The Luxury of Learning is Lost



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copyright © 2004, 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

This treatise was written in 2004, only two years after the 2002 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  The No Child Left Behind Act, requires annual assessment of students in grades 3 through 8. It further requires states and schools to meet “adequate yearly progress” by increasing test scores (NASP, 2002).  Labels, based solely on the results of high-stakes assessments, began a history of hurts.

The words said were, “We do not have that luxury anymore.”  The speaker stated that she loved the bliss. The extravagance that she was speaking of is that of teaching in a manner that enlivens learning, engages, and ensures that students internalize information. She was referring to her joy for teaching in a style that creates wisdom, the learning that lasts for a lifetime. Is it true that teaching in this way is an indulgence; and that she is no longer able to partake in this possibility?  If this is true, it is sadness.  The greater sorrow is that this Educator’s testimony is not an anomaly.  

To believe that teaching in this fashion is a “luxury” and that it is lost, never to return is a concept that I cannot, or more accurately, wish not to consider. Yet, I cannot help but wonder; why does she feel that she no longer has this?  When, why, or how, did she lose what was once the objective in education?  How could this Instructor consider taking the time to guide learning, to give students an opportunity to truly acquire knowledge as a lavish pursuit?  As much as I wondered; I knew.

Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.

~  Jacques Barzun

Days have past and the words still haunt me. I can no longer ignore what occurs in many, if not most classrooms.  Regardless of the how I might teach or experience students and their studies, my truth is not universal. I must acknowledge, the painful reality, that exists each and everyday. I read of it in the newspapers, in editorials, in professional journals, and in books. I hear of it from friends, from family, from any, and many that have even the smallest sense of what is going on in our nation’s schools. I speak with instructors, and others who are familiar with the current crush in “education.”  There are reasons for the angst, for apprehension.

Indeed, the policies and practices in our schools, throughout this Nation, cause much trepidation. Teachers are told, “Teach to the tests!”  Even when the words are not articulated aloud, it is well known “achievement is the one and only agenda” that matters. Policymakers, Principals, and even the public-at-large have placed America’s Teachers on trial.  Perform or punishments will follow.  Students too stand before judges and juries. The young, just as their schools, are rewarded for excellence.  Dollars are delivered for good grades. Moms, Dads, and the Federal Government come bearing gifts when children succeed, chastised when they fail. Each presumes that the Teacher is the catalyst.  She or he makes great things happen. If an Instructor does not . . . damn and hell fire will be their just reward.  Please may I share the story that forced me to face a stark veracity . . .

I begin with a bit of background.  Currently, I am employed as a substitute teacher, what some so sweetly call a “Guest Teacher.”  I have a Master of Arts degree in Education, with a focus on Instructional Systems. I am credentialed in Psychology, Social Science, English, Art, Computer Concepts, and Computer Applications. I taught at the University level, instructing in the Teacher Credentialing programs. While I received my degrees, my own formal education continues. Therefore, you might guess that education is important to me. It is!

As an Educator, one who has had her own classroom, created her own curriculums, taught those who were training to become Teachers, and who recently “visits” classrooms that are not hers, I recognize what might be characterized as an “uncommon core standard,” be sensitive to authentic learning,

Young children long to learn.  Tweens and teens crave abiding knowledge.  Those just broaching adulthood are bursting at the seams; “Teach me” is the tune frequently hummed. Wisdom is the want.  We each wish to reach higher intellectual heights and pass on what we have learned.  More so than “scholastic success,” a love of learning is what I wish to facilitate.  True love remains alive through eternity. A fondness for the act of acquiring knowledge becomes habit easily retained.  

Today, and I mean that literally, education is governed by rigid regulations. There are ample frustrations throughout learning and teaching. It seems that for many, it is just as Einstein expressed, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”

It is for this reason that I am sharing an account of a day in the life of an Educator. I wish to advance awareness and to open a discussion for what many experience daily. I ask each of us to consider what occurs when we concentrate on the concrete. I believe that when we do, we all lose. The luxury of learning, teaching, and being is lost.  Students no longer have the opportunity to truly understand what teachers are attempting to teach.  Nor do our offspring love their growth. We have also lessened the opportunities for instructors to connect with the students and for students to connect to a subject.

From my own life history, I believe that if we do not love learning, then we do not choose to develop the habits that create a deep desire to investigate, innovate, or imagine, especially on our own. I believe that if we focus on creating a devotion for erudition, a curriculum that demonstrates care for the student, for the subject, and one that is sensitive to the nuances of the process of progression, then and only then will true success will be guaranteed.

If you think this but an unproven theory, please consider the analogy.  You did not exit the warmth of the womb walking and talking.  Indeed, the shock of your entrance into an Earthly existence likely caused you to cry.  Someone might have stroked your head before you felt calm.  Days, weeks, and months went by before what adults would label an intelligible peep was heard from your mouth.  It may have been longer before you stood up and took your first step.  

The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson [American Lecturer, Poet, leading exponent of New England Transcendentalism]

It is with this thought in mind I say, adults must trust that change in a brain and a being comes from within.  Evolution, edification, is slow and subtle.  Transition arrives without fanfare.   Teachers teach. Students, just as sponges absorb lessons.  The two talk with each other.  All are challenged to learn anew, or at least that is what I thought would occur in schools.  On occasion, it did, does, and will; however, from my experience the likelihood lessens each day.

The other day I was teaching in a Social Science classroom. I was working with students who I have worked with often over the last two years. Frequently, their teacher requests that I assist in her absences. She has shared that she values my desire and ability to facilitate understanding. Jennifer Mellon has had many an occasion to observe me teach. Often, she is involved with Committee work and therefore, is on campus running in and out of the classroom when I am there.  Actually, her daughter was once a student of mine.  Hence, Jenn also knows of my pedagogy from a parent’s perspective.  Our familiarity is vast and all good.

On this day, Mrs Mellon asked that I have the class read and discuss seven to ten pages. I was told not to go farther for she, the contracted teacher, would prefer to save the next lesson for another day.

As we read and discussed, I asked the students to reference a portion and then share, in their own words, the meaning of what they just read. I know for myself and I have verified that this is true for others, many can read aloud and then not know what was read. Therefore, I always invite students to take the time to breathe and begin to internalize the words that they recite aloud.

Many in prosperous and professional communities, such as the one in which I work, can and do this well or so it seems. I realize that appearances can be deceiving. Often, when asked if they comprehend the ideas and the concepts, the meaning behind the words, students repeatedly admit that they do not understand these. They cannot offer similar concepts; they are unable to relate the material to their own life experiences, nor do they truly grasp the greater significance. Many, most, and often all confess that they can recite and regurgitate as expected or as needed to appear knowledgeable, yet they do not truly understand or internalize the information.

Therefore, I discuss the readings further, present parallels, share stories that suggest similarities between the lives of the students and the lives of those that they, or we, are studying. These enliven the essence of the lesson. As I do, and did on this day, as I ask questions that assist them in sensing the similarities between themselves and the text, I discovered a captive audience, one that cares to learn, asks questions, offers comments, and is engaged. I discover students no longer feel lost. Learning looms large when I take the time to stimulate the student’s thinking and reflecting.

Today, as on many others, each of us, the students and I, feel enriched and enlightened. These exchanges are educational; they create a joy in learning. Students often tell me that these discussions, the drawing of parallels, are not only memorable, they help them to truly learn.

Then it happened, and I learned again, what I would rather forget. In reviewing the day, I mentioned to the students’ teacher, Jennifer, that we as a class were energized, the text was meaningful, and the discussion exhilarating. However, we did not finish all of the pages she assigned. She sighed deeply. She expressed her dread for falling behind; the need to complete the curriculum as the calendar dictates, and then she said it, teaching in a manner that stimulates students so that they truly understand, well, “We do not have that luxury anymore.”

Sadly, the lesson learned is that what I do, what I did, what many educators do, and would prefer to do again, evoking authentic learning through deeper discussions, facilitating learning that lasts a lifetime, creating curriculums that are energizing and enjoyable for all, is a luxury, one that is lost. I wonder what have we created.

Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; but directly involve me, and I’ll make it my own.

– Confucian text


I do not wonder why this Teacher, or why so many Educators throughout this nation no longer have, or feel that they have, the opportunity to truly teach. I do reflect on why it is that now, capital and careers are more important than learning. I contemplate and I inquire of those who profess, propose, and then impose policies that stress schedules, simplistic, narrow and naive standards.  Please explain this to me.  Why are our loves, learning and inspirational instruction lost?  What of our offspring, their education, and their Teachers? What will the future bring?

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The Good School; Principals or Principles



copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question.  Each asks, “What epitomizes a great learning center?”  “How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?” The solutions are many.   All of  the associations speak of guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership.  The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children.  In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth.  Many aspirations. Many a mirage.  How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.

Some associations are familiar to most Americans.  Several, such as Michelle Rhee’s Students First, have recently come into being. For most of these prominent groups, the goal is to shape legislation.  The guise or what guides these alliances is an intense interest in our children.  Missions are eloquently composed.   However, a constant thread transcends each mission statement.  Cash Counts!

There is money to be made in Charter Schools.  Testing too is a gold mine industry.  Even lobbying for education policy has become a big business.

Backers such as the Broad Foundation bring big bucks to the charge.  “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better Governance, Management, Labor Relations, and Competition” is the banner headline displayed boldly in Broad Education literature.  The developer ‘s investment firm, cleverly characterized as an “entrepreneurial philanthropy,” stresses the need to “dramatically” change “urban education.”  The implication might be that suburban and rural children can and do help themselves. Possibly, this philosophy might be associated with an acknowledged truth stated in the original adopted Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). Poverty is a significant problem. Except the profoundly poor are frequently enrolled in rural schools.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson understood this veracity; he lived it.  The father of the nation’s “War On Poverty” spoke of his own reality as he signed the education Bill into law, “As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty.”  President Johnson also put forth a plan.  He said…

“It (ESEA) represents a major new commitment of the federal government, to quality and equality in the schooling that we offer our young people. By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness and hope for more than five million educationally deprived children. We put into the hands of our youth more than 30 million new books, and into many of our schools their first libraries.

We reduce the terrible lag in bringing new teaching techniques into the nation’s classrooms. We strengthen state and local agencies, which bear the burden and the challenge of better education, and we rekindle the revolution — the revolution of the spirit against the tyranny of ignorance.”

The President did not say, as a nation, we need place the onus on our Teachers.  Mister Johnson did not claim to be the bearer of corporate gifts.  Quite succinctly, the Head of State spoke of the need to strengthen civil services within our State and Local communities.   Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed a deep desire to connect our children, not corporations and the dots these industries print on innumerable test sheets.

The Good School; Principals or Principles



A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question.  Each asks, “What epitomizes a great learning center?”  “How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?” The solutions are many.   All of  the associations speak of guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership.  The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children.  In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth.  Many aspirations. Many a mirage.  How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.

Some associations are familiar to most Americans.  Several, such as Michelle Rhee’s Students First, have recently come into being. For most of these prominent groups, the goal is to shape legislation.  The guise or what guides these alliances is an intense interest in our children.  Missions are eloquently composed.   However, a constant thread transcends each mission statement.  Cash Counts!

There is money to be made in Charter Schools.  Testing too is a gold mine industry.  Even lobbying for education policy has become a big business.

Backers such as the Broad Foundation bring big bucks to the charge.  “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better Governance, Management, Labor Relations, and Competition” is the banner headline displayed boldly in Broad Education literature.  The developer ‘s investment firm, cleverly characterized as an “entrepreneurial philanthropy,” stresses the need to “dramatically” change “urban education.”  The implication might be that suburban and rural children can and do help themselves. Possibly, this philosophy might be associated with an acknowledged truth stated in the original adopted Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). Poverty is a significant problem. Except the profoundly poor are frequently enrolled in rural schools.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson understood this veracity; he lived it.  The father of the nation’s “War On Poverty” spoke of his own reality as he signed the education Bill into law, “As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty.”  President Johnson also put forth a plan.  He said…

“It (ESEA) represents a major new commitment of the federal government, to quality and equality in the schooling that we offer our young people. By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness and hope for more than five million educationally deprived children. We put into the hands of our youth more than 30 million new books, and into many of our schools their first libraries.

We reduce the terrible lag in bringing new teaching techniques into the nation’s classrooms. We strengthen state and local agencies, which bear the burden and the challenge of better education, and we rekindle the revolution — the revolution of the spirit against the tyranny of ignorance.”

The President did not say, as a nation, we need place the onus on our Teachers.  Mister Johnson did not claim to be the bearer of corporate gifts.  Quite succinctly, the Head of State spoke of the need to strengthen civil services within our State and Local communities.   Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed a deep desire to connect our children, not corporations and the dots these industries print on innumerable test sheets.

However, over time, the essential element expressed in the original legislation evolved.  While the progression was slow at first, with the 2001 Reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act, the language and the leaning changed.  No longer was equality for pupils and people at-large the issue of import. Instead private firms and their financial gains became the subject and the ones served.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) explicit “purpose is to raise achievement for all students and to close the achievement gap. This is done through accountability, research-based instruction, flexibility and options for parents, so that no child is left behind.”

In other words, our nation’s youth will be assessed relentlessly and repeatedly.  Scores gathered will be used to validate and generate further well-financed studies. Versatility for Moms and Dads was defined as a choice; lift your child out from the ruins of schools (selectively) deemed “failures” and place that little learner into a crisp and clean Charter School.

No one mentions that students who do not meet a set “standard” need not apply.  Attendance will be refused to those who might stain a record of exemplary performance.  Nor will anyone give voice to a disturbing statistic. “By the end of the 2004-05 school year, national K-12 education spending will have increased an estimated 105 percent since 1991-92; 58 percent since 1996-97; and 40 percent since 1998-99.”  The thought loudly articulate and promoted is, “Importantly, the increase in funds has been linked to accountability for results, ensuring taxpayers get their money’s worth.”

Actually the massive infusion of money into the school system ensured that, education could be bought and paid for.  The delivery of dollars, Entrepreneurs saw as an endowment to their cause. Philanthropy for profit.

The Broad charitable fund, just as Students First and its subsidiary Teach For America informs us that adults are both the nemesis of the young and the saviors our offspring need.  You might wish to evaluate the message of each fraternity.  It would seem from the rhetoric, there is a consensus; Teachers or adult Leaders are the salvation or the bane  of struggling students.  Circumstances such as poverty, hunger, and the lack of reading resources within a home matter not to those who profess a Teacher can provide all a child needs to learn. A parent’s education and socio-economic status are of little consequences when, as is posited by these “Foundations,” an excellent “tested” Teacher is available to lift a young learner up from the weight of Earthly concerns.

Let us examine the messages.  Perhaps, you too might see a trend.

  • Students First Mission…While there are many factors that influence a student’s ability to learn, a great teacher can help any student overcome those barriers and realize their full potential.
  • Teach For America is growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education.
  • About Broad Education…To become effective, efficient organizations that serve students well, American school districts and schools need strong, talented leadership.  

    Many more “coalitions” clamor for controlled corporate education change.  Stand for Children sees “Empowering” education as an “entrepreneurial” enterprise.  Trained “Leaders” will reshape our schools and policies that pertain to our progeny, our pupils.  

    Parents Across America may be the antithesis to the “No Excuses” clamor of corporate command.  The message “Our Children. Our Schools. Our Voices” speaks to actual students in a way that the aforementioned and much acclaimed associations do not.  In their own words . .

    What Works:
  • Proven Reforms: We support the expansion of sensible, research-based reforms, such as pre-K programs, full-day Kindergarten, small classes, parent involvement, strong, experienced teachers, a well-rounded curriculum and evaluation systems that go beyond test scores.
  • Sufficient and Equitable Funding: Resources do matter, especially when invested in programs that have been proven to work.
  • Diversity: We support creating diverse, inclusive schools and classrooms whenever possible.
  • Meaningful Parent Involvement: Parents must have a significant voice in policies at the school, district, state and national levels. We are not just “consumers” or “customers” but knowledgeable, necessary partners in any effective reform effort.

  • The Moms and Dads who make up this collective reap no financial rewards for their work.  Cash does not count, children do!  Green backs do not grow Good Schools. These organizers do not have the dollars to lobby legislators; nor do the persons involved have easy access.  For these committed caregivers educated children are their just compensation. Parents Across America is not alone in their charge.  

    “Save Our Schools” the March and National Call to Action too, was born out of a need to respond to the corporate reform cry.  The creed this council promotes are much like those of the former.

    For the future of our children, we demand:
  • Equitable funding for all public school communities;
  • An end to high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation;
  • Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies;
  • Curriculum developed for and by local school communities.

  • However, neither may present as profound a principle as one adopted by an organization, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that has worked for more than one hundred years in the interest of equal education for all children.  Please ponder what might best define the dynamics necessary for The Good School.  

    Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn through Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

    Today there is nothing short of a state of emergency in the delivery of education to our nation’s communities of color. As our communities quickly grow on pace to become a numerical majority, it is clear that confronting the issues we face is not just our challenge alone but all of America’s challenge. As a nation, we are failing to provide the high-quality educational opportunities that are critical for all students to succeed, thereby jeopardizing our nation’s ability to continue to be a world leader.

    As a community of civil rights organizations, we believe that access to a high-quality education is a fundamental civil right. The federal government’s role is to protect and promote that civil right by creating and supporting a fair and substantive opportunity to learn for all students, regardless of where and to whom they were born. This objective is advanced by many components of the proposed FY 2011 education budget and the Blueprint for Reform setting forth the Administration’s priorities for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). For instance, we applaud the Administration’s goal for the United States to become a global leader in post-secondary education attainment by 2020 and its efforts to develop specific strategies for turning around low-performing schools.

    While there are numerous positive aspects of the Administration’s education agenda, more comprehensive reforms are necessary to build a future where equitable educational opportunity is the rule, not the exception. As civil rights organizations, it is our responsibility to seek to close and ultimately eliminate the opportunity and achievement gaps experienced by communities of color. To this end, we outline six major principles that we will collectively advocate to strengthen the ESEA and ensure that the federal government provides the support necessary to protect every child’s civil right to a high-quality education:

  • Equitable opportunities for all;
  • Utilization of systematically proven and effective educational methods;  
  • Public and community engagement in education reforms;  
  • Safe and educationally sound learning environments;  
  • Diverse learning environments; and  
  • Comprehensive and substantive accountability systems to maintain equitable opportunities and high outcomes.

  • Might this mission be your own? If you prefer one of the other frameworks, please share why this might be. Principals? Principles? Or Principally Lessons that promote a love of learning? Personal anecdotes are much appreciated.  Experiences explored are lessons we might learn from.  Please share your thoughts. What is a Good School in your mind? Why? What has lead you down the path you chose?  We thank you for your reflections.

    References and Resources . . .

    businesscard.aspx

  • The Good School; Principals or Principles



    copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

    A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question.  Each asks, “What epitomizes a great learning center?”  “How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?” The solutions are many.   Every  association offers guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership.  The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children.  In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth.  Many aspirations. Many a mirage.  How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.

    Some associations are familiar to most Americans.  Several, such as Michelle Rhee’s Students First, have recently come into being. For most of these prominent groups, the goal is to shape legislation.  The guise or what guides these alliances is an intense interest in our children.  Missions are eloquently composed.   However, a constant thread transcends each mission statement.  Cash Counts!

    There is money to be made in Charter Schools.  Testing too is a gold mine industry.  Even lobbying for education policy has become a big business.

    Backers such as the Broad Foundation bring big bucks to the charge.  “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better Governance, Management, Labor Relations, and Competition” is the banner headline displayed boldly in Broad Education literature.  The developer ‘s investment firm, cleverly characterized as an “entrepreneurial philanthropy,” stresses the need to “dramatically” change “urban education.”  The implication might be that suburban and rural children can and do help themselves. Possibly, this philosophy might be associated with an acknowledged truth stated in the original adopted Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). Poverty is a significant problem. Except the profoundly poor are frequently enrolled in rural schools.

    President Lyndon Baines Johnson understood this veracity; he lived it.  The father of the nation’s “War On Poverty” spoke of his own reality as he signed the education Bill into law, “As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty.”  President Johnson also put forth a plan.  He said…

    “It (ESEA) represents a major new commitment of the federal government, to quality and equality in the schooling that we offer our young people. By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness and hope for more than five million educationally deprived children. We put into the hands of our youth more than 30 million new books, and into many of our schools their first libraries.

    We reduce the terrible lag in bringing new teaching techniques into the nation’s classrooms. We strengthen state and local agencies, which bear the burden and the challenge of better education, and we rekindle the revolution — the revolution of the spirit against the tyranny of ignorance.”

    The President did not say, as a nation, we need place the onus on our Teachers.  Mister Johnson did not claim to be the bearer of corporate gifts.  Quite succinctly, the Head of State spoke of the need to strengthen civil services within our State and Local communities.   Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed a deep desire to connect our children, not corporations and the dots these industries print on innumerable test sheets.

    However, over time, the essential element expressed in the original legislation evolved.  While the progression was slow at first, with the 2001 Reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act, the language and the leaning changed.  No longer was equality for pupils and people at-large the issue of import. Instead private firms and their financial gains became the subject and the ones served.

    The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) explicit “purpose is to raise achievement for all students and to close the achievement gap. This is done through accountability, research-based instruction, flexibility and options for parents, so that no child is left behind.”

    In other words, our nation’s youth will be assessed relentlessly and repeatedly.  Scores gathered will be used to validate and generate further well-financed studies. Versatility for Moms and Dads was defined as a choice; lift your child out from the ruins of schools (selectively) deemed “failures” and place that little learner into a crisp and clean Charter School.

    No one mentions that students who do not meet a set “standard” need not apply.  Attendance will be refused to those who might stain a record of exemplary performance.  Nor will anyone give voice to a disturbing statistic. “By the end of the 2004-05 school year, national K-12 education spending will have increased an estimated 105 percent since 1991-92; 58 percent since 1996-97; and 40 percent since 1998-99.”  The thought loudly articulate and promoted is, “Importantly, the increase in funds has been linked to accountability for results, ensuring taxpayers get their money’s worth.”

    Actually the massive infusion of money into the school system ensured that, education could be bought and paid for.  The delivery of dollars, Entrepreneurs saw as an endowment to their cause. Philanthropy for profit.

    The Broad charitable fund, just as Students First and its subsidiary Teach For America informs us that adults are both the nemesis of the young and the saviors our offspring need.  You might wish to evaluate the message of each fraternity.  It would seem from the rhetoric, there is a consensus; Teachers or adult Leaders are the salvation or the bane  of struggling students.  Circumstances such as poverty, hunger, and the lack of reading resources within a home matter not to those who profess a Teacher can provide all a child needs to learn. A parent’s education and socio-economic status are of little consequences when, as is posited by these “Foundations,” an excellent “tested” Teacher is available to lift a young learner up from the weight of Earthly concerns.

    Let us examine the messages.  Perhaps, you too might see a trend.

  • Students First Mission…While there are many factors that influence a student’s ability to learn, a great teacher can help any student overcome those barriers and realize their full potential.
  • Teach For America is growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education.
  • About Broad Education…To become effective, efficient organizations that serve students well, American school districts and schools need strong, talented leadership.  

    Many more “coalitions” clamor for controlled corporate education change.  Stand for Children sees “Empowering” education as an “entrepreneurial” enterprise.  Trained “Leaders” will reshape our schools and policies that pertain to our progeny, our pupils.  

    Parents Across America may be the antithesis to the “No Excuses” clamor of corporate command.  The message “Our Children. Our Schools. Our Voices” speaks to actual students in a way that the aforementioned and much acclaimed associations do not.  In their own words . .

    What Works:
  • Proven Reforms: We support the expansion of sensible, research-based reforms, such as pre-K programs, full-day Kindergarten, small classes, parent involvement, strong, experienced teachers, a well-rounded curriculum and evaluation systems that go beyond test scores.
  • Sufficient and Equitable Funding: Resources do matter, especially when invested in programs that have been proven to work.
  • Diversity: We support creating diverse, inclusive schools and classrooms whenever possible.
  • Meaningful Parent Involvement: Parents must have a significant voice in policies at the school, district, state and national levels. We are not just “consumers” or “customers” but knowledgeable, necessary partners in any effective reform effort.

  • The Moms and Dads who make up this collective reap no financial rewards for their work.  Cash does not count, children do!  Green backs do not grow Good Schools. These organizers do not have the dollars to lobby legislators; nor do the persons involved have easy access.  For these committed caregivers educated children are their just compensation. Parents Across America is not alone in their charge.  

    “Save Our Schools” the March and National Call to Action too, was born out of a need to respond to the corporate reform cry.  The creed this council promotes are much like those of the former.

    For the future of our children, we demand:
  • Equitable funding for all public school communities;
  • An end to high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation;
  • Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies;
  • Curriculum developed for and by local school communities.

  • However, neither may present as profound a principle as one adopted by an organization, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that has worked for more than one hundred years in the interest of equal education for all children.  Please ponder what might best define the dynamics necessary for The Good School.  

    Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn through Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

    Today there is nothing short of a state of emergency in the delivery of education to our nation’s communities of color. As our communities quickly grow on pace to become a numerical majority, it is clear that confronting the issues we face is not just our challenge alone but all of America’s challenge. As a nation, we are failing to provide the high-quality educational opportunities that are critical for all students to succeed, thereby jeopardizing our nation’s ability to continue to be a world leader.

    As a community of civil rights organizations, we believe that access to a high-quality education is a fundamental civil right. The federal government’s role is to protect and promote that civil right by creating and supporting a fair and substantive opportunity to learn for all students, regardless of where and to whom they were born. This objective is advanced by many components of the proposed FY 2011 education budget and the Blueprint for Reform setting forth the Administration’s priorities for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). For instance, we applaud the Administration’s goal for the United States to become a global leader in post-secondary education attainment by 2020 and its efforts to develop specific strategies for turning around low-performing schools.

    While there are numerous positive aspects of the Administration’s education agenda, more comprehensive reforms are necessary to build a future where equitable educational opportunity is the rule, not the exception. As civil rights organizations, it is our responsibility to seek to close and ultimately eliminate the opportunity and achievement gaps experienced by communities of color. To this end, we outline six major principles that we will collectively advocate to strengthen the ESEA and ensure that the federal government provides the support necessary to protect every child’s civil right to a high-quality education:

  • Equitable opportunities for all;
  • Utilization of systematically proven and effective educational methods;  
  • Public and community engagement in education reforms;  
  • Safe and educationally sound learning environments;  
  • Diverse learning environments; and  
  • Comprehensive and substantive accountability systems to maintain equitable opportunities and high outcomes.

  • Might this mission be your own? If you prefer one of the other frameworks, please share why this might be. Principals? Principles? Or Principally Lessons that promote a love of learning? Personal anecdotes are much appreciated.  Experiences explored are lessons we might learn from.  Please share your thoughts. What is a Good School in your mind? Why? What has lead you down the path you chose?  We thank you for your reflections.

    References and Resources . . .

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  • August To June; Bringing Life to Palm Beach Schools



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    copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

    As any Mom or Dad might do on Parent Teacher Conference Day, Amy Valens, the Educator featured in the documentary film August To June, traveled from “classroom to classroom.”  This journey was not a conventional one. Indeed, Amy did not attend a series of Parent Teacher Conferences.  What she did was appear at Palm Beach screenings of her documentary.  The film follows twenty-six [26] third and fourth graders who studied with Amy in her last year of teaching.  The public school open classroom “Brings Life” to education.

    After the movie was viewed, Ms Valens and the audiences engaged in conversations. They discussed what they saw and how it might relate to a broader dialogue.  The subjects of Education Reform, Classroom Standards, Teacher Quality, Merit Pay, Student-Rewards for Success, Parent Involvement, and Testing are but a few topics prominent in our national debate.  While the assemblies of viewers varied widely, the results were the same.  Every child, every class, all Teachers, and each parent, tells a unique tale.  Regardless of the individual or group, we see the world, or in this case the film, through our own lens.

    Having traveled the country with the movie, in the last ten months, meeting with audiences from every walk of life, Amy had already come to understand that each person has their own perspective.  Each place visited offers unexpected opportunities. The size of the crowd does not give a hint of what will be within.  Nor does the theme of a Conference, such as Save Our Schools or Coalition for Essential Schools, provide insight into what will occur.  The makeup of a community affords no clues.  As any Mother, [Teacher, Filmmaker] Valens experiences as we all do.  When we enter a room, or a situation, when we encounter a child or a school full of students we cannot predict what will come.

    Will the experience be pretty? Will it be rich? I share what it appeared to be, at least what appeared to be true for me.

    Having attended the one abridged showing, the two full screenings, each of which was followed by a discussion, and having the heard the radio interview, I recognized the theme; behind every door adventure awaits. There are lessons to be learned.  Let us take a look.

    Amy’s recent tour began, not in a school, but remotely.  From a National Public Radio studio in Miami, the Host of Topical Currents. Joseph Cooper introduced his guests, Amy and Tom Valens.  The Broadcaster, heard on WLRN, might have been as an Instructor, one who is only remotely familiar with a family.  A physical distance may have played a part in the dynamic.  Amy was a County away, in Palm Beach, Florida.  Only a telephone line connected the two.  Filmmaker Tom Valens sat in his modest bungalow workplace, in the hills of Forest Knolls, California.  Throughout this meeting Mister Cooper asked Amy and Tom Valens questions. He listened for answers.  Then, the Broadcaster extrapolated.  

    He pronounced what he believed might be true for the Marin County residents. The radio Journalist mused; the population is not as others.  The theory espoused; the proximity to Silicon Valley and George Lucas Studios must explain the supposed anomaly seen in August To June.  The thought expressed, was the community is unique. Indeed, nothing could be farther from the reality that exists within Amy Valens’ valley.

    As is stated in the film, in this open classroom, children come from homes of median and meager means. Many if not most have experienced divorce. Several have been separated from their parents.  The world of drugs, and other abuses, is not unknown to these young ones.  The wealth and wonder that might be seen in the more opulent sphere of the technologically elite, is not real to those who reside in Amy’s classroom.  Nonetheless, for Joseph Cooper, as is true for countless who cannot imagine the educational process that unfolds before their eyes, “Yes, but . . .” lives large.  Thankfully, “Yes; Exactly” and “Yes, well maybe” also thrive.

    “Our graduates have gone on to become artists, scientists, house painters, computer programmers helicopter pilots, chefs, ceramists, carpenters, tile setters, lawyers, teachers, politicians, ecologists, gardeners, musicians, security guards, engineers, viticulturists, film makers photographers, actors, dancers, salespeople, drivers, paraprofessionals, airplane attendants, animators, body workers, park rangers, camp counselors, waiters, sculptors, writers, journalists, linguists, small business people, singers, social workers, government workers, brokers, students, furniture makers, set designers, jewelers, composers, paramedics, firefighters, jugglers, loving parents, active community members and so much more.” They are you and me.

    Skepticism was voiced several more times throughout the weekend.  People wanted to believe that Amy Valens was the Miracle Worker, or that the dynamics within her small District was the reason an impossible dream came true.  Several stated, only in a rural region or in an open classroom, such as exists in San Geronimo might parents be involved. The thought was, to opt-out of high-stakes tests is a fantasy not permitted in most States.  A few mused Amy could only practice as she does with elementary school age children.  Fortunately, the same sort of contradictory reasoning was heard but once in the next get-together.

    I spoke to it then and again in other meetings. Personally, I know what cynics wish to believe is not so.  As someone whose teaching style differs greatly from that of Amy Valens, and as a person who taught solely in urban and suburban standardized systems, I trust much can be done within the common constraints.  My pedagogy mirrors what is seen in August To June.  For Teacher Valens, for me, and for most in the many Palm Beach audiences, the Whole Child concept speaks to our every sensibility.  What parent, Teacher, or community does not believe schools should focus on developing students who are academically proficient, physically and emotionally healthy, respectful, responsible, and caring? Since ancient Greek and Roman times, nearly everyone, if not all do.

    Surely, the people assembled at the first screening of the weekend, at the Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth did.  This gathering may best represent what occurred, endlessly, during Amy’s late October, early November, Palm Beach travels.   From the discussion, it quickly became apparent, attendees embraced the philosophy and principles presented in the documentary without exception.  While rationalizations were rare, the human tendency to relate through our own life experiences was wonderfully evident.

    A College Professor saw many correlations to his daily reality. He discovered big public policy issues in regards to testing, privatization, Teacher merit pay, an Instructors’ qualifications, performance, and due process, are discussed in August To June.  The subject of school quality is also explored in the film, just as it is in Faculty meetings and on the floor of Congress.

    Another individual, a former Nurse, related to the relevant questions the film raises. This person understood the significance of working with the Whole Child, the whole person, be he or she a pupil or a patient.  The Health Care practitioner mentioned her distress for loss of logic in today’s society. Humans, in every profession, have been reduced to numbers.

    Tests in medicine, just as in our schools, are no longer diagnostic tools.  Today, examination scores define a supposed permanent condition rather than identify a situation [or a student] in transition.  Assessments are given as a matter of course. Indeed, these are mandated in traditional medical facilities and in our schools.  Privatization is prominent. Doctors do not make house calls and Teachers, too often, never meet the families . . . that is, in schools not like Amy’s.

    With privatization comes reward and punishment.  The last person to speak that evening, addressed this.  A Scholar who sat among us, mentioned his love of teaching and how, as a Social Science Educator, he was told not to engage his students.  History, Administrators said, is not an essential part of the curriculum. After all, it does not appear on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test [FCAT.]  [The inference being, nothing else matters.] Nonetheless, the Teacher thought it was important to teach.

    Having done his job well, Mister M’s students excelled on the high-stakes State exam.  The mentor was rewarded with praise and a pink slip.  He was told his work was excellent.  However, with the term at an end, the school no longer needed to fill a history position.  Months later, an unexpected check arrived in the mailbox at Mister M’s home.  It seems that schools are financially rewarded, as are teachers within the school if the students successfully “achieve.”

    Might Mister M’s instruction spurred greater interest in other areas.  Did the methods he employed inspire students to study well.  Could his class or the energy that was born be transferred into an overall interest in academics?  The Palm Beach County Teacher did not know.

    Regardless, August To June Educator Amy Valens saw and felt the palpable sense of surprise from others in the room.  She was astounded but not amazed. Amy knew.  She heard many a story this year.  All were identical, and at the same time unique.  Consistently, as Ms Valens treks around the country she discovers that people turn to her for guidance and acumen, and Amy turns to them.  “Yes, but” and “Yes! Exactly,” as well as the reflective “Yes, maybe” are instructive and illustrate what occurs in Parent Teacher Conferences.

    I began and embraced a mission in October 2010. My hope was the film August To June and featured Teacher, Amy Valens might help expand the education conversation in South Florida.  This dream has borne fruit.  I have faith that soon, we will further the discussion. Forums are in our future.  We will “Bring Life to School” every August To June in Palm Beach County.

    I, Author/Educator, Betsy L. Angert of Empathy And Education, am grateful.  I offer Special Thanks to others who worked to make this tour truly meaningful …With Special Thanks to others who helped make this tour truly meaningful.  Guest Speaker, Author, Educator, esteemed Marion Brady, the Founder-Director of Sunflower Creative Arts, Susan Caruso, Co-Founder of Parents Across America, Rita Solnet.

    References and Resources . . .

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    Occupy Wall Street; Woes and Words

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    copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

    Occupy Wall Street?  I will not.  However, I am there in spirit.  I believe in the cause, the many grounds protesters have posited.  Countless Grievances, One Thread Howard Zinn stated this shared truth ever so succinctly years earlier, “It is not only Iraq that is occupied. America is too.”  Wall Street,Schools, Classrooms, Hospitals, and Banks, these “Occupations” have gone on for far too long. People in Zuccotti Park and at the Chase Manhattan Plaza understand as most Americans do.  The myriad movement reflects the ninety-niners thirst for dignity.  The cravings are deep.  

    I  am one with the unemployed, the scholars, skilled, and service workers who only seek a job.  Independent Laborers and Union folks, your pain is mine. Private Industry and public institutions converted to corporate holdings have hurt me as they have you.  I too, have countless tales to tell.  Consultants, your woes are mine.  Gone are the days of companies being loyal to the workforce.  Pensions went with the wind.

    401ks have replaced these for some.  More are less fortunate.  The statistics are startling.  What has occurred in the last year is more astounding. States Cut Public Pension Benefits In Massive Funding Shortfall.  Personal dollar deficits, I have known more than a few, as have those who physically Occupy Wall Street.

    In spirit, I am you “Occupiers” of Wall Street.  Homeowners, Renters, and those who have lost a place to live, let alone the will to live, I relate. After a score and eleven years, I purchased my first home. I did so during the boom. The cost was great, the interest high.  I thought I could make do.  Times changed and so too did my circumstances.  Nonetheless, I soon discovered the Banks did not care.  Even employees of financial institutions chose not to lend a friendly ear.

    I hear you “Occupiers.”  In many ways, on countless occasions, since Middle School, I have stood against the absurdity of Capitalism out of control.  The Military Industrial Complex is as the Privatization craze.  Each permeates and punishes society.  The powerful have used our nations as their playgrounds.  We see it in policies and practices.  Political realities only further the reason for your, my, our rants and rage.

    Indeed, Corporate and Civic Complexes have brought about fear and loathing. Conjoined, these have left our nation’s people poorer.  Over and over again, Americans have done as President Eisenhower warned us against.  We did not “peer into society’s future” when we acted on greed and immediate gain.  When we allowed the affluent and those of authority to divest and divert funds necessary for the common good, we — you and I, and our government – did not “avoid the impulse to live only for today.” We plundered “for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow.”

    Contrary to Eisenhower’s cautions, Americans “mortgage[d] the material assets of our grandchildren.” We did more than risk the loss of our “political and spiritual heritage.” We successfully vanquished what was ours, a “democracy” thought strong enough “to survive for all generations to come.”  Our country has “become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”

    The gloom and sense of doom felt by the masses who speak out is one I share, only the words differ.  We did not “avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate.”  That is why I ask for a reality once yearned for.  May we be “a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”

    Rather than “occupy” might we integrate ideas on an American Avenue, two or three; perhaps more.  Let us “Tear Down Wall Streets.” We need not infiltrate, invade, or emulate the ways of Wall Street.  There has been too much of this.  Internationally, monetary and military Industrial complexes “Occupy.”  We do not liberate, as is evidenced by Iraq.  Nor will we bring freedom to Afghanistan or Wall Street. We occupy.  

    United States citizens speak of the German occupation of France, or of Europe. After World War II we spoke of Soviet-occupied Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and eastern Europe. It was the Nazis, and the Soviets, who occupied countries. The United States liberates all others from occupation. Indeed, today we are the occupiers.  The number of small, medium and large oversea military installations combined, as documented in the Department of Defense Base Structure Report (BSR) 2003 Report, totals at least 702. Bases, buildings owned and leased, as stated a decade ago . . .”Ongoing additions to the base structure, including in- transfers, are often not officially recorded until well after the decision.”

    Indeed, in recent years alone, the number of occupations has grown substantially.  Some may say, we have been occupiers since settlers first colonized this land.  Tim Wise spoke of this “truth” only days ago.  Wise injects linguistics into the debate.   Language, the use and abuse, or might I say manipulation of a message, looms large in our lives.  I think of DoubleSpeak

    “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. ~ George Orwell. [Author of 1984]

    Be it Corporate Doublespeak, political, or philosophical jargon. Euphemisms expand. This land is your land. This land is my land?  What might the natives of this or any other territory think?

    Might we reflect on the words, the wisdom, and our adopted ways?  “Occupy” Wall Street.  Instead, may we “Tear Down Wall Streets.” These exist everywhere in our country and outside our borders.  It is mused worldwide we live within an oligarchy.  Government Establishments and Corporate Enterprises, each and either, have been “Occupied” or “Liberated” [you choose] by an ideology that insists control must be granted to the few, the proud, the elite.  

    The notion of all, equality, and as a collective, is void. Equality has been marked “canceled” on bills of fare. Fairness is far from our reality, for worldwide, the rich rule.

    We see this in our schools. Privatization has long been in progress.  In 1995, the title appeared prominently, Public Schools: Make Them Private. Domination, the deed done, began decades ago in health care.  “Markets” are closed.  Economic and war policies are not “democratic.”  The question is, has democracy ever been in action. Certainly, Main Street attempted to bring social equality about.  However, classlessness has long been a cause never fully realized.

    Thus, “Occupy” Wall Street, I rather not, thank you.  Oh, I intend to travel to the location, from New York to New Jersey.  I will stand on the streets and express my serious disco9ntnt.  From Connecticut to California, I will walk, fly, drive . . . I will strive to speak in support of our shared contentions.  North or South, I will be there.  Midwestern missions will be, is as mine.  

    Indeed, I even now sit and take vigil.  I “Tear Down Wall Streets.” Still, I desire to do other than was done to me.  I will not “occupy.”  “occupations” are all that I disdain.  I would not wish to repeat the rape that is America’s history.  Violent destructive doings, be these in words, or in deed, are not me!

    Thus, I invite you to do other than inhabit an institution or an ideology that had destroyed democracy.   “Democratization” might be nice; however, that word too has come to mean an occupation.  Integrate, perhaps?  Yet, to assimilate by force, or with the use of forceful language, is but an invasion. “Decolonize” what was captured, possibly?  Yet, I ask, can we grant independence to what never was truly ours . . . Wall Street, Schools, Medical Services, Banks?  

    I will “Tear Down Wall Streets” regardless of the configuration.   Please join me; expand horizons so that all might see a glorious vision. . Together, we can and will reach beyond the sky.  

    References and Resources . . .

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    Primary Teachers and Their Pedagogy



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    copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

    I offer homage to a Teacher whose pedagogy touched me in a manner invisible to me until this moment.  For scores, I understood what a gift he was to me.  His open and caring ways were as I craved.  However, I had never imagined that this man’s schooling style made the difference in my life.  Today, I invite each of us to look beyond the boundaries or the labels.

    Often in life we are asked to reflect; who was or were your most profound Teachers.  I shared my stories in a missive or more.  Those Who Can Teach; Life Lessons Learned, Those Who Can Teach; Transformative Teachers, and Why I Write and Write, Then Write Again.  There are myriad sorts of Teachers.  A few are true treasures.  These special souls take a personal interest in us as individuals.  Students are seen as whole beings, not solely a score, or a name to be identified as a number.  Without these rare Teachers we would not soar.

    Innumerable Scholars seek to inform rather than interact in a way that inspires.  Academicians, an abundance of these, think to fill a brain full of facts, formulas, and figures, is to teach.  I wonder; do these Educators believe they learn from their students?  I cannot know with certainty. For myriad mentors, their labor is not born out of love, but out of need . . . the need to train students for a test.

    Gurus, a few, will sacrifice personal standards.  The belief that it is best to do as was done to them is deep.  Countless more desire to do as expected.  To save oneself, retain face or employment becomes a personal priority.  Few dare to test the system, rock the boat, or retreat from the status quo.  Possibly, less think to do what is different, even if the untried is the truest pinnacle of pedagogy.  A Mom, Dad, Grandparent, or Guardian, can be as classroom Teachers are, entrenched in established traditions.

    This has an effect on us all, for some say their Primary Teacher touched them as no other did.  This sage is frequently thought of as Mom or Dad.  A mother or father, or each, teach us how to be and who we might be.  For the fortunate, this relationship is a close one.  Physical proximity usually allows for an experience that envelops everyone involved.  However, there are those such as I who learn from a distance.  It might be, as it was for me, that a corporeal togetherness did not exist, or did so only from an emotional distance.

    Absence can make the heart grow fonder.  Often, we want love from the person who is not with us, be it in our life, in our home, or in a heart, his or hers. For others, this feeling is far from reasonable.  People ponder; why would I wish to be with someone who rejects me, abandons me, or is emotionally absent.  Regardless of what might be for you, I suspect that you, as I, feel the person or persons who taught you most were your caregivers.

    Some Moms and Dads are superior Teachers; several are less than lovely role models.  Still, even the worse Instructor and instruction teaches.  Each Educator has or had, their own “teaching style.”  Only today did I intellectually evaluate the pedagogies of parents.  Indeed, I wonder if I would have ever thought to do so had it not been for my very, very, very, young 93-years of age cousin and his reflective ways.  Alexander asked of my Dads.  Yes, there were two.

    My Daddy, Logan, passed from his Earthly existence only weeks ago.  My natural father, not the same person, departed from the planet decades earlier.  In truth, “Michael,” the man whose genetic makeup made my life possible, fled from my sphere before I was born.  While we shared a house for more than eight years, we were not truly part of each other’s life.  Our experiences, and the individual present at my conception, were profound Professors.  Each taught me tons.  Nevertheless, I feel secure in saying, Daddy taught me more.

    My Dad gave me life. He breathed oxygen into my lungs.  Daddy filled my world and taught me the ways in which I might choose to move through time and space.  Logan provided the lessons that became my being.  Forever, I acknowledged this, just not in the way I do today.

    Alexander, the reflective truth-seeker that he is, has thought a lot about my Dad in recent days.  While the two knew each other, they have not seen each other in more than two score.  Alex has always felt my Dad hurt my Mom.  Divorce does damage or at least it felt that way to my relative when he first spoke to my Mom immediately after the event that ended my parents’ marriage.  While Mommy believed that the split brought her the best of what was to be her life, Alexander never did.

    My cousin admits that, slowly, he has come to appreciate Daddy through our relationship, Alexander’s and mine.  Alexander is an exemplary learner.  As every Teacher has quoted at one time or another, “To teach is to learn twice,” ~ Joseph Joubert.

    I speak of Daddy often.  He is a Scholar, a sage, a sensational Instructor.  I recall when he helped me with a fifth grade science project.  Together, Daddy and I built a light.  We cut the wood, stained and lacquered the lumber, created, cut, and snipped the wiring, and voilà, the lamp lit.

    Logan also taught me to look, perhaps:  look deeply into the fullness of an idea, a supposed fact, or an idea.  Nothing for Daddy [and for me] is ever “just that simple.”   When I was a child, my Dad would invite me to read the newspaper.  H would peruse one section and offered me another.  I am unsure whether he had an influence on the veracity that comics were of no interest to me.  Nonetheless, I am aware that cartoons were not entertaining for me.  News was my delight.

    Logan would hand the front pages to me and the two of us would read our respective sections silently.  When we were ready to switch, Daddy would ask me, “What did you read?”  I would tell him.  Topics were ticked off one-by-one.  Then, Logan would look at me with his piercing eyes and inquire further.  “What did you think?”  He might begin with one story and then probe in depth dependent on my response.  The questions were open-ended.  If I was unsure or did not know an answer, my Dad would suggest that perchance, I missed a portion of the narrative.

    He offered that I re-read, or research.  Funny. Daddy never made the request in a way that demanded I do as he thought wise.  Logan’s own excitement in the possibility that the two of us might learn together was a source of excitement for me.  Indeed, I recall the occasions well. I would pose a question to Daddy.  He  would grin, from ear to ear, and then without the least bit of embarrassment say, “I do not know.  Let us look for that answer together.”

    With boundless energy, I or we would walk to the books that were our family library.  Oh, think not visions of grandeur.  After my Mom’s divorce from the “sperm donor,” Michael, we were extremely poor.  Daddy was a student in Post-Graduate school at that time. He supported us with the paltry funds secured from a fellowship.  Mommy was not employed in a manner that brought in income.  As is titled today, my Mom was a “Domestic Engineer.”

    I would search and search, share the words and wisdom I found.  Then, Daddy might wonder aloud again and thus, I or we were off again.  Just as frequently, Logan would smile.  Our discussion might take us to another topic, or he would tell me about the tales he read.  Once we were ready, we exchanged pages and perused quietly again and again.

    There are so many stories to tell, and there always have been.  Over the years, Daddy was still my Dad to me.  We chatted consistently.  Even when we lived States away, we were in touch.  He is, at present, as well.  Even in what most call “death” Daddy lives large in my mortal fiber.  Hours ago, my mentor taught me another lesson.

    Alexander asked.  Engaged in a conversation in regards to the roles of men and women, the conventions and the truth, which bears no resemblance to traditional views. Alex spoke of the woman in his life.  Maria is techno-savvy.  At 93, she cannot get enough computer-time.  Facebook is her friend.  She is abundantly connected, as am I. Maria, my cousin’s companion of six plus decades, can fix most any object.  She is skilled manually.  I too can and do much that women are not thought to do.  The men in our lives . . . well some can and many cannot.

    Thus, my cousin who knew my natural father far better than he does Daddy asked. “Did I learn to be as I am from Logan?”  I have long known this was true.  However, only this morning did I realize the variance in pedagogy.  Michael, the little he taught, offered exercises in memorization.  Daddy adopted a more eclectic style.  Critical thought, creativity, curiosity were the “subjects” my Dad thought vital.  The curriculum Daddy embraced was not rote; nor was it rigid.

    All lessons were unrestricted, undefined; mostly instruction and instructions were not limited by parental parameters.  Logan never told me what to think, say, do, feel, or be.  With him, I was free.  My Dad freed me to learn and develop a love of learning.   Imagine that!?

    My primary Teacher, was not one I often thought of as a favorite.  My third-grade Teacher, Mrs Kleefield was great!  I trust she is even still.  Yet, Mrs Kleefield and all she taught me cannot begin to compare with the scads Logan H. Angert bestowed upon my brain and being.  Doctors Murdock, Hartung, Lathrop, and . . . while also exceedingly profound in my life, these Professors are not the Teacher Daddy was for me.

    Oh, there are sooo many superior sages who have touched me.  Some with similar styles to that of my Dad.  Still . . . as cousin Alexander articulates, “More is caught than taught.

    Logan Angert, Daddy, you cast pearls of wisdom to the wind.  Your manner said to me you expected nothing from me in return.  Free to chose as I might, I cheerfully gathered the clusters as they fell. Your energy empowered me to be curious, to think critically, and to form my own foundations and future. I thank you.

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    Save Our Schools; Let Us Never Forget the Mission, March, and Movement



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    copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

    Near a month has passed since the Save Our Schools storm swept through Washington District of Columbia.  As with all squalls the effects of such an event linger long after the winds die down.  A physical space cleaned-up after a tempest takes place does not erase the memory of what occurred.  Be it a blast of air or an action, the calm does not close a chapter in our lives.   The current, commitment, the cause, and our concern do not wane with time, that is, unless we choose to move on or tell ourselves that that is possible. I believe the notion the past is past is fallacious. Our past permeates the present and is a foundation for the future.  Thus, for me, the thought, and the March to Save Our Schools are strong. It survives as is evidenced by the now named Movement.

    I believe the Movement did not begin with the March.  The happening was but a moment, albeit an extremely significant historical occurrence.  The energy exhibited on July 30, 2011 was an expression of what preceded it and illustrates what will follow. Determined not to invite the doom of a forgotten precedent, demonstrators such as I reflect on what was.  Together we will build a better potential for our progeny.  May we begin to extend the journey today?  Ask yourself what you saw, did, felt, tasted, touched; tell your Save Our Schools March story.  I offer mine as a gift to you.

    I ask and answer questions presented to me. Whether you were in Washington, District of Columbia for what some characterize as the main event, at another Demonstration elsewhere, or connected only through the tube, YouTube, radio, and papers, what did you perceive, receive, or retrieve?  Please share your personal story!

    May our offspring, schools, society, and we, grow greater through our caring and sharing.  Let the past, the procession, and the prospect be our guide.



    1. Describe what you saw at the Save Our Schools March, July 30, 2011.


    As I approached the Marchers, or where the throng would be, before the actual walk began, I saw only a loosely dispersed crowd.  I looked for familiar faces.  Fortunately, I was made aware of an opportunity to lead the “parade.”

    A good friend of mine was selected to escort the procession.  He would chant into the megaphone.   I would be just behind him, or so I thought at the time.  Slowly, people gathered around us.  The Save Our Schools banner appeared, accompanied by those chosen to carry the sign.  The “pilots” took their positions.  I watched it all.

    As we Marched, I saw more.  I was astounded.  City dweller and visitors to the nation’s Capital stopped in their tracks.  Cars and cabs stopped.   Passengers took photographs of the event.  Visibly, conversations centered around our appearance.  Thumbs went up.  Frowns turned to smiles as the Save Our Schools protesters approached.  A few applauded.  Many mouths were agape.  Some seemed stunned.  No one was numb.   Even the one dissenter did not stand idly by.  He addressed the crowd and began a tête-à-tête.  Talk is what I observed at every turn.

    However, I never saw the depth and breadth of the moment . . . that is not until the March was over.

    2. Describe what you heard at the March.

    While at the March, as we proceeded up and down the streets of Washington, I heard a harmonic hum.  The voices of two persons with megaphones, my friend’s and another man’s, sang out.  The amplified sounds filtered through the air.  The now massive following repeated the words these individuals sang.  “Our Children.”  “Our Schools.” “Our Voices.”  “Save Our Schools.” These slogans were among the more easily recognizable refrains.  Other odes were also opined.  However, none was more memorable or meaningful to me than the one that I continue to hear in my head.  Aloud, marchers offered an appeal, “Show me what democracy looks like.”  In response, we all trumpeted, “This is what democracy looks like.”  As we did so, I heard and felt my own sobs.  Tears streamed down my face.

    3. Describe what you felt (emotions)

    Oh my!  What I felt?  Empowered. Energized. Emotional which is not my usual.  Indeed, feelings have never been my friends.  I prefer living in logic. You cannot imagine my surprise.  I was struck by how often I choked.  My first March, or the first time I ever participated in a civic action was long ago, I was eleven or twelve, enrolled in Middle School.  Equal Rights for all races was the issue.  Black Americans had finally found their voice and all those years ago, I mine.  As I marched this July in Washington District of Columbia I realized the connection.  The two topics have tugged at my heartstrings.  Each has torn my spirit into tatters.  They are one.

    For me, society, our schools, our students have forever been separate and unequal.  As a culture and a country we segregate.  We speak of fairness and justice, and then act on inequitable simplistic “solutions.”

    Children of commoners are seen as scores and statistics.  Even those in the Middle Class and Upper Middle are given few chances for true fulfillment.  I think of my own experiences.  At times in my life, I was poor, comfortable, or well-off.  I was part of every population, all but the most elite.  Yet, in each, as an auditory learner, I was subjected to examinations meant for a visual learner.

    The young are often used as a means to serve adults and their silly need for some mythical sense of accountability.

    Black and Brown people are treated as slaves. White people may wish to deny this; however actions speak.  African-Americans are also taught to serve.  Rarely does the majority expect much of those forced to live in miserable circumstances. Indeed, I believe for generations we have been taught to fear persons of color.

    Lest I forget to mention another thought that troubles me.  I observe that the poor, the impoverished, Black, Brown and Caucasians, who have far fewer means than the affluent do, do not have equal access to high quality education.  These persons too are economically enslaved.  The difference is, traditionally, society does not easily define the paler of these individuals as inadequate to achieve. One is standardized; others are defined as substandard.  Neither is given a chance to truly thrive.

    The emotional effect of what I experience as true hit me, hard, as I marched.

    4. Describe what you touched (physical sensations)

    I touched less, far less, than what touched me!  In truth, other than the water bottle in my hand and perhaps, another persons body as we brushed by one another, I do not think I placed my hands on any object, being, or entity.  All the physical sensations were felt through a mere presence at the event.

    Indeed, I wonder; did my feet touch the ground?  Perhaps, my head made contact with the clouds.  Surely, my vision soared far above the skies.  Stars surrounded me!  No, this is not a reference to movie star Matt Damon, who in truth, as a thinker and writer impresses me more than his acting ability does.  The light and luminaries were seen in people; persons who stood strong to support a Movement, Save Our Schools!

    Physical contact with individuals’ intent on their work for the cause touched my heart, my head, and helped me to ascend to greater heights.  I will forever feel the climb worthwhile.  I can see the peak from here.

    5. Describe what you smelled.

    The sweet scent of strong support for public education filled the air as we marched.  I could smell it, taste it. I ate in every savory bite.  The saucy speeches were a spicy brew. Aromatic essences, energy filled the air before demonstrators pounded the pavement.  Hot as the day was, and as long as the Rally might have been, hours in the sweltering sun did not cause us to break out in a shared sweat.  No, the only smell I detected was one of success.  Everyone appeared satisfied.  If nothing more Teachers, Pupils, Parents, Principals, Psychologists, Guardians, Grandmas and Granddads made a statement.  It was obvious to each of us; we were heard. Smells?   How do you describe the indescribable? Delicious!

    6. Describe what you thought (random thoughts, consistent thoughts, or anything that comes to mind when participating)

    At the time of the March, my thoughts were many.  Indeed, all of the reflections experienced then linger.  In this moment these are no less large.  I could not get my first March ever out of my mind!

    When a little more than a child, enrolled in Middle School, I demonstrated for Civil Rights, Equal Justice, and Opportunity for All.  Then, it seemed apt that the chant “Power to the people” would be uttered.  For but a moment, this July 30th, in Washington, the Marchers sang the same tune.  I was instantly taken back or aback.

    When we repeated words that spoke to Schools, Tests, and more so the Children, I cried!  So often I choked as we marched.  The fears I feel as I contemplate the future of public education came out in my tears.

    My belief is the need for authentic instruction and assessments is great. Yet, I see that in action, as a society, we turn away from these.  The mantras recited reflected the meaning of a genuine education.  My heart melted with most every phrase.

    However, for me personally, nothing was as profound as what still resonates within me.  The tune rings in my ears even now . . . “Show me what democracy looks like.”  “This is what democracy looks like.”  At one point, early on in the March, I realized that five thousand persons stood physically behind me. Hence, as I spoke the words, I extended my arm in a sweeping motion.  My intent was to point to the voice [the power] of the people.

    I never in my life felt the intensity I did on that date . . . during the Save Our Schools March. Imagine all the people, sharing the entire world and serving our children, society, and future.  I do.

    7. What was the March about / what was the message/story being told?

    I smile.  The thought that there might have been a single message, a singular focus, or but one story being told fascinates me.  Over the past year, as plans for the March were being made, I had the opportunity to speak with many on the subject.  I chatted with a few on the Save Our Schools Executive Committee.  Conversations with volunteers were also abundant. Interested parties and persons, activists engaged me in discussions.  The apathetic too happily joined in dialogues.  Talk of the subject can be heard on every street corner.

    Individuals, who, for a long time did not seem to care about our schools, now, apparently, feel a need to respond to reforms they perceive as painful, punitive or pernicious.  I spoke with parents, pupils, Principals, and those whose guiding principle is privatization.  Each mentioned the error that is, or the erroneous policies that exist within, our current education system.  Yet, even those who hold similar beliefs differ on the message, the mission, and the narrative.

    How we might enact any extraordinary plan[s]? This is a question debated endlessly, just as it was on July 30th at the Save Our Schools March.

    Some say programs such as No Child Left Behind and or Race To The Top are anathema.  Fix these and all will be well. Others argue testing is the terror.  Were we to teach to children not to tests, life would be good.  Teachers tremble at the thought of merit pay and how this practice might affect performance, or at least the review of these.  Then, there is the issue of poverty.  Tis true; dearth dictates how well a child, a community, and a culture might do.  However, today holes are found on the hearths of the poor and in the hearts of the affluent.  Students slip through all sorts of cracks.

    For me personally, the problems are not unique to our generation.  What occurs today is a reflection of shortsighted solutions from the past.  I believe what was and is void from the system, in schools and in our society, is Emotional Intelligence.

    In my mind, were we to ever respect the construct, change is incremental perchance we would learn and provide our progeny with this opportunity.  If elders were to honor the invisible, to acknowledge what adults knew in their infancy and adolescent years, that true learning and the love of it is innate, then, perhaps our children would have a chance.

    I think if are to teach the young well we must begin with their parents!  Let it be known that Accountability in the form of “facts,” figures and formulas is Arrested Development!

    If we are to ever address authentic instruction and assessment, we must remember how we felt when we were young.  All those decades ago we knew that who we were as a whole unique being was being ignored by a system that score us, ranks us, separates and segregates us from our innate creative, curious, and critically thoughtful selves.  We understood that tests did not accurately evaluate our edification.  No one of us had a day when what occurred at home did not have an effect on our school days or daze.

    As children, we were as we are, brilliant.  The difference is, then, we did not accept false notions as fact.  “I am not an “A,” “B,” “C,” or “D,” student.” My school is not a “failure.”  “The adults defined me; thus negated me.”  Remember when we begged to be seen as a Whole Child?  Now, as adults, sadly, supposedly “mature” persons do what was done to them.  

    8. Were there any villains or heroes presented at the March? Explain

    Audibly, I grunt and groan at the thought of villains and heroes. Granted, people seem to seek each.  An adversary spurs them on.  A hero inspires.  Yet, neither can save a school, a system, or a society.

    Several saw Diane Ravitch, Matt Damon, or Jonathan Kozol as our champions.  The Department of Education, Arne Duncan or the man who appointed him Secretary of Education, President Barack Obama, were frequently posited as scoundrels.  Any or all might be thought of as Supermen or women, dependent on whom you speak with.

    However, to me, each is but a mere mortal.  Humans can do harm and can aid health.  Yet, none are saviors.  Perchance they play these on television or people think they do.  That posture is as false as the premise there is one solution that will Save Our Schools.

    9. According to what you heard at the March, who has the voice in public education decisions, i.e., who has the power?

    I wish I could offer a quote or two from the March.  I only have my memories.  From what I heard, read, before and after, have experienced, and believe, Big Businesses have the power.  Unfortunately, the Obama Administration, just as those in the past were, is inextricably linked to corporate lobbyists.

    [This reality is as it was with the Bush bunch. No Child Left Behind: A Primer for Business The Clinton collective was also well connected to corporations.   Are We There Yet? and Clinton Presidency: Expanding Education Opportunity All have emphasized standards and accountability.  Administrations before these three were also less than friendly towards education.  Many reflect and recall . . .

    Ronald Reagan’s impact on education today

    From my personal experience the veracity Power Belongs to Policymakers has been true for longer than I can remember.  Educators in 18th century Prussia, precursor to the American education system, were not seen as policymakers..  Autonomy existed only behind closed classroom doors.  Thus, the beat goes on.  Rally speakers, some, and Save Our Schools supporters, several, spoke to this . . . my personal truth.

    10. Who do you think will be affected by this March?

    I believe, as I did for long before the March, the Save Our Schools demonstration will do little in the immediate to generate genuine education reform, and that “little” is a lot!  The March is but a moment, a necessary moment!  The Walk will bring attention to a problem easily lost in the education legislative shuffle.  Parents, Teachers, Principals, Pupils and the peers of each will be able to vocalize their frustrations, their fears, and even shed some tears.

    Our schools are in a shambles and never needed to be.  Students yearn to learn. Teachers chose to inform and inspire.  Parents want their progeny and the offspring’s’ Professors to succeed.  Principals and Administrators, as well as School Boards strive for superior scholarship. Yet, for too long those on the frontline have been forced to stand behind the scenes.  The March ensures that Educators and those who seek an excellent education will be seen and heard!

    11. Was this March effective? Explain.

    Effective is exactly the word I would use to describe the March.  While it was but a moment in the grand scheme of the Save Our Schools Movement, I think it is, was, and will forever be a vital one.

    I trust it was crucial for each of us to connect to the whole, the whole of the frustration, situation,  the possibilities, and the policymakers.  What better way to make the shared angst and our aspirations known than to communicate the love we feel for learning and learners loudly.

    Most accept, if education policy and practices are to be truly effective these plans and procedures must relate to those they serve.  Students, Parents and Teachers are the individuals served.  I believe if school children and their elders are to be fully effective in  the realm of education, they too must relate or communicate. Under these circumstances, people of every age must also relate, as was done during the Save Our Schools March.

    Common folks showed themselves.  Average Americans spoke with Congresspersons, and the Obama Cabinet about shared concerns.  Our presence and protest reached the ranks of corporate philanthropists, who now design education reform rules.  All this was achieved this July 30th. Thus, for me, the March was absolutely effective!

    12. In order for this March to be effective, what will have to happen in the short-term to make it so?

    I think what needs to occur has already occurred.  People were energized.  Participants were perhaps more eager to act than those unable to attend.  However, in my own life, I have come to see the power of such enthusiasm.  I have spoken with those back home in a manner that listeners said they found contagious.  Frustrated Moms and Dads who never knew of the Movement are ready to act.  It seems several were only waiting for someone to say Let us come together to Save Our Schools.

    Zeal for real and reasonable education reforms were realized.  The broader population viewed videos, read reports, and at times met someone who was there.

    From what was said to me once home, everyday people unaware of the happenings prior to the event felt connected once they learned of the Conference, Rally, and March.  Mothers and Fathers felt hopeful; Grandparents, Aunts, and Uncles too. Perhaps, was the newer thought, if that many people were willing to speak out and endeavor to Save Our Schools, so too could they.  A few expressed a desire. Please keep them informed.  Next year, or next week locally, individuals who before never knew they could, said I am ready to March, Rally, to work towards real reforms for my children.

    13. How do you identify-Ethnically? Gender? Professionally? Politically? Age? (This information helps determine whether there was an underrepresentation or overrepresentation of any of the above categories).

    I am an Educator. For near three decades, I was in the classroom.  Indeed, in my youth, I helped my parents teach University students, graduate and Undergraduate classes.  Recently, the realities of our schools, and the sights of our students’ struggles to survive took me to a place that I cannot describe.  Challenged with a change in curriculums and thus, in attitudes . . .  for the young, the love of learning died . . . I realized my spirit too took a fall  What might have began as frustration turned into a distress so deep I could no longer go on doing as I had done for decades.  I am a Teacher turned Author, Activist, and Advocate for real excellence and equality in education reform.

    By appearance, I am Caucasian, although admittedly, my own experiences as a toddler and tot are not as those of the White Woman I am. I am intensely aware that this truth shades my reality.  I am equally cognizant that I cannot accurately be classified as being of another race or ethnicity.  My “color” too, be it only skin deep affords me a life that I would not have if my flesh were not pink.  Indeed, I am able to hear and speak to discriminatory commentaries that would never be expressed aloud if a person in my presence knew how I feel about being “White.”

    In truth, I do not feel good about being characterized as a “woman!”  Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s words resonates within me; “Once you label me, you negate me!”  Perchance, the intensity with which I respond to stereotypes is the reason I relate so strongly to the notion of the Whole Child, the Whole Being, and the need to individualize instruction.

    My age and politics, and political activism speak to far more than my gender and ethnicity.  I grew up during the Civil Unrest of the sixties in a home where current events were customary conversation.

    As a child, the Black community cared for me and about me.  Those pale in color were not interested in me.  Indeed, Anglos rejected me, even, if not especially, my blood relatives.  Possibly, that is why I took the path I did early on. I spoke out and marched for Civil and Equal Rights as a Middle Schooler.

    In my teens, I became more closely connected to my family,  By then, much had changed, mostly my Mom and my newer Dad were transformed, as was my relationship with kin.  I am a third-generation Peacenik, extremely “liberal” if that word can be defined.  Yes, I was as I am, ready to March!

    14. How did/does your biography prepare you to participate in a March on Washington? (Meaning, were your parents organizers or are you a activist; or are you a fed-up teacher, etc.)

    I believe my response to question 13 [above] answers this question as well!

    15. Did this March change your thoughts, positions or feelings about the public school teacher?

    The March was my revival, renewal, a Renaissance I anxiously awaited.  My energy, enthusiasm, and eagerness have not changed.  Nor have my thoughts, positions, and feelings.  These are but enlarged.

    I continue to yearn for curriculums comprised of creative, curious, and critical thought.  Now, knowing that thousands stand with me, I will work harder to ensure such excellence  exists for all.

    My belief is that to ensure availability and accessibility to the best that is education, public schools must be preserved. Educational institutions must prosper.   Today, with renewed strength, and the visible support of so many, the quest continues.

    Authentic instruction and assessment, an equal education for every child, will be my vision and my mission. Today, I realize, the aspiration part of a magnificent and massive Movement.

    16. Did this March change your thought, positions or feelings about the American Public School system?

    I smile and say no.  The March change your thought, positions or feelings about the American Public School system could not have changed what for me has lived too large since childhood.  In my youngest years and throughout my education, I struggled with test anxiety, evaluations that never gave a hint of what I learned, and pedagogical agendas that preached learning modalities while ignoring these.

    As an adult and Educator I came to understand the conventions, controls placed on curriculums.  I saw as I felt, children respond not well to what kills a spirit.  The hunger for creativity, curiosity, and critical thought is not lessened only lost and sought elsewhere.

    My thoughts, positions, and feelings about the American Public Schools System are, as these were.  I see reason for hope, glimpses of light, and lots of darkness.  The latter, I believe is self-inflicted by a population beaten down over many decades.

    17. From what you can tell, who was at the forefront of this March, or who was leading this March?

    Physically, I was.  I was at the front of the procession.  In essence, I think even those who think of themselves as Leaders are not and were not on this occasion.  No one is moved to March because someone else said he or she “should,” “must,” or “needs to.”

    Leadership is myth.  This concept denies people their own power.

    Perhaps, as a society, were we to understand and accept that change, learning, walking, talking cannot be controlled by an outside force . . . that these are choices, people, at every age, make, then we would stop force-feeding children, their Teachers, School Administrators and even Moms and Dads policies and practices.

    I smile as I realize Advertisers and Philanthropists acknowledge this veracity.  That is why these persons spend billions on marketing their message.  “Privatize and standardize education;” that is the mantra the America people have been sold.

    Those who led the March are one for all.  We each listened to and responded to “me, myself, and I.” The way we individually feel about issues that affect our family, our friends, and all that is familiar to us promoted us to travel and trek!  No one could have told me to walk or stay at home.  I wonder if all those present would not say the same.

    I think of the words Rita Solnet, Co-Founder of Parents Across America, an organization more than twelve-thousand strong, articulated from the stage.  Anyone of us might have been the first to say as Marchers later chanted, “Our Children.” “Our Schools.” “Our Voices.” Each of us uttered the phrases from a heart that belongs only to us, as unique individuals.  No one can lead another to love and work to better the lives of those important to him or her.  

    18. In your opinion, how many people attended the March? (If you heard an estimate from the news media, please indicate the source.)

    My opinion as it relates to the numbers there changed as I read various sources.  I first read 3500, then 4000.  More recently 8,000 is the total. Thus, I know not with certainty, not that I did before.

    I share sources . . .

    The Save Our Schools MarchThe Answer Sheet – The Washington Post

    I don’t know how members of the audience (UPDATE Aug.9: a Park Service employee on the day of the march told me that as many as 8,000 attended; however, it’s worth noting the Park Service itself does not provide crowd estimates) withstood the heat but they did, and then they marched to the White House, in hopes that someone would let President Obama know about their disappointment in his education policies.

    Dora Goes to Washington: The Save Our Schools Rally and March

    The number of participants continued to grow during the rally. The Park Services estimated early on that there were approximately 8,000 people in attendance including a contingent of Parents Across America members representing North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, California, Iowa, Colorado, Louisiana as well as our fair state and others.

    Education Week: Education Policy Critics March on White House

    Organizers estimated the size of the crowd at 5,000, but a rough count by Education Week put it closer to 3,000. Before the event, organizers had said they were expecting 5,000 to 10,000 people.

    An Urban Teacher’s Education: SOS March in DC

    Although there were a few more events scheduled after the march, participants all but disappeared after the march was over. Anthony Cody estimated about 5,000 people turned up and hoped for 50,000 next year. Education Week suggested the turnout was closer to 3,000.

    More than 100 Wisconsin teachers attend education rally in D.C. JSOnline

    The Save Our Schools March & National Call to Action in D.C. on Saturday had around 3,000 participants, according to Education Week. The grassroots protest movement featured well-known speakers on education as well as actor Matt Damon.

    19. Based on your vantage point, what was the composition of the March (ethnicity, gender, age, ideological position, etc.)?

    From what I saw at the Save Our Schools March the crowd was overwhelmingly White. Many, if characterized by the formal Education acquired were bright.  Indeed, those with far less time in a classroom were truly learned.  [I think of the Piece By Peace and ReThink persons!  I loved these persons!!! After their performance I spoke with many of them.]

    The leaning would likely be considered Left of Center, “right” without being “Right”  . . . as though a correct or wrong exists.  Even directions such as up or down are dependent on where one stands.  Smiles.

    Most at the March would probably be defined as Middle Class and Middle Aged.  I thought of who attends Netroots Nation Conferences.  While countless of every age, near a half a million or more read Daily Kos, Caucasians of a certain age and financial status gather.  Even the more extreme philosophically seem to appear less often.

    I think this is a reflection of society.  Mobility correlates to money.  Those who have, can and do.  Those with less do not have the opportunity to be present.  If perchance the poorer find a way to a walk, a talk, or a forum, there will be but a few in attendances.  The reality that lives large in our schools and society, is economic slavery survives and thrives.  Most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.  A trip costs time and depletes the dollars put aside to merely live.

    20. If you were to summarize the overall impression this March has made on you, what would it be?

    Wow!!!!  Not only did the March make an impression on me, one that is permanently etched into my being, I have yet to speak to a single person who did not think the event, the experience was essential!!!!

    I trust that every participant was energized and expanded, even those not present on that toasty July 3oth day.

    All of us spoke as one, and part of the many.  Indeed, I believe, the sum was far greater than the parts!  The total effect, for everyone will be felt as we walk with others to build a broader movement.  As individuals we will, as I did speak to persons who never knew of the March.  This action will advance further awareness, participation, and conversations . . . The garden created for future generations will grow.

    Last week, as I entered a plane, I spoke with the man behind me in line.  I told this stranger about the March.  Possibly, the tune that plays in my head ever since the demonstration prompts me to share what I still see and hum.  “Show me what democracy looks life.  This is what democracy looks like!”  Perhaps, never have I felt so empowered as a citizen . .  and I have been an Activist since Middle School.

    Nonetheless, that aside, the gentleman responded well.  As I said, he thought the March vital!!!  As the other passenger reflected further, I learned he thinks Tenured Teachers are responsible for Communism.  He warned, persons such as paid sages and the political philosophy he strong and loudly opposes are coming.

    “So true,” said the Flight Attendant who overheard the comment.  The Airline employee expanded the thought.  She offered, “We were just speaking about “Bad Teachers” and how they are the worse!”  The two happily engaged as I expressed my dissent, stored my luggage and sat down.

    Thus, my impression, my belief, my thoughts and feelings . . .  nothing I have ever done was as crucial.  I may help a child or children love learning.  I may nurture growth in toddlers, teems, tots, tweens, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty sixty, seventy, eighty and ninety something’s; still, as one person, I can never speak to the masses in the way I might when I am part of a whole far bigger than any I can easily measure.

    21. Will today’s events cause a shift, a rupture, interruption, mutation or otherwise in the current conversation about public school teachers? Shift, rupture, interruption, mutation, or otherwise? Explain.

    Absolutely!  Shifts, I believe, are eternal, invisible, subtle, seemingly slight, and sensationally huge!  Sadly, most do not realize what occurs.  We are each too close to fully comprehend the changes we create.  However transformations are constant!  Every conversation is a cause.  Reflections, ruptures, interruptions, just as interpretations, are the effect.

    I cannot predict what will occur, how, when, where, or why, what will be will be.  However, I am certain, whatever becomes of what we began will also evolve, as will we. Our education system will also progress.  I can only hope that in time the Movement will be a wise one . . . one that opens hearts, minds, souls, and society.

    May we see each other as uniquely whole beings, to be honored and revered rather than counted, scored, standardized, and seen as statistics!

    22. Reasonably, what will you need to see in the long-term in order to think that this March made a difference regarding the American public school teacher and/or the American public school system?

    There is nothing specifically I need to see in the short or long-term to think the March made a difference.  Years ago, I wrote of another frustration, action, and movement, Peace.

    I offer that thought to help illustrate why I look for nothing in particular, and why I do not think one moment is the only cause with a singular effect.

    Boca Peace Corner Participants Cultivate Harmony

    © copyright 2008 Betsy L. Angert

    “The heights by great men reached and kept

    Were not attained by sudden flight,

    But they, while their companions slept,

    Toiled ever upward through the night.”

    ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Peace comes upon us without much fanfare.  Most await an announcement or seek a moment of resolve.  However, the message never comes.  In this country, in our local communities, and perchance planet wide, a small number of people acknowledge goodwill is not created in an instant.  It grows.  The transition from warfare to common welfare is invisible.  Tranquility enters; and no one stands triumphantly.  Buglers do not blow their horns.  Twenty-one guns do not salute.  Serenity is a state of being.  This is true for individuals and for the world as a whole.  Harmony, once achieved will be but a hush.   Peace grows as a tree does, from the roots up.

    23. Did I leave out anything you’d like to address?

    For me, I have faith that I will ponder all that you asked about further.  Conversations, as the cause, Save Our Schools, have no beginning and no end. If any aspect was not addressed, it is I who was remiss in my responses.

    I thank you for this opportunity!!!!  The reflection, inspired by your inquiries, was and is truly wondrous in my life!!!!  The interview is the cherry on top of a glorious growing experience.  May our shared travel live on.  May the seeds we planted be sown eternally.  May our students, schools, and society bloom and blossom.

    Huge hugs and infinite kisses.  I thank you !!!!!

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    Why We Say Save Our Schools





    copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

    I am but one who will stand strong to ensure an equal education for all.  All who do or plan to, will express themselves in various ways.  Some will March. Others will Rally or gather in Conference.  Several have, do, or expect to act locally.  Countless change what they can for children within the dynamics that define their family.  Nationwide, innumerable Americans join hands and embrace a common cause. Let us Save Our Schools.

    Jointly, we wear our hearts on our sleeves so that our children, our communities, this country can see we care.  As our forefathers did before us, Americans invest in a shared future.  We trust that learned little ones, as well as those denied an adequate education must have a solid foundation on which to build.  Our offspring and we will suffer if, indeed, we do not work for the good of our young.  It seems our many decades long shortsighted education “solutions” have already had an adverse affect.  People from every political Party and point of view proclaim the need to teach the children well.  

    The Left, “Right,” and middle muse; our education system needs reform. We must Save Our Schools.  The questions are how, which schools; charter, private or public institutions and why?  These queries lead to further reflection.  What might be preserved, reserved, reformed or left for ruin?  Would it be better to transform an arrangement that many agree fails our young?  The answers spur people to act.  It seems with little forethought, the process has already begun.  Indeed, change commenced decades ago.  

    Headlines herald the news. Jonathan Mahler wrote in The Deadlocked Debate Over Education Reform. “The modern school-reform movement sprang to life in 1983, with the release of “A Nation at Risk,” an education report commissioned by the Reagan administration that boldly stated…that the United States had embarked upon a “unilateral educational disarmament…The Clinton administration’s emphasis on national standards… President George W. Bush’s declaiming of “the soft bigotry of low expectations”… ”

    For some, the history is nothing in comparison to what we witness daily.  Children are being left behind.  The past was but prologue. It is now our present.  Education observer Mahler continues. “On to the current generation of reformers, with their embrace of charter schools and their attacks on the teachers union. The policies and rhetoric changed, often dramatically, but the underlying assumption remained the same: Our nation’s schools are in dire need of systemic reform.”  The debate as to how, why, when and where has become less about the little ones and more about rhetoric.  Messages are “framed” to ensure that a political agenda is maximized.

    Today. Public Education has all but Perished.

    The Frame; Change arrived in the form of “No Child Left Behind.” This law caused our children to languish further.  The One-Size-Fits-All tools adopted fit very few.  The state and the nation are pursuing policies that have not closed the achievement gap and have aggravated the situation for many students.  “Indeed, No Child Left Behind’s ‘get-tough’ approach to accountability has led to more students being left even further behind, thus feeding the dropout crisis and the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” ~ Bob Valiant. Kennewick School District. Education Matters. March 19, 2011

    Political postures are effective, that is, for all but the young and their Moms, Dads, Grandparents and Guardians. These elders see the pain on their little loved ones faces.

    Students Struggle to Survive…

    Curriculums have been cut to the core.  Classes canceled. Test scores and statistics govern what occurs. “Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.”  School Districts confronted with possible punishment, or the promise of financial rewards, dependent on student test scores, thought it wise to remove coursework that did not pertain to the subjects tested.  

    Reading and math became the sole priorities. All other topics in a school’s curriculum, with the exception of Science, at minimum, were reduced in scope.  Some disciplines, such as the Arts, Social Science, and Literature were as the children, left further behind to the point of being lost.  For persons who care about our progeny, this point alone became the raison d’être for a Save Our Schools March, a Rally, a Conference, and a mass Movement.  The populace observed Students Stifled Will Not Sing or Soar. The pain became more and more palpable.

    Students Stifled Will Not Sing or Soar.

    Critical Thought, Creativity, and Curiosity are now null and void in our schools.  Public and private institutions wane.  Rather than a shared success among all students, today we have winners and losers.  Parents work to see that their children achieve.  The less financially fortunate will wait in enrollment lines for hours in hopes that by lottery, their young ones will triumph.  

    Yet, few truly do.  In contrast to the much-touted claims, children who are accepted into these so-called “exceptional” charter schools are, in actuality, no better off than those who are rejected.  After a lengthy study, Senior Harvard University Lecturer Katherine K. Merseth observed, “No matter how they are measured, there are some amazing charter schools…At the same time, however, we know that there are many charters that are not successful. A further disappointment for me is that essentially given the freedom to create any form or structure of schooling, the vast majority of charter schools look just like the schools we’ve already got. ”

    Religious schools fare no better.  Often seen as the savior for less than affluent parents, they also struggle with standards. Hard times push Catholic schools toward crisis.  Enrollment is down and the need to satisfy an insatiable American need for “accountability” is up.  Government sponsored voucher programs contributed to each of these truths.  Popular conventions are also the reason that Standardized Tests Taken by Nine Out of Ten Voucher Schools.

    Even private schools have not fully escaped what often holds young learners back.  Standardization, in other words and ways, the testing craze is alive and well in exclusive schools.  These privileged institutions too have seen the errors of this way. Entrance exams are inaccurately evaluated. “Substantially equivalent” educations are as advertised.  Differences, in the end, are not realized,  Hence, as might be expected, most every curriculum in each locale has suffered, just as students have.  Again, as parents pour over test scores and the scours on little ones faces, in harmony, they chant “Please Save Our Schools!”

    “Only two subjects [math and reading.] What a sadness,” said Thomas Sobol, an education professor at Columbia Teachers College and a former New York State education commissioner. “That’s like a violin student who’s only permitted to play scales, nothing else, day after day, scales, scales, scales. They’d lose their zest for music.”~ Sam Dillon The New York Times.  March 26, 2006

    Students are at risk when punitive policies promote more scales, less music!

    “Teach to the Tests.”

    Proud Papa Barack Obama understands the problem and spoke to it in March 2011.  As the nation’s Chief Executive stood before students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network, at Bell Multicultural High School, in Washington, District of Columbia, the Professor turned President said, “Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools.  Yet, Administrations Mandate More Standards, Scores, Statistics, and School Closures.  Today, Performance is Reviewed Rigorously. “Race To The Top Requirements” rule.  Please peruse Race to the Top Program Executive Summary.  Department of Education. November 2009

    While intellectually, Mister Obama understands the myriad hazards associated with “common core standards,” he and his Administration adopted these.  “Standardized-test scores can provide useful information about how students are doing  But as soon as the scores are tied to firing staff, giving bonuses, and closing schools, the measures become the goal of education, rather than an indicator.  Race to the Top went even beyond NCLB in its reliance on test scores as the ultimate measure of educational quality.” ~ Diane Ravitch. Historian and author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System.  Newsweek. March 20, 2011

    Race To The Top Myths.

    • Teachers are to blame for the education crisis.
    • Business practices build solidly performing students and schools.
    • Rigor is “right.”
    • Teaching is a task anyone can do.

    Race To The Top Truths.

    “Race to the Top? National standards for math, science, and other school subjects?  The high-powered push to put them in place makes it clear that the politicians, business leaders, and wealthy philanthropists who’ve run America’s education show for the last two decades are as clueless about educating as they’ve always been.” ~ Marion Brady. veteran Teacher, Administrator, Curriculum Designer and Author. Washington Post

    Administration after Administration administers standardized exams.  The scores reveal one truth consistently; our children are not standard.  Each is a Whole being, a child who yearns to learn more than memorize.  Indeed, to commit a fact, figure, or formula is not learning at all. Rote and regurgitate; this rhythm does not resonate in a mind, heart, body or soul.  Adults will tell you, in retrospect such an education is not an education at all.

    Still policymakers are intent. Reinstatement. Rewrite. When will Legislators learn? The Race Leaves Children Further Behind. Please Save Our Schools!

    National Standards. Low Expectations.

    Countless concur. Standards and standardization in our schools has not helped advance humanity.  These are the cause of the stagnation we see in our schools.  Indeed, with the restrictions imposed, more students and Teachers dropout of an already diminished system.

    More than five years ago, it was calculated that “Every Nine Seconds in America a Student Becomes a Dropout. Then and now we pay the cost for inadequate education structures.  

    The number of Teachers who dropout of our schools in the first five years of their careers is far greater than that of students.   Studies show the most qualified Educators leave first.  Little support, poor conditions, and poverty play roles in what occurs.  Innumerable acknowledge; scarcity and the problems this puzzle presents within our society, specifically for our schools, is intolerable.  

    Writer Kozol perhaps, speaks for the American people when he says,  “Good God, with all these gifts, useful energy, innocence, curiosity, why don’t we give [our children] everything we have?

    This question is one every individual has asked at some time in their lives.  Even the childless are troubled by perceived injustices.  Teachers are troubled.  Parents perturbed.  A Professor ponders and shares her exploration. University of Berkeley Social Scientist Dacher Keltner reminds us of our roots.  Innately, humans hold dear the notion “survival of the kindest.” This truth is our strongest instinct. “Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others,” said Keltner.

    Dacher Keltner’s research reveals that Political divides and partisanship disappears when compassion, particularly for the children, is the issue.  Possibly, this is the essence that energizes the masses to Rally, to March and to build a Movement.  The people are compelled to call for action.

    Finally, as education worsens Moms and Dads put their habits and hubris aside.  Many have decided dollars can no longer dictate deeds as have been true in the past.  Compassion for the children can and must be our guide.  

    Perhaps, that is the real reason people from every political Party will join hands. In Washington District of Columbia, in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, California, in every State in the Union the public proclaims, we will not abandon our public schools.  This is why I will March, attend a Rally, Register for a Conference or two, and you? Will you?

    References for Real and Rhetorical Education Reform . . .

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    August To June. Teach Our Children Well



    AUGUST TO JUNE Excerpts for “Teach Your Children Well” presentation

    August To June, Empathy And Education; The Union

    As Presented at Temple Beth El, Boca Raton. Community Forum on Education; “Teach Your Children Well”

    I wish to thank Rabbi Brockman, Debbie Block, and each of you, for this opportunity.  May I also offer my sincere gratitude to my mentors, Amy and Tom Valens, the makers of August To June.

    You have just seen a lesson the two illustrate so well.  “One Class” plus “One Year” equals more than the sum of these parts.  Through twenty-six eight to ten year olds, and a Teacher, the Whole Child concept is understood.

    Other persons who offered this lesson are here among us.  In spirit my very, very, very young cousin, at the age of 93 is with us, as are you.  I will share Alvin’s wisdom as I go on. I experience that yours is ever-present in our travel together this evening.  For now, I will merely say; Alvin does, as I trust you will tonight; teach me.  I have faith that your every word and deed will inform my own.

    That is what human interaction does for each of us; it edifies.

    Even an encounter with our own thoughts teaches. Thus, I suspect this evening, you will teach yourself.

    Let us begin to learn as we look beyond the limits and the labels.

    What we saw on the screen only moments ago were the words, “One Class” and “One Year.” We also glimpsed into the lives of an extraordinary Teacher and her exceptional students.  Parents too, while less prominent in this particular clip, are everywhere in the full-length feature film.

    There is much that makes up a Whole Child, a Whole Classroom, and a Whole Life. I think of Alvin, his 93 years on this planet.  There is not a day that goes by without Alvin discovering a new fact or fiction.  The same is true for me, and you!  Yet, others wish to reduce each of us to descriptors.

    You are a professional person, a parent, a Mom, or Dad. He or she is an “At Risk” Student, a “Highly Qualified Teacher,” or a “High Performing Pupil.” “Dropouts” too abound or did before they were left behind.  Each spends most of their days in a “Failed School.”

    That is what people do; we categorize, characterize, and calculate the numbers.

    We place labels on all that we see.  Rarely do we ponder as Danish Philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard did near two hundred years ago.

    “Once you label me, you negate me.”

    Thankfully, my cousin Alvin had thought that notion through.  Alvin taught me decades ago . . .

    “No two people, places, experiences or emotions are ever the same.  They are similar, but never the same.”

    Let us consider this thought as it equates to education.  If you are not as I, and he is not as she, why would we think any of our children are identical or that they learn in identical ways?  Is it even possible that two students might interpret a test question in the exactly the same manner?  I doubt it.

    We see the similarities and differences in children. We heard and felt these while in Amy Valens’ classroom.   I saw vast variances in students I have worked with. You too may have caught a glimpse of this veracity in your own lives.

    As we looked and listened, we learned.  Ultimately, as Alvin also frequently articulates, much of what we discern was not taught in a formal lesson.  Alvin says on education . . .

    “More is caught than taught.”

    I invite you to reflect on your reality as it relates to this thought. Who was or were your best Teachers?

    Did you encounter your mentor, your Muse in a classroom between the months of August To June?

    Was he or she; were these Teachers, the embodiment of Empathy And Education?

    If so, was it an understanding relationship that truly helped advance your knowledge?

    Were you as Amy’s students obviously were, happy to have a caring Educator at and on your side?

    Please ponder the Instructors you have had, be these classroom Teachers, Moms, Dads, siblings, Grandparents, and or a person you merely encountered in your journeys.

    How did each affect your learning?

    Did a grade or a test determine how much or how little you learned?

    Could any of what you gained be calculated in a single moment or on a particular exam?

    Could a supposedly “objective” observer have understood who you are, what wisdom you acquired in school, or in your life?

    Perchance, we might assess as our current system does.  The structure that we the adults, Administrators, and policymakers put in place looks only at the labels.

    Assumptions are made. Too often your child is viewed as the sum total of test questions. “One Class?” “One Year?”  We define a Whole Child by his or her test scores secured in a single week.  Then, sage as we are, call that a comprehensive assessment.

    Statisticians conclude that the results of high-stakes assessment tests taken over the course of a few days, correctly characterize the complexity that is your child.  Someone who has never seen or spoken with your tot, teen, or tween determines the wealth of knowledge he, or she, has acquired.

    This person will not consider that perhaps, on the occasion of his or her testing, the young one was ill.  Nor will a group of examiners be made aware of his or her circumstances.

    It might be that little John or Jane just discovered plans of an impending divorce, a death in the family, or Juanita and José learned that a friend had moved to parts unknown.  Will these events be reflected in the final test scores?  Absolutely! Labels do not distinguish.

    All are created equal, even when they are not.  Indeed, as Alvin expounds . . .

    “No two people, places, experiences or emotions are ever the same.  They are similar, but never the same.”

    This is why I say to you, what you saw on the screen minutes ago was not “One Class,” “One Year,” or an extraordinary Teacher with her exceptional students.

    August To June shows us the many who learn daily in our schools.  It also bears witness to the countless ways in which each discovers new knowledge.  On the screen we observed you and me . . . all learners, unique beings that we each are.

    This film is not a prescription for a standardized proposal.

    In August To June you heard Amy reflect a more real profundity . . .

    I don’t know what will become of the children in my classroom.  I may think I have glimpses of their futures, but there are so many influences that I can’t see, can’t imagine. What I can offer is a solid beginning, giving them tools they can use in many situations, and opportunities to use them.

    Just as my cousin Alvin, Amy does not pretend to know which pearls of wisdom thrown will be caught.  Instead, Educator Amy Valens speaks to the similarities that are never the same.  In the vernacular of today she reflects on the reality, we are all “Whole Children,” Teachers, and Students too.  We are more than “One” Score in “One Class” in the course of “One Year.

    Every one of us, regardless of our age looks, listens, learns, teaches, and then learns anew.

    We are never authentically “One.” We are a collection of emotions, experiences, lessons learned and the effects of these.  We do not discover the wealth of our knowledge in “One Year.” Nay express all that we unearthed in a single examination.  Teacher Amy Valens stated as she strolled through the backyard . . .

    There isn’t one right way to teach, but whatever the method, the “whole child” is there, waiting, and needs to be addressed.  If we stay mindful of that, and are not constrained by one size-fits-all solutions, we can create joyful, respectful environments that fit the children we’re teaching.

    Let us Bring Life to Schools.  It is time that we more authentically assess and teach.  Rather than repeat the problems as Administrators, policymakers and parents do, let us do other than adopt unsubstantiated solutions or accept statements proven false. Think of your own life and your child’s. Students held accountable do not necessarily succeed.

    Teachers paid more for higher students’ test scores fare no better.

    Measurements do not move minds Nay Mountains.

    Test scores are not the best determinates for future successes.

    Failure is not only an option; it is what these practices yield.

    It is these narrow approaches, the labels we purposely impose, that have led us to be  “A Nation At Risk!” We never were or will be “One Class,” “One Year,” or achieve “One Standard” that truly serves our students well.  We are more than the sum of these parts.

    I offer a thought Malcolm Gladwell articulates in an article titled Teachers and Quarterbacks . . .

    You discover that the psychological situation facing gatekeepers…is identical: that confronted with a prediction deficit, the human impulse is to tighten standards, when it fact it should be to loosen standards.

    Let us invest in The State of the Union, Empathy and Education. Let us embrace the “Whole Child.”  After all, Education and Empathy affect us all. From August To June, and in the Summer, Winter, Spring and Fall we learn, grow, and can glow greater if we choose.

    Let us Bring Love Back to Learning and Life Back To Our Schools.

    I thank you my mentors.

    Resources . . .

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