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Letters to a Young Teacher

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Meghan Curran

on 3 December 2016

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Transcript of Letters to a Young Teacher

"The national book award-winning author and educator gently guides a first-year teacher into 'the joys and challenges and passionate rewards of a beautiful professional'."
By Jonathan Kozol
Letters to a Young Teacher
"Wise ...
Clear Headed!"

- Howard Zinn
"Charts the positive ten
sion between his lifelong
indignation and the ren
ewable joy of being in the
classroom, something
essential to all good teaching."
-- Los Angeles Times
A Life Among School Children
". . . world of colored crayons. chalk erasers, pencil sharpners and tiny quarrels. . ." (p.4) - Daily life of a teacher
Not about mandates, sanctions, incentives and performance standards
Every child brings "inherent value" to the classroom - connect with them, foster it!
Kozol's Key to Success: " the best of teachers are not merely technicians of proficiency; they are also ministers of innocence, practitioners of tender expectations." (p.4)
Establishing the Chemistry:

First Days in the Classroom
Teachers as Witnesses
Reaching Out to Get to Know the Parents of Our Children
! for what you believe in....
Quietly through gatherings or meetings
through larger educational conferences, educational journals or media
Teaching the Young,
but Learning from the Old

"Establishing a chemistry of trust between the children and ourselves is a great deal more important
than to charge into the next three chapters of the social studies text or packaged reading system." (p.15)

Enthusiasm & Energy!
Establishing a connection - building a relationship
Kozol's Key to Success: Always begin by building a sense of trust and of good-natured camaraderie between the children and teacher.
Kozol goes to visit students' homes. . . parents a little shocked at first but then appreciated it. . . on their own turf which helped reduce their shyness and anxiety and it helped him understand students better too
It’s okay to let parents see you as a person –talking to them at the store or stopping to chat if you see them in the neighborhood -- build a personal relationship that can ultimately help the children.
"Goodbye for Now"
"Leave open space and open time for children to express themselves"
Kozel’s Key to success: “. . . our goal as teachers is to serve our children in the best ways that we can . . . it helps us . . . to learn something of their parents and the lives they lead at home . . .”
Learning from Mr. Rogers
Get on their level once in a while
Ask about their lives and interests
Actually LISTEN!

Afterword: A Retrospective Conversation with Francesca
Teaching will never be worry free

Kozol's Key to success: Be more "political". Speak out for what you believe in
Kozol's Key to Success: "Never let go of your inner child"
"It is to find a way to navigate the contradictions it presents without forfeiting one's personality or undermining the ideals that make our work with children a vocation" p. 203
Francesca's Key to Success: Don't put yourself down too much when things go wrong. Instead, "accept your imperfections, take a little time to rethink what they (your students) have been doing, then move on" p.247
Argument: older teachers have a “stick in the mud” attitude and refuse to re-examine any of their practices, no matter what may change in the world around them
Kozol's Arguments: there are plenty of terrific older teachers that can – and would love to – help a new teacher in the school.
Seeds of Hope, Sources of Resilience
"I don't believe that any of us has the right to pull back from the battle field because we're feeling weary" p.225
Kozel’s Keys to Success: “. . . . many first-year teachers miss the opportunity to take advantage of the years of rich experience and of accumulated wisdom about children that the most effective older teachers can convey to them.”

Children can be "little teachers" themselves

Many still seem to shine through even through very bad or uncomfortable situations
It may be a struggle, but You CAN and should make a difference!
“Let her wander off and have her moment in the sun . . . then shepherd her gently back into the work.”

When they are writing and creating and dipping into their souls, don’t be so quick to correct their spelling and grammar. That will come in time.

“At quiet times, young children give us glimpses of some things that are eternal.” – Fred Rogers
You will experience self doubt
It will not always go the way you plan
Do not be so quick to jump back "on track" with the lesson or the discussion. Let the children digress, indulge and recall. Sharing their experiences is a great way for them to connect with each other and you with them
Kozol’s Keys to Success: “Enjoy what children say and not insist on what somebody tells us they’re supposed to say.”
Observe, Listen, and Take Action
Kozol, J. (2007). Letters to a young teacher. New York: Crown.
Cambell, Duane E. (2010) Choosing Democracy: A Practical Guide to Multicultural Education.Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon
PBS Kids: Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (2009).
Senate Hearing 1969
{video} Retrieved from http://pbskids.org/rogers/dearMrRogers56.html
Brown, S. (2013). THE GREAT VOUCHER FRAUD. Church & State, 66(9), 4-7.
West, M., & Schwerdt, G. (2012, February 14). The Middle School Plunge. Retrieved May 25, 2015, from http://educationnext.org/the-middle-school-plunge
6. The Little Piper
"I saw that you [Francesca] had moved him [Dobie] to a desk beside the blackboard ... where you could try to bring him in from time to time to join some of the class activities" (Kozol, 2007, p. 64).
Kozol's Keys to Success: "None of us should make the error of assuming that a child who is hostile to us at the start ... does not have the will to learn, and plenty of interesting stuff to teach
, too" (Kozol, 2007, p. 67).
Never stop trying to reach you students, persist in connecting with them, and you will be rewarded!
7. The uses of "Diversity"
Kozol's Keys to Success: "I think all teachers out to feel the right and have the courage to speak out as witnesses to the injustices they see their children undergo" (Kozol, 2007, p. 83).
"In that moment, you weren't speaking merely as a teacher who's been working her heart out every day to do the best job she can to serve the children in her class. You were also speaking as a witness" (Kozol, 2007, p. 83)
When it comes to "diversity," teachers need to actively work toward connecting with their student's personal heritages, as it will not only foster true diversity, but it will create a deep connection and trust between students and teacher.
8. Beware the Jargon Factory
"These suddenly fashionable phrases seem to travel the rounds of education workshops with unusual rapidity" (Kozol, 2007, p. 88).
"The mechanistic clanking of those misappropriated verbs, the desperate reliance upon hyphenated phrases as the surrogates for actual connections" (Kozol, 2007, p. 92).
Kozol's Keys to Success: "If we want to teach our children to take pride in their own voices, I think that teachers need to fight hard to take pride in their own voices" Kozol, 2007, pp. 97-98).
Be yourself, so students feel confident being themselves!
9. Aesthetic Merriment
"Wiggly" and "Wobbly" and "Out!"
"There is no 'happiness index' for the children in our public schools ... Fortunately, there are many teachers who, no matter what the pressures that the states and federal government impose, refuse to banish these considerations" (Kozol, 2007, p. 100).
Kozol's Keys to Success: "Why on earth should kids in elementary school be asked to care about their future role in the global market place?" (Kozol, 2007, p. 105).
Focus on connecting with your students, create with them, and don't be afraid to have a little fun!
High-Stakes Tests and Other Modern Miseries.
"High-stakes testing, which is growing more relentless and obsessive ... with every passing year" (Kozol, 2007, p. 111).
Kozol's Keys to Success: "Still, tests, as every educator knows, do not teach reading, writing, or the other basic elements of subject matter; only good hard-working teachers do" (Kozol, 2007, p. 129).
Standardized testing is detrimental to student learning, because it creates a disconnected, frustrating, anxiety-ridden atmosphere.
High-stakes tests limit teacher creativity, and force them to "teach to the test."
Only the most brave and courageous teachers will push past these struggles of high-stakes testing and find a way to foster creativity, love of learning, and make emotional connections with their students.
Meaningful expressions of care:
"I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health" (Senate Hearings 1969, 2009)
Kozol's Key to Success-Let the children be teachers sometimes. "Help defend the right to celebrate each perishable day and hour in a child's life" (Kozol,2007)
Tips from Kozol:
Stay connected to your students
Stand up for your children
Stay true to who you are as an educator
Stand up for what you believe in
Kozol's Keys to Success: Educate yourself. "Some of the novice teachers I've been meeting seem to have only the vaguest knowledge of the forces that are now arrayed against them (Kozol, 2007)."
Kozol's key to success: Honesty is the best policy. It injures "children when we either tell them things we know to be untrue or simply offer them materials we know to be misleading (kozol, 2007)."
Kozol's key to success: Have the strength and courage to stand up for what you believe in. "...when forces of conservative triumphalism seem to be riding high and trampling freely over almost everything that you and I believe. What I dearly hope is that young people like yourself will prove wrong (Kozol, 2007)."
11: The Single Worst, Most Dangerous Idea
12: It Is Evil to Tell Lies to Children
13: Loss of Innocence
"Vouchers, in my own belief, represent the single worst, most dangerous idea to enter education discourse in my lifetime (Kozol, 2007)."
Vouchers turn the school system into a "an enterprise"
Teachers are "workers"
Students are "clients" or our "customers"
Advocates for vouchers put emphasis on children living in poverty, but are often caught contradicting their own arguments depending on their audience.
“Studies consistently show that vouchers not only fail to boost student academic performance, but many students in voucher schools actually do worse than their voucher-less peers (Brown, 2013).”
“…I think we have an obligation to empower those we teach to understand that this democracy is very much a work in progress and that if they cant achieve the skills to take an active role as citizens in struggles to being progress in their grown-up years, the injustices they suffer now will never change (Kozol, 2007)”
“In order to be even-handed in the presentation of such issues, teachers need to find a way to give their students oppositional materials so that they will have a genuine, not taken, opportunity to derive their own conclusions (Kozol, 2007)”
1.) "The Hortatory Lie”
2.) "The Ultimate Lie"
3.) "The Final Lie"
Study found children who transition into middle school instead of remaining in a k-8 school:
Experiences a substantial drop in test scores.
Have a continually declining achievement as they go through middle school.
And found no evidence that these students catch up to the k-8 students when they are in high school (2012).
Kozol advocates for k-8 schools where older students act as mentors
Aesthetics: “Beautiful surroundings refine the souls of children. Ugly surroundings coarsen their mentalities (Kozol, 2007).”

Over-crowding: "Portables" and "Mini Schools"
Full transcript