A Phila Science Saga

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Nov 28 2009


Nothing beats overdue grad school papers to get me back into the blogosphere! So as School and Society fester in a window buried deep below this one, let me catch you up!

The paper I’m writing is about the Senior Pinning Ceremony that happened last Friday night. Parents presented their seniors with a pin of commitment “with the promise that [they would] do all in their power to assist, support, and encourage [their children] to meet [their] goal of graduation” from high school on time in 2010. The seniors, in turn, gave their parent a flower and accepted the pin, promising to “put forth [their] best efforts, in each class, throughout the year” so that they can graduate. Teachers at the bar beforehand (including myself) were somewhat skeptical of the whole thing, but it was really a very inspirational evening for everyone who attended. I asked my students about it on the following Monday. Here are some of their responses:

  • “i was at the pinning ceremony on friday and i felt as though it was very meaningful to me and my mother i felt very accomplished and to the community i think i would stand as another citizen that made it.”
  • “The pinning Ceremony was meaningful to my family and I because it gave me and my family a sense of achievement. to be the first of my siblings to prepare to graduate.” (Her older brother finished up his high school from prison, so though he has a diploma, he never had a graduation.)
  • “I believe to me and my mother that special event ment alot to our family. It put a realy big smile on my mothers face to see her son achieving in his life. It lets me know that I have something to look forward to, a set goal!!! In our community It shows them that we are trying to take our school N community to the next level. giving back a since of hope for the future.” (That one’s my favorite. And for novelty…)
  • “Mine was very meaningful because it was a since of achievement, I made it to the twelth grade. But when it was time for me to get pinned my aunt was in the bathroom. she held her piss for an hour, then she decided to go to the bathroom. But Ms. Lemon, from the after school program across the street, pinned me. It was fun and it was so nice, it felt a little like the graduation.”
  • It was great for the community to come together in support of our seniors. Now we just need to remind them of their commitment every single day from now until June 15th!

    Plus one for the new principal.


    In Adolescent Development at UPenn a week ago, one topic that we discussed was the family dynamic when a child passes the education of a parent—when parents can no longer help with homework, or when children become the first in their family to go to college. Don took me to the opera Saturday night (Curtis’s production of Stravinsky’s The Rakes of Progress), and I asked about his perspective on this matter. He told me that this was a very difficult thing for him… though he didn’t identify it until many years later. Don dropped out of college, and told me that was one of the best decisions he’s ever made. He’s got a pretty sweet set of jobs, connections, and opportunities at this point so nobody will argue with that. Once again, I posed this question to my students on Monday. Here are some responses:

  • “I’m proud of myself about continuing beyond my parents level of education. I really look forward to doing so and I can’t wait. My parents are happy they push me forward everyday. They keep me on track and they want me to succeed.”
  • “I feel pretty good about it. With my further education I can give back to my parents. My parents are proud. They want to see me be successfull and have opportunities they didn’t have.”(This student is the only one who earned an A in the first marking period.)
  • “I will fill that I would be better of than my parents because I will go of to colloge. But right now I don’t like that because my parents can’t help me with every thing because the work has change and it was real hard.”
  • “my career goal is to do hair and the only thing I have to obtain an a associates degree and a hair license. my mother has a ph.d and my dad is a Sgt. in the police department. and they are satisfied with what I chose to do with my life. They just want me to be happy in my life and what I do.” (This girl’s appearance in my classroom on Monday was only the second such appearance of the school year.)
  • This isn’t something I have dealt with personally. Have you? Respond in the comments with your story.


    The Physical Science objective on the day before Thanksgiving was SWBAT (Scientists will be able to) identify the explosive properties of different groups of the periodic table. I collected hydrogen through electrolysis of water (in an apparatus I remembered from 8th grade Physical Science with Mr. Trierweiler) and blew that up. I burnt magnesium ribbon. I dropped sodium metal into a bit of water. And I brought a camera to take pictures of it all… and remembered that I had brought it just as I was finishing the clean-up. Excitement!


    I stayed in Philly for Thanksgiving, and feasted with a crowd of neighbors, their families, and international friends. Chris’s Greek friend Iannis brought a fantastic dessert that Eileen and I couldn’t pronounce. She thought it was “galapagos something”. I thought it was “galactic something”. In fact it was Galaktoboureko. I made Sweet Potatoes and Swiss Chard, which I’ve made for home Thanksgivings a couple times, and banana bread because the bananas were begging for it. Tonight was BBQ Pulled Turkey, which actually came out really well!

    Tomorrow is a music day (yay), featuring Rosa Sat and Moses Hogan’s My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord, with an extra-early rehearsal to get them ready (I had the Hogan memorized in high school, so it’s been an easy job for me.) Then VNA rehearsal at night.

    Sorry to disappear for two weeks then spew a novel at you again. I’m working on it.

    Now back to grad school…

    2 Responses

    1. abcde

      Glad to see you had a pleasant Thanksgiving. I’m also glad that I see that other people in this world procrastinate. Cheers.

    2. Ah, blogging, an excellent way to procrastinate. I have many (ways to procrastinate). I would love to come hear you sing, but I have a bad cold that I am trying to beat down so I can teach on Monday.

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    or, how I closed the Achievement Gap before it closed me.

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