How One Teacher Brought Lessons from Occupy Wall Street to Class

| November 8, 2011 | 36 Comments
  • Email Post

Brandon McFarland/Turnstyle News

By Robyn Gee, Turnstyle

As thousands of people, including many teachers, took to the streets of Oakland, California last week to participate in the general strike, Kristen Burzynski used her eighth-grade science class time to talk to her students about the Occupy protests.

She’s one of many educators seizing on the protests as a teachable moment. The Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired impromptu lectures, classes and workshops to take place on street corners all over the country. Occupy Colleges, a Facebook Community, is even promoting a National Solidarity Teach In, to which 87 colleges have committed.

Teach-ins as a form of peaceful protest are not new, of course. During the Vietnam War, large numbers of people would gather for lectures, debates, movies, musical performances, and discussions about the issues. The idea was that there would be no time limit on the discussion and sharing of information.

And now, for what many are hoping is a new national movement, there is no lack of Occupy-related material for teachers to use in their classrooms. The New York Times Learning Blog has a whole series of lesson plans focused on Occupy Wall Street and teachers like Burzynski are crafting their own lessons.

In Burzynski’s class at Community Day School she began her lesson by asking students to think about three slogans of the movement: “We are the 99 percent,” “Human need not corporate greed,” and “Save the American dream.”

Her students had heard these phrases before and recognized the images of the Occupy Oakland camp. Burzynski asked her students, “What do the protesters want?” Responses included money, fairness, and jobs. She answered, “You know, Occupy Wall Street has been criticized for NOT having a distinct goal – a lot of people are saying, What are they asking for? I think it’s cool that you guys are able to hit a lot of things they’re asking for without being told about it.”

To explain the 99 percent wealth disparity, Burzynski asked all her students to try a math problem. She told students to imagine that there were one hundred people and one hundred dollars. One person has 40 dollars. The other 99 people have to split the other 60 dollars. How much would each of the 99 people get? Students mulled over this long division problem, before throwing out guesses, “A penny!” “A quarter!”

To spark further discussion about the protesters, Burzynski read provocative questions about the issues, and had students travel to one side of the room if they would answer “yes,” and the other side if they would answer “no.” One statement she read was, “Are peaceful protests effective?”

Students were divided. One student said, “No. You have to be chaotic or no one will listen to you. No one will pay attention.” In rebuttal, another student said, “If you are angry, violent, and disruptive, they’re going to look at you like, ‘Oh you’re ignorant.’ If you do it peacefully, they have no choice but to listen to you.”

Burzynski ended the lesson by asking students if they had the choice, would they have come to school or joined the general strike that happened yesterday?

Again, students were divided. Some said they would have come to school, because getting an education is more important. Others thought they should protest, especially when Oakland schools are being closed.

Several teachers did strike, either calling in for substitutes ahead of time, or just not showing up. Ultimately, this cost Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) about $60,000 to cover the cost of substitute teachers, according to the Bay Citizen. OUSD issued a statement of support for the strike events: “The Alameda County Labor Coalition, which includes our school district unions, has endorsed this action and OUSD teachers and non-instructional staff may demonstrate solidarity with the movement.”

But this statement of solidarity did not exempt the district from being a target of protesters, especially those in the communities affected by the handful of Oakland schools that are slated for closure. Aaron Stark is a teacher at Maxwell Park International Academy, one of the schools slated for closure. “We’ve lost all the support staff. There’s no noon supervisor to watch the children, so for the first six weeks of school we were splitting the time, but it’s a real safety issue. There’s no librarian, we have a volunteer now. We have no P.E. teacher,” said Stark.

A large group of parents, teachers, and students who had decided to strike gathered yesterday at Laney College in Oakland to have a teach-in, then march on the school district, and finally join the rest of the general strike protesters.

Tim Marshall, an Oakland teacher, had brought his daughter Rosemary with him to Laney. He said, “We teach citizenship, and responsibility, and all the things that make a good citizen are being demonstrated here. People taking an interest in their fellow man, and showing people that we have a voice and we should be able to participate in our own democracy. [Rosemary’s] going to learn this lesson over the course of her life, and I’m just showing her, the people of Oakland, her schoolmates are here, we’re all in this together. I hope we let people know we’re tired of cuts, tired of austerity, tired of poverty, and we’re going to make some changes,” said Marshall.

Marshall is one among many teachers who viewed yesterday as an educational experience even outside of the classroom. Some professors from Laney College and Merritt College even held their classes at 14th and Broadway, the epicenter of Occupy Oakland.

This post originally appeared on Turnstyle, an online information service produced by young reporters, writers, and producers, age 18-34.

Related

Explore:

  • Email Post
  • Lee Hauser

    These teachers make me sick.  They have the time to talk to their class about the reason for the protests but there’s no time or money to teach science.  There’s never enough money for education but the SEIU union members want higher salaries and better pensions.  It’s just disgusting that they can’t understand it’s about time to contribute to their health care and pensions. Do they realize that California’s future budget will take 40% of the states income to satisfy these pensions and benefits?  Nurses, teachers and market workers are constantly picketing for higher salaries and pensions.  Unions won’t give an inch.  When you see other states fighting these unions we should do the same.  These thugs intermingling with the protesters causing damage are encouraged by the union heads. This is beginning to backfire.  Take the protests to washington not to local cities.  It’s effecting businesses and in some cases they have closed shop.  Teachers are lucky to have a job.  They spend time protesting and are so tired our kids suffer. We have to show all these angry mobs and unions that we’re not going to buy their trash anymore. Let’s make our vote count and kick out all incumbent democrats who’ve encouraged and supported these actions.  Tell Obama he lost your vote.  I sure will.

    • Anonymous

      Unfortunately we cant take the “march” to Washington, its much bigger than that.  In fact it is so big that the Supreme Court has a federal law that supersedes the constitution, we aren’t allowed to protest at the gates of hell.

    • Anonymous

      Unfortunately we cant take the “march” to Washington, its much bigger than that.  In fact it is so big that the Supreme Court has a federal law that supersedes the constitution, we aren’t allowed to protest at the gates of hell.

    • Ms. C.

      Are you serious? As a teacher, like Ms. B, I know very well how little time we have to catch our students up (many of my students are 6 grade levels or more behind). I teach special education at a high school in the Bay, and I leave for work at 6 am, get home at 7:30pm, and lesson plan until 11:30. I spend one day out of my weekend grading, doing legal paperwork, creating additional resources for my students, and calling students and their families. Every moment of my day is devoted to my students. I am not the only one like this.

      I don’t know what fantasy world you live in, but I contribute to my pension and health care, and I definitely pay taxes. I end up buying materials for my class with my own money, as well as food for them to eat when they don’t get breakfast, or school supplies that their families can’t afford. And yes, I protested–after the school day was over. I marched during the evening and came to school at 6 the next morning to run an IEP meeting before teaching all day. Do not tell me that we are “too tired” to do our jobs, and that our kids are “suffering” because we go out to stand up for them. It is my students who will be hurt by the current system that encourages a cycle of poverty. My students should know about what is going on in the world around them, particularly as it affects their families and communities most drastically. We can take an hour to talk about what is happening in the world around them, particularly when it relates to the opportunities (or lack thereof) they will have after they leave this school. I am lucky to have a job, sure; despite being bright and graduating at the top of my class, I know that work is scarce even for the most qualified, privileged people. I was able to attend a good school without drowning in the loans that smother most people my age. Should it be this way, though? We are feeding people through this college system, leaving them with mountains of debt, when there are no jobs available for them after they finish. Clearly, something needs to change. And, by the way, I would like to point out that I am lucky to have a job, but I am especially lucky to have THIS job. It is an honor to be a teacher, and you would do well to have a bit more respect.

      I have to say, I am disgusted with -you-. Educate yourself before running your mouth; as a teacher, I might be able to point you in the right direction.

    • Ms. C.

      Are you serious? As a teacher, like Ms. B, I know very well how little time we have to catch our students up (many of my students are 6 grade levels or more behind). I teach special education at a high school in the Bay, and I leave for work at 6 am, get home at 7:30pm, and lesson plan until 11:30. I spend one day out of my weekend grading, doing legal paperwork, creating additional resources for my students, and calling students and their families. Every moment of my day is devoted to my students. I am not the only one like this.

      I don’t know what fantasy world you live in, but I contribute to my pension and health care, and I definitely pay taxes. I end up buying materials for my class with my own money, as well as food for them to eat when they don’t get breakfast, or school supplies that their families can’t afford. And yes, I protested–after the school day was over. I marched during the evening and came to school at 6 the next morning to run an IEP meeting before teaching all day. Do not tell me that we are “too tired” to do our jobs, and that our kids are “suffering” because we go out to stand up for them. It is my students who will be hurt by the current system that encourages a cycle of poverty. My students should know about what is going on in the world around them, particularly as it affects their families and communities most drastically. We can take an hour to talk about what is happening in the world around them, particularly when it relates to the opportunities (or lack thereof) they will have after they leave this school. I am lucky to have a job, sure; despite being bright and graduating at the top of my class, I know that work is scarce even for the most qualified, privileged people. I was able to attend a good school without drowning in the loans that smother most people my age. Should it be this way, though? We are feeding people through this college system, leaving them with mountains of debt, when there are no jobs available for them after they finish. Clearly, something needs to change. And, by the way, I would like to point out that I am lucky to have a job, but I am especially lucky to have THIS job. It is an honor to be a teacher, and you would do well to have a bit more respect.

      I have to say, I am disgusted with -you-. Educate yourself before running your mouth; as a teacher, I might be able to point you in the right direction.

  • Lee Hauser

    These teachers make me sick.  They have the time to talk to their class about the reason for the protests but there’s no time or money to teach science.  There’s never enough money for education but the SEIU union members want higher salaries and better pensions.  It’s just disgusting that they can’t understand it’s about time to contribute to their health care and pensions. Do they realize that California’s future budget will take 40% of the states income to satisfy these pensions and benefits?  Nurses, teachers and market workers are constantly picketing for higher salaries and pensions.  Unions won’t give an inch.  When you see other states fighting these unions we should do the same.  These thugs intermingling with the protesters causing damage are encouraged by the union heads. This is beginning to backfire.  Take the protests to washington not to local cities.  It’s effecting businesses and in some cases they have closed shop.  Teachers are lucky to have a job.  They spend time protesting and are so tired our kids suffer. We have to show all these angry mobs and unions that we’re not going to buy their trash anymore. Let’s make our vote count and kick out all incumbent democrats who’ve encouraged and supported these actions.  Tell Obama he lost your vote.  I sure will.

  • Laura P.

    Dear Mr. Hauser,
     
    My name is Laura Peters and, like Ms. Burzynski, I am a young new teacher.  I’m not sure what universe you’re quite living in, but I’d like to invite you to visit my house, view my bank statements, my astronomical credit card bill, and PAYCHECK.  On that paycheck you will notice 8.5% of my pay (a gigantic amount for a 20-something trying to establish a home in the Bay Area) goes to STRS, a pension fund for teachers.  I would also like you to take a look at my student loans and invite you to contribute some of your own income to them – I believe they’re still a little over $20,000.  Again, not sure what universe you’re living in, but I also contribute to my healthcare – about 1% of my monthly paycheck.
     
    Classmates of mine from college who entered into law, medicine, or finance make four or five times as much as I do.  And their jobs aren’t threatened each time the goverment needs to cut deficits.  They don’t expect pink slips each spring, either.
     
    Lastly, I would like to invite you to remember your own education.  Were you ever asked to debate in class?  Take part in experiential learning like a demonstration?  Go on a field trip?  In a system where students’ progress is measured by one, high-stakes test each year, students who fail English or Math are placed in “double periods” of these subjects.  For most students in schools like Kristin’s or mine, that means that teachers do not have a choice as to whether they teach students science.  Students who are below proficient are mandated to receive a 2-hour block of language, a 2-hour block of math, PE, and sometimes are lucky enough to receive science or social studies – rarely elective courses like music, art, debate, creative writing, etc.
     
    So yes, Mr. Hauser, when teachers like Ms. Burzynski and I are given the opportunity to teach our students about something RELEVANT, that may have a direct impact on their lives, we take those opportunities.  In fact, here in the profession, they’re called “teachable moments.”
     
    If you have further questions regarding the state of education in California or other states, I urge you to contact REAL LIFE teachers rather than spouting your opinions on an NPR article highlighting a specific teacher’s practices.

  • H B Hyde

    I am a veteran NBCT teacher and I am interested to know if Ms. Burzynski is portraying the total picture of this movement.  There are several cases of rape, vandalism, violent acts, etc. involved with the Occupy Wall Street groups.  There have been unsanitary conditions and tax payer dollars from already stretched budgets being spent on extra police officers and clean-up. It is not the peaceful protest that everyone makes it out to be–there is a great deal of anti-American sentiment at these protests.  A much more legitimate study would be the Tea Party protests that were peaceful, patriotic, and postive in that they brought about social change through the appropriate channels.  Students could even research the two movements and compare their message,their methods, and their outcomes.  If you were to totally experience the Occupy Wall Street movement, why not take the top 1% of student grades and distribute their points to the other students in the class.  Couldn’t wait to be in on those parent conferences after that.  What motivation do students have to succeed if we live in a society that steals from the successful to give to those with less success.  Some of the richest people in the world are also some of the most altruistic–what a blessing to live in a country that lets them CHOOSE what they think is worthy to give their money to.  If my daughter were in a class studying this in a biased and one-sided fashion, I would be on her teacher like white on rice.  If you want to get involved in a “teachable” moment, make sure you show the whole “moment” otherwise, you may be guilty of indoctrination.  That is NOT the kind of learning that should happen in a public school, and this is the kind of thing that gives good teachers who do teach the curriculum and use current events in a responsible way a bad name. 

  • H B Hyde

    I am a veteran NBCT teacher and I am interested to know if Ms. Burzynski is portraying the total picture of this movement.  There are several cases of rape, vandalism, violent acts, etc. involved with the Occupy Wall Street groups.  There have been unsanitary conditions and tax payer dollars from already stretched budgets being spent on extra police officers and clean-up. It is not the peaceful protest that everyone makes it out to be–there is a great deal of anti-American sentiment at these protests.  A much more legitimate study would be the Tea Party protests that were peaceful, patriotic, and postive in that they brought about social change through the appropriate channels.  Students could even research the two movements and compare their message,their methods, and their outcomes.  If you were to totally experience the Occupy Wall Street movement, why not take the top 1% of student grades and distribute their points to the other students in the class.  Couldn’t wait to be in on those parent conferences after that.  What motivation do students have to succeed if we live in a society that steals from the successful to give to those with less success.  Some of the richest people in the world are also some of the most altruistic–what a blessing to live in a country that lets them CHOOSE what they think is worthy to give their money to.  If my daughter were in a class studying this in a biased and one-sided fashion, I would be on her teacher like white on rice.  If you want to get involved in a “teachable” moment, make sure you show the whole “moment” otherwise, you may be guilty of indoctrination.  That is NOT the kind of learning that should happen in a public school, and this is the kind of thing that gives good teachers who do teach the curriculum and use current events in a responsible way a bad name. 

    • KAB

      Actually, Mr. Hyde, I DID talk about the WHOLE movement, criticisms and all. I even talked about the Tea Party Movement in conjunction with the Occupy Movement. I compared and contrasted their goals, methods, and catalysts. It’s funny that my lesson was assumed to be “one sided.” It was actually incredibly neutral and informative, as any lesson on current events should be. I would like to point out, however, that portraying the Tea Party protests as exclusively peaceful, partiotic, and positive (as you suggested) may be deemed “indoctrination.” Your suggestions would not only be one sided, but also flawed. Distributing the points from the top 1% of students would serve what purpose? The top 1% are not the only citizens paying taxes, so that analogy would be a gross generalization.

      I think people are too quick to judge public school teachers as excessively liberal or uniformed, or out to indoctrinate students. It’s actually quite the opposite. I don’t think anyone becomes a teacher to push an agenda, but to raise a generation who makes calculated and critical decisions for themselves.

      This isn’t a political war for the future votes of children. It’s about making them responsible and informed citizens, and that’s exactly what my lesson accomplished.

    • KAB

      Actually, Mr. Hyde, I DID talk about the WHOLE movement, criticisms and all. I even talked about the Tea Party Movement in conjunction with the Occupy Movement. I compared and contrasted their goals, methods, and catalysts. It’s funny that my lesson was assumed to be “one sided.” It was actually incredibly neutral and informative, as any lesson on current events should be. I would like to point out, however, that portraying the Tea Party protests as exclusively peaceful, partiotic, and positive (as you suggested) may be deemed “indoctrination.” Your suggestions would not only be one sided, but also flawed. Distributing the points from the top 1% of students would serve what purpose? The top 1% are not the only citizens paying taxes, so that analogy would be a gross generalization.

      I think people are too quick to judge public school teachers as excessively liberal or uniformed, or out to indoctrinate students. It’s actually quite the opposite. I don’t think anyone becomes a teacher to push an agenda, but to raise a generation who makes calculated and critical decisions for themselves.

      This isn’t a political war for the future votes of children. It’s about making them responsible and informed citizens, and that’s exactly what my lesson accomplished.

      • HB Hyde

        That is wonderful!  It sounds like you did a terrifc job covering the current events–the article certainly didn’t present that side of the story, but should have–I fault the author for misrepresenting your lesson because a journalist has a responsibility to show all sides of a story.  I applaud your lesson and your committment to giving your students the opportunity to weigh and consider for themselves.  That is what gifted teaching is.  The one percent suggestion is an allusion to the 1% argument made by the occupiers.  But, if you consider that about 50% of Americans pay no federal income tax–I think it was 51% in 2009, and roughly 49% in 2010 with the expectation of holding steady at 49% in 2011, you could certainly see if you took the top half of your class and spread their points to the bottom half you could demonstrate the inequity in redistribution of resources.  If your high achieving students are “punished” for doing well and their points are given to less capable students, what is their motivation to work and study the next time?  A professor did this in college as an experiement and by the end of the semester, everyone in the class was failing.  A powerful and real world example that hits home to students.  By the way, why did you assume I was a man?  I’m a Ms! 

    • Cscaife

      Anyone who believes the Tea Party movement to be purely peaceful, patriotic, and positive should have a chat with Gabrielle Giffords.

    • Cscaife

      Anyone who believes the Tea Party movement to be purely peaceful, patriotic, and positive should have a chat with Gabrielle Giffords.

      • teacheroftheyear

        The Tea Party had nothing to do with that–you need to be more informed

      • teacheroftheyear

        The Tea Party had nothing to do with that–you need to be more informed

    • Sarga

      I think you totally miss the purpose of Miss Burzynski’s lesson. In fact, I think it is safe to say that you completely miss the purpose behind education in general. The objective of most teachers is to introduce students to the world in which they live in a way they can understand. These students were directly effected by the movement as many of their teachers were out protesting. Miss Burzynski chose to stay in the classroom and  her students in a real and meaningful way exactly what was happening around them.

      Your real problem seems to be with the Occupy Wall Street Movement itself, and I suggest that you take your comments elsewhere. The reality is that you have no idea the way in which Miss Burzynski presented her lesson outside of the details provided in the article, which gave no indication that her presentation was one sided. So why criticize her lesson as such? If anyone is guilty of bias here, I am afraid it is you.

      This is EXACTLY the kind of learning that should happen in a public school, the kind of learning that causes students to think for themselves and critically interpret their world. If you think otherwise, it’s probably a good thing that you are a “former” teacher.

      • HB Hyde

        Well, since I only had the article to go by, and it certainly didn’t mention otherwise, I could only comment on the salient points in the article.  You have a very vaild argument about Ms. Burzynski staying in her classroom instead of protesting.  Isn’t that what all teachers should be doing?  I hope any teachers protesting took personal days to do so to avoid the state paying sick time for their obviously healthy activities.  Isn’t the purpose of these blogs to open and foster debate? Why would dissenting comments not be appreciated?  Also, why did you assume I was a former teacher?  Veteran doesn’t mean retired, my friend. I’m the department chair.

      • HB Hyde

        Well, since I only had the article to go by, and it certainly didn’t mention otherwise, I could only comment on the salient points in the article.  You have a very vaild argument about Ms. Burzynski staying in her classroom instead of protesting.  Isn’t that what all teachers should be doing?  I hope any teachers protesting took personal days to do so to avoid the state paying sick time for their obviously healthy activities.  Isn’t the purpose of these blogs to open and foster debate? Why would dissenting comments not be appreciated?  Also, why did you assume I was a former teacher?  Veteran doesn’t mean retired, my friend. I’m the department chair.

  • Emily C.

    @97d1a9c08bdf5ffdf9a829c3770f056d:disqus , I’m really concerned about the rhetoric you’re using given that you’re a teacher. I would guess you don’t teach in a high need or high poverty area, as Laura, Kristin and I do. Your comment assumes that rich people deserve to be rich and poor people deserve to be poor. You wrote, “What motivation do students have to succeed if we live in a society that steals from the successful to give to those with less success.” The obvious line you draw between working hard and succeeding is no more in the United States as a result of cyclical poverty (and racism). This is exactly what Occupiers are fighting against–i.e. “Save the American dream.” And though I agree that Occupiers do not have a clear policy proposal, that doesn’t mean their issues are irrelevant to high need areas like Oakland.

    • HB Hyde

      On the contrary Emily, I do teach in a high poverty and high need area;  my county has a 13% unemployment rate, and about 3/4 of our school is composed of students on free and reduced lunch.  Regardless of socioeconomic background, my students leave my class knowing that you are the own master of your destiny and must accept responsibility for the choices you make.  We see this as an archetypal theme throughout history and literature.  Education is the great equalizer in our country and every student is given the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty by getting an education.  My husband grew up in poverty, and was the product of cyclical poverty, but he worked hard, paid his own way to get a college education, and is now a vice president.  His story could be anyone’s story.  Any student with motivation and a willingness to work can find resources to break that cycle.  My husband is a living example of that.  We empower the poor by giving them an opportunity for education; we enslave them when we make them totally dependent on someone else (i.e. the government, or the “rich”) for their sustenance.  What they do with that opportunity comes down to responsibility–people make choices in life and have to be responsible for those choices.  My comment in no way makes the assumption that rich people deserve anything differently than poor people.  I don’t quite see your logic in making that sweeping generalization (or playing the race card for that matter–are you assuming I am white?).  Our whole education structure is based on working hard to earn good grades.  Kids who work hard are rewarded; kids who don’t are not rewarded.  That is a cruel fact of life, and we do a disservice to students by making them think that whatever choices they make in life, someone will be there to clean up the mess. If the 1% the occupiers rail against gave every dime of their income to the government, it would not even put a dent in our nation’s financial problem; therefore, a better lesson might be, “what is the real reason for this movement and is it a benefit or a detriment to society?”  That would spark and interesting and thought-provoking debate!

    • HB Hyde

      On the contrary Emily, I do teach in a high poverty and high need area;  my county has a 13% unemployment rate, and about 3/4 of our school is composed of students on free and reduced lunch.  Regardless of socioeconomic background, my students leave my class knowing that you are the own master of your destiny and must accept responsibility for the choices you make.  We see this as an archetypal theme throughout history and literature.  Education is the great equalizer in our country and every student is given the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty by getting an education.  My husband grew up in poverty, and was the product of cyclical poverty, but he worked hard, paid his own way to get a college education, and is now a vice president.  His story could be anyone’s story.  Any student with motivation and a willingness to work can find resources to break that cycle.  My husband is a living example of that.  We empower the poor by giving them an opportunity for education; we enslave them when we make them totally dependent on someone else (i.e. the government, or the “rich”) for their sustenance.  What they do with that opportunity comes down to responsibility–people make choices in life and have to be responsible for those choices.  My comment in no way makes the assumption that rich people deserve anything differently than poor people.  I don’t quite see your logic in making that sweeping generalization (or playing the race card for that matter–are you assuming I am white?).  Our whole education structure is based on working hard to earn good grades.  Kids who work hard are rewarded; kids who don’t are not rewarded.  That is a cruel fact of life, and we do a disservice to students by making them think that whatever choices they make in life, someone will be there to clean up the mess. If the 1% the occupiers rail against gave every dime of their income to the government, it would not even put a dent in our nation’s financial problem; therefore, a better lesson might be, “what is the real reason for this movement and is it a benefit or a detriment to society?”  That would spark and interesting and thought-provoking debate!

  • Emily C.

    @97d1a9c08bdf5ffdf9a829c3770f056d:disqus , I’m really concerned about the rhetoric you’re using given that you’re a teacher. I would guess you don’t teach in a high need or high poverty area, as Laura, Kristin and I do. Your comment assumes that rich people deserve to be rich and poor people deserve to be poor. You wrote, “What motivation do students have to succeed if we live in a society that steals from the successful to give to those with less success.” The obvious line you draw between working hard and succeeding is no more in the United States as a result of cyclical poverty (and racism). This is exactly what Occupiers are fighting against–i.e. “Save the American dream.” And though I agree that Occupiers do not have a clear policy proposal, that doesn’t mean their issues are irrelevant to high need areas like Oakland.

  • BFB

    It seems that Ms. Burzynski is doing her job, i.e. informing children about the world they live in and teaching them to think critically about their surroundings and the information they gather.  She should be supported in her efforts to interest her students in their community, rather than libeled.  

  • BFB

    It seems that Ms. Burzynski is doing her job, i.e. informing children about the world they live in and teaching them to think critically about their surroundings and the information they gather.  She should be supported in her efforts to interest her students in their community, rather than libeled.  

  • Mr D.

    Miss B!  I am so proud of you!  It sounds like you are doing a great job out in Oakland.  Do you miss institute like I do?  Oh the good old days of four teachers vs. nine students…

    Keep up the good work.  You are awesome!

  • Mr D.

    Miss B!  I am so proud of you!  It sounds like you are doing a great job out in Oakland.  Do you miss institute like I do?  Oh the good old days of four teachers vs. nine students…

    Keep up the good work.  You are awesome!

  • Winston Kevin Kippling :)

    TEACHERS ROCK. KRISTEN BURZYNSKI IS THE BEST, COOLEST, SMARTEST BEST LOOKING TEACHER IVE EVER READ ABOUT IN MY LIFE!! YOU ROCK KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!!!!!!!! YOURE GONA GO REALLY FAR IN THIS WORLD FOR STANDING UP FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN!!!!!!!!!!

  • KCS

    I am confident that Miss Burzynski is adequately teaching science in her classroom each and day of the year. On the day that she reasonably decided to discuss the Occupy movement with her students, she was also teaching. Not only teaching, but going beyond what is required of her. (If there is concern about it not being “science” we can then refer to it as “social science” or “political science”). If the fear is that teachers are not doing enough because there “is no time or money to teach science”, rest easy knowing that not only is there time to teach science, but there is also time to involve students in well thought out discussions about something in addition to what is mandated by the bare bones requirements merely geared towards once a year test scores. Students are forced into the issues of the “real world” at early and early ages. Developing their minds and opinions about what they and their families are facing is not only wise, but necessary. 

    I find it difficult to make an argument that it is unreasonable or “sick” for her to take a few minutes out of class time to discuss something that is happening right in the backyard of these children. No doubt their minds have been impacted by seeing the protests, noticing their teacher’s absences, and overhearing news coverage. I believe it is commendable to not overlook a 14 year old student’s opinion and curiosity (evident in the snippets of information or concepts that were already stored in their brains). Everything presented in this article demonstrates that a thought-provoking and even discussion took place in the classroom. One in which the children were obviously motivated to participate in. Not only did they participate, but they took the time to discuss and articulate their varying opinions. Nowadays, when social science and electives like debate and leadership class are cut from school schedules, it is refreshing to see a teacher take the initiative to include their students in a discussion that fills them in on the world around them. 

    It is also important to point out that Miss Burzynski did not skip out on her class (even though she was given permission), but rather devoted extra time not only to planning her science lesson for the day, but also devoting time and energy to introducing another topic. No where in the article does is indicate any frustration with her salary or present her view of the movement. Keeping children in the dark about such a relevant topic simply because there is not a class to discuss it in would be a huge disservice to them. Lack of funding does not directly correlate with an educator’s passion. Believe it or not, there are some teachers who believe in what they are doing and believe that children should be informed and be given the right and ability to form their own opinions, particularly when the issue will certainly be impacting their financial or academic future. It certainly appears that her student’s kept their personal opinions in tact, or maybe even had the opportunity to develop some new opinions during this teachable moment. What a great day in the classroom!

  • KCS

    I am confident that Miss Burzynski is adequately teaching science in her classroom each and day of the year. On the day that she reasonably decided to discuss the Occupy movement with her students, she was also teaching. Not only teaching, but going beyond what is required of her. (If there is concern about it not being “science” we can then refer to it as “social science” or “political science”). If the fear is that teachers are not doing enough because there “is no time or money to teach science”, rest easy knowing that not only is there time to teach science, but there is also time to involve students in well thought out discussions about something in addition to what is mandated by the bare bones requirements merely geared towards once a year test scores. Students are forced into the issues of the “real world” at early and early ages. Developing their minds and opinions about what they and their families are facing is not only wise, but necessary. 

    I find it difficult to make an argument that it is unreasonable or “sick” for her to take a few minutes out of class time to discuss something that is happening right in the backyard of these children. No doubt their minds have been impacted by seeing the protests, noticing their teacher’s absences, and overhearing news coverage. I believe it is commendable to not overlook a 14 year old student’s opinion and curiosity (evident in the snippets of information or concepts that were already stored in their brains). Everything presented in this article demonstrates that a thought-provoking and even discussion took place in the classroom. One in which the children were obviously motivated to participate in. Not only did they participate, but they took the time to discuss and articulate their varying opinions. Nowadays, when social science and electives like debate and leadership class are cut from school schedules, it is refreshing to see a teacher take the initiative to include their students in a discussion that fills them in on the world around them. 

    It is also important to point out that Miss Burzynski did not skip out on her class (even though she was given permission), but rather devoted extra time not only to planning her science lesson for the day, but also devoting time and energy to introducing another topic. No where in the article does is indicate any frustration with her salary or present her view of the movement. Keeping children in the dark about such a relevant topic simply because there is not a class to discuss it in would be a huge disservice to them. Lack of funding does not directly correlate with an educator’s passion. Believe it or not, there are some teachers who believe in what they are doing and believe that children should be informed and be given the right and ability to form their own opinions, particularly when the issue will certainly be impacting their financial or academic future. It certainly appears that her student’s kept their personal opinions in tact, or maybe even had the opportunity to develop some new opinions during this teachable moment. What a great day in the classroom!

    • KCS

      Pardon my grammar errors!
      *each day of the year
      *earlier and earlier ages
      *teachers’ absences
      *students kept their
      *intact

      Sometimes my fingers move too quickly for my internal grammar checking tool! Just letting you all know that I noticed them, in case that comes up for discussion! :)

  • Acm

    Did she explain that the one person with $40 dollars had worked for that money or or does she believe that the $100 should be split evenly between everyone.  Maybe she should be teaching in Cuba!

  • Acm

    Did she explain that the one person with $40 dollars had worked for that money or or does she believe that the $100 should be split evenly between everyone.  Maybe she should be teaching in Cuba!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mickey-Carroll/1072495392 Mickey Carroll

    Hello Mind /  Shift I write songs about prevalent issues in the world and produce concerts that give back to world community.

    Here is A group of elementary school children with the help of their teacher
    Mr John Olbert produced a video by using a song I composed entitled We
    Did The Wild Life Boogie. This is a song regarding jobs and the economy.
    Please click Like the kids would like that

    The Economy Song – We Did The Wild Life Boogie                                       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_6JSQDFv2E.

    You Got To Give Back- dedicated to Corporate America -

    Onward
    Mickey

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mickey-Carroll/1072495392 Mickey Carroll

    Hello Mind /  Shift I write songs about prevalent issues in the world and produce concerts that give back to world community.

    Here is A group of elementary school children with the help of their teacher
    Mr John Olbert produced a video by using a song I composed entitled We
    Did The Wild Life Boogie. This is a song regarding jobs and the economy.
    Please click Like the kids would like that

    The Economy Song – We Did The Wild Life Boogie                                       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_6JSQDFv2E.

    You Got To Give Back- dedicated to Corporate America -

    Onward
    Mickey

  • David West

    Occupy Teaching

    Teaching has always been an honourable profession, but the teaching authorities are doing a very good job of introducing dishonour.

    This is not good enough, so we are deposing the entire teaching establishment, and taking it over ourselves.
    If anyone does not understand our objectives, they probably work in management.
    The operation is incredibly simple.
    Any teacher who reads this article is encouraged to forward the article to fellow teachers everywhere.

    I tried to reply to this on New York Times Learning Blog, but the article has since been removed.

    I like the approach, apart from the parochialism in believing that America is the only country to dream.
    I suppose it’s as far as the academic paradigm stretches, but I would suggest that she didn’t learn much with her OWS experience.
    You can be sure that any article promoted by New York Times Learning Blog is not a genuine Occupy-anything idea.
    Occupy Teaching would dismiss the teaching authorities, whose ideas are not helpful to either teachers or students.
    Occupy Teaching means that the teachers would take over all administration, and dismiss anyone who isn’t actually a teacher on a weekly basis.
    Then there would be plenty of money to run very good schools which structure curriculli more suitable for both teachers and students.
    For more ideas to clear the fogged mind, see:
    http://sites.google.com/site/humanevolution2008

    Come the evolution! :)

    Kind regards

    David