Fin

The key learnings that stick out to me from our coursework and our class was when we learned about the history of boarding schools, school funding and when we looked at the number of suspensions.  When I first started this class I was really motivated to get my hands dirty and soak up as much knowledge as I could so I could become a teacher. As the weeks went by I became less and less motivated. All of the things that we covered in class were a real awakening. I felt really overwhelmed and I frequently asked myself how the heck it would be like to be a teacher under the current system. I found myself having more questions than answers as the semester went on. For example, there was one day in class when we were talking about graduation rates in Minneapolis and how a small percentage of Latinos graduated. I asked myself, what would be my solution? What action is being taken by Minneapolis Public schools?  That day was really overwhelming! I decided to talk to some of the teachers at MTS Independent Study (The location I did my observation hours). I told them about my experience and my feelings about everything we were covering in class and in my conversations with them I realized that our class is very fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to have the data, technology and research to be covering such topics. Although it was very overwhelming, we have the tools to change the current system that is failing our students today. Another point that was brought up in my conversation with the teachers was the actual Observation hours that were required in this class. Most of my teachers stated that they would usually do their observation/student teaching during the end of their degree. I believe that by gaining experience early on, makes for an overall better educated, better prepared, more experienced educator. 
The way I will continue to learn is to question what can be done to improve what is not working and what is being done to improve that. I believe that with that mindset, you will better yourself along with bettering the lives of the children you are educating. As an educator, every day is going to be a challenge. One thing we must remember is that educators are those who inspire greatness for the future. The challenge is not what I can do to better challenge myself but as to what we can do to better prepare and challenge our future.

Final thoughts. 
This semester was a challenge, this class brought out a lot of things that I did not know or was not aware of. Although I wish I would have been able to attend more classes. Life happened. With my surgery, death of my Papa Nuel and layoffs at my job. I was not able to dive in deep in the course work as I would have liked to. 
It was very encouraging to see the passion from all of you, I hope that you will continue to peruse your dreams. I learned a lot from our discussions! 
  Also a big thanks to Kristy for spreading her knowledge to us and for sharing her personal experiences with us.

Salud,

-Marlon Emmanuel Batres

Dedicat a Manuel Fuentes

Sempre en el meu cor.

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Educational Experience

My education experience was the education debate that the Minneapolis mayoral candidates did at the Mill City Museum.  This debate ask the candidates what were the most important things that needed to be fixed  and what and how they planned to fixed the issues facing the education.

Question: It was stated in the debate that the star tribune did a poll in Minneapolis and that Education was the number one issue for the voters. What impact do you think the new mayor can have on education in Minneapolis? Also, does having the mayor work with the districts and school boards mean more funding for schools in Minneapolis? 

Observation #5

The name of the school is Minnesota Transitions Charter School Independent Study Program. I have completed all of the required hours. I spent my time mentoring and advising High school students in the Independent study program.

The building is very welcoming to families, because of the pictures and student work that is around the whole school. The school also bought projectors and TV’s and placed them around the school. The projects and TV’s play daily announcements and important things to know.  The school is very easy to navigate due to signs that the schools media arts students made in their class.  The classrooms are even more welcoming due to the amount of quality student work this is in display.  In Independent study, we make daily phone calls to students and their parents. If we don’t see a student in 5 days an alert is sent to our email. Every staff member sets 30 minutes to an hour to make their daily calls. We also have daily and weekly progress alerts that are sent to the parents, these emails include the number of hours they have been in and the amount of work the student has done.

After watching the video on the school who did the home visits and seeing how successful it was, I realized that communication with parents and students should be the number one priority. It was clear in the video that there was a sense of trust and comfort in the school. In my experience, I have visited a lot of schools and I have rarely felt that students and teachers had a good level of understanding.

My strengths during my observation hours were that I was able to connect with the students on a personal level. For example, I am currently working with a student who is dealing with a very tough immigration situation. He was due for deportation last month. Because of my relationship with the student and my history of working one on one with him, my supervisor gave me permission to attend one of his immigration court hearings. During this hearing I was able to speak with the judge, and I told her how long I had been working with him and how much passion the student has for their education. The judge was very happy I was there and because I was able to attend and speak with the judge, the student got a 6 month extension to be in the country.

Which leads me to my question for reflection. I would ask my teachers if there was one thing that we could fix that teachers aren’t doing now, what would it be? I would ask this because I feel teachers are very motivated to better themselves and from my experience teachers are always willing to try new things to better the teaching experience for their students.

For future students, I would highly recommend MTS Independent study as an observation location. Just be prepared to changes lives! 

Observation #4

Minnesota Transitions Charter Schools Independent Study program is where I am doing my observation.  Independent Study’s population is about 70% African American, 20% Latino and 5% White and 5% Indian. I got a call from the metro transit police truancy department and they were asking for a verification on a student I mentor. This student had just started my program about a month ago and was doing excellent work. His brother had referred him to me, as he was a former student that I also had mentor. The officer said he had the student in the squad car due to truancy. I explained to that officer that the student was enrolled in my school and that Independent Study offered flexible hours to their students. I told him that the student was most likely on his way to school and I requested for the student to be release so he could come to class, the officer apologized and released the student. About 20 minutes later, the student arrived and I asked him why they stopped him. He said they just went up to him and asked him why he was not in school.  Out of 6 years of working at MTS, I have received multiple calls like this. All of them have been involving African-American males. Never has it involved white males. How is a student supposed to be able to focus in school right after being put in an unfair situation? I mentioned this to several staff members and they all agreed that it was really unfortunate that things like that happen, but aside from that, the school has failed to address this as a problem.  Like I said before, 70% of students in my program are African-American, about half of that are males. How successful are they going to be if situations like this keep happening to them? This is one of the many factors that lead to disparities. 

In my opinion, there are a lot of similar situations that we all avoid addressing because it’s simply easier to sweep it under the rug.  

Observation #3

The name of my school is Minnesota Transitions Charter School Independent Study.  Like I said in my previous post, I work at MTS so I spend 8 hours a day mentoring and working with the Independent Study students. A moment that stands out to me was when I was assigned to call students that had not attended in over 5 days. This particular student I had worked with before, He had been struggling with his work and he had told me that he had to get another job because he mother was unable to work due to illness. He let me know ahead of time that he was going to miss sometime. We give students an unlimited bus card so that they can get home and to school. The only requirement is that you have to attend a minimum of 16 hours per week. This student clearly was not meeting the requirements so I thought I would give him a call. When I called him he sounded very down and very stressed. I asked him how he was doing and if there was something I could do to help him out. All he said was that he had been working a lot and that he was having trouble finding time for school. I told him that I understood his situation and that I was going to keep his bus card active and to not worry about it being shut off. The next day I received a call from him saying he was running late and that he was going to be in class.
Since we talked the student has been attending 2-3 times a week. I really feel that he is making the effort to finish because he knows I believe in him and that he has someone who has his back.

MTS Independent Study students who want to graduate this year have to take an accuplacer, asvab, ACT or SAT and get a passing scores set by the department of education. From my 6 years’ experience at working at MTS, It’s clear to me that schools worry more about passing test scores rather than educating the student on the subject. If the student fails then they will be set up on an intervention. The intervention is supposed to help the student understand what they failed and prepare then to retake and pass the test.

The problem I see here is that the education that is being taught is solely for the purpose of passing test scores and not for educating the students in the long run.

Observation #1

As you walk around the building you can tell its not a typical school. MTS Independent Study is located in South Minneapolis by Lake St and Hiawatha Ave.  The school is located right next to Target, it is on the same mall strip that has Radio Shack, a laundry mat, an urban clothing store, the dollar store and a Chinese buffet. The building has a lot of advertisements for the school. It shows off the different programs the school has to offer. The advertisements help pull your attention to the building. Aside from that that building is pretty boring.

I felt very discouraged by the building, aside from the advertisements the building is not welcoming. By having the school on a strip mall I feel it takes away from a positive education experience.  The condition of the building is in good shape, the only down side is that there are a lot of people that sit in front of the school and smoke. A lot of the time the just throw their cigarettes butts on the floor. 

Since I work at MTS I thought I would go to target and start a conversations with the customers/staff and ask them about the school. I spoke with a Target employee and asked him what he thought about a school being next door. He said that it seems weird to have a school in a strip mall. He also said that it seemed like it was a school were the bad kids went. 
I was shocked he said this because he had never been in the building. I think he judged the school because 80% of our students are black.  He also stated that there have been several times where MTS High Schools students have been caught stealing items from Target.  In the 5 years working at MTS, I only know of once where actual students have been involved in stealing items from Target. I think the employee was making judgement’s.  I decided to talk to a normal customer who was waiting for her food at the mini food court they have at Target. She lived in the neighborhood but did not know that MTS High School offered the programs it did. I am not sure why but she also thought it was a school for “bad kids”.  In talking to these two people it seemed as if people assumed since the school is in the strip mall that its a school for the “bad kids” whatever that means…  

It’s clear that in walking around the area where MTS is located you can tell that it’s a neighborhood of hard working blue collar people. The community is full of different cultures and stores like rainbow and cub have specialty items that cater to multiples different ethnic backgrounds. This is something I didn’t see when I grew up in Plymouth.  

Searching through the website was pretty easy. It is very user friendly and it presents the different options that the high school has for students. Each program had its own page and when you clicked on the page it would tell you what the program was about. I liked that each program had a info section on the teachers and staff.  In browsing through the website I was excited to have found a link where it said community. I clicked on it but it only took me to a page that only had information on an Open house. I wish there could have been more information on the community around the school and information on if the school works well with the community. 

 I work in the independent study sector of the school, I work under 4 teachers 90% of the time. I only interact with them and my supervisor and no one else from the rest of the school.  In doing this blog I took the time to observed teachers, staff and administration for the high school. It was very interesting doing this because I’ve noticed that a lot of teachers have formed really strong relationships with some of the students. For examples, I purposely ate my lunch with the high school and I noticed these two kids horsing around. A teacher asked them to stop and they ignored her. They kept horsing around and another teacher noticed that the kids did not listen to the teacher so what she did was go with the teacher who originally asked them to stop and both of them politely asked them to stop. This caught the students off guard because they were close with one teacher but not with the other. The teacher who was familiar with the students took the time to formally introduce the students to the teacher they were unfamiliar. I noticed that they talked for a while and laughed a couple of times. It was very cool to see because you saw the teachers confidence go up and you saw the students trust in the teacher because of the way the situation was handled.  I was very impressed at the power of communication and how the teachers diffused the situation. Not all teachers were as passionate but it was such a great thing to witness. 

Overall, I noticed that because its a charter school and because of its location and the demographics the school gets judged. I hope there is something that can be done to change the community image of the school. 

Blog 7-Funding

Isn’t interesting that we put more importance on sports stadiums rather than our education system? Clearly as a society our priorities are not right.  We are now relying more on property taxes to fund our local schools rather than state or federal. 
I can see how this creates problems with schools in different areas in the city. For example, take north Minneapolis and Southwest Minneapolis. Clearly, there would be more financial support from the Southwest community than the north Minneapolis community. 

New system: First off, I would put a limit on how much the schools take from local property taxes. I would push for small sales tax mostly on luxury items. Such as Sports jerseys, luxury cars, basically anything that can not be considered a necessity.  I would require more funding from the state and federal government.  School will be funded equally with the exceptions of low performing schools. Schools that would be under performing would be subject to a state and federal audit. Both the state and federal government will review how funding has been used as well as what the school is doing good at and what they are failing at. The state and federal government will create appropriate interventions for the failing schools. Schools will be required to follow instructions. The failing school will be given additional training on the schools weak areas. This would be funded by both the state and federal. Upon completion of training, the school will receive extra funding for the failing areas. The schools will not have to pay back the extra funding but staff and administration will be required to travel to other schools in need as trainers providing the same lessons that they received at their school.