Warning: Principal Burnout Danger From the Los Angeles Unified School District Teacher’s Strike.

One story not being widely reported is the heroic and champion actions performed by Principals, AP’s and other school administrators during the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) teacher’s strike. Imagine performing two very difficult jobs at the same time, teaching and managing a school! And although their efforts are ‘superhuman’, they are in fact very human and thus in danger of coming out of this conflict (that will eventually end) emotionally and physically exhausted. This could spell possible ‘burnout’ danger as the school year progresses. It is extremely hard to serve in a school administrators role in ‘normal’ school times; particularly in those (Title 1) schools where the majority of the children are poor and in need of every ounce of your psychic and physical energy. Principals can regularly feel overwhelmed, exhausted and unsupported even in non-strike times, and so in the present strike conditions in LAUSD…

But I can appreciate that these ethical school leaders understand why they must ‘stand in the gap’ and keep schools open. Putting some kids ‘in the streets’ unsupervised could create a series of serious life-long problematic situations (e.g. an arrest, pregnancy, house fire, etc.), or could even mean a death sentence. When parents are ‘living in and/or on the edge of poverty’, taking off from work to do childcare is not an option. Also, many of these children desperately need the daily meals and the orderly and stable environments their schools provide. Parents with the financial resources can provide safe out of school ‘substitute learning experiences’ for their children during the strike; and so, we see another harmful (for some students) emergence of the ‘opportunity gap’ in public education. We know that most poor parents won’t have this option, which is why student-attendance is so high in the poorest strike afflicted LAUSD schools.

Too many school districts in this nation cynically take advantage of the good will and professional commitment of school-based administrators; and I don’t think that will end this year. But I would hope that the California Governor, State Legislators, City of Los Angeles, and the LAUSD school board could come up with a one-time financial grant-award to all LAUSD school administrators that would hopefully be substantial enough to allow them to take a nice rest and recuperation travel-vacation break when schools go into their calendar closings. That financial-gift plus ‘over-time’ pay could at least help to keep these wonderful educators from burning out before the end of the school year. It would also be a really wonderful gift-that-kept-on-giving if some of the things the striking teachers are asking for (e.g. adequate social-guidance-counseling services and expanded health care resources) could also be awarded to these brave administrator’s schools!

Michael A. Johnson has served as a public school teacher, Science Skills Center director, principal, and a school district superintendent. He writes a bi-weekly column: “On Education” for Brooklyn’s: Our Time Press. He recently completed a book on school leadership: Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership… http://reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/

PRO-HATE HIGH SCHOOL FIELD TRIP: And for present and aspiring school-building leaders a good teaching case study on how not to organize a school field trip.

Laura Keener spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Covington:
“We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person. The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion. We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our most sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and all those who support the pro-life movement.”

Nice start, but not nearly enough…

Several Teachable-Learnable Takeaways From Covington Catholic High School’s Field Trip:
I guess we should start with the low standard of intellectual rigor, the absence of inquisitiveness and critical thinking skills that is being offered to these students. And for a school that by definition claims a religious affiliation, there is a terrible absence of proof that these students have seriously engaged the writings of any prominent (even Catholic) theological thinkers (e.g. Paul, Augustine, Pope Francis, Merton, Matthew-Mark-Luke…) But despite their apparent theological learning deficiencies, it would be totally amazing and sufficient, if over a 4 year Catholic high school experience, they were to somehow managed to accidentally stumble onto the words of Jesus!

•Let’s just call it what it is, the “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) slogan and hat is a statement and call for racism and bigotry. Elected officials, military, police personnel and everyone else who wears the hat believes in the MAGA’s undergirding vision of Making America White (Supremacy) Again. And if the answer is yes to the question: “Would Jesus wear a MAGA cap?”; then we are lost, and we all might as well sign up for team Nietzsche.

•The call and chant of “Build The Wall”! clearly has nothing to do with border security, crime or terrorism, and everything to do with eliminating and reducing the number of American Brown bodies in the US. It’s a racist response to declining white birth rates and the perceived loss of white entitlement. Also, were these students (and their chaperons) the least bit concerned that their “Wall Call” likely meant walling off a lot of fellow Catholics; or was the overriding motivation to wall off people of color, Catholic or not?

•The so-called ‘pro-life’ movement has some explaining to do. In many instances it is simply serving as a front that provides a platform for male old-fogies (some so uninformed that they think a condom is an apartment you purchase) to control the reproductive organs of women; and thus, keep them ‘in their places’! What is ‘pro-missing’ from this movement is the compassion and concern for mothers, their babies (especially when those babies are Black and Brown) after they enter this life. Increasingly, women are not fooled by the ‘pro-life’ hypocritical rhetoric; they are fully aware that this ‘movement’ has nothing to do with their dignity, agency and even less to do with the well-being of their children.

•Where were the adult chaperons (there is no way these high school students took themselves on a field trip), when these young people verbally and physically abused this Viet-Nam Native American veteran. Why did they not stop the students? Did they agree with, and encouraged the ugly hateful behavior of the students? It’s good that students are being disciplined but what about the adult administrators and teachers?

•(Especially on an out-of-state trip) Student safety is #1 (just ask any of my former students about hotel beds being pulled into halls for the assigned night watch staff!) The faculty advisors/chaperons and the principal should have had a ‘cover all contingencies’ pre-trip meeting. I would be slightly worried as a Covington parent if they did have such meeting and this was the result! Now in life ‘stuff-happens’, and so you can’t predict everything that could possibly happen on a trip. But what you can do is plan responses for those things you know could very easily happen, for example: “What do we do if a student or chaperon becomes seriously ill or injured, if an ‘intoxicated’ or ‘belligerent’ person confronts the group”. You also have a pre-trip briefing meeting with the students to discuss the do’s and don’ts of the trip, and what will result from a deviation and/or violation of those guidelines. Next you put in a ‘redundancy rich’ fail-safe system that will allow the chaperons to make the ‘in the best safety of the students’ decisions on the spot. For example: On a trip to “physics day at an amusement park” my teachers concluded that there were too many students from other high schools who seem to be not-well supervised, and trouble was brewing. The chaperons wisely decided to cut the trip short. And its important principals that you back up teachers when they are forced to make these types of decisions.

•Those of us who know a few things about the ‘inner-workings’ of schools are asking some larger school culture/operational questions about this Covington situation. High schools as a practice, and for a lot of good reasons I won’t go into here, tend not to send the ‘prone to trouble making students’ on field trips, especially out-of-state on ‘potentially controversial’ trips. In fact, these types of trips would most likely be made up of ‘prone to behave’ student leaders! And so, unless these students were members of the Junior Evangelical Fascist Club (such a school club would also be problematic), the sheer number of ‘regular’ students participating in the ugly behavior says something about the school culture generally. Further, the hateful boldness and aggressive moral disregard for the humanity of a person of color did not suddenly appear on the bus ride to Washington. These students are clearly being exposed on a daily basis to a curriculum that teaches (perhaps not explicitly) that they (white people) are superior and Black and Brown people are inferior. There is also an obvious pedagogical fail in the history department, or why are these students (and their chaperons) so ignorant and dismissive of Native American history and culture in the context of American history? I have a lot of other questions like, politics aside, why chaperons are allowing students to place themselves in a confrontational and potentially dangerous (of violence and/or arrest) situation, but I’ll stop here.

•Not sure how this school trip fits into the best ‘caring for others’ (like refugees) theological concepts of the church, But let’s imagine that the school really wished to deliver a ‘pro-life’ learning objective to the students, well they failed. What does MAGA or harassing Native American people, or “Build The Wall” have to do with “pro-life” issues? We are accustomed to students going ‘off-task’ during a lesson; but the chaperons and an entire school going off-task? The other possibility is that the ‘real’ learning objective being honestly taught here is that: “pro-life”, MAGA and “Build The Wall” are indeed morally, philosophical and, politically linked in the school’s collective belief system thinking.

•The entire school (and others) must with outside help, undergo a major truth and reconciliation deconstruction, followed by a moral-ethical and theological reconstruction process; or the ‘disciplined students’ will be seen as martyrs and heroes of the: Pro-Making the Nation Safe for White Racist Life Movement. Without this demonstrative ‘house cleaning’ process; the hateful parts of the school’s culture could indeed intensify and grow more dangerous.

•Finally, the Catholic church should use this as a teachable moment. And the only suitable person to teach this lesson is the Pope himself. The Pope should deliver a homily that is read in every Catholic church in the world (Yes, he has it like that!) The topics should cover: (1) “We Catholics are not what you saw at the Covington Catholic High School’s Field Trip.” (2) “We don’t believe in building denigrating walls between people” (3) “And the true Makings of Greatness is the amount of compassion we act on in behalf of our fellow human beings.” Such a powerful message would not only educate billions of people around the world to the dangers of teaching and acting on hate; but it would also go a long way in healing the world-wide hurt and pain caused by the POTUS author of the “Build The Wall” slogan and that stupid MAGA hat.

Michael A. Johnson has served as a public school teacher, Science Skills Center director, principal, and a school district superintendent. He also served as an adjunct professor of Science Education in the School of Education at St. John’s University. He recently completed a book on school leadership: Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership… http://reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/

I love to read, but sometimes reading can be painful…

“A Historic Black Golf Course Faces Uncertainty as a Bidding War Over Its Future Begins…”
Washington City Paper

I never told students that sometimes reading can be painful; in part out of fear that such a comment would be discouraging. Get them hooked on reading I thought, and eventually they will discover all of the attributes of reading’s power to make us smile, laugh, learn and yes sometimes even bring forth feelings of sadness. Reading: “Johnny Got His Gun” by Dalton Trumbo in high school, was an extremely gut-wrenching experience for me, especially since all of us boys in that 1968 English class were a year away from the Viet-Nam war draft. But I am forever thankful to my English teacher for introducing me to that book; for it has taught me some life-long lessons that I still call on to this day. And as we have learned from our last presidential election, the price we pay for ignorance is far worse than any discomfort that knowledge and information brings to our ‘emotional senses’. Besides, in this nation teaching a politically disenfranchised child to read effectively is a subversive act, giving them access to books is an act of intellectual insurrection. Being able to read, in joy or sorrow, is far superior to the sorrow and suffering of not being able to read, and not reading!

But by all accounts, this article was a painful read. (One day I will learn to stop reading DC news if it conjures up such hurtful memories, but for now…) The Langston Gulf Course should be a Crown Gem of the DC-MD-VA region. It could also as I utilized it, serve as an important gateway resource for introducing Young Black and Latino Washingtonians to the sport of gulf. I tried very hard to engage the former Ward 5 Black councilman (and others) in a conversation about the great potential of this wonderful institution; in the same way I tried to get him to ‘wrap his brain around’ the great potential greatness of Phelps ACE high school for the citizens of Washington DC.; I failed on both accounts because his mind and interest were always elsewhere. We can’t blame the loss of every community institutional resource on ‘gentrification’; even if gentrifiers come along later and see pearls where we see mud.

I also think that we need to clearly define “Black Power” in the context of our current political condition. We can’t just elect a Black person to office (as wonderful as that is) and then assume that we have arrived, and our work is over. The price we pay for having unaccountable Black leaders is simply too painfully harmful and deadly.

A Historic Black Golf Course Faces Uncertainty as a Bidding War Over Its Future Begins: “This was the mecca of black golf on the east coast… Langston brought everybody together. Now, the fear is change.”

Washington City Paper: https://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/sports/article/21043261/beloved-historic-black-golf-course-langston-faces-uncertainty-as-a-national-bidding-war-over-its-future-begins

“The Unique Racial Dynamics of the L.A. Teachers’ Strike”

“The city’s public-school teachers are predominantly people of color—and a plurality of them are Latino, like most of the students they serve.”

“…Roxana Dueñas, a 34-year-old ethnic-studies teacher at a high school in Eastside L.A.’s Boyle Heights neighborhood, says her own background as an LAUSD student whose working-class parents immigrated from Mexico was a driving force behind her decision to pursue the profession. “I see myself in my students in both the literal and metaphorical sense.”

“Rodolfo Dueñas: it’s almost like you’re looking at your little brother, your little sister, and you’re reliving the traumas of education in the past,” he says. “And you’re like, ‘Dang! Some of these things are still happening.’ It’s almost like you’re fighting for something you wish you could’ve fought for when you were in school.”

Full article from The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/01/why-los-angeles-teachers-are-striking/580360/


Why Not Have a Real NYC Specialized High School Integration Plan?

“…Some NYC politicians, civic leaders and professional educators (who should know and act better), are floating, unknowingly or cynically, a dangerous narrative: That poor performance on a high school standardized admissions exam proves that there is something ‘inherently’ wrong with the brains of Black and Latino children; thus the ‘problem’ requires an ‘admissions process’ fix, rather than an expanded educational opportunity and an improvement of learning quality fix. They either ignore or don’t know that these students not having full ‘front-end’ access to a better quality of learning and test-preparedness, are predictably doomed to suffer from academic under-achievement and test underperformance. In our present national political climate, it is probably not a wise or helpful decision to imply, even by accident, that Black and Latino children are ‘by nature’ intellectually inferior. What is inferior is the quality of the K-8 education and test-preparation too many of these Black and Latino students are receiving…”

Why Not Have a Real NYC Specialized High School Integration Plan?
Michael A. Johnson; Our Time Press

Part 1:

Part 2:

Michael A. Johnson has served as a public school teacher, Science Skills Center director, principal, and a school district superintendent. He also served as an adjunct professor of Science Education in the School of Education at St. John’s University. He recently completed a book on school leadership: Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership… http://reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/