Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Make Change Happen

We need to keep a vision why we are teaching in a NYC public school. We are not here for the money. We are not here for all the respect we get at our HS reunions. Why are we here? What is your legacy? A senior for the Montessori community yesterday attempted to organize a demonstration on the 3rd floor to bring awareness to the immigrant demonstrations taking place around the city.

Prompted by an article from the NY Times we read in class two hours before, this QHST senior organized a small very peaceful show of solidarity with the 6% of our workforce whom have no voice in the decision making process in our country.

Later on that day I joined the marchers from around the world demonstrating in Union Square. I was deeply moved. I was also embarrassed that we as an education system, the true venue for social change, did not embrace this cause further.

I was proud of the one senior who took it upon himself to show solidarity. However as someone who believes in social justice and believes that schools are the true breeding ground for tipping the class structure of tomorrow, I think the UFT let these people down.

We need to keep our eyes and ears open for our next opportunity to join or create an opportunity to display our desire to "Make Change Happen."


D. ONeill said...

As one who came up to the third floor and helped to break up the small peaceful show of solidary, I found that I regretted my actions and thought about what I could have done to better assist this Montessori senior. I am one who fully endorses peaceful demonstrations that are done for a greater cause and for the sake of solidarity but yesterday I felt my hands were tied. The third floor was becoming a place where safety was in jeapardy due in great part to the fact that most students were ignorant of what was going on.
When I came back from the summer break last September my grand scheme had been to implement activism as the theme for my advisory. As the demands of the job became overwhelming, my focus for my advisory was lost, and then of course my advisory was also lost and redirected to a new advisor. One thing I definitely realize is that we as a community do not take full advantage of our role as advisors in that we have not encouraged our students to embrace those causes that are attempting to make a change. This is so important for the development of our students who must face these issues as they enter society as adults and influence the shape society will take.
So I join you Walter in believing that we dropped the ball with this cause but do not believe for even one moment that it is the end of what we can do at a later date to "display our desire to 'Make Change Happen'".

Ms. Mayo said...

I think I'm starting to understand how growing up happens. This ties together my thinking as it relates to this post, the front door/scanning issue, and Brody's tribute to mom.

There is a balance between protest and safety. While we encourage the ideas behind solidarity with the kids re scanning and helping them to speak out against political issues, we are also responsible for their safety.

I struggle with feelings of letting go of some of my youthful idealism as a trade off for more cautious behavior. Again, I think that might go hand in hand with parenting teenagers.


Anonymous said...

When I first read Walter's original post, I felt guilty. I was under the impression that the protests throughout the city were scheduled for Thursday. I planned on wearing a white tee-shirt as a sign of solidarity-- as NY1 News had suggested. I also had planned to address the issue in my history & D.E.A.R. classes using the New York Times. When I arrived to school on Monday and a student told me that both of her parents had taken the day off from work to attend the protests, I too felt that once again....I was a day late and a dollar short and also that I had yet again.. dropped the ball. Here was an opportunity to connect with the students and their families. On top of all of that, during band 6, when that brave senior decided to conduct an impromptu rally on the 3rd floor, many of my students--who happen to be immigrants or children of immigrants--begged me to take them to the rally. I was torn--being the rebel that I am. I've had a soft spot for social justice since the sit-in that I orchestrated in the 8th grade at St. Anastasia as Student Council President. But, attempting to be a responsible teacher and not a rebel, I told them no. I felt badly because instantly I saw the spark in their eyes disappear. They probably thought that I didn't care about their interests or their relatives. But, the bottom line was: I was concerned for safety. I knew that the rally was shaky and that the last place a sub needs to be seen is at the scene of a riot. Days have passed since then and perhaps the students have forgotten all about it, but I haven't. I can sympathize with Deirdre, it is almost inevitable that QHST teachers will become overwhelmed with their duties and loose their focus for advisory. After all, you all have like 6,000 jobs! But, as an outsider, I must say that what I believe truly distinguishes QHST from other places is advisory. And as a Peace Education & Social Justice Advocate, advisory is like a gift. Not too long ago, I had a meeting with Nigel about incorporating SERVICE LEARNING in advisory. Anyone interested in incorporating SERVICE LEARNING as a component to advisory please let me know. I think that advisory can be an empowering experience for students—and advisors. Advisors can focus student energy and make it productive and not useless or dangerous. When I attended the national service learning conference in Philadelphia back in March, I purchased MANY resources--including POSTSECRET By: Frank Warren. I have been searching for partners for this. I would love to collaborate with other Montessori advisors to address other student concerns. Let's embrace our students' concerns and opportunities for action through advisory.

deb said...

Hi Mr. Brown,
I am so impressed with the open dialogue that your school embraces. I sense you are frustrated that more people are not interested in this cause, but your school seems to be really dedicated to critical conversation. I think that's a major first step, one that we haven't taken quite yet here -- at least not on this scale.

Thank you for supporting my students' work in this cause. It is an exciting time to live near Mexico...lots of stuff happening. I'm hoping the teenraza blog will inspire both teachers and students to do more work for social justice. It's really my first foray into this area -- the students behind the blog have made it so easy! But like you, I want to involve more kids. It's not easy.

But we'll get there.

FYI - my students' blog is www.teenraza.blogspot.com

Version in Spanish:

Have a good Monday!