Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tough questions: new teachers and free speech

In life, most of us (save those, perhaps, that adopt an unabashed go-with-your-gut philosophy) experience the occasional moment of internal conflict and indecision. Usually, these happen to me at the store, when I'm trying to choose between Oat Flakes and Oat Clusters. Difficult waters to navigate--ingredient lists that extend far beyond oats, stunning illustrations of the magic of food chemistry, and so on. This is why it sometimes takes me a while to emerge from the supermarket.

But, once in a while, conflicted moments happen in the professional context. Last week, I was invited to appear on a panel at the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI). The topic of the panel was dealing controversial issues in the classroom, and I had been invited because the students had read my article on the Morin case.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Longer, Faster in Chicago

Since I became a Chicago Public Schools parent two years ago, I have been rolling my eyes at our district's notoriously short school day and short school year. School dismissed at 2:45? 3 weeks straight of 3-day weeks in November? No school for Pulaski Day? Come on, I would think, as I scrambled to find useful ways to engage my daughter's out-of-school time, is this district for real? CPS students spend fewer hours in the classroom and fewer days in school than most other large urban school districts, and when Jean-Claude Brizard was appointed CEO, he was charged with changing that.

In the past few weeks, his attempts to do so have been making headlines. After cancelling the 2% raise originally offered CPS teachers, Brizard offered individual schools who were willing to waive their contract and add an extra 90 minutes to schooldays $150,000 for the year, or $75,000 if they make the change in January. So far, 7 schools have elected to do so (on a majority vote by teachers). In the 2012-13 school year, Brizard has announced, all schools will have a longer day.

It comes as something of a surprise, then, to find myself horrified by this possibility. Here's why.