is the content relevant to their thesis? Is the paper organized so that a reader can understand how the points made relate to one another? Is the style indicative of a college-level writer? To grade on effort when there are problems at every one of these levels would, to my mind, be irresponsible. But over and over again, students ask, “Couldn’t I at least get a grade for trying so hard?” Continue reading

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Student Quote of the Day

From a research paper exploring how the news media covers the topic of sex ed. in schools: “The coverage is biased right from the gecko.” Y’know, I never did trust that insurance-pimping lizard.

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Wearing my heart on my sleeve, but not in my clasroom

Stanley Fish’s recent editorial on the right of faculty to wear campaign buttons at work has me thinking. Having just finished a unit on political propaganda in my freshman composition course at the university where I teach, I am keenly … Continue reading

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