Category Archives: Research

The Origins of TRAUE

TRAUEOn Wednesday, December 4, 2013, the online journal Theory, Research, and Action in Urban Education (TRAUE) launched its second issue. The journal was initiated by Jean Anyon in the Urban Education Program of the CUNY Graduate Center several years ago, in an effort to educate doctoral students on the process of peer-review; create a for-and-by-students space to develop ideas in theory, research, and action in urban education; and explore the possibilities of online publication (which was, at the time, an emerging medium for peer-reviewed scholarship). I was asked to share a few thoughts on the origins of TRAUE at the issue launch, and here are my comments in full. My sincerest thanks to the students and faculty who have worked diligently in the last few months to launch an exceptional contribution to scholarship. Jean would be proud:

I decided to read from notes for this event. As much as I want to talk from my heart on the spot, it’s still hard to speak about Jean without welling up. I thought reading something would help keep the tears at bay. And somehow, talking about Jean’s work with TRAUE from notes on an iPad seems apropos.

It’s hard to describe the origin of TRAUE without also sharing a slice of Jean’s technological journey. Although the boundaries between the ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds no longer feel as distinct as they once did, there was a time less than a decade ago when many of us wondered if we could read and annotate articles solely online; conduct research via digital-only media; or if online peer-reviewed journals could really have the same respect and impact as those that appeared primarily in print. If we look back on just the last five years, it’s dizzying to think about how far we’ve come.

The changes in digital communication entered most of my conversations with Jean over the last eight years. I remember discussing the advantages of having a gmail account; the mind-boggling capabilities of Apple technologies; why I felt that blogs and social media provided a new and exciting place to listen to teachers. Jean was wary at first — unclear, as so many of us were, about how digital technologies might reframe and redirect our work as teachers, scholars, and activists; but her skepticism didn’t last long, and I remember when she finally made the switch from AOL to gmail, upgraded from a flip phone to an iPhone, and gave me the go-ahead to run with my research questions about identifying online spaces worthy of educational research. When she got an iPad, she sent a steady stream of texts, amazed and delighted at her discoveries in the App Store. She became fearless in her application of digital technologies in her research and daily communication, and in many ways, her approach to TRAUE embodies her courage and willingness to try something new at a time when others weren’t willing or able to take a similar risk.

Jean was onto something when she brought the idea of an online journal to the Urban Education program here at the CUNY Graduate Center back in the 2009-2010 school year. While the idea of online journals almost seems dated now, we were one of a handful of education doctoral programs exercising the possibility and potential for digital, peer-reviewed work.

Thinking back on those first few meetings of TRAUE, it was a messy but productive time. Jean would hold multiple meeting times, to make sure everyone who wanted to could participate. She spent endless hours helping us draft and redraft our explanations for the purpose and sections of the journal; she made sure to honor and listen to everyone’s voice; and most importantly, she left the decision-making up to us. She wanted TRAUE to be a journal for and by students; to be a place for doctoral students in our program to learn the process by which journals receive, review, and publish articles; and to draw together, well, theory, research, and action in urban education.

Like so many of us have discovered –and continue to discover — since Jean passed away, she provided a wide and deep network of people, projects, and ideas with which to continue her legacy. TRAUE is, in a way, one of her many parting gifts. It is a reminder that we shouldn’t wait to try out new ideas; that research in education is dynamic and changing more rapidly than ever; that the opportunities to effect change are shifting and full of hope (or at least full of the potential for hope).

I want to end by saying that so many people were involved in the origin and evolution of TRAUE, and while I am delighted and honored to share some of my personal thoughts on the process at this event, there would be no TRAUE without the dedication, hard work, and persistence of those people who worked diligently to get the first two issues published. Jean would be proud of us for carrying on her work of fighting for change, equity, and justice in education in an ever-changing world.

 

Data

I’ve been silent for a while. After spending the balance of the summer recovering from a mysterious virus that had lodged itself in my inner ear, I dove head-first into my data collection and analysis this fall for my dissertation, The New York City Teacher Voice Project. So in the last five months, that’s where I’ve been: collecting, analyzing, aggregating, and wrestling with my data. And I couldn’t be more excited about writing up my findings.

Motivated by my experience as a 5th-grade public school teacher in New York City, my dissertation takes up questions around policy and practice in public schooling and investigates the local knowledge teachers share in their blog posts. As a teacher, my colleagues and I confronted obstacles to our work as teachers on a daily basis — there was a revolving door of schedule changes, too few materials, generally insufficient resources and training, etc. — and found ways to adapt to or resist the circumstances in the name of consistency. And we went through the motions largely on our own. But as online spaces to communicate grew, teachers began blogging about their experiences. It is one assertion of my dissertation that policymakers have something to learn from what is shared in these blogs.

I was thinking the other day about why my work as an educational researcher is so closely tied to my experience. I’ve always been attracted to stories. I majored in anthropology as an undergraduate student, and worked on an oral history project during an internship the summer after I graduated from college. Ethnography, or some digital version of it, was an obvious choice for my work as a doctoral student, and I’m drawn in by the narratives shared by teachers who blog about their daily work in the classroom. The experiences they write about are so similar to mine — from a lack of stall doors in the girls’ bathroom and broken copy machines to insect infestations and faulty internet access — and I’m in the process of weaving together their experiences in a sort of kaleidoscopic word quilt.

So onward with the writing. Day in and day out till it’s done. In the meantime, I spent time before the holiday break printing out my data. Don’t laugh. Until I did this, I had no sense — and no tangible way of sharing — how “much” data I had. I’ve got quite a bit to work with. And this is the one and only time I’ll every have to do this. Now I have a sense of what a stack of roughly 400 blog posts looks like in the real world.

Don’t Know Much About History

As I push forward with data collection for my dissertation, I keep returning to the idea that history can repeat itself. And indeed, there is something repetitive — or even static –about the way the New York City public school system implements new reforms and policies.

I taught 5th grade from 2002-2006, during which a new standardized curriculum requiring a teaching method called the workshop model (defined by the the NYCDOE here) took elementary and middle school classrooms throughout New York City by storm. For some, the idea was not new and had either been introduced at an earlier time in their career or taught in a teacher education program; for others, it was an unfamiliar concept. But regardless of familiarity, many of us — particularly those of us teaching in schools with a lack of appropriate resources to do our jobs as required — the workshop model created the necessity to adapt behind closed doors.

As an example, there was the rug issue. Part of implementing the workshop model required a space in the classroom for students and teacher(s) to gather for a lesson, and creating a space with a rug for students to sit on made sense. In many schools it was compulsory. However, rugs were not provided by the school; nor was their cleanliness routinely maintained, which sometimes resulted in ongoing bouts of ringworm or infestations of lice, bed bugs, or other vermin.

In response to this expensive (and at times unsanitary) quandary, teachers were forced to adapt. Some had students gather chairs in a makeshift meeting area without a rug, or had them drag desks around in a way that created a sense of a meeting space, or, less desirably (especially for the watchful eyes of administrators), they eliminated the meeting portion of the workshop model altogether. Oftentimes, these adaptations resulted in reprimand and/or placing blame squarely on the teacher’s shoulders when test scores did not rise.

And while the Sisyphean practice of chasing the intended implementation of new policies like the workshop model without the means to do so seemed brand-new to many of us at the time, educational historians teach us that adaptation in the face of unreasonable or unrealistic policy expectations is not a new phenomenon for teachers in New York City. In a discussion of the introduction of new, progressive-education-based policies in city schools between 1920 and 1940 (shockingly similar to those “introduced” with the workshop model), Larry Cuban writes, “For teachers, contradictions multiplied as they tried to resolve the tensions generated by partisans of progressive pedagogy and the daily realities they faced in their schools” (1993, p. 113), and concludes, “The results were classrooms where contradictory behaviors appeared in an uneasy, often fragile configuration” (1993, p. 114). His words could also describe my experience many years later.

As I climb deeper into my data, I find myself revisiting the four books pictured: Radical Possibilities by Jean Anyon, City Teachers by Kate Rousmaniere, How Teachers Taught by Larry Cuban, and The One Best System by David Tyack. Each of these volumes takes a slightly different approach to the history of teaching and the policies that surround education, and not all focus solely on New York City; however, each helps me illuminate the idea that the pendulum of education policy has a tendency to swing back and forth, creating a sense of running in place without addressing the root of the problem which, often, comes down to a lack of necessary funds and resources.

There have been constant reforms in New York City schools in the last 100+ years, and yet accounts of teachers’ work almost a century ago are, in my opinion, too similar to today’s. It is my hope that we can find a new path — one that doesn’t have us constantly spinning our wheels.

What Is It About Stories?

I went to a story telling workshop yesterday at the CUNY Graduate Center (GC) with Wendy Luttrell and David Chapin, and it was a lovely departure from business as usual. The gathering was set up with minimal guidance, with a purpose: to see what would evolve. About fifteen (give or take) people came, and we sat around a table for two hours sharing stories, swept up in the tales of other people’s lives. Personal and professional stories alike were shared, and unintentionally, a theme of seeing-but-not-seeing could (loosely) be strung through each of the narratives. One of the facilitators started out by explaining that so often at the GC we pass by one another without seeing each other; I found this to be very powerful, and related to my daily work as a researcher and educator.

The workshop made me want to really think about why story has such important meaning for me. So this post is a brief history to that end.

My grandmother was the queen of story telling in my family — she would string many stories together in one evening, often without taking a breath (or so it seemed). During these sessions I learned about her first love, who died on a U-boat; her journey to America from ‘the other side of the ocean’; how money was always a struggle; and so on. As she was getting sick (about two years ago now), we would spend time on the phone every morning, clucking like hens about the past, present, and future while we knitted. Storytelling and yarn (the wool kind) formed a hybrid language that we shared.

In college, I was required to write a senior thesis, and having lost a close family friend to AIDS in the mid-80s, was determined to do research somehow related to the disease. I ended up spending the summer before my senior year in college in San Francisco, interning at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and their HIV Prevention Program, a needle-exchange program. I interviewed HIV+ intravenous drug users, and spent a lot of time feeling angry about the fact that their voices were rarely heard. This experience would shape my interest in and method of conducting research for years to come.

The summer after my senior year in college, I interned at the New York City AIDS Housing Network. During my time there, the executive director of the organization initiated an oral history project, and part of my work was to interview homeless or formerly homeless, HIV+ individuals about obstacles to housing and health care. During both summer internships, I routinely cried. I couldn’t fathom why a society would so actively silence the voices of people whose needs were so dire.

Then I became a public school teacher in New York City. I was (initially) required to supply my own library; little of what I learned in my masters program was applicable in my classroom; contradiction and inconsistency were the only constants. I found my own voice being silenced, and that of my students and their parents. So I turned to the internet and the emerging blogosphere for hope. And also a megaphone of some kind.

I think that’s why my fascination with blogs is what it is: there is something about blogging that offers a space to be heard and connect. Even if no one reads a post, it’s still there, in a public space, discoverable if you look hard enough. And of course timing is context: I’ve come of age at a time when digital communication has changed everything. I’m sure blogging will take on a different meaning as time marches on, and it will no longer seem so unique. But for now, it is a way to hold stories in a public-yet-private way — something that wasn’t possible before.

For my next post, I’m going to return to my journals from my first years of teaching again. There are many more stories to be told.

Metamediated

Why meta? I am currently blogging about talking about blogging.

I was in Montreal for a few days and had the opportunity to speak in my colleague’s Qualitative Methods and Educational Psychology class at McGill University. I presented something similar to what I shared at the CUNY IT Conference this past fall, but I really tried to connect my thoughts on why I’ve developed this blog to my research via my methodology. The class has been discussing various qualitative research methods, such as photo voice and ethnography, and one of the readings they did for class focused on blogs as both a field for and method of data collection.

It’s so exciting to see more and more researchers take on the genre, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to chat with students in Montreal doing important research around education, counseling, health and sports psychology, medicine, etc.–some with big questions about digital data collection. Their feedback was insightful and thought-provoking, and I’m already thinking about how to further address some of what came up for discussion:

  • What about access to blogging? This question keeps coming up as I talk to people about my research, and understandably so. What am I saying (and not) by giving weight to what’s written in blogs, despite the fact that not everyone has regular access to the internet?
  • How do I negotiate being a part of the community I am researching? Where does autoethnography begin and end? Can you be too me-search-y?
  • How do I plan to code my data (both logistically [i.e., in hard-copy or digital] and methodologically)?

Here is a slightly edited version of the slides I used for my presentation. Some of it’s unclear without context, but:

Timeline / Handmade Books

Facebook continues to fascinate me as a researcher. I know I need to stay the course, and I will (in other words, I won’t be adding another arm to my dissertation project that involves researching Facebook in addition to blogs — I love grad school, but I do want to finish), but I can’t stop thinking about what it’ll be like to look back on our timelines twenty years from now. Of course that depends on whether or not Facebook endures, but everyone who participates on the site is currently building some version of a digital scrapbook of their life.

Speaking of books, I’ve been making them for as long as I can remember — scrapbooks, photo books, address books, journals — you name it, I’ve made it. I’ve even got an awl, boning tool, and screw posts, and cut my own binder’s board for hardcover albums. But as digital communication has accelerated, I’ve found myself sending iPhoto books off to be printed by Apple instead. I still occasionally make little notebooks like this one, out of old academic journal covers and the remains of old articles I’ve read or manuscripts I’ve written and discarded. I like carrying them around with me to jot my thoughts when something with a screen isn’t available. I recently ran out of paper to use though — all the printing at the Graduate Center is double-sided now (which is a good thing), but! A few weekends ago, I acquired a huge stack of beautiful waste paper from the Bushwick Print Lab (thanks Ray!). I’ll be making small books again soon.

But I digress. I wonder how our digital memories will make our interactions as we grow older different than generations that have come before us. We’ll have the ability to remember things in far more detail than ever before. Even if people documented their lives extremely well with photographs before the internet existed, the captions and comments and interactive content on Facebook creates a living, breathing narrative in a way that pictures alone cannot.

So what does/could this mean for research? How does the capacity to know and understand each other grow as our digital footprints expand, and how does that capacity impact the process of collecting data?

Using Blogs as Data Collectors

When I started graduate school, web-based reference tools were only just being developed. At the time, I was using Endnote to keep track of my citations.  That is, until I clumsily tripped over the cord attached to my iBook. This was before the cord was magnetic, and I watched in stop-action as all of my work came crashing down. Little screws and bits of plastic spewed out from the sides. I hadn’t backed up in a while, and have not made that mistake since.

Today, it seems like everyone I talk to is using Zotero.  I was, too, until I realized about halfway through last year that someone else was using my Zotero library (and adding to and reorganizing it), too, in the adjunct office where I spent the bulk of my time last year. I hadn’t completely understood how Zotero works, and although I managed to get through defending my dissertation proposal by using it, I gave up and have been wavering ever since on where to take my library of citations next. And it dawned on me: why not just use a blog?

Has anyone had experience doing this? If I set up categories for authors and subjects, would it be easy enough for me to aggregate the appropriate data when necessary? I wonder if it would be possible to develop a WordPress plug-in (or if there already is one) to export bibliographic information as Zotero does. In the meantime, I am considering using a blog to organize my data by using categories and tags as codes. Obviously, the blog would need to be private; however, I wonder what other institutional requirements might be necessary for such a project. If my data is housed in a private site on the internet, is that as good as a locked file cabinet in an office?

Meanwhile, I have a Google Scholar alert set up for “teachers and blogging,” and have for almost a year now, and I’m fascinated by what comes up every time I receive a new digest. This morning, there was a paper about students “phlogging,” the practice of blogging from your phone, to complete assignments. And something else dawned on me: I have witnessed a 180-degree turn when it comes to technology and gadgets in the classroom.

I have probably already mentioned how when I started teaching at an elementary school, if we had to look something up on Google, we felt guilty; like somehow we weren’t good teachers if we didn’t have all the knowledge we were trying to impart to our students stored away in neat little virtual folders in our brains.  The fact of the matter is, I don’t remember all the capitals to all fifty states anymore (and probably haven’t since I memorized them for an in-class quiz about twenty-five years ago now), not to mention all of the conversion rules for ounces/cups/quarts, etc.  It’s not that I had to sit there with my laptop open, Googling things every moment of every day in order to teach; however, I admit that there were times when students asked questions that stumped me, and my colleagues and I made good use of the technological tools within reach. (A note on laptop use as a teacher: when our school was initially wired, teachers were not permitted to use the wireless network.  This is another example of the policy-practice gap I’m examining in my research.)

I’m getting a little off-topic here, but it’s hard not to think about how things have changed, while trying to figure out how to make technology work for a project right here, right now.  I have a feeling that in ten years, blogs will be even more sophisticated, and there will in fact be a more universally available option for keeping reference information and research data in blogs.  In the meantime, I’ll be developing my own system and will keep you updated on that project in future blog posts.

In other news, I went down to the Occupy Wall Street protests again yesterday with a group of colleagues, and was overwhelmed (in an inspiring way!) by how huge the crowd had gotten by the time we got there.  Thousands of people came from all over, and union representation was enormous.  At one point, we stretched all the way from Foley Square to Wall Street.  You can see photos here if you’re interested:

Occupy Wall Street 10/5/11

Lastly, RIP Steve Jobs.  Apple technology = awesome.

Digital Dissertations

Since I decided that the focus of my research would be online, I’ve had a growing symbiotic relationship with the internet.  I spend most of my time in front of my computer, having a conversation with someone or Google.  I’m always searching for the answer to a question, and the conversation only ceases when I sleep.  I spent about ten days in Costa Rica a year and a half ago, and kept thinking that bug sounds coming from the jungle were text notifications–like many of us these days, I’m almost always on the grid.

So okay.  I’m not saying anything any of us aren’t experiencing at some level right now.  Even if you still have a cell phone that doesn’t connect to the internet, you’re saturated by discussion, information, and images from the internet all day long.  Everywhere you look, people are mid-conversation.  I saw this ad on the subway in March 2010, and took a quick shot of it on my phone because it struck me as meaningful and timely.  I’m not completely sure what the point of the ad is, and it doesn’t make me want to buy the camera, but I note an implication of unity–that we’re all in this together.  (There is also an assumption about equal access to new technologies.)

So the point is: we can’t deny that the way we communicate is changing, and every day brings more digital correspondences than the day before.  I want to know, given this onward march of technology, is it possible that dissertations will start looking like blogs?  Please??

As I started talking with more of my classmates, colleagues, and professors about my ideas for research involving blogs, it often came up in conversation if I would also be blogging as I gathered data.  I knew I would, but I didn’t know if I’d be making it public.  Well, here I am blogging about my ideas as I immerse myself in the digital world of what teachers have to say, and I’m not hiding.  A conversation with an old friend yields the following suggestion: that my blog becomes my dissertation.  I got to thinking about this idea, and chatted with another friend/colleague earlier this evening about it.  It turns out he’s already set his dissertation up as a blog!  It’s divided into an organized set of dropdown menus and categories for easy navigation, and is an evolving work that will culminate in an online publication of sorts.  Seeing his blueprint made me want to pursue the idea of using what I write in Mediated as part of my dissertation.  After all, I did start it to sort out the thoughts cycling through my head every day about teaching, policy, technology, and so on.  I know that writing these posts will be crucial in the actual writing of my dissertation narrative; however, it can’t be as simple as being the dissertation itself.

But I’m thinking about the concept of digital dissertations in earnest now…

In the meantime, I promised my friend I’d find out if anyone had actually submitted a dissertation digitally.  And I’m not talking about uploading a PDF of the tome you’ll deposit at the library in order to graduate, but rather a dynamic web page that is built more like a moveable non-fiction book than something you read cover-to-cover.  We decided we’d both like to know if any exist.

I didn’t find much in a cursory search on Google and Google Scholar, but I imagine something’s out there.  If you know of anyone who’s presented their dissertation online, please forward a link.

What Do I Mean by Policy?

I asked one of my professors during my first or second year of grad school, How are education policies made?  I demanded an answer to a truly impossible question, and my professor’s answer was appropriate: It is a very complex process.

As a fifth grade teacher, I couldn’t fathom the enormous chasm that lived between the in-the-name-of-achievement intentions of various policies and the way they were lived out in actual classrooms.  As a brand-new teacher, I assumed these were official laws, coming down on high from some dictator-type person perched in his uncomfortable wooden chair (you know, the kind that swivels and is always featured in movies about teachers).  But when I became a literacy coach, and got a glimpse of what it’s like to be an administrator, I realized that decisions about policies–these supposed laws that govern the way schools and classrooms run–are made at many different levels and it’s a lot more confusing than you’d think.

That sounds a little obvious now that I’ve said it out loud, but if you think about it teacher education programs don’t spend a lot of time talking about the history or process of educational policymaking decisions in this country.  It seems that policymakers would need and want teachers to know and understand the history and process of educational policymaking, so that they could be active participants in that process once they become teachers.  Aren’t teachers the experts on teaching after all?  Writing about this makes me think about polls that newspapers and new shows so often speak of.  I’ve never been asked a question for a poll for the Post or Daily News or any other publication or production of any kind in my twelve years as a New Yorker, and I don’t know many people who have.  How can these polls possibly claim to represent my view if I’ve never been asked?  Being a teacher kind of feels like this, only way worse, because they’re not just being narcissistic and complaining–they actually aren’t ever asked, not even a little.

I have to give credit to the administration at both elementary schools in the city where I’ve worked–they listened to their teachers, even if they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) always act on what they heard.  Even if you’re lucky enough to work with a principal who has a heart of gold, their hands are often tied by bureaucratic red tape.  One time, I was urgently called into the office to help purchase books and other supplies with a large sum of money that the school would lose the following day if we didn’t use it up.  This made no sense to me.  How were we trying to force the purchase of a bunch of random materials for thousands of dollars when we actually–desperately–need new books?  soap in the girls’ bathrooms? pencils? a librarian?  But illogical things like this happened all the time, and policies were always at the root.

I remember thinking at the start of the school year, when are kids going to know who their teacher is?  There was so much jumbling and re-jumbling of students at the start of September that classrooms didn’t fall into a rhythm until well after Columbus Day.  How were we supposed to effectively employ the start-of-the-year rituals we’d learned in our teacher certification programs and new teacher professional development sessions when we didn’t even know who our students would be for the first month of school?  How were our students supposed to feel comfortable and ownership over their classroom when they might have to leave it the following day?  That supposed plateau that a teacher hits after the first few weeks of guiding students through daily routines when the classroom is running like a well-oiled machine remained a myth for many of us.

I also remember days upon days of additional students in my room in a space that already housed 32.  I remember looking up what the UFT contract said about splitting up classes, which is the process of distributing the students of a teacher who is absent among the remaining teachers’ classes.  According to the contract, this was only to happen in an emergency situation.  For my first three years of teaching, you could almost guarantee it would happen every Monday and Friday when absences were high, and there was one stretch of time when one of my colleagues was on extended sick leave and it happened for several weeks straight.  I couldn’t understand–where were the substitute teachers?  I inquired once and recall the answer having something to do with a sub pool draught and a thin budget. Like other things that didn’t seem to make sense, this was another “policy” that didn’t quite work and made my job very difficult.  And sadly, all it did was make the teachers resent each other when they were absent and got in the way of meaningful instruction.

At the end of the day, it wasn’t the students, the content, my colleagues, or students’ parents who made getting any teaching and learning done nearly impossible when I was a fifth grade teacher; it was the inconsistency in the school environment.  The ground beneath our feet always seemed to be shifting–as soon as the schedule was set, it changed; as soon as we mastered a new curriculum, it changed; as soon as we got used to the new learning standards, they changed; as soon as we’d painstakingly written our students’ names in bubble letters on construction paper (and added glitter as long as we knew we’d be getting four hours of sleep tonight instead of five), our roster would change; and the list goes on.

So I guess when I talk about policy, I’m referring to any decision that determines how things “should” go in a classroom/school/district.  And in my research, I’m concerned with making sure that the policymaking process starts considering what gets in the way–the stuff that policy decisions don’t often account for or anticipate, and that only teachers know.  I mean, who ever decided there should be 300 leveled books (or maybe it was 500…the year 2003 seems so long ago now) in each elementary school classroom library? They certainly didn’t consider how that was supposed to happen in schools that were underfunded, under-resourced, and under-staffed.  In my grad school text books, I recall images of jovial-looking teacher types talking and laughing while leveling books at a table in what looked like some sort of well-equipped teacher lounge.  The reality of getting my books leveled included weeks upon weeks of late nights looking up titles in a book one at a time (this was before Google being the oracle it is now), writing out different letters on color-coded stickers, covering each label with clear packing tape, and organizing the leveled books into appropriate baskets.  Students were kind and helped out, but where was my release time for this behemoth of a task?  Why did I have to spend so much of the time I needed to spend preparing lesson plans leveling books?  (And for those of you who don’t think teachers work hard enough, I came in early and stayed late for most of my five years in the classroom, and still never had enough time to reasonably meet all of the expectations placed on me.  The more I read about teachers’ daily lives, the more I realize my experience is hardly singular.)

Policy is big and expensive, and in my opinion, so out of left field sometimes.  I wonder how much news of failing schools, coupled with the growing national anti-teacher union/tenure sentiment, is actually a cloaked mark of the failure of polices like No Child Left Behind (which trickled down to create the 300-some-odd-leveled-books rule), rather than of the failure of students and teachers, which is the more popular theory.  Clearly, schools aren’t working as they should; and thankfully, we know a lot of what is wrong.  If we could just get policymakers and teachers at the same table regularly, talking, reflecting, and problem-solving together, we could make real change happen.  I know it’s not a silver bullet, but it would be a start.