Teacher as Warrior in Racialized Post-Election America

 

Dear Reader: Below you will find what I consider to be a battle hymn, written by my brilliant friend and teaching colleague Katy Ramón. It may surprise you to know that Katy does not consider herself a poet, and, while she doesn’t publish her poems often, I am always love  when she does. This poem gave me hope and strength in the days after the election, yet it is also a cry for deep personal examination. Last week was a difficult one in our schools, and Katy’s poem shows the warrior strength that so many educators possess and display in a time of turmoil for our students of color.

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Every Ounce of My Strength

by Katy Ramón

That some of you can scroll on, that some of you won’t understand, that some of you will be angered and confused, that some of you won’t care, is heartbreaking.

I don’t need you to comment with acceptance. I don’t need you to comment with dissent. Let it marinate and digest it as you will. This is my story.

To hug and comfort crying and fearful children at school and at home was heartbreaking and took EVERY OUNCE OF MY STRENGTH. To hug and comfort grown adults, was heartbreaking. 

I refuse to pay a dime for cable, and I always have been that way. But I read. I read transcripts, quotations, and opinions from various sources. From there I form my opinions. I believe that a person is directly responsible for the words that come out of their mouths. A person is directly responsible for their actions, as actions and words are the expression of their ideas.

If you support a person that has proved through quotes and documented action that he is a bigot, then you also, sadly, are part of the bigotry.

To realize that a huge portion of my country does not respect women, including myself, my daughter, my sisters, and my mother, is heartbreaking.

To realize that a huge portion of my country does not respect Mexican ancestry, including myself, my father, my family, my children, my students, is heartbreaking.

To realize that a huge portion of my country does not respect black people, including my son, my friends, and my students, is heartbreaking.

To realize that a huge portion of my country does not respect people with different sexual identities, including my family members, my friends, and my students, is heartbreaking.

To realize that a huge portion of my country, including family members and long time friends, hold a bigoted world view, is heartbreaking.

If you find yourself aligning with intolerance, go get to know people that are not like you. Expand your world view. It is courageous to identify your own personal ignorance and work toward understanding. I will look into my own as well.

In the meantime, I will dedicate every day to education, understanding, and tolerance.

 

Katy Ramón teaches middle school mathematics and Algebra 1 at the Gardner Pilot Academy K-8 in the Boston Public Schools.  She holds a graduate Certificate in Educational Leadership from Boston University, Boston.  Katy holds a Masters in Education and is a graduate of the Boston Teacher Residency program, University of Massachusetts, Boston.  Katy also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Political Science from the University of Washington, Seattle.

The Banality of Ignorance of Quality Reading Instruction

Below is my letter to the editor of the New York Times, regarding their recent article: “In Raising Scores, 1 2 3 Is Easier Than A B C”. Interestingly, although the article was on the lower half of the front page, only two letters about the article were published. Mine was not one of them, but I agree with the letter from Terry Thomas, a veteran reading specialist from Houston, who states: “After learning advanced decoding skills and realizing that making an inference is not simply a wild guess, most students find that their reading scores improve dramatically.” Thank you, Terry!

To the Editor:

I am disgusted by the banality of ignorance with regards to effective reading instruction. Mathematicians approach their content methodically, yet many who claim to be teachers of English lack a scientific knowledge of language development. Administrators announce their bewilderment at students’ failures to develop reading skills rather than turning their attention to the myriad of studies focused on effective reading instruction.

If more teachers instructed their pupils in systematic word identification skills, they would see a rapid increase in their pupils’ vocabulary because students would be able to independently gain exposure to new words, rather than having to rely on a teacher to do it for them.

The ideological “reading wars” are a mere philosophical distraction; the science of language is the key to unlocking literacy for struggling readers. If educators don’t look at the research, they are simply playing games with children’s lives.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Dines, M.Ed.