Saturday, August 28, 2010

Photographic memories of "At-risk" youth

Ahhh...finally a little down time this week. The summer program is over and we are ramping up for our After-School programs. No light task, but it does allow for a slight reprieve.

To allow me to procrastinate the planning I need to do for the Education Department training week and ensure I'll be working under a tight deadline for no reason, I decided to change offices. It's a bigger office with more windows and more wall space. I can get all of the papers off of the floor and organize a little better.

As with all moving jobs, it allowed me to sift through stuff, throwing away the pointless, old stuff and discovering treasures I had forgotten about long ago. Some of the treasures were photos I'd enlarged or printed on regular paper and stashed away until I could find frames or reasons to use them. Now is that time.

After a few days of cleaning, sifting, and moving furniture, I began to hang photos. I found some frames that had been donated...but others were hung simply with "tacky" directly on the wall. Once I completed the move and had all of the photos hung, I looked around and realized the framing definitely gave it a little "umph," but it wasn't the frames that I was going for when I printed the pictures. It's the meaning behind each one.

As I look around my office, I see...
  • a high school graduation picture
  • two young girls playing and grinning from ear to ear
  • a little boy dressed in a clown suit 
  • friends and cousins jumbled together for a photo op
  • elementary girls helping each other by explaining the homework assignment
  • a little boy on Santa's lap
  • a "cool" teenager posing for a picture
  • boys playing bingo
  • a group of teenagers that are unlikely friends, but bonded because of they all live in the same housing development
  • a hand-drawn picture that says, "God made us equal. And his love too."
But, I also see...
  • a young boy who dropped out of high school, had a baby, and is now married but still has no desire to finish school
  • a young boy who wants to go to college now, at 19, but is struggling because he made a decision to drop out of a college class and now has to pay financial aid back before he can enroll
  • a couple of kids who, despite their best efforts, are quite a challenge to handle when it comes to behavior issues
  • a boy who never wanted to be associated as living in the "projects" and always saw himself as better than the rest of the people there
  • a little girl who has grown into a young teenager with college aspirations
  • a girl who was prostituted by her mother so she could buy drugs
  • a young man who was shot and killed at 21 years of age as he sat at a bus stop
  • a college student in her honors program who will probably finish college in 3 1/2 years
  • kids who now frequent the library/bookstore
  • a little girl who has a very loving grandfather raising her because her mother can't
Each of these pictures...and the stories behind them...remind me of why I exhaust myself at times by over-committing to projects, demanding high expectations from my staff and the kids they work with, looking at school work, accepting weekend phone calls from college students, assisting with college paperwork I know nothing about, and trying to be a good balance of love and accountability. I realize that I have been blessed with college degrees, the ability to connect with people, and resources. Though I do not believe that our works save us, I also realize that not using what I've been given is a waste of what God has provided me.

I love that I can now sit at my desk and reflect on each of these moments that I've been a part of over the years. Each of the youth in the pictures are extremely special to me.

The more devastating situations make me realize how far we have to go....

...and the celebratory ones make me realize how much is possible.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The value of a teacher--$320,000

Those of us who take jobs as teachers, educators, and social workers know what we're getting into when we sign up for the degree and the job. We sign on to higher salaries than people without an education, but lower than most degreed people make. But, for the most part, making the big bucks is not our intent.

In fact, the longer I'm in education, the more my job becomes a day-by-day battle to ensure children are receiving the best education possible with the resources we are given and the systems we are working against.

I've often said to people that it amazes me how quick we are to slash an education budget. I wonder who the highly paid people slashing or voting for slashing public education budgets think they received their intellectual abilities from and if they realize they probably wouldn't be in the place they are without a teacher and a school system that pretty much raised them.

I was delighted when I read a New York Times report on The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers and how an economist has actually been able to put a dollar value on how much a kindergarten teacher is worth. Though I don't anticipate this knowledge being put into practice any time soon, it is good to know that at least someone out there is quantifying the actual monetary value of what a good teacher does for a child and how it lasts for the rest of their lifetime.

Welcome back to work, teachers. You are extremely the children you teach AND to the rest of society!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hiring Americorps Members--Immediately!!

The Central Dallas Ministries’ Education Department is looking for dedicated, committed, and creative individuals who wish to be a part of a program that moves youth forward by focusing on social skills, college, careers, through incorporating innovative technology, doing projects (like gardening, blogging, reporting, etc.), providing fun reading activities, and creatively interacting with academic-type classes.  

There are 8 part time (25-30 hrs/week) and one full-time (40 hrs/week) position available: 

Part-time positions require a high school diploma with a preference given to those working on or already having a degree in Education. 

Full-time position (40 hrs/week) require a high school diploma with an ability to oversee programs, write curriculum, organize staff scheduling and working directly with students in a variety of areas. 

If interested, please fill out application at and forward application and resume to Janet Morrison at or fax to Janet Morrison at 214-824-5355.

Multiple Program Coordinator

Full-time position--40 hours/week (Sept. 1-July 30)

Position to be filled 8.31.10
Hours: 12:00-8:00 Monday-Friday (some Saturdays)

The coordinator is in charge of developing, overseeing, and helping implement all programming in the building and ensuring the program maintains a focus on programming that develops education, college/career, and social skills. He/she will monitor the youth's academic and social development, communicate progress with each child's parents, and work with each program to adjust curriculum accordingly. The Program Coordinator will be responsible for recruiting volunteers and ensuring any curriculum they use maintains the program focus. In addition, the coordinator will ensure program data is collected and reported.

After-School Academy Teacher

Part-time position--25-30 hours/week (Sept. 1-June 3)

Position to be filled 8.31.10
Hours: 1:00-6:30 Monday-Friday (some Saturdays and later evenings)

The ASA Classroom Teacher will be responsible for planning, creating, and implementing activities in a project-based approach to teach Kindergarten through 5th grade students. Teachers must maintain a strong focus on "going green," and will assist with creating lessons for their students in the Learning Garden, Farm Stands, Library, and Computer Lab. Teachers are expected to focus students on improving social skills (caring, manners, and greeting), college and careers, critical thinking, and project-based learning within their classroom. 

Part-time position--25-30 hours/week (Sept. 1-June 3)
Position to be filled 8.31.10
Hours: (varies slightly) Monday-Friday 3:00-8:00 and Saturdays 10:00-2:00

The Librarians will work together to create programming and facilitate reading clubs for elementary, middle, and high school students. The Librarians will ensure that money is collected for the sale of books and create strategies that draw people of all ages into the library and ensures all Roseland neighbors know the library programming, hours of operation, and location. The Librarians will also oversee behavioral management of library participants and engage volunteers.

Teen U and Mid-Teen U Facilitator
Part-time position--25-30 hours/week (Sept. 1-June 3)
Position to be filled 8.31.10
Hours: Monday-Friday 3:00-8:00 Saturday 10:00-2:00 (hours may vary depending on activities)

The Teen U (9th-12th grade) and Mid-Teen U (3rd-8th grade boys) Facilitators will supervise and assist with programs to prepare middle and high school students mentally, socially, and academically for college. The Facilitators will assist with homework, connect youth to programs/events that further their stated interests, and collaborate with other organizations to offer programming with the goal of preparing youth for college and post-secondary life. The Facilitators will establish relationships and partnerships with the parents to help them understand and be able to assist their child in preparing for college/post-secondary. The Facilitators will recruit volunteers as needed to facilitate programming and will develop programming that includes evenings, weekends, and summer.

Technology Facilitator

Part-time position--25-30 hours/week (Sept. 1-June 3)
Position to be filled 8.31.10
Hours: Monday-Friday 3:00-8:00 Saturday 10:00-2:00 (hours may vary according to other staff schedules) 

The Technology Instructor will supervise and assist with programs to prepare elementary, middle, and high school students mentally, socially, and academically for the world of technology. He/she will facilitate the Digital Connectors program that combines leadership development, digital education, and community service to prepare youth, ages 14-to 21 years old, to build the technical proficiency of their respective communities, and serve as a bridge to digital opportunities. He/she will also create educational technology opportunities for elementary, middle, and high school students.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

ASA Learning Garden needs a Pepsi Refresh Grant!

For the last year, we have partnered with The Gleaning Network of Texas to create an After-School Academy Learning Garden. We started the garden after receiving approval from the Dallas Housing Authority to use a fenced in plot of land behind the After-School Academy. We were given approval in June of last year. If you know anything about Texas soil, you know June is not the smartest month to start a garden. But, with the perseverance of Susie Marshall, Executive Director of The Gleaning Network, the garden was under way.

It has taken some time for the kids to get used to the garden. But they have taken ownership of the garden and often beg to go water, dig, look at the worms, or "cook" the compost. You can see the progression of their garden experiences here:

Here is a past article written on my blog: Education and Focus through the Community Garden

The Gleaning Network has provided their services free gratis for the last year. It takes a lot of time, effort, and research to continue the garden...and we couldn't continue it without their help. (trust me...if you saw my garden at my house, you would understand)

So...please vote for us!! You can vote for other projects as well. You get 10 votes a day. You can use one to also vote for The Gleaning Network. Please vote for us every day! Here is our link:

Pass it on!!