Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Its always interesting to read this blog. I work for a very large, traditional, old fashioned high school in another city that is one of the top public schools in the nation.We have schools organized the old fashioned way- by department. We have numerous electives- too many to mention. We have tracked classes, and both an amazing gifted track and vocational track where students graduate HIGH SCHOOL with an associates in nursing, electrical studies, mechanics- never go to college, and make much more than the starting salary teacher.

Your idea for a high school always sound interesting- progressive, 'new', etc.

Is it the only way?

I received the above comment in response to the last posting.

This is always a big question. Is our philosophical bend the only way? The answer is a resounding, "NO'. But "our way" is a valid way to run an educational institution. In the grand market place of ideas the NYC school system, of which QHST is a part, has so many schools with different philosophies. Schools that track, schools that test test and test again, schools that have vocational training, schools that highlight the arts, sports, or new comers to the city. This is the biggest benefit to working the a large system. I am in no way saying all schools should be one way or another. I imagine smaller systems do not have the luxury to allow for such diversity of teaching philosophies.

Is it the only way?


Is it the only way for QHST?


I hope the anonomous commenter rejoins the conversation.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Path of Least Resistance

I know change is ultimately good. It is what keeps us alive. Without change there would be no growth. There would be no progress.

When I was younger I used to have these ideals in my head. I thought that world hunger could be solved. I thought if you worked hard everything was going to be ok. I believed in a divine presence in my life. I thought everyone was truly equal. I watched the Berlin Wall fall and thought “wow world peace is right around the corner”. I watched the NY Mets win the World Series and thought “life is just amazin’”.

But then life got hard. At age 30 I just got tired. I started to give up on some of my ideals because it was easier than dealing with them. It became easier in my head to coup with life just believing that there just isn’t enough food for everyone. I rationalized that just because you work hard, luck has much more to do with success. Watching BBC News clips of displaced war-torn families pushed me to question my faith. I came to believe that world peace isn’t always in the US’s best interest. After 20 years of ringless teams I also came to realize that the Mets are not that amazin’.

When I came to QHST I entered a real culture that was full of idealism. School administrators encouraged teachers to be involved in school-wide decisions. Here there were classrooms of learners of different abilities all making progress. Here there was an encouragement of a reflective practice. Here students were placed in small dedicated learning communities. There were never going to be tracked classes. There were mixed grade advisories. The concept paper was understood by each incoming teacher and referred to regularly at SLC meetings.

But life is hard. At age 6 our school is getting tired. Are we giving up on the ideals too? Are teacher voices still being heard during decision making meetings? Mixed ability classes? It is easier to differentiate instruction when all the kids are learning at the same standardized test score level. CFGs? It is easier to meet for a couple of minutes at a faculty meeting rather than critically working during one. Cross Communities Classes? I assume its easier to program cross community classes. Single grade advisories? Communication between content area teachers and advisors would be easier, but would communication skills between teachers be any better? Tracked classes? It might be easier if all the level 4s were in the same class. Are the common areas too much freedom for students? Is it just easier to lock bathrooms on alternating floors for students? Would bells and hall sweeps just make the halls a hell of a lot more like school should be?

I hated turning 30 and losing some of my youth and idealism. Please don’t let QHST lose its youth at 6.