4 Things You Missed at the last Urban Detox!

The first Urban Teacher Detox was nothing short of amazing.
Here are 6 six awesome things you missed while you were sleeping late or out of town!

1. The opportunity to connect with other educators. As teachers we have the tendency to work in isolation. Our classroom is our world and our school is simply an extension. Some educators tend to spend countless years in the same classroom watching different children with the same issues walk in and out every year. However, we forget that our network is our net worth. As in any professional field, the stronger your network, the more access you have to information, job opportunities, and a reliable support network.


2. The opportunity to train and be trained through simple collaboration. Because most professional development opportunities consist of one individual delivering information to others in a timed session, educators seldom get the opportunity to engage with the information being delivered. In the Detox session, participants are engaged the entire length of the session. You are able to review research in your field of interest and discuss it with your group in an organic and informal manner. Because this is a safe space, you are welcome to share your true feelings on different topics. After all, it is a detox.


3. Access to research you actually care about. Have you ever been required to read something by your school leadership and found yourself barely interested??? Well it’s probably because you had to, not because you wanted to. That’s the difference with the Detox. You are able to look through research that not only peaks your interest, but that actually applies to your present situation.


4. Breakfast & Lunch Cause everyone loves to eat! Breakfast was provided by Choco-latte Cafe and Lunch was provided by Jason’s Deli.

Are you the School Gangsta?


Are you the School Gangsta? Are you that teacher that always has something to say about something no matter how much better it is than the last something that was presented??? If not, I bet you can name one… even when you are trying to be positive, he/she ALWAYS has something to say…

What role do you play as an educator in an Urban Setting?Education Researcher Jeff Duncan-Andrade put urban educators into three specific groups:
Gangstas, Ridas, and Wankstas

4 reasons you may be a School Gangsta…

    1. You have a deep resentment for most parents, students, and community members. Quite frankly, they get on your damn nerves. You feel like if they got their act together, you could actually be successful.
    2. Of course this suggests that you are generally dissatisfied with the job, the school, and the broader community.
    3. You may aggressively advocate for school policies such as sweeping remediation, zero-tolerance discipline policies, and tracking.
    4. In staff meetings, you may even deliberately challenge forthright discussions on student achievement. After all, you’ve been teaching so it’s obviously the kids’ fault.


or maybe you’re a School “Wanksta”??

    1. You came to the urban classroom with the full intention of becoming an effective educator but soon realized that you weren’t quite prepared and there is little support to help you be great.
    2. You feel disrespected as a professional by the system and students and quite honestly, it hurts.
    3. You find yourself getting further and further away from your desire to be an effective teacher. The emotional investment is simply gone. Consequently, you find yourself just following along with the latest district theme because it’s just easier to shut up and do it.
    4. A different (better) leadership team can easily rejuvenate you.

Or could you be the much needed School Rida

    1. You are consistently successful with a broad range of students and other teachers can not figure out why. Consequently, kids tend to get sent to you and usually they WANT to be sent to you.
    2. You invest in as many students as you can every year.
    3. You perceive the larger school structure as morally bankrupt and hesitate to take on any challenge that would mean time away from your students and instructional time.
    4. You stay, or want to stay, in a difficult school because your passion for education is paramount to systemic foolishness or a pay check.
So who are you?? All? None? Or a definite Rida??

***from “Gangstas, Wankstas, and Ridas: Defining, Developing, and Supporting Effective Teachers in Urban Schools” by Jeff Duncan-Andrade (2007)***

Pre-Med… Pre-Law… Pre-Ed???

On the campus of most universities, you often hear students proudly express being pre-med or pre-law. They, and everyone else, recognize the journey of intense learning that lies ahead of them. MCATs, LSATs, The Bar, Residency, etc. become a large part of their world until they have reached proficiency. After all, they will be responsible for the lives of others. Right?

With education, this is not the case. Educators (teachers and administrators) are also responsible for lives but are quite frankly not afforded the same rigor to prepare them to be proficient teachers. I believe this is the unspoken root of the problems of injustice in education. With minimal training, educators tend to teach the way they were taught–creating cycles of lack or success. The readings of this week demonstrate that when teachers are required to take a deeper look at the institutional “-isms” of the education system, they are in a better position to combat the problem.

As Oyler (2011) stated, all educators play a role in social justice. Therefore, a truly multi-dimensional teacher preparation program would:

-Ensure that issues of social injustice are integrated in each course
-Include required courses that facilitate candid discussions on critical race theory (Picower, 1999)
-Offer a residency component that allows new teachers to have a true support group when actually facing the challenges they may have discussed in class and observed as student teachers. In order to institute true change, the task of building a support system can not be left up to the school (which may have already fallen victim to a culture of deficit thinking and low expectations) (Oyler, 2011). The teacher must learn to operate as a leader and be supported in doing so for at least two school years in order to ensure longevity. Otherwise, they may risk becoming an “idealistic” teacher that does not last past the first few years of teaching (Michalove, 1999).
Having gone through an alternative teaching program myself, I am also in full support of educators who become educators as a second career. I believe that my propensity toward social justice as a “idealistic” educator has influenced my quest to be a good teacher. However, everyone does not share my ideals. I do believe that the program that I went through was not rigorous at all. So much so, that when I became an Assistant Instructor for the same program, many new teachers were angry that I held them to higher standards than other courses. At this point, it was evident, that the institutional concern was to get bodies in the classroom–thus widening the achievement gap by hiring “babysitters” as opposed to educators who were committed to closing the achievement gap.

As I close, it is important to note that even as a second career, doctors and lawyers are still required to go through the full preparation process to ensure that they are adequately prepared to work with the lives of others. It is imperative that we begin approaching teaching preparation in the same manner.


Why We Need Public Boarding Schools

Thomas Fisher
Professor and dean, College of Design at the University of Minnesota
Why We Need Public Boarding Schools
Posted: 05/07/2013 7:29 pm EDT Updated: 07/07/2013 5:12 am EDT
My daughter went to elementary school with a boy named Jerome, one of the brightest kids in the class and now, some 15 years later, sitting in prison serving a long sentence for some sort of violent crime. Jerome lived in a tough neighborhood, had an unstable home, and saw his own father go to prison, but he did not have to follow in his father’s footsteps.

My father, a child and adolescent psychologist in Cleveland, treated many young people struggling in school or engaged in disruptive and self-destructive behavior often because of dysfunctional families or friend relationships, and he worked with the juvenile courts to take many children out of terrible home situations and place them in foster care. Fresh out of graduate school, he also worked as a psychologist at a boarding school for delinquent boys, a model that we need to make available not just for misbehaving youth, but also for those who simply need a stable place to live.

Unstable living situations can jeopardize any child’s ability to learn. In Minneapolis, for example, 9 percent of its school children – more than 11,000 students – endured homelessness at some point during the year. And research shows that the performance of students suffers every time they move; two moves in a year, an educational colleague of mine has observed, and children essentially lose that year of schooling.

Stable housing and safe neighborhoods, in other words, matter as much as good teaching and supportive schools in the education of our kids. The educational community knows this and the government has begun to respond, with more states appropriating money for affordable housing and with the federal government requiring that states fund the busing of homeless students to their original schools.

I think about Jerome, though, when I read about these well-intentioned and needed initiatives by the government. In his case and in so many others, keeping these kids in severely dysfunctional families or transporting them to school from a homeless shelter or from living on the streets does not seem like a successful strategy. Affordable housing and school busing can do little to counter a disruptive family life or a dangerous neighborhood.

We need an alternative: public boarding schools. A few states — Maryland, Ohio, Florida — and Washington D.C. now allow “SEED schools” — public boarding schools for at-risk youth — operated by the SEED Foundation. And students have performed very well in these schools, with as many as 98 percent attending college upon graduation. So why hasn’t this become as widespread as it is, for example, in Port au Prince, Haiti? There, faculty and students in my college have designed and helped communities build public boarding schools for the large numbers of children who lost their parents during the earth quake. If Haiti can do this, why can’t the U.S.?

Resistance may partly come from the horror stories we have all heard about public orphanages. My grandfather, who spent several years in one before being adopted, recalled the orphanage director putting the older boys in charge of the younger ones and beating the former if the latter misbehaved. But I suspect ideology and economics also help explain why public boarding schools have yet to catch on in America.

The ideology rests on the reasonable belief, one that I often heard from my father, that children generally do better in family settings than in institutional ones, but when the family or neighborhood settings have become so toxic to children that it puts them at risk, a boarding school sure beats a jail cell.

Which raises the economic issue. The U.S. has a long tradition of private boarding schools that provide mostly wealthy children an excellent education and a social setting that enables them to flourish. The cost of such schools, generally much higher than the per-student cost of public education, makes the public boarding idea seem prohibitively expensive.

The annual cost of room and board at a boarding school, however, averages roughly half that of incarceration ($11,000 versus $22,000) and when we include the indirect benefits of having the Jerome’s of our society as productive citizens rather than incarcerated criminals, the economic — and moral — case for public boarding schools becomes very compelling.

The political case for such schools also seems convincing. While those on the political right might see them as an example of the “nanny state,” public boarding schools would help us reach goals that people across the political spectrum should like: reducing the cost of government burdened with the highest percentage of incarcerated people in the developed world, closing the educational achievement gap that makes the U.S. less economically competitive, and increasing the number of productive, tax-paying citizens at a time when we need as many such people as possible.

As I think about Jerome as that elementary school student, so eager and obviously excited to learn, I wonder what I might have done differently then had I known what I do now about where his life has gone. If his school — or at least one nearby — had offered him room and board so that he could have escaped his disruptive home life to focus on his studies, I know he would be in a different — and much less costly — place than he is now. How many more Jerome’s do we need to lose before every state acts?

Thomas Fisher is Dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota.