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A Lesson Plan for Strikebreaking Substitute Teachers

By Russ Peterson

Editor’s Note: Portland, Oregon language arts teacher Russ Peterson sent this lesson plan to colleagues, who are preparing to strike beginning on February 20th. Given that part of the corporate reform agenda throughout the country is to attack conditions of teaching and learning for public school teachers, as well as to erode contract protections of all kinds, it seems that more and more teachers will be on strike “for the schools our students deserve.”

Russ Peterson teaches at Grant High School and has taught in Portland Public Schools for 13 years. Russ gave Rethinking Schools permission to share the lesson plan with teachers around the country.

— Bill Bigelow

Good morning, colleagues!  In the spirit of collaboration that teachers engage in, I have attached a lesson I put together as part of the district request that a lesson plan be provided in the event of a strike.  I thought it would be helpful given the circumstances, and would save you all the time and effort of putting one together yourselves.

Please feel free to share with your colleagues in other schools in the district, and with others in your department who I may not know.

- Russ

SUB NOTES

  1. Photocopy the attached poem, usually attributed to Jack London.
  2. Read the poem along with the class out loud.
  3. Have the class complete the  TPSS-FASST graphic organizer (copied below) as they deconstruct the poem.
  4. After reading the poem and completing the graphic organizer, ask the following questions for discussion:
    • What is a ‘scab’?
    • What images does Jack London use in describing a scab?
    • Given these images, what is London’s attitude toward those who work during a strike?
    • Why do you think someone would work during a strike?  What are the consequences of this?  How does this fit into the model of “ally, bystander, victim, adversary”?  Which of these is a scab?  Which of these are those engaging in a work-stoppage?
    • London assumes that the striker is a man. Why would he assume this? Does he also assume that scabs are men?
    • Why does management hire scabs?  What is their objective?
    • Many times in U.S. history, employers have used workers of different races or ethnicities to break strikes. How do you think these employer tactics have affected relations between different groups of workers?
    • Should unionized workers aim their hostility more at scabs or at those who hire scabs? Why?
    • Do you (students) know any scabs?  What do you think about scabs and what they are doing?

With the remaining class time, write either:

  1. a poem of your own about scabs
  2. an essay in response to London’s poem – do you agree with London’s assessment?  Why?  Do you think London is being unfair to those who cross a picket line?  Why? With either choice, support your thesis with evidence.

The Scab

by Jack London* (1876-1916)

After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with which he made a scab.

A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue.

Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.

When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out.

No man (or woman) has a right to scab so long as there is a pool of water to drown his carcass in, or a rope long enough to hang his body with.

Judas was a gentleman compared with a scab. For betraying his master, he had character enough to hang himself. A scab has not.

Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.

Judas sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver.

Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of a commission in the British army.

The scab sells his birthright, country, his wife, his children and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled promise from his employer.

Esau was a traitor to himself; Judas was a traitor to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country.

A scab is a traitor to his God, his country, his family and his class.

* There is some question as to whether Jack London wrote this poem.

TPS-FASTT ANALYSIS-GRAPHIC ORGANIZER

TITLE:  Examine the title before reading the poem. Sometimes the title will give you a clue about the content of the poem. In some cases the title will give you crucial information that will help you understand a major idea within the poem.  What does the title make you think about?  What images or ideas does it conjure?  What themes might it ignite?
PARAPHRASE:  Paraphrase the literal action within the poem. At this point, resist the urge to jump to interpretation. A failure to understand what happens literally inevitably leads to an interpretive misunderstanding.  To that end, “translate” the poem into straightforward, everyday English.
SPEAKER:   Who is the speaker in this poem? Remember to always distinguish speaker from the poet. In some cases the speaker and poet might be the same, as in the autobiographical poem, but often the speaker and the poets are entirely different.  What does the speaker value?  How can you tell?  What does the speaker like or dislike?  Can you discern anything about the speaker’s identity—gender, nationality, background, time period?  How?
FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE:  Examine the poem for language that is not used literally. This would include, but is not limited to, literary devices such as imagery, symbolism, metaphor, simile, allusion, repetition, hyperbole, the effect of sound devices (alliteration, onomatopoeia, assonance, consonance, rhyme), and any other devices used in a non-literal manner.
ATTITUDE (or TONE):  Tone, meaning the speaker’s ATTITUDE toward the SUBJECT of the poem. Of course, this means that you must discern the subject of the poem. In some cases it will be narrow, and in others it will be broad. Also keep in mind the speaker’s attitude toward self, other characters, and the subject, as well as attitudes of characters other than the speaker.  Are there specific words that convey a particular tone?  What are they, and how do they work together to create that tone?
SHIFTS:   Note shifts in speaker and attitude. Shifts can be indicated in a number of ways including the occasion of poem (time and place), key turn words (but, yet, then, etc.), punctuation (dashes, periods, colons, etc.), stanza divisions, changes in line and stanza length, and anything that indicates that something has changed or a question is being answered.
TITLE:  Examine the title again, this time on an interpretive level.  Based on what you noticed as you examined the poem, what new or different resonances does the title take on?
THEME:  First list what the poem is about (subject), then determine what the poet is saying about each of those subjects (theme). Remember, theme must be expressed in a complete sentence.

NAME:  __________________________________________  Poem/Essay/Extract __________

It’s Valentine’s Day–a day filled with joy and surprises, but also angst and disappointments–and sometimes all of the above!

Let’s help children climb out of the emotionally wrought Valentine’s Day box by exploring different manifestations of love with these articles.

Enjoy these articles, available free to all friends of Rethinking Schools. 

McLimans23-4

Illustration: David McLimans

Can’t Buy Me Love, by Linda Christensen
Christensen gets students to write critically about clothes, class, and consumption.

Poem: Valentine’s Day at Casa del Migrante, by Bob Peterson
The Casa del Migrante in Tijuana, Mexico provides assistance to men, most of whom have been recently deported from the United States. Bob wrote this poem after visiting the facility with Rethinking Schools.

A Pedagogy for Ecology,
by Ann Pelo
Helping students build an ecological identity and a conscious connection to place opens them to a broader bond with, and love for, the earth.

“Hey, Mom, I Forgive You”
Teaching the Forgiveness Poem
,
by Linda Christensen
Christensen shows how she builds community in her classroom as her students write a poem about forgiving-or not forgiving. She starts with her own story.

These articles are free to read for our subscribers. Subscribe today to gain access to these articles from our archives:* 

Making Every Lesson Count, by Linda Christensen
Want to help students learn to write? Get them writing about what they love.

Reading First, Libraries Last, by Rachel Cloues
Scripted programs undermine teaching and children’s love of books.

The Hero’s Human Heart, by S.J. Childs
In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, a novel about female revolutionaries in the Dominican Republic, teaches important lessons on how ordinary people can become heroes.

Home Cooking, by Linda Christensen
Food connects us to our heritage and our homes. Getting students to write about food can make them feel at home.

HelenGymHelen Gym is a member of the Rethinking Schools editorial board, but that is only one of many hats she wears in her life as a mom, spouse, educator, and not-to-be-reckoned-with activist in Philadelphia.  The  Philadelphia Magazine recently ran this article about Helen, and the anecdote that best captures Helen’s passion and impact is this:

At A.S. Jenks, a quality K-4 school in South Philadelphia, only the kindergartners avoided enrollment in split grades. The parents were livid. But they had no idea how to actually change matters until they connected with Gym, who coached them in the art of activism. They filed complaints. They got in touch with the press. They organized a protest (in the rain) that lured the television cameras.

It worked. According to parents at the school, superintendent William Hite Jr. intervened personally. “I wrote on my Facebook page: ‘When I grow up, I want to be Helen Gym,’” says Jennifer Miller, a Jenks parent. “She really makes you want to fight for your children.”

We would argue that Helen makes us want to fight for all children, as do so many of our editorial board members-many of whom have been committed to social justice for decades.

Here’s more from the Philadelphia Magazine article. Read the full article about Helen here.

Helen Gym advances, and Mayor Nutter inches warily back. She waves a thick stack of papers at him, each sheath a complaint lodged by parents lamenting the calamitous conditions in Philadelphia’s reeling public schools. There’s the kid with dangerous asthma at the school without a nurse on hand. The dyslexic, orphaned high-school senior applying for colleges with no counselor to lean on. The bullying victim who fled Overbrook High only to find it impossible to enroll at another school.

“This is what we’re fighting against,” Gym tells Nutter. The Mayor is just a few yards from his office door, but he’s the one shifting his feet, looking to get away.

Minutes earlier, Gym had wrapped up a news conference in the ornate Mayor’s Reception Room, where, with the assistance of City Council, she’d usurped a podium usually used by Nutter and his invited guests. Gym and her allies were there to tout their latest pressure tactic: written complaints designed to compel the state to meet basic education standards and shake loose some badly needed dollars for the district.

“It would be nice to have your support, Mayor,” Gym tells him. Nutter issues a few noncommittal mumbles, cleans his glasses, and back-steps for the stairway. Gym shrugs. Powerful figures often look for the exits when she approaches.

That’s what happens when you develop a rep as perhaps Philadelphia’s preeminent public agitator. Relentless, whip-smart, meticulously prepared and utterly fearless, Gym—a private citizen who works without the heft of any meaningful institutional support—has managed to build herself one of the city’s largest bully pulpits . . .

A youthful 45, Gym is as ferocious as ever, and her public profile has never been larger. But these days, she’s laboring mightily not so much to remake the system as to preserve what’s left of it.

Philadelphia has become a premier battleground in a high-stakes national debate over the future of K-12 education. On one side are the self-styled reformers, a group with not much patience and a thirst for bold experimentation. On the other sit the teachers unions and, more interestingly, activists like Gym, whose opposition to the reform agenda is layered and nuanced but boils down to an aversion to the dismantling of traditional public schools and a deep-seated mistrust of the reformers’ motives.

Read more…

Articles by Helen Gym in Rethinking Schools:

School Closures Rock Philadelphia

Tiger Moms and the Model Minority Myth

by Jody Sokolower

V28-2Hailed as the next great reform, the Common Core State Standards are being implemented at breakneck speed in districts across the United States. But behind the spin, is the Common Core the next step in the corporate agenda?

In “The Problems with the Common Core,” Rethinking Schools editor Stan Karp looks at the funders, origins, and uses of the new standards. Also available in Spanish.

Then a former Birmingham teacher provides a telling example–”Martin Luther King Jr. and the Common Core“: A Critical Reading of ‘Close Reading,’” by Daniel E. Ferguson.

Other articles and features:

In “Trayvon Martin and My Students: Writing Toward Justice,” teacher and Rethinking Schools editor Linda Christensen uses President Obama’s speech about the Zimmerman acquittal–and Cornel West’s response–as rich sources for students learning to analyze, evaluate, and critique.

Instead of leaving “the puberty talk” to the nurse, Valdine Ciwko brings gender and sexuality into her everyday classroom. See what she’s doing in “Sex Talk on the Carpet: Incorporating Gender and Sexuality into 5th-Grade Curriculum.” Also available in Spanish.

Looking for Justice at Turkey Creek: Out of the classroom and into the past, by Hardy Thames
High school students embed themselves in a community’s history and people when they study the impact of “development” on historically African American Turkey Creek in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Greed as a Weapon: Teaching the other Iraq war, by Adam Sanchez
A high school teacher uses a role-play to explore the economic dimensions of the war in Iraq.

Editorial: Connecting the Dots, by the editors of Rethinking Schools
The editors argue that educators “need to see ourselves as part of one movement that is constantly connecting the dots.”

Good Stuff: Awareness of the Natural World, by Herbert Kohl
Kohl reviews Dog Songs, by Mary Oliver, and Unlikely Friendships, by Jennifer Holland.

Are you a subscriber?

We’re happy to make a number of articles from this issue free for our friends and followers who don’t subscribe to our magazine. But your subscriptions (and donations) sustain our work. If you like what you’re reading, we urge you to subscribe now for just $22.95 a year. With your subscription, you’ll gain access to the entire winter issue, our online archives, and the mobile app edition of our magazine. You’ll also help ensure that we keep bringing you the kinds of articles you count on Rethinking Schools to deliver.

Those of you who follow us on Facebook know that we regularly post articles, stories, and resources that we think would be of interest to Rethinking Schools readers. At the risk of jumping on the top-10 bandwagon, we decided to review our posts for the year and to highlight the ones that were the most popular, judged by total reach. Some are funny, some are moving, some are outrageous—all are provocative and worth reviewing.

1. Dec. 15: “Wrong” answers on tests from brilliant kids.

2. April 18: Today’s Democracy Now! had an excellent segment — “A Rush to Misjudgment” — about some of the hurried and racist mainstream media coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. This would be an excellent segment to use with students.

3. Nov. 2: Rethinking Schools editor Wayne Au was the scariest thing ever for Halloween this year: a high-stakes, standardized test!

WayneHighStakes

4. Oct. 5: History matters. Today’s patterns of wealth and power have their roots in slavery. “Top 6 Countries That Grew Filthy Rich From Enslaving Black People

5. April 2:  Our friend and colleague, Bill Ayers, has written a fabulous letter to the New York Times about the Atlanta cheating scandal. Read it here.

6. Oct. 17: The brilliant and magnificent Cornel West. Please watch and share. “Cornel West on the ‘shameless silence’ of progressives about Obama and education reform

7. Aug. 22: This is a fascinating expose at Daily Kos of how Time Magazine covers in the United States differ from Time covers throughout the world. Great questions to raise about this with students. Shared by Rethinking Schools author Özlem Sensoy.

8. May 3: Have you followed the story of the 16-year-old girl in Florida who was arrested and expelled for her science experiment gone awry? An example of the school-to-prison pipeline in action.

9. April 15: Rethinking Schools friend Dave Zirin reflects on the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, and offers some moving people’s history in the process.

10. September 7: Betsy Toll of the organization Living Earth, wrote this wonderful letter to The Oregonian, in Portland, saying we’re not weary of war, we’re sick of it. War is an “educational issue.” Read Betsy’s letter.

This holiday season, teach a lesson that helps your students question our society’s focus on material goods, and pushes back against the relentless messages to find happiness through consumption.

Here are some Rethinking Schools articles and lessons that nurture a critical lens when examining the market forces that underpin so much of what needs changing in the world. 

21-2Enjoy these articles, free to all friends of Rethinking Schools:

The Human Lives Behind the Labels:  The Global Sweatshop, Nike, and the race to the bottom, by Bill Bigelow
Originally published in 1997, this article offers ways to help students think about the human and environmental consequences of our stuff—the high cost of low prices.

Lost in the Market, by Barbara Miner
A review of the book Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantalize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole, by Benjamin R. Barber.

Why We Banned Legos, by Ann Pelo and Kendra Pelojoaquin
These early childhood educators didn’t really “ban” Legos, but they did take drastic action to help children explore power, ownership, and equity.

Blog bonus article: “‘Lego Fascists’ (that’s us) vs. Fox News

Standards, Markets, and Creating School Failure, by Michael Apple
“Democracy is increasingly being defined as consumer choice. The citizen is seen as a possessive individual, someone who is defined by her or his position in market relations.”

These articles are free to our friends who subscribe to our magazine. Subscribe today to gain access.* Use code 7BHL13 for a 25% holiday discount!

Six, Going on Sixteen, by Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin
Teachers can work against the commercialization of childhood.

Masks of Global Exploitation: Teaching About Advertising and the Real World, by Bill Bigelow
How we can help our students “read” advertising critically.

Living Algebra, Living Wage, by Jana Dean
Eighth-grade math comes alive when it deals with the economic issues that affect students’ lives.

Can’t Buy Me Love, by Linda Christensen
Students learn to write critically about clothes, class, and consumption.

*All subscribers enjoy access to our online archives. If you have a subscription, but are not sure how to activate your online account, please call customer service at 1-800-669-4192. 

Recommended Resources:

Rethinking Globalization

Rethinking Globalization: Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World, edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson
This comprehensive 400-page book from Rethinking Schools helps teachers raise critical issues with students in grades 4–12 about the increasing globalization of the world’s economies and infrastructures, and the many different impacts this trend has on our planet and those who live here.

9780942961485.MAIN

Rethinking Popular Culture and Media, edited by Elizabeth Marshall and Özlem Sensoy
This anthology includes outstanding articles by elementary and secondary public school teachers, scholars, and activists who examine how and what popular toys, books, films, music, and other media “teach.” These thoughtful essays offer strong conceptual critiques and practical pedagogical strategies for educators at every level to engage with the popular.

by David Morris

Editor’s note:  This news has been making the rounds in education activist circles, and we wanted to further amplify this important message. Turns out corporate style reform isn’t just bad for schools, it’s bad for corporations.

Schools have a lot to learn from business about how to improve performance, declared Bill Gates in an Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal in 2011. He pointed to his own company as a worthy model for public schools.

BillGatesBill Gates foisted a big business model of employee evaluation onto public schools, which his own company has since abandoned. “At Microsoft, we believed in giving our employees the best chance to succeed, and then we insisted on success. We measured excellence, rewarded those who achieved it and were candid with those who did not.”

Adopting the Microsoft model means public schools grading teachers, rewarding the best and being “candid,” that is, firing those who are deemed ineffective. “If you do that,” Gates promised Oprah Winfrey, “then we go from being basically at the bottom of the rich countries [in education performance] to being back at the top.”

The Microsoft model, called “stack ranking” forced every work unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, certain groups as good performers, then average, then below average, then poor.

Using hundreds of millions of dollars in philanthropic largesse Bill Gates persuaded state and federal policymakers that what was good for Microsoft would be good for public schools (to be sure, he was pushing against an open door). To be eligible for large grants from President Obama’s Race to the Top program, for example, states had to adopt Gates’ Darwinian approach to improving public education. Today more than 36 states have altered their teacher evaluations systems with the aim of weeding out the worst and rewarding the best.

Some states grade on a curve. Others do not. But all embrace the principle that continuing employment for teachers will depend on improvement in student test scores, and teachers who are graded “ineffective” two or three years in a row face termination.

Needless to say, the whole process of what has come to be called “high stakes testing” of both students and teachers has proven devastatingly dispiriting. According to the 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, over half of public school teachers say they experience great stress several days a week and are so demoralized that their level of satisfaction has plummeted from 62 percent in 2008 to 39 percent last year.

And now, just as public school systems have widely adopted the Microsoft model in order to win the Race to the Top, it turns out that Microsoft now realizes that this model has pushed Microsoft itself into a Race to the Bottom.

In a widely circulated 2012 article in Vanity, award-winning reporter Fair Kurt Eichenwald concluded that stack ranking “effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stacked ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

This month Microsoft abandoned the hated system.

On November 12 all Microsoft employees received a memo from Lisa Brummel, Executive Vice President for Human Resources announcing the company will be adopting “a fundamentally new approach to performance and development designed to promote new levels of teamwork and agility for breakthrough business impact.”

Ms. Brummel listed four key elements in the company’s new policy.

  • More emphasis on teamwork and collaboration.
  • More emphasis on employee growth and development.
  • No more use of a Bell curve for evaluating employees.
  • No more ratings of employees.

Sue Altman at EduShyster vividly sums up the frustration of a nation of educators at this new development. “So let me get this straight. The big business method of evaluation that now rules our schools is no longer the big business method of evaluation? And collaboration and teamwork, which have been abandoned by our schools in favor of the big business method of evaluation, is in?”

Big business can turn on a dime when the CEO orders it to do so. But changing policies embraced and internalized by dozens of states and thousands of public school districts will take far, far longer. Which means the legacy of Bill Gates will continue to handicap millions of students and hundreds of thousands of teachers even as the company Gates founded along with many other businesses, have thrown his pernicious performance model in the dustbin of history.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Related Resources

Taking Teacher Quality Seriously: A Collaborative Approach to Teacher Evaluation, by Stan Karp

Neither Fair, Nor Accurate:  Research-based reasons why high-stakes tests should not be used to evaluate teachers, by Wayne Au

Professional Development: New terrain for big business? by Rachael Gabriel and Jessica N. Lester

Special collection from Rethinking Schools: Keeping Quality Teachers Teaching

CovrPencilsDown120229.3_42Pencils Down:  Rethinking High-Stakes Testing and Accountability in Public Schoolsedited by Wayne Au and Melissa Bollow Tempel

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