Table of Contents

    Cover Theme
  • "The Laptops Are Coming! The Laptops Are Coming!"

    By Sarah Heller McFarlane Things to think about before the laptops arrive in your classroom.
  • Free A Time to End the Silences

    By the Editors of Rethinking Schools

    "When texts don't talk about racism, when standards don't mention racism, when teachers don't teach about racism, they automatically eliminate any discussion of anti-racism."
  • Prophet Motives

    An excerpt from Keeping the Promise?: The Debate Over Charter Schools

    By Leigh Dingerson "Any discussion of charter schools must ask not only whether charters promote a worthwhile vision of public education, but also whether they are faithful to their own promises."
  • Fault Lines in Merit Pay

    By Sam Coleman "Far from addressing the systemic, institutionalized problems in New York City's public schools, the city's test-based pay program attempts to provide a 'silver bullet' solution by relying on crass material incentives."
  • City Teaching; Beyond the Stereotypes

    By Gregory Michie "For city teachers, it's also about functioning within—and challenging—a system that in many ways works to undercut and even thwart your best efforts."
  • Rethinking MySpace

    By Antero Garcia "As an educator constantly searching for ways to use popular culture in my classroom, I decided to make MySpace part of my teaching repertoire."
  • Childhood Is Dying

    By Dahr Jamail, Ahmed Ali "Iraq's children have been more gravely affected by the U.S. occupation than any other segment of the population."
  • Empire or Humanity

    By Howard Zinn "The American Empire has always been a bipartisan project—Democrats and Republicans have taken turns extending it, extolling it, justifying it."
  • Introduction

  • Putting a Human Face on the Immigration Debate

    By Steven Picht-Trujillo, Paola Ledezma "For those of us working with immigrant populations, we have in our students living examples that we can use to bring the immigration issue to the forefront and teach all of our students."
  • An Open Letter to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund from the Association of Raza Educators

    The Association of Raza Educators implores you: open your scholarships to all students of Hispanic descent regardless of citizenship.
  • Everything Flowers

    By Lisa Espinosa "I noted the biased curriculum... the absence of lessons on the Chicano movement or other aspects of my history and culture, the various attempts to make me less Mexican and more white."
  • Pump Up the Blowouts

    By Gilda L. Ochoa "This year is the 40th anniversary of the Chicana/o School Blowouts, and I wonder how schools, communities, and the media will mark this important movement."
  • Free Review: Our Dignity Can Defeat Anyone

    By Julie Treick O'Neill By Julie Treick O'Neill A review of the film Maquilapolis [City of Factories]
  • Departments Free
  • Resources

  • Letters to the Editors

  • Short Stuff
  • Kids in the Middle

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Everything Flowers

Everything Flowers

"Es la maestra!" Jasmine yells up the stairs of her apartment building as soon as she opens the door and sees me. I can hear little feet scurrying around on the top floor and marvel that I really am "la maestra," the teacher. As I follow Jasmine up the dark, narrow staircase, I feel more like a tired and somewhat desperate student than someone who has come to teach. I am actually here hoping to learn.

Jasmine leads me into her family's crowded apartment with a look of embarrassment and curiosity. In my classroom she is a tough, angry 7th grader; here she is suddenly transformed into a younger, softer self. The difference is startling. It's hard for me to reconcile this shy, timid girl with the fearless child I've struggled with so much in my class.

I wonder again what I'm doing here. Jasmine's family has a reputation in our school, and I've heard all the opinions and rumors from teachers, office personnel, and the parents of other students: "How could the mom let her daughters run around like that, fighting and doing no work?" "Y tienen una boca." "I think there is another daughter who already has a baby." "Do they even have a father? I've never seen a dad." "If they were my daughters, I would . . ." No one ever seems to finish that thought, but it's clear they all think they would do something different. They only have minimal interactions with Jasmine, though. I have her in my class all day, every day, along with 29 other students, and right now I am mostly feeling mentally and physically exhausted.

Inside Jasmine's apartment, little kids seem to be coming from every direction. She has five brothers and sisters and a baby nephew who are all curious and excited about a teacher visiting them. I remember that I am carrying a bag of pan dulce I brought for Jasmine's family and I offer it to them. A quick suspicious look crosses Jasmine's face and I see the first sign of the girl I know: she detects B.S., bribery, and threats a mile away. Jasmine only respects honesty and openness, and even then you have to know her well to be able to spot her grudging respect. I can almost read her mind: If she thinks I'm going to be nice to her because she brought bread . . . No, Jasmine. I've learned. After four years of teaching I've learned that it's not like in the movies. There's no guarantee that things will get any better after this visit. They might, in fact, get worse.

When I started teaching I was eager to meet the challenges presented by students like Jasmine. I chose to work in a predominantly Latino community because I feel a strong connection to it. Like the majority of the families of the kids I teach, my parents immigrated from Mexico. I was born and raised in Chicago and attended public schools. My elementary and high school experiences were not good ones, however. I had mostly unremarkable teachers with a couple of awful ones mixed in. In grammar school I was a "successful" student by many measures-I excelled on standardized tests, I was placed in the one gifted class, and I was the only student from my school to attend a selective magnet high school. My teachers deposited information and I was able to spit it back out: no real thinking, just regurgitation.

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