Since May 2011, the White Rhino Blog has remained an independent voice regarding education and Latino issues. I started this blog around 3:00 a.m. one weekday morning because I, like many Chicago Public Schools teachers, felt voiceless when it came to issues that directly affect my profession and my culture. I've been called a "wildcard" and "unpredictable" and been told my posts come off "very strong" by people on both sides of the education debate. Maybe.
But the most valuable judgement came from a fellow CPS teacher. When I told him how few of the pro-reform or anti-reform groups were willing to make me a consistent part of their circles, he offered one concise rationale: "You side with the kids."
Yes, I consistently side with students. There's nothing unpredictable about that.
Students are not always right, but they need to be heard more. As a teacher, as a commentator, I advocate that we should always do what's best for students AND what's manageable for teachers. These two goals go hand-in-hand if we are to fulfill any commitment of providing young people with a high-quality 21st education that addresses students' academic and social-emotional needs.
As 2015 closes, I share a few highlights from my blog.
Top 5 Most Popular Blog Posts in 2015
5. With almost 4,000 views: Hurricane Katrina survivor responds to insensitive Chicago Tribune editorial. Thanks to my former student and New Orleans native David Kaplinsky for this guest post. David even made it on FOX Chicago's morning show as a result.
4. With almost 4,300 views: This school year, don't teach like a champion. It's my commentary against a popular teacher-training manual.
3. With over 5,000 views: Teachers should not be Facebook friends with students. Sorry, maybe after you graduate. But probably not.
2. With over 5,800 views: Final exams in high school--unnecessary. Ugh. I hate making them, giving them, and grading them.
1. With over 32,000 views (an oldie but a goodie): If you teach or write 5-paragraph essays, stop it! Seriously--we should make them illegal.
Thank you to my Chicago Public Schools students for their guest posts in 2015:
My writing students shared their narratives with a few sentences.
Lidea Lemus wrote about dealing with grief after her grandmother's death.
Carlos Hernandez, future business person and fashion designer, wrote about how he finds courage through sewing.
Diana Morales struggled in high school to make it to the graduation stage--but she did it.
Lisset Perez emphasized the responsibility that comes with education in an impressive commencement speech.
Juan Toledo, who dreams of being a writer, wrote a poem to explain our educational system.
I never shied away from controversy in 2015.
I questioned CPS and the Latino Advisory Committee's "new" Latino and Latin American Studies Curriculum.
I argued that hiring more Latino teachers is NOT a solution.
And I created a teachable moment for my students with Mayor Emanuel's speech of the Laquan McDonald shooting.
My most valued post of 2015
In August, my uncle Ruben Vazquez passed away. My cousins asked me to give the eulogy at his funeral. I was sad and honored this was my first eulogy. Once again, the goodness in the universe helped me find the words to celebrate the life of my uncle, a mariachi.
Lots of gratitude goes out to Catalyst-Chicago, a trusted education news source, for giving me the opportunity to tell my classroom stories at their 3 Classroom Story Slams this year.
Finally, thank you to every person that follows my writing and to everyone who checked out my blog this year. As 2016 enters, may we continuing fighting for more non-traditional voices to be heard and may we create more opportunities for teachers and students to speak up.
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