Archive for Teaching

For teachers, Summer is Strange

August 20, 2013  |  Family, Teaching  |  2 Comments

Every year, teachers are awarded with a supposed summer of grandeur. Or, if you live in New York City, an 8 week intermission sans students. Most of us continue to brush up on our educational selves, attending some sorts of professional development weeks, going to a few planning sessions with our fellow teachers, or dun dun dunnhhhhh….teaching summer school. I like to think that we are kind of like NBA players, training and doing all kinds of weird sprints on beaches and tours in foreign countries all for the love of the game.

This summer will be the first summer I did not do anything for the love of the game. Zero sand sprints, no ice, no meetings in China with the sports ambassador. I am like Raymond Felton the summer he got fat and the Knicks traded him. Really, aside from a couple of meetings about the teacher rating systems, I checked out of school, and completely checked in to other aspects of my life.

It took seven summers for me to get to a place where I felt okay checking out of Bloomberg Ed policy, deleting my Gotham Schools email, ignoring the new Diane Ravitch blog, and reading novels instead of new curriculum. Basically, I temporarily deactivated my educator self.

For many of us, this is no easy task. Teaching is not just what we do, it is who we are.We eat, breathe, and sleep thinking about our students. They are the topic of our dinner conversation, the subject of our dreams. Watching Breaking Bad on Sundays is never done without some lesson planning accompaniment.

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So, what happens when you turn all this off? What part of your self is left?

Good question. After pouring so much of ourselves into our school communities, we often forget to build communities within other parts of our lives. Our individual selves, once molded and guided by our separate and distinct interests are replaced by the desire to give whatever it takes for our students to do well. NYC.gov reports that in NYC, 25% of teachers will quit within the first two years of teaching. All those Saturday field trips, after school tutoring sessions, even materials acquisition alone eat up the other components of our lives that would otherwise make us balanced human beings.

This is why teaching, especially in high need urban schools, has one of the highest burn out rates amongst all careers. The difference between teachers who teach 5+ years and the teachers who teach for two years are many, but namely-the teachers who have any chance at longevity or those who act on a life beyond their students.

For me, this means getting out the sewing machine, calling up old friends, and going to museums with Soleil without thinking about the field trip potential. So, do yourself a favor and dust of the Xbox. Throw that plan book underneath your bed. Clear out your iPad, and relax. Our kiddos will be fine without us, and will be better off with a more balanced human being in front of them when September 9 rolls around.

-Kass

What I LOVE about Ms. Kass

Kass & Corn throwback wedding photo. Feels like yesterday...

What I LOVE about Ms. Kass

July 25, 2013  |  Culture, Family, Teaching  |  1 Comment

This week Kass and I celebrated another wedding anniversary. We were married during NYC’s Restaurant Week on the day before her birthday. That means 2-for-1 vintage wines, steaks, lobsters and infinite tasting plates EVERY anniversary dinner — for life. (Who knows how to save money like Corn!?!? Living #likeaboss — on a budget.) That also means mega fun multiple day birthday & anniversary celebrations each year.

Young Kass. Young Corn.

Young Kass. Young Corn.

Mostly, though, this gives us a wonderful opportunity each summer to pause and reflect on love. …to think on the work that we came together to do, to celebrate our accomplishments and to recommit ourselves to our shared future as a unit and our collective future as members of this community and this society.

My Pop used to tell me that if you are the smartest person in the room, you need to find a better room. He believes, as I do, that we must constantly be apprenticing ourselves to incredible people. We don’t die when we stop breathing. We die when we stop learning. Being married to Kass feels like that. Like I’m a lifelong apprentice to one of the most incredible people around. Here is not just what I learn from my partner, but how I learn from her — just some of what makes her awesome.

  1. Kass is fearless in her pursuit of fairness. Her advocacy work for kids with disabilities is the most gangster thing I’ve ever seen. As we’ve grown together, her work has intensified. What impresses me the most about this is that she consciously seeks to expand her knowledge of our community and of history. When we moved from Red Hook to Sunset Park, she immersed herself in the culture of the new neighborhood striving to learn as much as she could about Chinese and Mexican cultures. Many of our neighbors and students are from there, and who she has become in service to them is rooted in that learning. I love Kass because she understands that you cannot seek to make an impact on others unless you are boldly willing to be impacted by them.

    Word up.

    Word up.

  2. Kass gets that it is not just about us. She always reminds me that who we are and the the things that we enjoy are not ours alone. She sees that we are connected in intricate ways, not just to the people around us, but to history. Even in celebrating our anniversary, I was reminded that a small milestone like ours was made possible because of the incredible work of others. Notably, the Loving family, whose 1967 Supreme Court Case against the state of Virginia struck down the 1924 Racial Integrity act and made interracial marriage legal in the United States. We can never repay them, so what we owe them, we pay forward to the the LGBT community by continuing to work toward marriage equity. I love Kass because she understands our privilege. In that, she gets that no one is free if we are not all free. She is a fierce ally.
  3. Kass laughs (at me) a lot. As I’ve sought to learn with her and to be a good partner to her. I have made a lot of mistakes. I burn the rice. I don’t eat the vegetables (ever). I forget don’t want to clean the cat litter. I don’t wait outside the dressing room when I’m supposed to wait outside the dressing room. She has helped me to see that the world does not end when I fail, and together we’ve constructed some powerful lessons (and some incredible jokes) upon those failures. She is flexible and forgiving in her belief that one cannot know success without first knowing failure. I love Kass because she embodies the saying that “if you fall two times, get up three times.”

Clearly, I’m a lucky dude.

Home Team/Away Team

What I do...

Home Team/Away Team

July 7, 2013  |  Culture, Teaching  |  4 Comments

I wan’t always so Brooklyn. I went to high school in Georgia. Though I’ve spent most of my adult life in NYC, I am from Georgia.

There is this old sentiment in poetry that you can never go home again. That somehow when one leaves a place, life makes it hard to return… Perspectives shift, memories fade, familiarity crystalizes into nostalgia, and the reality that things are never quite as you remember them breeds disappointment. Heartbreak.

This month I worked in Georgia for the first time since the 90s. What a way to start the summer! I loved it. Turns out one can go home again. I’ve got to rewrite some poetic sentiments…

In Georgia, I did some reading work with some teachers in Houston County, and I followed that up with a week of institutes back in NYC. Here are some things that we made while we wore working together, and a few links that we found useful.

-Corn