What Fits in Your Pocket & Makes You Smarter? Thursday’s Tiny Reading Collection & Inspiration for a More Active 2012

Dear All:

I’ve been caught up in the hustle and bustle of prepping classes for winter term and making gifts for Christmas.  While I’ve been reading about education issues in between feeding my 8-month-old and playing blocks with my 2-year-old, I haven’t been posting, and it’s time to share this information with you:

  1. Oregon did not receive a federal Race to the Top grant but did come closer than with its first application.  This seems to be a sign that Oregon is doing more research and asking the community for more feedback, but we’re clearly still lacking in some areas that are required to receive this grant money.
  2. There are changes afoot in Oregon’s open enrollment law for schools.
  3. More and more children are slipping below the poverty line in Oregon, and many are going hungry.  Think about donating some time to an organization that fights hunger.
  4. Great News! Gustavo Alvarez gets a reprieve and is not deported — thank you to all of you who signed the petition, called in, and supported the ideas behind the DREAM Act.
  5. Superintendent Carol Smith released her recommendations for boundary changes for PPS.  What are your reactions?  How do you think the Alameda Neighborhood Association will respond?  Attend a hearing on January 9 to get more details and to provide feedback.  What do you think about Smith’s process to arrive at these recommendations?  Are you satisfied with the level of community involvement?

What’s really important to think about as we end this year and begin another?  How we can live and participate in our communities in ways that support kids and families.  Here are some ideas to get you thinking and acting in simple but important ways:

  • Oregon is seeking feedback on the state’s NCLB waiver application.  You can send in your feedback now and be part of the process of opting out of NCLB’s oppressive regulations.  If you are fed up with NCLB or just want to see more innovative ways of teaching and assessing, your feedback is needed!
  • If you’re interested in being part of conversations about the achievement gap and how to support policies and actions that help narrow the gap, join with Stand for Children, the Black Parent Initiative, REAP, and the Oregon Chamber of Commerce to get involved.  Send Emily Nazarov an email at enazarov@stand.or.
  • Join the Chalkboard Project’s Citizen Corp, join the upcoming virtual brown bag on the importance of educator assessment, or just subscribe to their informative blog on local education issues to stay informed.
  • Register for the MLK day of service here.
  • Find a more long-term or several short-term community-based projects to dedicate some time to in 2012 by visiting Hands on Portland.
  • Make an end-of-the-year donation to an organization like Donors Choose, which allows educators to fundraise for class projects and supplies.
  • Spend quality time with the children in your life!

I’ll be posting more after the Christmas holiday as we head toward the New Year and the opportunity to envision a 2012 of community involvement!

Happy Winter,


What Goes Well with Holiday Cookies? Thursday’s Tiny Reading Collection

It’s that time of the week again — time to hunker down with some coffee, some peanut butter cookies (my current baked good of choice), and some updates on what’s going on in education this week.

The title for these Thursday posts (“Tiny Reading Collection”) is inspired by my daughter (pictured here) who is now two and in love with language.  One of her favorite words is “tiny,” and anything remotely small is labelled in this way.  Tiny crackers, tiny mermaid, tiny reindeer.  Her delight in learning and collecting new words motivates me every day as a teacher and writer.

On that note, instead of focusing on the grim and the grimmer, which is all too easy to do, I’m serving up some articles that will tap into your capacity to hope, to celebrate, and to give.  In the last few weeks, I’ve been in touch with a handful of former students who are choosing to continue on in their community-based learning placements (a kindergarten classroom, a community preschool, etc.) or who have sought out other kinds of community support activities after the Capstone class was over.  This always gives me great hope and inspiration. I hope that the following articles will inspire you, too.  Tis the season — enjoy!

  • Read about a classroom at Centennial High School where teachers connect pop culture to literary analysis.
  • Find out more about how Clackamas High School provides food and clothing for families who need support this winter.
  • Tune in to Helen Ladd’s paper on the connection between education and poverty, which has created a buzz and will hopefully help administrators and educators focus in on the fact that (a) those children who need support the most aren’t getting it and (b) schools alone cannot fix the problem of poverty that impacts so many young people.  While this paper outlines child poverty, it also provides a starting point for better, deeper work to support children and families.
  • Check out Elena Aguilar’s blog post about how to stay hopeful as an educator.

Finally, and I want to highlight this, I heard an inspiring story on NPR about micro-philanthropy efforts and was turned on to a website that educators use to fundraise for their classrooms: DonorsChoose.org.  This site allows you to search by city or by issue (I searched for projects in Portland) and includes things like teachers fundraising to put more dictionaries in their classrooms, educators seeking to buy art supplies for innovative projects, etc.  In a season where many are considering donations (as gifts or as part of their New Year’s Resolutions), please do check out this site and think about supporting a teacher and his/her classroom in your very own community.

As always, I’d love to hear from all of you who are reading!  Do you donate time or money to organizations or individuals of your choice throughout the year or at the year’s end?  What kind of donations do you feel most apt to make?  What do you hope to get back when you give your time or money?  And what do you offer to the community?  Please share your experiences to inspire others to join in…


Thursday’s Tiny Reading Collection: Building Blocks, School Boundaries, Class Size, and Rising Poverty

I’m starting a new Thursday post called the “Tiny Reading Collection.”  This will feature a collection of short, thought provoking articles that serve as a sampler of highlight articles that will help keep you informed.  This week’s articles are as follows:

  • An article on a return to using wooden building blocks in teaching and learning and creating more space for creative play in classrooms (“With Blocks, Educators Go Back to Basics,” New York Times)
  • An article on increasing class sizes in the Metro area and the impact on kids and teachers (“Students Lose Individual Attention...,” Oregonian
  • The proposal for new Portland school boundaries was released…with more community discussions to follow.
  • Census data released reports that 50% of black children in Oregon live in poverty. This really speaks to the way that the economic downturn is impacting communities of color and needs to lead to more discussions about the ways that systemic barriers impact kids and families in our community.
  • A beautiful article (with lots of links) called “To Teachers: How to Stay Hopeful and Inspired” (written by educator Elena Aguilar) from Edutopia is a perfect way to end this collection.  Even in the light of major challenges, we must stay hopeful and active.

Happy reading…