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Posts Tagged ‘Memoir’

NY Post Hypocrisy is Boundless. How Can a Paper That Championed Bloomberg’s Chancellor With NO Classroom Experience Blast Chancellor Porter for “Barely” Teaching Before Rising Through the Ranks

March 15, 2021 Comments off

I confess that I felt a sense of de ja vu AND empathy when I read the NYPost headline and accompanying article chastising the decision to hire Meisha Ross Porter because she lacked classroom teaching experience.

The sense of de ja vu came because, like Ms. Porter, I had a series of breaks early in my career as an educator that enabled me to rise rapidly through the ranks. I won a Ford Fellowship after “barely teaching” (two years in a West Philadelphia HS) and then moving rapidly through the administrative ranks to become a Superintendent at the age of 33. I have mild regrets that I didn’t spend more time in the classroom or at the building level (where I served for 6 years), and in retrospect got OJT in my first few years as Superintendent… but when opportunities presented themselves for me— as they have for Ms. Porter— I seized them and never looked back.

BUT… the “lack of experience” criticism DID come into play early in my career whenever I assumed the leadership in increasingly large districts and whenever someone who disagreed with a decision wanted to ascribe blame. Whenever that occurred, though, I took the comment of a veteran Maine School Board member who assured one of his colleagues who expressed concern about my hiring since I had no experience as a Superintendent that I would solve that problem “one year at a time”. Sure enough, by the time I was hired for my final two jobs my “lack of experience” was no longer an issue.

I found the NYPost criticism of Ms. Porter particularly galling given their unqualified praise for the work done by Mayor Bloomberg’s appointee to the Chancellor: Joel Klein– an attorney with no experience whatsoever in public education. The fact that a white male who never set foot in a classroom was never questioned about his experience while an African American woman is “welcomed” with headline chastising her for “barely” teaching. The criticism was particularly galling given the content of the article that listed the many accomplishments Ms. Porter achieved in her years as an administrator. I wish her well… and hope that she continues to fight the good fight as she has done throughout her career. If she does well and the next mayor passes her over some district somewhere in the US will get a seasoned administrator with a good track record for turning around troubled schools.

Riding the Bus Routes to Deliver Meals to Homes is Eye Opening Experience in Rural New England

March 11, 2021 Comments off

Our local newspaper, the Valley News, invited readers to share their personal stories about the pandemic and today’s piece by veteran teacher Ted Pogacar reminded me how important it is for educators to become familiar with the homes children live in… and how impossible that is when things are “normal”.

To his credit, Mr. Pogacar does not mention the squalor I am certain he must have witnessed in some of the homes he visited but instead focuses on the work of the unsung heroes who keep track of the households that need additional food and help mete out the provisions available.

The article brought to mind my first year working as Principal in Western Maine, an assignment I took after teaching in an economically depressed section of Philadelphia and serving as Assistant Principal in a blue collar suburb whose fortunes were on the decline. My experience in rural New England was recreational: hiking and camping in the White Mountains as a child and sightseeing and hiking as an adult. When visiting rural New England I was stuck by its serene woods, stunning mountain landscapes, clear waters in the brooks that cascade out of the mountains, and separation from the bustle and problems of the city. When I started talking to the counselors, office staff, custodians, and colleagues who lived in the beautiful region where I landed I heard stories of the economic hardship children in the school experienced, stories that were much like those I encountered in West Philadelphia and the “rough and tumble” district I worked in just outside of Philadelphia. The peaceful woods hid the many ramshackle homes that children in school lived in and the clean, well cared for town centers masked the poverty that spread throughout the back country.

The impact of poverty in urban areas is clear and obvious. Boarded up buildings, poorly maintained public spaces, and treeless desolate streets all signal a neighborhoods distress. The distress in rural New England is not obvious at first glance… but the bus drivers witness it daily, the cafeteria workers know the kids who need to get seconds, and the teachers and counselors who connect with children raised in poverty all know the hardships they endure. The lone guidance counselor who served the 700 middle and high school students in the high school I led took me on a trip through the woods when I first came so that I would be aware that not every child came from the kinds of homes in town that I was familiar with or was raised in the kind of household I knew as a child. It made me appreciate that rural poverty poses the same challenges for children as poverty in the urban areas… and those challenges are far more daunting than anything I encountered growing up.

WSJ Op Ed Demeaning Jill Biden’s Ed.D Reflects the Anti-Intellectual Brand of Trump’s GOP

December 16, 2020 Comments off

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Late last week the Wall Street Journal featured an op ed article by Joseph Epstein that chided President-elect Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, for using the honorific “Doctor”. NBC reporter Tonya Russell summarized the critique as follows:

“‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic,” wrote Joseph Epstein, a longtime contributor to The Journal. “Your degree is, I believe, an Ed.D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware through a dissertation with the unpromising title ‘Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs.'”

Like Jill Biden I have an Ed.D and like her I wrote my dissertation on a practical research question: does a demanding application process yield a superior pool of applicants? And, like Jill Biden I was subjected to some who questioned its legitimacy and some who used the term in a sneering and derisive way.

As Ms. Russell noted in her NBC report, an ED.D requires the same number of years as a Ph.D and is often as rigorous. Increasingly the degree is a pre-requisite for an administrative assignment because School Boards and especially recruiting consultants view it as a means of objectively screening candidates. Early in my career I was able to get interviews based on the credential and three of those interviews led to jobs as I advanced from Assistant Principal to Superintendent of a 17,000 pupil school district in a 10 year interval. In the end, I was willing to accept the criticism from the likes of Mr. Epstein because I knew how much work went into earning my degree and came to understand that it was no different than the work that went into a “real” doctorate.