I often tell my son, “Today is a good day. Do you know why?” He does. If he is having trouble, he reluctantly answers, “Because you get to spend it with me.” And it is true. Every day I spend with my boy (or my daughter) is a good day. Yesterday, was a great day, because the first graders from Melrose Leadership Academy went to Sausal Creek to study the restoration project and habitat.
My son loves animals and habitats. For a first grader, he is either obsessed with living creatures or really smart. He studies animals the way I studied dinosaurs. We argue about whether insects are animals. (He believes that insects are in fact animals.) He has taught me that “water spiders” are actually “water striders,” and that the largest dolphin is… ? Wait for it? Just when you thought nothing was new… the killer whale. (look it up!)
I learn as much during the field trips as the students, and I suspect that the other parents learn too.… Read the rest
On Wednesday March 6, 2013, third graders from Oakland’s Melrose Leadership Academy traveled to 826 Valencia in San Francisco. MLA students attended 826 Valencia’s interactive Screenplay program, which is similar to the popular Storytelling and Bookmaking program the students attended last year.
On Tuesday, workshop leader Jami Johnson collaborated with Melrose students to create “The Stolen Ice Cream.” Students practice their writing skills developing characters and story concepts. Before the students voted on their title, the students set the story, “Deep in space on planet Banana Split.” With the “Setting” decided, students chose characters.
Characters were identified by protagonist sidekick and antagonist. The students named these characters Agent Cheese, Agent Doggy and The Foot. For the story, the students learned how to add actions to the script. AGENT CHEESE (stamps his foot) …
Kavitha Lotun, who helped as the group’s typist, encouraged the students to expand their story.… Read the rest
When parents toured Melrose Leadership Academy during the current school year, many asked about our after school program. Parents, grandparents and guardians asked if our students learned about different cultures. We were asked if our children were engaged and challenged. Most people wondered if there were enough physical activity.
Nobody asked if the parents were expected to dance at our twice annual Expos. Until Wednesday night, I am not sure if we had been and since I am scared to dance, I probably would have remembered. My daughter would have remembered, because she is scared to watch me dance.
When the older folks were too slow to move onto the stage, the younger people moved down onto the floor and we became more comfortable. (I think we enjoyed ourselves.) I often tell prospective families, Melrose Leadership is not for everyone. We are often pushed past our comfort zone into something magical.… Read the rest
How do you measure success? It seems that education reformers want innovation, but use outdated test scores to measure achievement.
How do you measure parent involvement? Do you measure fundraisers by the amount of money raised or by something qualitatively different? If you are a parent, do you want your children to learn by your example? Do you merely want your children to give money or give something more substantial?
Do you picture your children learning how to become better community members?
At Melrose Leadership Academy, our students take tests and our parents donate money. We also donate time. (Considering our size, we volunteer a great deal.) Our community also does something more.
We trust each other.
Even when it is uncomfortable, we trust that our diverse community is creating leaders for the next generation. We trust each other when we stop for another parent to translate English to Spanish (or Spanish to English).… Read the rest
Yesterday was the first day of school for Melrose Leadership Academy at our new school site. MLA has moved from one Maxwell Park neighborhood site to another. Despite the move, the first day was a success.
Of course, the first day was still stressful. For some families, yesterday was their first day attending any school. Since MLA is a Spanish language dual immersion school, some families could not understand the teacher. Fortunately, many parents helped the new parents understand the transition.
I love first days. I remember being a kindergarten student and I remember each year that my children start school. What do you remember?
After I posted photos two weeks ago, many people wondered if Melrose Leadership Academy’s new site would be ready for the first day of school. MLA community members were at the school for the parent work day, but the site was still unprepared. The PTSA (Parent Teacher Student Association) Board had planned a 2012 Welcome Day for the weekend before school started. Would the school be available? On Saturday August 25, 2012, painters were still working outside while parents were meeting their children’s teachers. Who would have guessed that movers were still removing furniture one night earlier?
Two weeks ago the new multipurpose room was full of supplies from our old building and the current one. Our old school’s multipurpose room was much smaller with a maximum occupancy of 146. The new site has a maximum of 550, so not only was our current site full of boxes, it was full of many more supplies than our last site could hold.… Read the rest
My children attend a school in our neighborhood. The school, Melrose Leadership Academy, belongs to Oakland Unified School District. Parents and educators have created a supportive community.
So far, so good. Nice simple story.
Except that everything is a little more complicated. MLA has been continually growing and moving. This summer, we have moved to Maxwell Park School after outgrowing our old site at Elizabeth Sherman. Both Elizabeth Sherman and Maxwell Park Elementary have closed in the last ten years, but both buildings are still called by their former names. (I think… it’s complicated.) Melrose Leadership Academy is a K-8 school without 4th and 5th grades. The lower grades are dual Spanish immersion and the higher grades are middle school. When the Spanish immersion program began, we started with kindergarten.
On Saturday, many of our community met for a school work day. Teachers unloaded boxes and set up their rooms again.… Read the rest
As a former Oakland school teacher with two children in the Oakland public school system, I can sympathize with the families who protested on May Day. Five OUSD schools will close next year; communities will be displaced. Children will be forced to attend different schools. If our Spanish immersion public school were closing, I would be protesting too. Instead, Melrose Leadership Academy is moving into one of the “closed” schools and a charter school is moving into our current site. MLA is moving to Maxwell Park Elementary and The Urban Montessori School will move into our current building.
Urban school districts must balance many unfair choices. School closures seem especially unfair since the disruptions will ripple throughout the district for years.
Protesters cause disruptions, sometimes unintentionally. As the photo above illustrates, disruptions create confusing messages. To the left, a person looks into the trash while a man blocks the word “Fe, leaving the message “Save Santa.” In March, some protesters disrupted a school board meeting, but their message confused potential supporters. The disruption affected our school also, postponing our new parent orientation and other planning for our eventual move.… Read the rest
When Melrose Leadership Academy students walk into kindergarten on the first day of school, teachers talk Spanish about 90% of the day. For the first few months, some students are confused, but quickly students acquire language. Perhaps because of our school’s success, our community ignores that our students also learn other subjects. Melrose Leadership students must learn the same content standards as other public school students.
The one hundredth day of the school year is one example where students learn an important number sense math lesson. This year, my second child has participated in the ritual. Students enjoy playing with the different items. Some students eat Cheerios or wear noodle necklaces. All the students learn about the number 100, whether it is one hundred or cien.
Another important note: While this blog post is dated February 13, I publised it two weeks later on February 27.
On January 25 and 26, the Melrose Leadership Academy community assembled for the Winter performance expo in Oakland, California. Students danced, sang and played instruments. Kindergarten students through 8th graders danced traditional Mexican dances, such as ballet folklorico. Parents and educators helped students prepare.
Before the expo, students dressed for the performance. Once dressed, all the students shared the same “backstage” area. The bigger kids teach the smaller children. The adults teach the children how to prepare and learn. Meanwhile, the children remind us why we invest our time helping them grow.
Because the school continues growing, the organizers added a second January show. Photos from the top are from day one (and here). Photos just above are from the second day.
Today is the first day of the Melrose Leadership Academy music and performance expo. For the kindergarten students and parents, this week will be their first of many music and dance performances. Since MLA added the elementary school Spanish dual immersion program in 2009-2010, there have been four previous performance expos hosted by MLA and the Community Bridges program. During the first two, I did not photograph much of the event. Last year, I was prepared. To prepare some of the new parents and potential MLA parents who may attend our school next year, I created this post.
In January 2010, the first kindergarten class danced in a circle. By the end of the first year, the students had learned different cultural dances and songs. By the fourth Expo, all the lower grade students participated. The middle school students were role models and the entire MLA community seemed to dance as part of a much larger circle.… Read the rest
My two children attend Melrose Leadership Academy in Oakland, California. Our school is well known for it’s successful dual Spanish immersion program. Soon, we might become known for regular evening family events.
Moyra Contreras, our principal, exemplifies our school spirit. At last night’s Classroom Expo she visited each classroom and spoke with all the families. Back to School Night and Unity Night are different than the the Classroom Expos. Classroom Expos are also different than the school wide expos which happen next week. We meet early and often.
During the Oakland Unified enrollment period, I have helped with parent information tours. At each tour, I am asked if the language difference has interfered with my ability to communicate, but nobody asks if the language difference helps. Would I attend more meetings if we all spoke the same language or would I attend fewer meetings? Does our school appear to lack community?… Read the rest