I photographed the Melrose Leadership Academy kindergarten classes again. This year, I asked principal Moyra Contreras to join our portrait session. This is Moyra’s last year as the MLA principal.
If not for Ms. Contreras, I would not have had access the last ten years to document the school’s growth. As a photographer, I am continually grateful to Ms. Contreras and the rest of the school community for allowing me to work on this project. I would probably thank everyone more, but I don’t want to draw too much attention to my good fortune.
If not for Ms. Contreras, the dual immersion district school may not have become a reality. Navigating OUSD and the community requires emotional intelligence that I will never develop.
The first class of kindergarteners that I photographed are now in high school. This year’s kindergarten students have just begun their journey. In education, we don’t measure much of what is learned in school… we don’t measure what I can see in the photos, and how the young students have learned to represent themselves.… Read the rest
Oh District, my District.
It’s been said that if the people lead, the leaders will follow… but what happens if they don’t. What happens if the young people pick up a megaphone and the district does not answer the call?
During the seven day Oakland Education Association strike, students often led protests and rallies. The students were inspiring. They reminded many of us why we teach. On Monday, March 4th, the Oakland Unified Board of Education reminded many of us why we lose confidence in our educational leaders.
See links to galleries at the end of this post.
Day 3 – Marching on Broadway
If not for the support of the students and community members, the Oakland Unified School District would not have agreed to the pay raises for the teachers. If not for the teacher pay raises, the district would not have cut programs… at least that was the argument when the school board voted to cut popular programs earlier this week.… Read the rest
This is the eighth year that I have photographed the Melrose Leadership Academy dual immersion kindergarten students. I have photographed every kindergarten class since MLA introduced the Spanish bilingual program. My daughter was in the first class; my son started two years later. I have also photographed other activities, often as the Historian. (See the MLA Collection of Galleries.)
MLA is an OUSD district school. We have created something special in a place where failure is expected. If I did not have my pictures, I would question whether we ever built the school. Some days, I still wonder if I am hallucinating.
One of my mentors, Jim McNay, recently sent me an article about long-term projects from the Magnum Photo Agency site. The authors provide “Five lessons in developing and sustaining a long-term photographic project.” The first lesson: have a mission statement. Why is this story important?… Read the rest
When my 11 year old daughter began kindergarten at Melrose Leadership Academy, I had a simple idea. I thought I could photograph each kindergarten class as long as my children attended the school. I live in the neighborhood. How difficult could it be?
As I tell my photography students, simple and easy are not the same. “Simple” is difficult and my simple idea has become more difficult this year. I teach in a district an hour away from my home. We have the same breaks, so I don’t have a week to visit the school.
There is another complication. I try to create something different each year. MLA was at a different site the first three years, so those pictures all look different from the more recent images. Each year I wonder how I am going to create something interesting. Last year, I gave the kids magnifying glasses. This year, the students photographed me with my smartphone.… Read the rest
On a standardized test, what does a leader look like? How do you build standardized assessments that reward collaboration and creativity? If you wanted to identify the next Julia Morgan, would you rely on the SAT?
The two 5th grade pioneer classes from Melrose Leadership Academy visited Mills College in Oakland, California. Mills College is in our neighborhood, so the students walked to Mills. Melrose fifth graders are the architects who have built MLA into a model for urban education. This year, I photographed Ms. Jessica’s 5th grade students during their neighborhood field trip to Mills. In April of 2012, I photographed the 2011-2012 kindergarten classes for their expeditionary learning project at the campus creek. That was also our the last year that MLA was at the old Elizabeth Sherman site. The walk was shorter.
During both visits, students learned about native plants and the natural environments supported by a native ecosystem.… Read the rest
On Thursday March 5th, Melrose Leadership Academy held the first TK-5th Grade Choral Concert in Oakland, California. (You can view a photo gallery of The Choral Concert here.) Earlier this school year, MLA held its annual Dance-a-thon. (I have included dance-a-thon images at the bottom and a gallery here.) Since today is International Women’s Day and yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I thought that I would revisit a quote painted on one of the murals where my two children attend school… the quote is about dancing across bridges.
Si no puedo bailar tu revolución no me interesa – Emma Goldman
Melrose Leadership Academy is a dual immersion public school in Oakland. (It is not a charter school.) The kids at MLA are smarter than I am. I can only speak English, and I often forget how to speak and write in my first (and only) language.… Read the rest
The last time I attended an Oakland Unified School Board meeting, I taught at an OUSD elementary school. I was an active Oakland Education Association (OEA) union member. People read newspapers. Nobody had a Facebook profile. Board meetings were held in the old district office, but everything else felt oddly familiar.
If anyone is interested, they could probably find an old Oakland Tribune article titled “The Classroom Shuffle.” A reporter learned about classroom consolidation and how it disrupts entire schools six weeks into the school year. Consolidation almost always occurred at low-income/ low-performing schools. It was like a Twilight Zone episode. I could not continue teaching for a district that allowed consolidation to continue. One night I was called by someone who I believe tried to warn me. He told me that if I kept exposing the situation I would lose my job. I kept exposing. I lost my job. Was it related?… Read the rest
I could write this post for months and never say everything that I want. Perhaps the best way I can get my words around my emotions is to say that sometimes I believe in God. I mean, really believe in God. When my life is going sideways and my dreams are shattered, sometimes God seems to intervene. Sometimes God seems to show me a light, pick me up, and point me in a new direction. In those times, I really believe. It does not happen often.
Gary and Caroline Yee have helped me believe in the power of community and public education many times when I am prepared to give up my faith. They both seem to step up at the right time. This week it happened again when Gary invited me to return to Lincoln Elementary for the dedication of the Caroline Yee Memorial Classroom Building mosaic art project.… Read the rest
My two children attend Melrose Leadership Academy in Oakland, California. MLA is a Spanish dual immersion K-8 school. Our school is part of Oakland Unified School District. In previous years, I have posted more frequently about our school, but this year I have been busy teaching photography and yearbook at Pittsburg High School. Both school districts finish their year next week. In this post, I will share a few events I photographed during 2014.
When I walk into the school, I “read” the signs on the wall. I see many of the signs when I am editing my photos. There is one sign that I seem to see more than any others. It reads, “Somos responsables de nosostros mismos y de nuestra comunidad.”
We are responsible for ourselves and our community
I do not speak Spanish, but I can look at my pictures and see people caring for each other.… Read the rest
Registration just started for the 2013-2014 school year. Kindergarten families and first graders register today. (I remember registering our first child before the Spanish immersion program started. We were scared!) Many people worry when they send kids to school… any school, so I thought I would post the galleries from last year’s kindergarten and first grade classes.
Here are photos of both first grade classes. Except for the photo that includes me, I took these photos in June. 2012-2013 First Grade Photo Gallery. I think a first grader took the photo of me, and I probably should give him credit and ask permission before posting it.Here is the 2012-13 Kindergarten Photo Gallery. Did you think your kids would have this much fun by the end of kinkindergarten? Tomorrow the second through fourth graders register. On Friday August 16, the sixth through eighth graders register. Remember to click the link if you wish to view the photo gallery.… Read the rest
When I first became a parent, I felt as if I had joined a secret club. Membership included our own version of a secret handshake too. (It is a sleepy head nod.) New parents could identify each other anywhere. We would also commiserate about our lack of sleep and share our humbling experience of becoming a parent. We knew parenting would be rewarding, but we did not know that it would be so difficult. Sometimes we discussed how we finally understood our parents… or worse, how we had become our parents.
Becoming a teacher was a similar process for me. I assumed it was going to be easier, probably because I had worked with young people for many years. I had also been a good student! What could be so hard? It was a good stable career. I liked kids. Besides, there is all that vacation. (Just like parenting has all that free time when the kids go to bed.) Well, if you have ever been a parent who looked forward to Friday night housecleaning, you might understand teachers and all their free time.… 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