Apr 05

Ribe Tuckus

The other day, I actually wrote two blog posts in a single day. Brian Crosby gently teased me that it was like five years ago with my writing output. And a quick look at my blog stats suggests that I used to blog more often than I used to. Part of it is, when I look deep in the archives, I used to write much shorter pieces. But that’s not all of it. Some of it is that I’m writing longer pieces, some of it has been a decision that I made not to write about edu-news as much as I used to.

But I miss writing. It feels good to sit and write. It is, in the end, a powerful reflective tool – and it’s one I need to carve out the time to do more often.

One of my old English teacher books had some great writing guides for students. One of the ones that sticks with me is simply this – “Ribe Tuckus.” It’s Yiddish (and you wonder why it sticks with me) for “Sit down.” And the instructions for that particular writing guide were simple. You simply sat down with your journal and a pen with no distractions and gave yourself the space to write for 10-20 minutes. If you didn’t write, you didn’t write, but you couldn’t do anything but write or not write for whatever the time allotted. Sometimes, just sitting and doing nothing made the writing come after a while. Sometimes, what came out was amazing, sometimes it wasn’t.

So I’m making a commitment to ribe tuckus more. For me, it comes with some good writing music – jazz or Van Morrison often works – and it comes with a commitment not to flip to all the other browser windows that are open. But I am curious what will come out. And I am curious to know how often that writing will turn into a blog post. I’m not committing to making everything a blog post, as I imagine that some of what I will end up writing about will fall under the category of “Things you cannot blog about,” and I imagine that some days, I might stare at a laptop screen without many words. And I even imagine that some of it may just be writing for me – there’s a crazy thought. But I also do want more of these writing journeys to become blog posts. Writing out loud still matters, I think. And, for me, continuing to push my thinking where others can see it matters.

So… I hope folks find whatever comes next on the blog to be interesting. I hope I have the discipline and energy to actually do this. Writing this blog entry is a way to publicly hold myself accountable to actually doing it. I hope this desire to write more isn’t just because I’ve had a few days of Spring Break to actually power down enough to have the space to write.

But maybe springtime is the right time to launch this idea, after all. Maybe this is the time to come out of blog-hibernation and just ribe tuckus and write.


Jul 23

Educational Colonialism

It is my hope that Jakob and Theo would want to go to SLA or a school like SLA that has an inquiry-driven, project-based, modern-schooling approach to learning.

I admit – much of the vision of SLA, both in how we originally conceived of the idea and in how we continue to evolve today is, for me, based on what I want for my own children.

I say this because there are a lot of powerful folks right now who are advocating for a pedagogy that they do not want for their own children. Some of these powerful people are running networks of schools that have a pedagogical approach that is directly counter to the educational approach they pay for for their own children. Moreover, these same powerful people tend to get upset when asked about the disconnect, saying that that question is off limits.

I don’t think it is.

I think we should ask why people of power advocate for one thing for their own children and something else for other people’s children, especially when those other children come from a lower rung on the socio-economic scale or when those children come from traditionally disenfranchised members of our society. I think that’s a very dangerous thing not to question.

Because we’ve done this before in America, and when we did that to the Native Americans, it did damage that has effects today.

To me, when you ensure your own child has an arts-enriched, small-class size, deeply humanistic education and you advocate that those families who have fewer economic resources than you have should sit straight in their chairs and do what they are told while doubling and tripling up on rote memorization and test prep, you are guilty of educational colonialism.

And it’s time we start calling that what it is.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Jul 15

A Debt of Gratitude

One of the great challenges to running SLA is the fundraising that has to happen every year to keep our 1:1 MacBook program going. Every year, the fundraising kicks into high gear with our EduCon planning, and we cobble together the $180,000 we need from EduCon, grants, donations, district-level grants and school budget when we have it. Worse, I’m a bashful fundraiser – especially when it comes to donations from citizens. I don’t like having to ask people for money, but it seems you cannot be a principal these days unless you understand that part of your job is to be head-fundraiser.

As most readers of this blog know, the past few years have been exceptionally challenging for the School District of Philadelphia, and SLA’s fundraising needs have risen dramatically at the same time that more and more schools are in more and more need, and funding dollars are getting harder and harder to come by.

This year, we worked with a Philadelphia Tech Social Entrepreneur as we used his new site – FundingWorks – in an attempt to crowd source a significant portion of the laptop funding. Funding Works works in such a way as to set a deadline for funding whereby if you do not meet your goal, you don’t get any of the donations. High-stakes fundraising, indeed. We had set an overall goal of $80,000 – because that was what we needed at the time, but we set up a $20,000 threshold that we had to hit to receive anything.

Getting the fundraising going has been tough. Emails have been sent, phone calls have been made, and we have been watching the funding thermometer grow slowly toward $20,000 for several months, but as of last week, we were still $9,000 short with the deadline of July 15th rapidly approaching.

I am humbled to say that we made our fundraising goal with three and a half hours to spare tonight. And when I look over the list of donations, I see SLA families – including many alums. I see members of the Philly Tech world who have – over and over – adopted SLA as one of their own. I see educators from all over the world who gave what they could to our funky little school. I see old friends and former students. And I see over $8,000 in anonymous donations to which I can only hope that some of those folks read this blog and know the incredible deep sense of thanks I have in my heart.

Overall, I see an incredible community, and I am reminded of how lucky I am to have such wonderful people in my life – people who support the school that is, for so many of us, a home. I am truly humbled by the fact that so many people took the time to give, to spread the word and to care about our school.

Thank you to everyone who gave. Thank you for supporting SLA. Thank you for allowing our dream of what a school can be to continue.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad