Fahari's Weekly Staff Memo: 5/04/2015 - 5/08/2015
A Message from Fahari's Principal: Stephanie Clagnaz, Ed.D.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK:
Why is belongingness in schools important?
We continue to review the literature on belongingness in schools. Here are a few thoughts by Abigail McNamee and Mia Lynn Mercurio of CUNY, Lehman College. They quote Nel Noddings, who has written extensively on the topic.
“Teachers often feel overwhelmed and uncared for themselves, in part as a result of the pressure that they are under to produce results in the form of their students' scholastic achievement. Teachers, in turn, place pressure on children to perform academically." How can teachers cope with this pressure and still create caring classrooms that promote the development of caring in children? Noddings (1992) writes that there is no fixed formula for achieving caring: "It requires different behaviors from situation to situation and person to person. It sometimes calls for toughness, sometimes tenderness. Some situations require only a few minutes of attentive care; others require continuous effort over long periods of time" (pp. xi-xii).
"Parenting and teaching both require long periods of time—continuity in relations. Good parenting or teaching starts with the construction of trusting relationships and works continually to build on the foundation of trust. Schools...pay too little attention to the need for continuity of place, people, purpose, and curriculum. Most fundamental, of course, is purpose. If our main purpose as educators were to encourage the development of caring in our students, we would begin to look more attentively at the need for continuity in place, people, and curriculum. At the present time, it is obvious that our main purpose is not the moral one of producing caring people but, instead, a relentless drive for academic adequacy.... The current emphasis on achievement may actually contribute to students' feeling that adults do not care for them." (p. xii) Encouragingly, Doyle and Doyle (2003) report that a multitude of school environments are attempting to determine what a caring school community would look like and to cultivate such communities in their own schools.
- How can Fahari continue to nurture students to be caring people?
- How have you built an environment of belongingness in your classroom?
This week at Fahari, despite the arrival of warm weather (and what that means for student behavior) and all the goings on of renewal, it was hard not to let your mind wander to the events in Baltimore. Aside from the fact that our 7th graders are scheduled to visit the city in a few weeks, the all too familiar occurrence of a black man being killed by police officers, always hits close to home. Each time one of these tragedies occur, it's troubling how easy it is to imagine a student you work with fall prey to similar circumstances. This acknowledgement is a damning commentary for several reasons: What does it say about our nation that you can imagine a young man you teach arithmetic to being killed by police? What does it say about your own prejudices about the men and women who protect our communities? And finally, what does it say about your own understanding of how young men of color respond to authority, and perceived threats to their safety? Miles away from the events in Baltimore, in our little corner of the world many of these questions are salient.
On Monday, we spent the day in engaged in Professional Development focused on creating “belongingness” in our classrooms. The highlight of the session was the group of 8th grade young men who came to school on their day off to model restorative circles for the faculty. Led by their circle keeper Mr. Mera, the young men shared their thoughts and feelings about leaving the school they’ve called home for the past few years. At the close of the circle, the boys took the time to shout out and thank the adults in the room. One young man turned to a teacher and said “I know I’ve been disrespectful to you. I’m sorry. I’m going to do better.” It was a powerful moment. This is a young man that can be quite a handful in a classroom. He is large in stature, brooding in presence, and short on temper. Yet, there he was making himself vulnerable, taking responsibility for his actions, trying to make things right with an adult who cares for him everyday. We were proud of him that day.
And then Thursday came.
Towards the end of the day Thursday, the young man was using a cellphone in class. The teacher--yes the same one he apologized too-- asked for the phone and moved away to email Mr. Santiago to come to the classroom. The young man stood up and demanded to know what the teacher was doing. His tone was harsh and defiant. He stood next to the teacher, looking at her phone to see what she was emailing. The following day, in a meeting with Dr. Clagnaz, Mr. Ross, Mr. Santiago, and myself, the young man struggled to reflect on his behavior. We talked to him about how that kind of behavior-- the menacing and brooding young man-- looks to the world. Our words seemed to elude him entirely. Instead, he talked mostly about the teacher “being wrong” and “coming at him”. In short, he had to respond that way as not to get punked by the teacher. Ridiculous indeed, but consistent with the mindset of so many of our students. Where does this mindset come from? What are it's implications for what we must do for some of our students? I thought of an essay I read a few years back by Ta-Nehisi Coates, where he reflected on growing up in West Baltimore:
"I adhered to Article 2 of the Code Of The Streets--"Thou Shalt Not Be Found A Punk."-- "If you are a young person living in an environment where violence is frequent and random, the willingness to meet any hint of violence with yet more violence is a shield… But once I learned the lesson, once I was acculturated to the notion that often the quickest way to forestall more fighting, is to fight, I was a believer. And maybe it's wrong to say this, but it made the rest of my time in Baltimore a lot easier, because the willingness to fight isn't just about yourself, it's a signal to your peer group… "I ain't no punk" may shield you from neighborhood violence but it can not shield you from algebra, when your teacher tries to correct you. It can not shield you from losing hours, when your supervisor corrects your work."
I thought about Coates’ observation in the context of this young man, and what understandings he needs to come to as his time at Fahari comes to an end. While everything he said on Monday was true and genuine, so were his actions Thursday. The problem of course, is that if he continues to hold on to that way of thinking-- “Thou Shalt Not be Punked”-- it will only take him so far. In other contexts, if he will be entering-- high school next year, a chance encounter with law enforcement, a trip to the corner store-- with this mindset, it can lead to serious consequences. The folks he will encounter in these situations will not have the moments we had with him on Monday. They will not have the moment we will have when he makes things right his teacher. Without those moments what will they see? Should this young man not develop some critical understands about the world around him, and if the world around him does not develop understanding for him he may very well present the angry, brooding, black man whom shall not be punked. And then what?
Thanks for all that you do,
Assistant Principal for Administration and Culture
Family Engagement Updates
“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living”.
- Martin Luther King
Teachers, your contributions to our Fahari family and school, are immeasurable! You have devoted so much of your lives to giving our children and the community the tools to help our Scholars to succeed. It is YOU who challenge them every day. It is YOU who listen to them unburden their problems. It is YOU who encourage and challenge them to show up and stand up for themselves and their future. It is YOU, with just a simple smile, a handshake, or even that famous fist bump that reassure them that the world is there to be conquered.
Teachers, NEVER feel that you are invisible. Never feel that you are alone in this vast ocean of educating our scholars. Despite, our present challenges, YOUR patience and understanding, and most of all, your ability to listen and value the thoughts and feelings of each child will have a deep impact on them for years to come. On this Teacher Appreciation Week, we the members of the PTO, would like to thank you for your countless hours of commitment, tons of sweat and tears, and your relentless passion for Fahari and its students to succeed. We can safely say also, thank you in advance for inspiring the next generation of amazing leaders.
Very truly yours,
PTO Families of Fahari
Technology, Data and Testing Updates
Tech Tip of the Week: Revisiting Google Apps for Education
Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides can do everything Word, Excel, and PowerPoint can for generating student work. It also gives us the ability to share content with whomever we choose in our domain. It can be used as a teaching tool for feedback and a collaborative tool for student learning which provides them with a platform to create their own digital content.
To provide students with feedback on their work you have to create a comment. This is done by highlighting a section of text with your cursor and clicking the “Comment” button, then click New Comment. A text box will appear next to the content highlighted for you to write feedback and will remain in that location until the student resolves the issue. Students also have the ability to respond to your comment in real time, similar to instant messaging.
Google Drive also makes it easy to track revisions and a document’s history. After you make comments on your students’ work and they make changes, you can go back and trace the modifications they have made, step by step, over the course of creation. Select File > See Revision history and click on any date/time.
Encourage students to work on group projects using Google Docs, so that each student can independently provide their contribution and instantly integrate it into the whole. A group of students can be working on a single document together organizing their information and even commenting on each other’s work. For group presentations, have students use Google Slides so they can create their own slides for their portion of the assignment while working in a single presentation. Students can collaborate on templates, graphic organizers, or any other content you create for students to work on.
1. In Google Drive
2. Name your new file, click Share, choose Advanced, invite students based on their email and then hit send. The shared file will be located in their Google Drive under “Incoming/Shared With Me”.
Test Scoring Consortium
The Charter Center hosts a Charter School Test Scoring Consortium to coordinate the scoring of the constructed responses of the statewide English Language Arts and mathematics exams for grades 3-8. Fahari Academy teachers are participating in this electronic scoring program which guarantees the tests are completely randomized and that teachers conduct true “blind scoring” (e.g., makes it difficult for them to identify the students and/or the schools whose tests they are scoring). This helps to increase the validity and reliability of the test results.
2015 State Testing Dates
NYSESLAT Exam Window – May 4 to May 15
Grade 8 Science Performance Exam Window – May 20 to May 29
Grade 8 Science Written Exam – June 1
Algebra I Common Core Regents – June 17
Living Environment Regents – June 16
Interim Assistant Principal of Instruction
This week's schedule updates
Will it be an A or B week?
We will be following a A schedule this week.
Who Will Be Out?
Monday, May 4th, 2015
Bertshunia Hillard (ELA Scoring)
Rachel Ignacio (ELA Scoring)
Suzette Lopez (ELA Scoring)
Jonathan Destine (ELA Scoring)
Crystal Fernandez (AM Out)
Justin Tyler (AM Out)
Fredrick Fernandez (PM Out)
Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
Monica Lloyd (ELA Scoring)
Joanna Pannell (ELA Scoring)
Sonia Browning (ELA Scoring)
Robin Singleton (ELA Scoring)
Dominique Kelly (PM Out)
Wednesday, May 6th, 2015
Monica Lloyd (ELA Scoring)
Barbara Pacheco (ELA Scoring)
Raquel Stephenson (ELA Scoring)
Andrew Wintner (ELA Scoring)
Kim Hunter (PM Out)
Burcin Yoruk (AM Out)
Thursday, May 7th, 2015
Friday, May 8th, 2015
Peter Marguiles (CSE)
Joanna Pannell (Field Trip)
Robin Singleton (Math Scoring)