Philly and Futurity and Stuff


Right now I’m stationed down in Philly. I’m in the midst of what is known formally to the populace as “Mid-Winter Recess,” informally to the populace as “Ski Week,” and to teachers and students as “Party Time”–although truth be told, for teachers that really just translates into “catching-up-on-curriculum, IEPs, graduate school work, blog posts, and-other-related-miscellany, such-as-sleep.”

I’ve ventured down to Philly because I just wanted to get the hell out of NYC. Originally, my fiancee and I envisioned somewhere warm, sunny, and most decidedly “un-city,” but alas, we realized that train rides out to such locations would be both time-consuming and costly. So, eventually, we settled on Philly, since at the very least, it would be an entirely new city, and as a novitiate East Coaster, I felt obligated to begin exploring my regional vicinity and environs a bit more. It’s still kind of mind boggling to me just how close major cities on the East Coast are to one other, yet each with their own distinctive and unique cultures. On the West Coast, our cities are generally pretty spread out, and when they are relatively close to each other, they tend to just kind of merge together in the suburban interstitial spaces, such as between San Diego and Los Angeles.

I’m fighting a tenacious cold/flu/brain tumor or something that just won’t let me free. This always seems to happen to me when I get extended time off, as if my immune system has been just staving off complete collapse. It’s also that time of year, right around when the pressures of test prep and quality review (or as in the case of my school, an ELA “audit”) hit the fan, right around when you’ve pretty much stopped exercising, right around when you’ve pretty much worked yourself down to the bone with constant 70+ hour workweeks (think I’m joking? Think again. Welcome to teaching, with a wee bit o’ grad school and after-school sprinkled on top, my friends).

Anyway, enough whining, I just wanted to clue you in to where I am at this particular moment in space-time. Next up on my agenda is that I 1) want to lay out how this blog (and my life) is shifting in nature and 2) what specific issues in education I’ll attempt to tackle here and elsewhere over the next few months.

1 ) It’s been apparent for some time that the nature of my blog is shifting. One cause is that since I’ve moved out to NYC and begun working like a dog—first at Trader Joe’s as a novitiate manager, and now as a novitiate special education public school teacher in a “high needs” school—I simply don’t have the time to post much anymore. Similarly, my posts aren’t generally of the self-reflective nature of the past for the same reason. But that’s OK, because that’s a reflection of my life now. What’s also changing are the subjects of my posts—I’m moving from posts of an inherently personal nature to more professional concerns. Much of my life now is embedded in public education. I can’t escape it. I dream of my students. I am “on” all day, performing for them, delivering instruction for them, reading to them. I spend my nights preparing lessons, writing papers, writing IEPs, or keeping up with the latest in educational news and policy. It’s become the bread and butter of my daily existence, and hence, it will become the overt subject of many of my blog posts hereon. However, I’m going to continue to write here the way I’ve always wrote; this blog has always been first and foremost a spontaneous and formative template for my thoughts, and in that respect, it will not change. And not to worry, I will continue to post “fun” pieces such as questing for furniture in NJ. The pieces on education that are specifically written for a wider audience I will post to GothamSchools in their community section.

I am well aware that the times that my blog has gotten the most random incoming traffic has been when I post pieces on popular topics such as “love.” Alas, now that my love life is stable (I’m getting married this summer, BTW—so add planning a wedding on top of the list above), I just don’t have much of that impetus from loneliness or angst to post on such matters frequently. As I’ve noted before, passion can—and should—be everyday, but it’s simply not always going to find it’s way into my posts, as much of my focus right now is on the outer realm. Such is the life of work. You can blame our Puritan forefathers for that (I think. If you know of some better targets to blame, please notify me).

2) The topics which I will begin exploring in more depth will be a continuation from where I began in a very general and abstract sense—with the notion of public schools as ecosystems. What I would like to now explore are the concepts of:

  • Curriculum: the “hidden curriculum” in addition to the actual curriculum (or the absence thereof), and how those two things tie in together, as well as how the ideas of achievement and equity tie into curriculum. I will couple this discussion with the exploration of “open source curriculum” that I have already begun here, and then tie that in with a current project of mine to begin the open source process with other teachers
  • How I am progressing towards goals I set forth earlier this year for my school
  • Information Technology: how online collaboration can potentially level the playing field somewhat and empower teacher voice in education policy (this goes along with my open source project and work with VIVA, which I will also do a post on)
  • Further discussion of how my written voice is changing in tandem with my professional development, via such concepts of diplomacy vs. opinion
  • Qualitative Data vs. Quantitative Data: I would like to challenge the prevalence of quantitative data in our research and policy frameworks, as well as to challenge assumptions behind debates of teaching as an art or a science
  • Measuring the intangibles: how do we move our limited focus beyond that of an individual teacher or student and onto the more important idea of measuring the trust, relationships, and contexts within a school?

Stay tuned for all this and more, such as my thoughts on Philly.

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Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

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