Hurricane Sandy and What Heals Hurts


Hurricane Sandy and What Heals Hurts

By Betsy L. Angert

Human beings are a fascinating bunch.  We gather information through observation, and the reading of facts, figures, and formulas.  We draw inferences and deduce. Granted conversations too play a role in what we conclude; however, mostly humans rely on the readable. What we cannot see is thought less significant.  Take Hurricane Sandy for example.

Meteorologists saw the signs.  Citizens, who merely glanced at the papers understood what was visible in print; Sharp Warnings as Hurricane Churns In. People began to do as people do when warned of an impending storm. They prepare for the worse.  Individuals and families evacuated the area.  Transit Authorities shutdown the system.  Cities and counties hunkered down.

Now, after the tempest took its toll, young ones do as the adults had done.  An eight-grader’s account looks at what appears on the surface. As do most, she too attends to material concerns.  Rarely, do we know what else to do. Society and school curriculums that reflect a standardized surface reality do not give us the critical thinking tools needed to assist persons who have experienced an emotional trauma.  Today, we have one. We have Psychological First Aid.  This relief is not as a “kit” filled with bandages, cotton balls and antiseptic; nor is a box full of funds or quick-fix tricks. No, this Aid is much like cake you bake or the casserole you might make for family or friends in distress.  Either is a gift of love.  Each opens the door for conversations that reveal feelings.  So what is this Aid?

It is  The Save Our Schools Hurricane Sandy Student and Teacher Support Fund. Oh sure, you say, another charity, another request for cash. How can dollars provide psychological  support? Currency and coins cannot. In truth, food and water do not feed a soul. Bricks and mortar also are inadequate; even blood does not heal our emotional hurts.  So again you ask, why contribute to this Fund?  What makes it different? It’s the ingredients.

This cake or casserole to be presented will be made with the finest blend “The Core Actions.” The essence of the mixture. Ah, take a whiff, or dip your fork in and taste what the eyes cannot see.

  • Contact and Engagement
  • Safety and Comfort
  • Stabilization
  • Information Gathering: Current Needs and Concerns
  • Practical Assistance
  • Connection with Social Supports
  • Information on Coping
  • Linkage with Collaborative Services

How is that possible? Let us look at the cook.    Save Our Schools,  a grassroots, people-powered, non-profit organization has organized and effort that focuses on the emotional needs of students, Teachers, and School Support Staffs.  SOS will work to support  several New York and New Jersey schools, in dire need.  Provisions, while material, will offer opportunities to open doors that evoke fruitful and emotional discussions. Gifts that invite children to play bequeath the freedom necessary for caring conversations.  

Only through these dialogues do we “see” into the soul to more than merely addressing the visible wounds. A box of crayons, paper, and a Trained Counselor, these are the ingredients that, when stirred together bake a beautiful cake. The frosting is Contact and Engagement.  We advocate that Teachers are provided the space to become the first element in a Psychological First Aid Box. With a moratorium on the administration and use of high stakes standardized testing for teacher and student evaluation emotional relief can begin.  Chitchat and chatter, is the small talk that makes possible the sense of Safety and Comfort, which is another essential  factor.   The food that evokes thoughtful dialogues. The Save Our Schools Students and Teachers Fund will offer these.

Fictional books and academic texts too will be among the gifts we give. The Practical Assistance piece of the cake.  The Practical  also speaks to the Stabilization necessary.  By being there, within schools and communities, as union locals, area Parent Teacher Associations and other education allied advocacy organizations will do more than  throw money at an unsightly broken wall.  From within, we will Gather Information, as well as address Current Needs and Concerns.  We will establish a Connection to Social supports while providing psychological and emotional Information, Support that grows coping muscles.  We will also build Collaborative relationships.  We would like to build one with you.  

If you choose, please contribute to the cake, casserole, or The Save Our Schools Hurricane Sandy Student and Teacher Support Fund.  We thank you!

Resources and References…

copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org

Dump Duncan. The Power of a Plan versus Petition

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

The Powell Plan understood what the Dump Duncan advocates seem to have missed.  “The Medium is the Message.”  Melodic Messages such as “Freedom” and “Individual Choice” Move the Masses. Move the Masses. Money is less Meaningful than a Mission that Gives Voice to a Shared Vision.

What does a memorandum scribed more than a two score ago have to do with a present-day petition?  Everything!  Granted, on the surface there are few if any similarities beyond the veracity that each addresses education.   One is an archaic collection of suggestions.  The other is a contemporary polemic petition.  The latter has an immediate punch.  The language is forceful.  The sentiments are fervent.  Signers of the Dump Duncan supplication submit, we “wish to express our extreme displeasure,” followed by a threat. “It is unlikely that you will receive continued support unless…”  The plea is addressed solely to the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  The former, known as The Powell Memo, while a quiet communiqué, became a catalyst for lasting and profound change.    The latter “Dump Duncan!” document, however, will likely die a quiet death.  Why might this be?

A word; which has a wide appeal, propagates the Powell dossier. “Freedom.” The stance silently stated and shared with many was “the truth is that freedom as a concept is indivisible.” Indeed, even those who wish to Dump Duncan might agree.  After all, endorsers of Duncan initiative seek also emancipation.  Signatories seek freedom from No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top mandates and the man who enforces such unyielding legislation.

Freedom is a concept that resonates within us all.  However liberty from this particular Secretary of Education does little to excite most Americans.  In truth, despite a devotion to Party or position innumerable individuals think Arne Duncan is doing a fine job.  Thus the reason the Dump Duncan dictum did little to move the masses.  Meanwhile, the Powell Manifesto moved and moves us all, like a ghost never gone with the wind.

Readers respond to what is relatable, the Powell proclamation.  The “views expressed…tentative and suggestive” sparked a flame. Insidiously, the intensity of the fire grew and grew.  Today, the nation is ablaze.  Intent on privatization, a select few ultimately persuaded a nation.  Millions of individual men, women, and children, acceded to the need to transform our schools.  

Once the initial mission was accomplished the quest did not end.   It was never meant to as is evident in the statement; “Recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival – survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people.”  It is essential to realize as the Writer, an Industrialist highly involved in multiple Boards of Education did.  Even Educators fight for survival.  Teachers, parents too, want the right to choose.  Everyone does.  In America, few are ready or willing to reject what is prized, the Entrepreneurial spirit.  Citizens, and those who flock to the States, celebrate what Capitalism symbolizes.  We cherish independence and the possibility that as an individual we too can succeed.

Thus as it has been for decades; society and the world, followed the lead first fashioned in the subdued Powell epistle.  Indeed, were it not for the effectiveness of this treatise, there would be no Dump Duncan plea.  The Powell Memo or at least what some consider a transformative version of it, would have been but a whisper, lost in the past.

The Powell Plan understood what the Dump Duncan advocates seem to have missed.  “The Medium is the Message.”  Melodic Messages such as “Freedom” and “Individual Choice” Move the Masses. Money is far less Meaningful.  Convince the people that what they want is what they need and can have and the world, education and equity reform will be your oysters.

Beyond a Broad Appeal.  Saper  Vedere. To know how to see.”

Justice Powell had sight, hindsight, foresight, and insight.  Lewis F. Powell had a vision, a message to impart.  He mapped out the elements that comprise the essence of an effective campaign.  The Corporate Lawyer understood the core of a fine argument.  It is vital to gain people’s confidence, utilize any and all available medium, and the case is yours.  Mister Powell’s thoughts can be summarized in a phrase, as Marshall McLuhan articulated before him, “The Medium is the message!” This truism translates to ‘Market to the masses.’  Do not miss a moment.  Broad appeal is the aim.  “Public relations” equates to relate to the public. Meet their needs and wants, one individual at a time.  

The sum of the parts is greater than the whole.  “Television.” Radio. Periodicals. “The Scholarly Journals.” “Books, Paperbacks and Pamphlets.” “Paid Advertisements.” Pronouncements are powerful; that is if a presenter or presentation is profound and present in every conversation.  The essential elements need be pervasive and persuasive.  Expression matters more than what is expressed.  However, these fundamentals alone may not be enough to sway the people.  The ultimate strength is found in “freedom.”

People need to feel as though whatever their thoughts, these were arrived at independently, and after much analysis.  Thus, the message must appear on every avenue, in each forum and discussion.  Omnipresence affords infinite opportunities.  In time, ideas are internalized.

For Powell and his pals the hope was the public might see and surmise that it was time for a change.  Surely, the average America was aware, or would be with a little help from free-market friends, there had been a triumphant broad-based “Attack on the American Enterprise System.” In his personal assessment of the past, Lewis Powell penned what his business partners also believed.  He outlined the dimension, sources, and tone of the assault on entrepreneurship.  The eventual Supreme Court Justice also gave voice to “The Apathy and Default of Business.”  Much as a frustrated Teacher might say at present.  Colleagues frequently feel that coworkers are overly compliant, unconcerned, or just too comfortable with what is.

All those decades ago, Barrister Powell, advanced a societal shift…a move from a perceived attack on American Free Enterprise to an engineered assault on public opinion, especially as it relates to education and equity.  Perhaps, we can best understand how this played out by way of an analogy.  Contemporary anecdotes may offer just the “saper vedere” we need.  

Medium Builds a Movement Beyond Magnates or Mentors

On the Surface, Seen in the Cinema

We can see the contrast and consequences of a vision acted upon when we observe what occurs in our theatres.  The regard for films such as Waiting For Superman versus ‘American Teacher, narrated by Matt Damon tell a part of the tale.

Actor, Director, and Author, Matt Damon has a name and fame.  Millions express an interest in the man, his career, and subscribe to the quests Damon undertakes.  His work sells.  However, the movie American Teacher was never a box-office success.  The motion picture was barely a blip on the national radar.  It is as the Dump Duncan appeal, only acknowledged by academics, classroom teachers and their allies.

The American Teacher is not alone in the film world.  Other productions have attempted to tell a tale about education, just as  Waiting For Superman does.  Several flicks evoke sniffles a technique used effectively in the Guggenheim creation.   Race To Nowhere, and August To June, bring audiences into the lives of little ones, as does Superman.  In each production, viewers can and do relate to real-life “characters.”  Thus, the theory that the  much-acclaimed movie was a tearjerker, and therefore, a success does not hold.  

Through each production, we feel the pain in pupils and parents.  School life offers stress as well as success.  The circumstances in one or the others are all too familiar.  Any of us who has yearned to learn, especially as children, fears being told that we, or our work is a failure. Empathy is a strong emotion evoked as we watch the stories unfold on a silver screen. People relate to what mothers and fathers feel.  When a young one stumbles, falls, and pick them selves up again we bleed then believe.  Then, why might it be that one of the movies has a mammoth following?  Why is Waiting For Superman present in the public’s collective mind?

Obviously, we cannot surmise that documentaries do less well; Waiting is of this genre.  It is a “factual” film, dependent on your personal perspective.  Yet, it has received awards, accolades, and is much appreciated. The essential difference came in the form of backers.  Not only did the message speak to the magnitude of the desire for freedom, Free-Enterprise proponents promoted the production.  Any policy or presentation that appeals to marketers is as a Muse.  Inspired Industrialists will happily be advance-persons and advertise programs that push an agenda of “Choice.”

In actuality, frame after frame of Waiting for Superman circulated in Corporate Board rooms. Audiences of Chief Executives gathered to assess the much-acclaimed film.  Staffers were called to view.  Won over by the medium, and the message, word spread.  Ah, the wildfire that today is ablaze.  Soon audiences attended screenings in droves.  Showings were held not solely in theatres, but in homes, town halls, and youth centers.  Clubs used the film as fundraiser draws.

Behind the Scenes. In the Streets and In Corporate Suites

Money. Money. Money! Does not a Movement Make

Such was the fate of the Powell Memo and its mantra as well.  Interestingly enough, the two [Which two?]share the same message; privatize! Each was sponsored by big businesses.  

In the case of the push for the Powell Plan, there were many movers and shakers.  US Steel, GE, GM, Phillips Petroleum, 3M, Amway, American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and Columbia Broadcasting Services (CBS) were actors of note.  

The latter two of these enterprises could and did weave a tapestry that told the tale of privatization in all its glory.  Lights, cameras, action mixed with a bit of adversity, adventure, triumph, and special effects, surely tell this American  folkloric story successfully.  

Witness Waiting For Superman.  It too had and has phenomenal partners.  Glance at a revered registry, Organizations Making a Difference for Waiting For Superman.  The Gates, Broad and Walton Family Foundations are primary partners in the popular plots.   (Please explore their areas of interest and influence.  Click on the stack of dollars in Under the Influence; Big Education Spenders to see behind the scenes.)

Consider Merit Pay and Charter Schools.  Powerful privatization promoters subsidize vouchers too, just as they did the movie.  All fall are under the influence of the influential.  

Perchance unexpected, although equally compatible with the Entrepreneurial agenda are federally “funded” programs such as Race To the Top, and No Child Left Behind.  These donors, and more benefactors sponsored the film and were intimately involved in Arne Duncan’s Renaissance 2010 Chicago School Miracle Story.  

The marriage between moneyed and governement bureacracies is a long and enduring, mutually beneficial engagement, one Lewis F. Powell proposed.  Plese recall, Mister Powell, unlike Dump Duncaneers, saw the pertinence of no left stone unturned.

Corporations fund alliances such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC),”the nation’s largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators.  This organization, as many other conservative collectives, was born of the inspirational ideology found in Powell’s prose. Corporate-controlled task forces within ALEC address issues from education to health policy. Legislation introduced by this dominion in recent sessions complements the agenda voiced in theePowell doctrine and in the documentary, “Waiting For Superman.” Privatize education. Break unions, such as the Teacher’s.  Deregulate major industries, inclusive of the institution known as public schools.

As many might be aware, in 2011, in 2012, and as is expected to be in the future, America’s public education system has evolved.  For-profit venture Capitalist sought and found homes in America’s “public” schools.  The key to schoolhouse doors was opened with the turn of a phrase, the one found throughout the Powell Memo.  “Freedom!”  

Independence and individual choice.  The music from Powell’s Manifesto prospered

While the immediate response might be “Follow the money.”  Frequently we find funds are not enough to advance a message.  Money does not buy love or a movement.  Consider recent political races and grass-roots actions.

Occupiers grow without gardens of green-backers.  Please ponder a list of abundantly affluent “losers.” Meg Whitman, spent $160 million on her failed bid for Governor of California.  Linda McMahon depleted her bank account with a $47 million withdraw.  Her belief was she could purchase a Connecticut Senatorial seat.  Microsoft Vice President Suzan DelBene tried to procure a position in the Washington House.  Well over two million dollars later, the candidate   was defeated.  In the 2012 Grand Old Party Presidential races we have often seen that dollars do not get the job done. Thus, we must wonder; as Lewis Powell did, what is it about a film or a philosophy that allows it to spread?  It is the meduim and the essence of the message.  “Freedom!”

Does it have a beat that harmonizes with that of an individual’s heart.  “Liberty!”  Sing it loud!  “Choice.” Chime in.  People on the Left, Right, Middle and Independent spirits do.

Melodic Messages Move the Masses.  The Choir. The Chorus and Choice

Free Enterprize! Freedom. Individual Choice. “Education  and Equity,” as envisioned and eloquently expressed by entreprenuerial edification deformers, is areality embraced by the public.  Yes, please, the people say, we must put Students First.   Educator need to Teach For America.

The opportunity to choose the best school for our offspring is one any, every, and  likely all mothers and fathers covet.  Our President understands this.  Mister Obama often cites his own circumstance when he speaks of the issue. Just as persons who actively advocate for “School Choice” Barack Obama wants to provide his progengy with the finest education he can.  The variance comes only in how this might be achieved politically through policy.

No one can deny that consistently, Barack Obama, just as Arne Duncan, the Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, Michelle Rhee, the American Legislators Executive Council (ALEC) and a majority of “we the people” hold dear the prospect of Charter Schools.  Vouchers are the aspect of School Choice that the Administration rejects.  Only Dump Duncaneers and/or persons who support an authentic preservation and transformation of public education object to owner operated Education Management Organization Charter Schools and Vouchers.

We might surmise the  intial bipartisan hug over No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top was born out of a love for accountability.  Indeed, even today, Teachers, their Unions, those who see the woes of high-stakes testing, and some who acknowledge the abundant stress these bring, justify a need for “accountability.”  “Sophistication” of the standards appears to be the point of contention.  As a whole, very few believe that education and equity can be sustained without some sort of quantifiable measure.  Perhaps, those who do never sat in the pews occupied by the broader population.

Barack Obama, alongside his friend, Arne Duncan did.  The two hummed the hymn as the High Priests and Priestess, sang.  Affluent families attended the church and stood with common parishioners as they  kneeled and prayed.  As the Good Book says, Moms and Dads must have the prerogative to choose what is best for their children.

Thus, there is reason to believe.  The Powell Plan understood what the Dump Duncan advocates seem to have missed.  “The Medium is the Message.”  Melodic Messages such as “Freedom” and “Individual Choice” Move the Masses. Money is less Meaningful than a Mission that Gives Voice to a Shared Vision.

References and Readings…

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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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



SvSchlsMrchJly30.2011

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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Those Who Can Teach; Transformative Teachers



ThsWhCnTch

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

In an earlier essay, Those Who Can Teach; Life Lessons Learned thoughts on the ever-present influence of George Bernard Shaw’s philosophy were evaluated.  A personal reflection, perchance, helped advance an analogy.  We each are as the Playwright was.  When young, we learn through our experiences.  Later, we are forever challenged to change our perception. Evolutions and beliefs born in emotionally trying times collide.  Intellectually, we may understand, to learn our minds must be open.  Nonetheless, endeavor as we might, most of us remain closed.  Sill, it is never too late.  Greater awareness can come at anytime, in Elementary, Middle, High School or College.  Let us assess anew as we look through the lens, life in school.  

He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches

~ George Bernard Shaw [Man and Superman, 1903]

“A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw’s adage belies what was the Playwright’s life. The Author, contrary to his own claim, taught and he did.   Indeed, the Dramatist achieved success in each of these endeavors.  In words and through deeds the Writer acted on what he avowed were opposite ambitions. His instruction influenced generations. More than a century after his utterance children are trained to believe as he professed true.  Several ignore the veracity; Shaw’s prolific plays proved that he could successfully and professionally practice in a field as well as serve as the exemplary Educator he was, and is.  Regardless of the misguided reality today crowds continue to chant, “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches.”

As evidence of this collective less than reflective conviction Americans might merely look at the headlines.  Are Teachers Under Attack?  G.O.P. Governors Take Aim at Teacher Tenure. Public Workers Face Outrage as Budget Crises Grow. Education under Attack: Violence against Students, Teachers and Schools in Armed Conflicts.  Teachers are forever being questioned.  Students receive much wrath.  Schools are vilified.  Yet few consider why these criticisms might be.  

Instead, we repeat the rhetoric and share our own stories.  I have my memories.  Countless tales could have led me to perceive Professors as, George Bernard Shaw did and society does.  Instead, I acknowledged that what, for me, felt good or bad was a blessing.  Persons whose pedagogical practices would never be mine, taught me how, or how not to teach. I offer tales of two Teachers.  Enter Doctor Mac and Miss Z.

I think of my first computer class.  Doctor Mac, a glorious geek who could build a central processing unit [CPU] with ease.  However, to edify the technologically illiterate such as I was . . .  Well that is another story for another day.  I am aware that many thought Doctor Mac was the preferred Professor. For someone as infinitely analytical as I, his more superficial treatment of the subject did not work well for me.  This magnificent master is one of many who were unable to reach me. Quite the contrary was true. His methods and instruction left me feeling lost.  I was more than frustrated.  I was frightened.  I so yearned to learn!

This thought brings Miss Z to mind.  I had been beyond proficient in Math all of my life until this wiz with numbers became my Teacher.  The jocks loved Miss Z and she was fond of them. In class, the Educator and the athletes discussed how their respective teams did.  Scores.  Stats.  “Sports” was a constant topic of conversation.  Proofs, sometimes.  Some Math problems were shared on the board or on displayed by the light of an overhead projector. I was an A+ Math student.  Yet, under the tutelage of Miss Z, nothing made sense to me.

Before, during, and after class, I asked for further instruction.  I sought other sources, my parents, another Professor, and even Miss Z herself.  My Mom and Dad tried to assist to no avail.  Their skills in math lacked luster.  The other Teacher said unless I was enrolled in her class . . . Oh, how my family and I tried to make that dream come true.  Miss Z? Well, she only knew how to teach in the way she always had.  Her manner was incompatible with my learning style.  I would stand at her side, look on and listen.  Ultimately, each time, I left her presence in tears.

Thankfully, Teachers such as Doctor Mac and Miss Z were the exception in my life.  Most Instructors I met once enrolled in an educational institution were glorious.  On occasion, outside of school, and not only in my childhood home, I was confronted with what also might have shaded my reality.  Perchance, you can relate.

I discovered that a stupendous Teacher can also be a disastrous one, dependent on the lesson.  A phenomenal practitioner can be less than fully effective.  Eric had been an exceptional Teacher in my life..  The man who was my beau was also an excellent driver.  I trust he still is.  Eric learned to use a manual transmission early in his own hours on the road.  By the time we were together he was a pro.  Eric could shift gears flawlessly.  He did not bump or grind, nay pop a clutch. This lovely man is in addition a patient professor.  Cheerfully, he chose to teach me. Eric Smythe would move me from automatic to stick shifts, or so he and I believed.

I imagined he would be, as in every other avenue we traveled together, a fine facilitator.   However, this turned out not to be true.  The loving man was thorough in his “lessons.” Too thorough for me!  I felt as if he believed he needed to teach me to steer, turn, and travel the roadways as though I had not done this for years.  

I, who received an A+ grade in Drivers Education, was treated as a neophyte.  While Eric was patient with me, the young Mister Smythe drove me bonkers. He, too carefully, crafted his lesson.  

Eric could do and teach.  Nonetheless, this combination was not enough.  Trained Teachers take the art and science of instruction seriously.  Professors understand the gravity of their performance.  Expert Educators never forget that what a Teacher imparts influences more than a single person.  His or her words and deeds will likely affect generations, perchance all of humanity.  Notes from former and present pupils remind a Teacher at most every turn.  Often a glance from a frustrated student, from one fond of learning, or a gaze off into space during a lecture, tells a tutor in the immediate that every moment matters.

Unlike George Bernard Shaw,  I often say, “Those who can, Teach!”  Education is an art and science. More than hand-eye coordination is required.  Task analysis too is not enough to teach.  Facts, formulas, and figures do not offer focus.  Fellowship must follow.  An instructor is not as a friend, whom students engage with for fun.  He or she, when devoted to excellence in education, is so much more.  

We learn from words.  Actions too deliver a message.  Communications and contact inform us.  When an Author writes, a Performer presents, a relative rants, rages, or roars with laughter, he/she advances awareness.  The intended quality of the instruction does not determine whether a lesson is learned.  Care and compassion count.

The mind is no match with the heart in persuasion; constitutionally is no match for compassion.

~ Everett M. Dirksen [Senate Minority Leader 1959 ~ 1969]

We all have had poor Teachers.  Some are known as Parents others Peers. Even progeny and Playwrights offer instruction.  What separates Teachers from the rest of these Educators is a philosophical preference, awareness for what George Bernard Shaw and society-at large misses.

Several sage scholars have devoted a lifetime of study to pedagogy, patience, and principles that further empathy through education.  These persons practice profound theories that others do not feel they have time let alone tolerance to pursue.  

Educators have lived, learned, and to this day understand, our experience of Teachers is unique.  What is dreadful for one student is delightful for another,  Instructors dare to challenge the myth that lives large in our lexicon.  They brave a collective consciousness and verve that states Shaw’s statements are wise. The thought Teachers cannot do, while our standard, is flawed.  A deeper reflection reveals the dynamism that is on display daily.

Perhaps, as a nation we might ponder the damage done when Parents, policymakers, and pundits posit; Educators are know-nothing, do-nothing. less than motivated individuals. Might we consider how the theme discourages children, let alone Educators?  A young mind could easily question why should I go to school only to sit with a failure?  

Could it be that toddlers and tots are wounded when in a desire to criticize, Moms and Dads mention the maxim in regards to an Instructor.   Might we as a society have given birth to many a self-fulfilling prophecy and a generation of students at risk?

Might we embrace  careers in education and those who take on the identity of Teacher.  

If we had, imagine what society could have been. Instead of a culture that adopts evidentiary erroneous beliefs as our truth, or a country commonly known as a dropout nation, we might have given rise to students who soar.

Possibly, beginning today we will agree, each of us had mentors who were accomplished in their field.  We had and have excellent Educators.  Most of us also had more than our fair share of miserable mentors. “He who can, did, does; and teaches.”  Indeed, we are all great Teachers to someone.   We have no choice; we can do nothing else. For as living, breathing beings, we constantly engage and exchange.  We share ideas and inspire others.  That by definition is education.

References and Resources . . .

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Those Who Can Teach; Life Lessons Learned



ThsWhCnTch

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

He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches

~ George Bernard Shaw [Man and Superman, 1903]

“A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

I heard the words for as long as I recall. The meaning was intricately  woven into my mind. I, as all little children since George Bernard Shaw scribed his belief, “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches,” was taught to believe that Teachers could choose no other career.  Educators, entrusted with children’s lives were indeed, incapable beings.  These individuals had tried and failed to perform well in professions that required intellect and, or dexterity.  Because the incompetent were inept, they fled to schools and identified themselves as “Teachers.”  In classrooms, less than sage scholars could teach with little authentic expertise.  Today, as a culture, Americans choose to prove this erroneous truth.  Grading the Teachers: Value-Added Analysis.

Happily, our fellow citizens dismiss the “scientific” evidence that amasses.  In our stupor we embrace Value-Added Analysis, disregard the research revealed in a 2010 Department of Education report, Error Rates in Measuring Teacher and School Performance.  “Consideration of error rates is especially important when evaluating whether and how to use value-added estimates for making high-stakes decisions regarding teachers.”  

Americans do as they have done for well over a century; they look to those they love for guidance and validation, be it George Bernard Shaw or the Gates Foundation.   One loosely proclaims Teachers are incapable. The other spends $45-million dollars only to assert what his organization hoped to prove Study supports teacher ratings.  Yet, in truth the findings are extremely flawed.  Thus, is the logic of learning.  As a society rarely do we reflect upon the original source of the “sage” wisdom we subscribe to.

The “Decline Effect” escapes us.  Might it be that ignorance is bliss?  Perchance, in regards to lessons learned, and unlearned, it is.

How Do We Learn or Unlearn?

Let us begin with a look behind the statement that sways the public, the story of George Bernard Shaw. Historical records reveal, the Playwright loathed his primary Professor, his father.  Possibly, this detail supports my own truth, and perchance yours.  A number of those who provided lessons never knew they did.  Moms are mentors.  Dads are guides.  It is why any of us may accurately muse, “more is caught than taught.”  George Bernard Shaw learned from a master he detested.  Thus, as a child, Shaw concluded, those who counsel are not qualified to give advice.

I acknowledge, a few erudite individuals had no idea they taught or that they were my best tutors, even by being the worst.  This is true in homes and equally the case in classrooms.  Even in exchanges with random Educators we meet in life, be they the butcher, the baker, or candlestick maker, some sages teach us in sensationally pleasant ways.  Others offer lessons that are authentically painful to us.  Nonetheless, we learn.  I believe had George Bernard Shaw not been so severely scarred in his childhood home, he too would have acknowledged this wisdom.

Frequently, Mommies and Daddies seem, as Shaw might ascribe, anathema as Teachers.  My biological parents could have been characterized this way, and each was by a sibling or two.  I share.

When I was a toddler, I learned to walk, to talk, and to toilet train myself.   Granted, in the abstract, I had role models.  Concretely? Not so much.  Hence, my guru was my own grit and gumption.  Later, in my youth, I sought a scholar when I wanted to study how to ride a bicycle.  

Mommy and the man who was called father were busy.  They had but minutes a day to help me work on maintaining my balance. The automobile parked safely in the garage had hours to spend.  Therefore, I held the little Rambler’s hand or she held mine.  For days, I devoted much time to circling the car.  With one palm on the vehicle and the other on the handlebars, I went round and round until finally I trusted myself to do other than lean.  Then, I let go.  My Teacher, the red Rambler, released me from what seemed a spell only when she sensed I understood.  

The steel scholar had not pushed me; nor pulled me down.  That sweet metallic body let me be “me.”   Munificence, benevolence, largesse, and the gift of trust are qualities that few have.  I know not if these can be taught.  I do believe that if they are learned, a semester of lessons is not enough.

As a very young child, I realized that no one around me was an authentically patient prospect.  People pretended whilst they profess, they knew the way.  I can; therefore, I will teach is often the stated premise.  In actuality, in my life, the knowledgeable are frequently ill equipped to provide quality instruction.  Less inspire.  However, early on and even today, I do not endorse the conventional wisdom. “Mature” men and women posit, “My mother and father did the best they could.”  I would disagree.

My theory is less than lovely parents teach in manners, perhaps somewhat different, still, similar to those their parents favored.  Teachers do too.  If an Instructor learned to maintain an emotional distance, to lecture, rather than relate to a whole child, he or she will embrace this method.  If statistics, scores, and specific learning strategies spoke to a Teacher when they were a student, the probability is high that techniques that utilize such conventions will be their chosen standard.

I learned from my Mom who transformed before my eyes, this was her truth . . . that is until she realized how her path had hurt her children. Thus, I trust Teachers too can chose to be aware of how they ways work or are less effective for any learner.  Countless do.  Fortunately for me, innumerable gurus  have been my guides, much more so than the musings of George Bernard Shaw ever were.  

I wonder. In the world of teacher evaluation might we examine our beliefs more closely.  Could we not learn from a bit of real life reflection.   Let us not so quickly endorse the data that proves what we came to believe in childhood.   May each of us take a moment to sit with our reveries.  Reason.  Evaluate the history of “decline effects.” Might we ponder the vast body of research results that do not merely restate or support simplistic, long-sanctioned, supposed “solutions.”  Let us hold dear our personal memories and recall, not every Teacher is anathema to the notion of education. I ask you to have faith as I do; those who can do teach!

References for a repeated reality . . .

Profundity of Peace on Earth



MrryChrstmsHppyNwYr

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

This year, Christmas and New Years Days were days of intense reflection.  Perchance, that is true every year and for every individual.  I cannot know what is true for others.  I am only certain that on each of these dates I was immersed in a rigorous course of study.   My gifts or the curriculum came wrapped in a routine event.

The lessons covered were Empathy and Education, although perhaps these were presented in reverse order.  Possibly, the truer program was entropy  and encouragement.  Each edifies.  I wonder; on each of the two days these topics were intertwined.  In my attempt to analyze and understand what I needed to learn or did, I invite your assessments.  Please indulge me as I share the story.

Each was a sunny Saturday.  On neither of the dates, December 25, 2010 or January 1, 2011, was I locked in a classroom.  Nor did I enter a library, a lecture hall, or school.  Indeed, no walls surrounded me.  I was as I am every Saturday of the year, with one exception, at the “Peace Corner.”  The name was given to the intersection of two major highways in my local community years ago.  Then, people came out weekly to stand vigil for global harmony.  That time was long ago, and far, far, far away.  

In the last thirteen months or so, more often than not, I appear at the crossroads alone.  My constant companions are my thoughts and signs.  One sign is but the index and middle fingers held high in a gesture of peace.  The other is  a single poster that reads “Love! Not War. Love!”

On occasion, one or two other persons also grace the Peace Corner.  However, if either of these individuals appears, they and I do not stand together. Hence, regardless of the Saturday, I place me, myself, and I on the Northwest side of the streets.  I have no desire to engage in conversation with another activist.  I only wish to connect with passer-bys.  Eye contact with drivers and walkers is all I need.  

At times, someone approaches me from the street.  Others offer opportunities to share as they travel down the sidewalk.  I am open to learn from these chance encounters.  Admittedly, I cannot be sure what will be said, done, thought, before or after an exchange.  I can only accept that I will be touched, intrigued, quiz, and question for myself, what does it all mean.  

Christmas Day, or the date customarily adopted in America as the holy day, gave gifts I have yet to comprehend.  In 2010, the streets were bare.  Nary an automobile was in site.  Egrets were everywhere.  I pondered.  Might these lovely white birds anxiously await the celebration each December.  The quiet calm truly captured my attention and theirs.  The lovely herons swooped and dove gracefully through the air.  When an occasional automobile appeared on the scene, stopped as required by a red directional signal, uncharacteristically, the two-legged winged animals perched themselves atop the metallic being for the minutes of immobility.

I have never seen the Egrets more enthusiast, energetic, and serene.  The dance these creatures did was well orchestrated, I felt as though I had been given front-row seats to a theatre production meant only for the privileged few.  That is, until the silence was broken.  

On this Christmas Saturday, as pious people prayed in churches, or gathered together with loved ones a man sped through the intersection.  Upon seeing my signs, or the little person I am, he screamed.  “F**k You!”  Yes.  Whilst the religious recognized a devout devotion to the deity donned the Lord, this grateful gent appreciated the chance to vent.  I can only speculate.  In what way did my presence, my message or I, offend his sensibility.  What was stirred within him?  Likely, I will never know.

A pedestrian, a far gentler soul voiced his view of the occurrence.  With a knowing smile, the man who stood within inches of me moments later said of the other, “He’s just stu**d.”  Since I think no one can be characterized in such a manner, this answer did not satisfy my curiosity.  Nor did it suffice.  However, I cannot imagine that I might be granted an opening to ask the aggressor what disturbed him so.  I do not envision a day when we might meet.  I have faith divine intervention is a possibility.  I will not hold my breath.  

The day went on.  Once this person passed the tranquility of the day returned.  Fascinating to me, people were less receptive to my presence than they are normally, on every other Saturday.  In a time thought to define “Peace on Earth” and “Goodwill to all men,” there was little shown to my signs or me.  Having been at the Peace Corner for sooooooooo many years, I thought this was truly odd.  Why might it be that more kindness and care is shown on days that do not honor Christ’s birth?  Entropy?  I have my theories, although I rather hear yours.

If you would, please consider what I think might be a lesson presented in tandem.  Today.

New Years Day 2011, was equally, actually more unusual.  In the last decade, never have people been so very responsive to my message or me.  I would have imagined that with increased traffic, a focus on shopping and sales, a fervent desire to dash hither and yon, a far less consecrated day would deliver far fewer acknowledgements of peace.  Yet, the opposite was true.  Everywhere I turned, and I do face the oncoming traffic, be it going North, South, East, and West, people smiled.  Countless placed their fingers in a sign of peace.  Car horns honked constantly and not at other vehicles.  Drivers made certain that I knew these toots were meant for me.  Car loads of persons young, old, and all ages in-between waved to me.  Hands were held high in a sign of accord.  Out of many a window, from each side of a car, fingers flew in a gesture that mirrored my own.

Suddenly, near the end of my hour at the crossroads, a late model, newly washed burgundy Sports Utility Vehicle approached.  A nicely dressed woman drove nearer.  She wore a black print dress and a huge smile.  Her raven colored hair was long, lush, and curly.  In the passenger seat, nearer to me, sat a nice-looking man.  His shirt was well-pressed, long sleeved, and as white as his bright grin.  Each seemed excited to see my.  I thought perhaps they were lost and hoped I was a local who would provide directions.

That turned out not to be the case.  Elatedly, the woman spoke.  She said, “I see you here every week.”  Breathlessly, she continued.  “About a month ago, I decided to buy a book for you.”  More animated with each word she uttered, she said, “I have looked for you every Saturday since. ”  I assured her, I was there every week, even on the most recent Saturday passed, Christmas Day.  I thought possibly she came by before or after I left in earlier weeks.  I did not have time to inquire.  Impatient with glee and happy to finally connect, the sweet stranger presented me with the tome.  Grateful for the expression of kindness, I quickly read the large type, “An Endless Falling in Love.”  

Unfamiliar with the title, I thanked her and thought of how special it is.  My mere presence inspired her to think thoughts of love.  The pair said “God bless.” Each thanked me for doing as I do.  Then, as traffic whizzed by, the vehicle merged into the flow.  In an instant they were out of sight.  

Curious, I tried to scan the cover.  Yet, I did not wish to neglect what for me is my priority while at The Peace Corner, the people as they pass.  I tucked the paperback behind my poster and continued to receive the endless warm welcome acknowledgements.  For many minutes more, the air was filled with  friendly exchanges.  When it was time for me to be with me and  continue the day, I read on.  I discovered the manuscript was more religious than spiritual.  The woman had handwritten a somewhat personal or practical note.  She shared her name and the name of the church she is affiliated with.

While I am not a follower of a religious faith, for doctrines do not fill me with delight, I am nonetheless extremely touched.  As one who believes that we each have a profound effect on all others, I am grateful for the recognition.  The couple’s choice to come close to me, to grace me with goodwill, and bestow benevolence in the form of a book and bequest . . . this is special to me.  Encouragement.  I think it is Part Two of an intensive study I trust has not ended.

The lessons I learned thus far from the woman I will call Donna and the aggressive distressed man whom I met on Christmas Day taught me. Empathy and Education come at us from every direction.  Entropy and encouragement are also encountered.  These qualities greet us on each avenue. Compassion, connections, and  a chance to comprehend find us on street corners.  Often we do not understand the messages or do not relate to the thoughts in a manner consistent with their intent.  Still, unexpectedly, we are edified.

Mostly, we never know what another hopes to teach us.  Nonetheless, I have no doubt, we learn from and with each other.  Be it a holiday, a holy day, a hump day, or just a day, we gain knowledge.  Please tell me, what did you learn from my story, or your own.  Whatever it is, I feel certain that your experience, interpretation, and mine, will be wondrous, for each of us is a glorious Teacher.



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Middle School. Rite of Passage for Pupils and Educators?

© copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Recently, I read an article in The New York Times, The Critical Years, For Teachers, Middle School Is Test of Wills.  I taught in many Middle Schools and did so for years.  I worked as a mentor, a “guest teacher,” a substitute, and in those early years as an aide.  Students “At Risk” graced my classrooms.  Pupils with Special Needs gathered around my desk.  Advanced Placement scholars, seeking erudition, sat in a room with me.  The socioeconomic Middle class, the upper crust, the impoverished, all shared a learning experience with me, their teacher. 

I was and am a Middle School teacher by choice.  While I may have stumbled onto a Junior High School playground, I can honestly say, some of my best memories are of time teaching in Middle School.  Apparently, I am not alone.

[M]any middle school teachers land there by happenstance.  “More people end up in middle schools because that’s where the openings are,” said Carmen Fariña, a former deputy chancellor of the New York City school system who is now helping 35 middle school principals reshape their schools.  “It’s not necessarily a choice.”

JoAnn Rintel Abreu, 40, an English and social studies teacher at Seth Low, graduated with a masters’ degree in English literature, the “bare minimum” teaching requirements and glorious visions of turning high school students on to Shakespeare and Chaucer.  She was offered a middle school job first.

Now, after 16 years at Seth Low, Mrs. Abreu takes great satisfaction in trying to figure out how to reach adolescents.  The rewards come with breakthrough moments, like when a sullen eighth grader who rarely does his homework handed in a bitterly descriptive, beautifully written memoir about his father’s new girlfriend, “the witch.”

I too recall student musings many in writing, some spoken.  When teaching Language Arts, I asked students to journal each day in class.  Often a profoundly philosophical quote was presented on the board, possibly a question was posed.  I would give the pupils time to compose their prose or poetry.  Then, minutes later, we would discuss their perspectives. 

These entries supplemented other writing assignments.  Some of these exercises were purposely not research based.  Reporting grades was not the only reason for inscription.

Throughout the term, I would collect papers and the logs.  I read the imaginative, insightful, and interesting student interpretations.  Students taught me of themselves.  I acknowledge that to truly teach another we must meet them where they live.  If an instructor presents rote information in a routine manner, the teacher rarely connects to the individual. 

In Middle School, scholars are still open to sharing who they are.  Actually, I believe they yearn to be known.  Through student writings, educators realize a window to the personal lives and realities of their pupils.

What happens at home affects adolescents deeply.  When the curriculum negates the soul, when instructors do not see the sores, they cannot truly teach.  I suspect the sullen eighth grader may have been surly for the “witch” wreaked havoc in his or her life.  I think for an educator to be effective there must be an exchange that involves more than facts or figures. 

While reading a student essay, I learned that a young and bright girl was a descendant of Davy Crockett.  I discovered that an elder and brilliant sister left one scholar feeling as though they might never achieve enough.

I also recognized that as good as these compositions were, as much as they revealed, for me, they were less inspiring than classroom conversations.  Young academics in my Middle School classroom trusted that there were no right or wrong answers.  There were only opinions and beliefs.  I reassured them of this often.  For me, a teachable moment is constant in Middle School.  Often one student will tell another they are wrong, an idiot, or another hurtful descriptor.  When I, as an instructor, stopped to share the fallacy of such a statement, much is learned.

Nevertheless, as we chatted about a profoundly philosophical prompt or a parable, pupils and I learned there are many ways to look at life.  We, as humans, may be similar; however, we are never the same.  These friendly heart-to-hearts, expanded minds, theirs, mine, and ours.

To teach is to learn twice.
~ Joseph Joubert [French Critic]

Middle school students yearn to understand the world beyond them selves.  They long to discover who they are and what is most important to them.  They are developing a sense of style, their own unique mannerism  They are watching the world around them.  They are asking questions, and challenging perceptions. 

You might remember as do I, seventh grade boys practice a strut as they walk across the playground.  Girls also perform.  They rehearse a swish, a wiggle in their walk.  Lads watch other young men and the lasses look at their “competition.” The baggy pants fall, the abdominals flail.  The first blush of make-up is applied.  Scientific investigations are abundant.  [Self] discovery surrounds each pupil.

I learned to love Middle School, or might I more accurately state, the students.

Another instructor interviewed for this New York Times article stated, “Middle school is like Scotch.  At first, you try to get it down. Then you get used to it.  Then it’s all you order.”  While I have never had a drink of Scotch or any other alcoholic beverage, I do understand the correlation.  I had always imagined teaching in a University.  I did educate college scholars..  I enjoyed that experience infinitely; yet, facilitating growth at an institution of higher learning involves more than erudition.  I trust every school and each department differs.  Nevertheless, at the time of my teaching, the focus seemed to be on power and I want none.  For me, feeding the minds of students satiated my soul.

Knowing that Elementary Education was never my preference, the children felt too needy and enthralled with supposed authority, and High School positions were not easily found, I returned to what was familiar.  Having taught in Middle Schools while working on my degrees, I trusted I would be prepared and welcome.  It seems districts are always looking for teachers willing to “test their will.”

Frequently, career professionals choose Middle School placements belatedly.  Circumstances are often the guide.

Among her colleagues, Mrs. Kaufman, . . . started off as a third-grade teacher but moved on to middle school after a year spent blowing too many noses and zipping up too many jackets. Ben Bass, 59, started teaching middle school math only after losing his elementary school position during the teacher layoffs of the 1970s.

Mrs. Kaufman apparently, felt as I did.  Perhaps, she too craved a challenge.  She may have realized, as I did she could learn while teaching Middle School students.  Learning is my love.  Junior High students are excellent educators!  They see and feel so much.  Society has not yet, numbed their spirits.

However, sadly, for the most part, trained educators think Middle School is a last resort, a temporary respite.  Qualified mentors are frequently sought out for Middle School positions; yet, few apply readily.

Near Claremont Park in the Bronx, Mr. Levy, the principal of I.S. 339, has worked hard to cobble together a staff capable of helping him revive a school mired in years of failure.

“Just go to a job fair,” he said. “The lines for elementary school and high school are around the corner. We can’t get people to teach in middle schools.”

One of his solutions has been to rely heavily on Teach for America. Twenty-one of his teachers, nearly a third, are part of the program, which recruits recent college graduates. While such teachers are often well educated and energetic, many leave after their two-year commitments.

Numerous instructors, after only a few years, flee the Middle School scene.  I recall three superior educators were hired on at an excellent Middle School shortly after completing their Professional Teaching Credentialing coursework.  Each had attended this  same school while in puberty.  Perhaps, these three had good memories and thought of Middle School first; perchance not.  I know one had done her student teaching at this school.  The others may have simply stumbled into open positions.  I am uncertain.

Nonetheless, these proficient professors worked well with the students.  Their curriculums were exemplary.  This particular school has a pupil population that for the most part yearns for knowledge.  Circumstances seemed idea on the surface.  Yet, ultimately, each of these qualified individuals left.

Two initially entered other professions.  One realized her love and desire for a career was related to what she had learned and loved in her own childhood home, gourmet cooking.  Another concluded the classroom was not her preference.  This person stayed in Education; however, creating curriculums, or working with media became the preferred path.  The third elected to take a position in a High School.  Teaching may have been in the blood.  Family members were always employed within a school district. 

These educators were escaping from an exemplary school, one in which the majority of students love learning.  The parents of these pupils encourage education.  Violence was not the flavor in this Middle School.  Test scores were exceedingly high.  These students were superior and scholarly.  Thus, we might ask; was the decision to leave Middle School determined by the conditions in the classroom, or were circumstances the determinant.

Might these persons have realized their passion lied elsewhere.  Perhaps, they preferred a more prestigious position.  Frequently money is a motivator.  Possibly, they concluded a quieter environment might soothe the soul.  After all, Middle School can be maddening. 

Students scurry about.  There is much on their minds and not all of it is academic.  I have strolled through the halls only to be pushed aside by a pupil focused on his or her friends.  Perchance, for some teaching in a Junior High requires survival skills.  As this article mentions Middle School teachers must know

How to snuff out brewing fistfights before the first punch is thrown, how to coax adolescents crippled by low self-esteem into raising their hands, how to turn every curveball, even the biting insult, into a teachable moment.

These are requirements when teaching in a Junior High School.  Perhaps, not all educators have these capabilities.  Nor do they want these to be part of their daily repertoire. 

“Middle School,” the phrase alone conjures up so many memories separate from my experience as an educator.  As a student, the tales I could tell.  Might I share the story of how and why my Mom decided that during the Middle School year’s peers are paramount? 

My Mom and Dad considered academics for an adolescent might be arbitrary.  They believed core curriculums were vital.  Yet, with hormones raging and pupils seeking a sense of them selves, genuine study is supplanted.  Perhaps, this is why teachers consider a Middle School assignment a challenge.  Placing yourself in a situation where every thought, word, and deed is questioned can be threatening.  For some, myself included, it can be stimulating.

My parents believed that an urban school might be more rousing than a suburban sanctuary.  They believed that I would benefit from an exposure to sex, drugs, and violence during my Middle School years .  Mommy and Daddy did not think it wise to enroll me in a school that left me jaded.

They concluded, after an active social experience, my curiosity would be quelled.  Upon entering High School, I would know myself, and what I valued.  Searching for an identity and latent desires would be out of my system.  They thought, when scholarship counted, I would be prepared if I experienced the world before grade nine. 

My parents surmised that pre-puberty and those early teenage years could be trying for every one.  As young persons acquire a sense of self, they explore.  They are excitable.  Their energy level is high and they can be defiant.  If I were to express my wild ways before it mattered, that might be better.

In my own life, reflecting on my chosen life style while very young was good.  Before I adopted any solid habits rooted in rebellion, I pondered the consequences. Ultimately, I made many wise decisions.  For me, my parents’ theory was correct.  However, I still wish I had a bookish foundation.  I thought of this often while teaching in a highly esteemed Middle School.  When instructing in a world of academics, I often thought, if only I could do it all over again.

Yet, I acknowledge there was many times I thought of quitting.  Many Middle School educators do.  Increasingly, this is a concern.  Communities are expressing their concern as they observe Middle School teachers fleeing in large numbers.

Faced with increasingly well-documented slumps in learning at a critical age, educators in New York and across the nation are struggling to rethink middle school, particularly in cities, where the challenges of adolescent volatility, spiking violence and lagging academic performance are more acute.

As they do so, they are running up against a key problem: a teaching corps marked by high turnover, and often lacking expertise in both subject matter and the topography of the adolescent mind.

The demands of teaching middle school show up in teacher retention rates.  In New York City, the nation’s largest school system, middle school teachers account for 22 percent of the 41,291 teachers who have left the school system since 1999 even though they make up only 17 percent of the overall teaching force, according to the United Federation of Teachers.

In Philadelphia, researchers found that 34.2 percent of new middle school teachers in one representative year quit after their first year, compared with 21.1 percent of elementary school teachers and 26.3 percent of high school teachers.

There may be reasons for such a flight.  Some schools are not as serene as the one I mentioned earlier.  Conditions are not a constant.  Honestly, even in the most tranquil of settings, at times, it feels as though the Middle School students have a no interest in education. 

As the demands of national standardized testing increase and “teaching to the test” becomes the norm, there is little reason to feel inspired when teaching those that rather “play” with their peers.  Watching or engaging in a less than productive performance can be draining.  Pupils posturing can wear down the already, over worked and weary.  Classrooms full of such antics leave little time for learning.  An educator can feel as though the concept of “teaching” students at this age is a myth.

“There was a lot more anger and outbursts,” Christian Clarke, 29, a Bronx high school teacher, recalled of the students he encountered during his four years teaching middle school.  “Twice as much time was spent on putting out fires; twice as much time was spent getting the class quiet.  Twice as much time was spent on defusing anger in the kids.”

‘Tis true.  Having taught at every level, I do experience that Middle School students are slower to settle.  Years ago, when I was first teaching, I realized that I had prepared a speech.  In truth, I never had.  Yet, as many of us know, when we are the elders, speaking to the young, our parents’ words often pour from our mouths.  As I stood before my first Middle School class, I realized I was pleased as punch that I like my parents and the way in which they taught me.  For as I began speaking, seconds after the first bell, I heard myself sharing the standards I learned in my own home.

I let the students know that habits are not our nature.  We do have choices.  For me, as a facilitator of knowledge, every second is a teachable moment.  When I present my preferences and discuss classroom demeanor I am speaking of far more than rote rules.  My own predilection is to tell a tale.  For me, the “Mountain Dew” story  says it all.

Pupils are surprising mesmerized as I offer my personal narrative.  They ask numerous questions.  They relate.  Then, after ample discussion, give and take, students are satisfied that they have choices.  They study quietly, ask for assistance without hesitation; they choose to learn.

I believe telling personal stories develops relationships. My sharing tells them I am as they are real .  I was, am, and will be learning with them and from them.  My hope and experience is my pupils can feel safe being real with each other and me.  I certainly will to be authentic with them.  They understand I too have had and perhaps have unhealthy habits.  I am willing and wanting to work through these.  I am only asking that we share our awareness and ourselves.  I teach using our similar life experiences.  For me, that is the purpose of school, particularly Middle school.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
~ William Butler Yeats [Poet, 1865-1939]

Life, I believe offers the best lessons.

A good middle school teacher needs to know how to channel such anger into class work, and whether inappropriate questions like “Are you gay?” (as a Seth Low student recently asked her math teacher) merit serious discussion or feigned deafness.

“You have to have a huge sense of humor and a small ego,” said Jason Levy, the principal of Intermediate School 339 in the Bronx.  “There are some people who are born to do it and some who learn to do it, and there are some people who really shouldn’t do it.”

However, we never know with certainty, whether we are Middle School teachers by nature, if the skills can be taught, or if for us, a career in Middle School is not our calling.

For now, solutions to Middle School teacher flight are being offered.  Schools, states, and Universities are focusing on the educator, teacher preparation, pay scales, and adolescent psychology.  The theory is . . .

[P]reparation for these jobs is often inadequate.

The Education Trust, a Washington-based advocacy group, has asserted that a “scandalously high” number of middle school classes are taught by teachers lacking even a college minor in their assigned subjects.

Around the country, middle school teachers are often trained as elementary school generalists or as high school subject specialists, with little understanding of young adolescent psychology.

“We’re really in a malpractice kind of environment, where we’re preparing teachers for elementary classrooms and high school classrooms but not middle-grades classrooms,” said Peggy Gaskill, research chairwoman of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, an alliance of educators, researchers, and others seeking to improve middle school education.

Dr. Gaskill has found that while 46 states offer some sort of credential specifically for middle school teachers, only 24 require it.

States and school districts looking to strengthen their teachers are trying a variety of approaches, among them offering special certifications for middle school teachers, paying them extra to work in tough schools, or having them cover two subjects instead of one to let them develop closer relationships with students.

Three years ago, New York State began offering a special middle school certification for fifth through ninth grade, for teachers whose training emphasizes young adolescent pedagogy and development.

There is even help for Middle School teachers online.

Training may not be the answer.  Perchance Districts might look for instructors that have an appreciation for people that challenge their minds and mannerism.  Young teens do that. 

I often mused that if I were to gain a few pounds, my students would tell me.  We would discuss my theories as to why I was putting on weight.  Pupils would often share their own stories, struggles, body image concerns, and health conditions that led to one change or another.  The lessons were never ending.  I believe, for schools to be truly effective the curriculum must meet students where they live.  Life is more than facts, formulas, and fictional representations of history.

When a student at Seth Low Intermediate School loudly pronounced Corinne Kaufman a “fat lady” during a fire drill one recent day, Mrs. Kaufman, a 45-year-old math teacher, calmly turned around.

“Voluptuous,” she retorted, then proceeded to define the unfamiliar term, cutting off the laughter and offering a memorable vocabulary lesson in the process.

Perhaps a Middle School teacher is best equipped when they are as my parents thought Middle School students were.  If Middle School educators were allowed to be more devoted to the relationships they have with their students, if they were not so rigidly required to be committed to rote curriculums, all would be better served.

We might surmise a persons’ age or school standing does not define them.  Life history may determine habits.  Teachers coming to Middle School are often led by circumstances.  Educators go through  stages in their development, just as students do.  We, as a society may teach future Middle School instructors to cope, manage, understand, survive, or thrive.  We might also accept that some Middle School teachers evolve as their students do. 

Middle School educators have an energy and interest at one point in their lives.  Then, after learning in this accelerated environment they discover who they truly are or were meant to be, or what they may be ready to do.  They may appear to move on; yet, the memories linger.  Middle School instructors that leave the profession may have no regrets or ill will towards their young students or the schools. 

Statistically, the number of professionals exiting the Junior High scene is not that much greater than those escaping other prospects.  Might it be that for the Middle School teacher, just as for the adolescent student, learning is hastened.  So much is raw and vulnerable when mingling with the Junior High School learner. Middle School educators may be more able to learn who they are from and with their agile pupils.  Just as an adolescent evolves, so too do their teachers, or so I believe.

Please share your perceptions, observations, and opinions.  As a professional educator, a parent, a pupil, or a person [once] committed to their career, what do you think.  Was, or is, Middle School your sanctuary?  Perhaps, you barely survived the experience.  I welcome you evaluation.  Please trust me, your statements will not be graded.

Sources and schooling . . .

  • The Critical Years, For Teachers, Middle School Is Test of Wills, By Elisa Gootman.  The New York Times. March 17, 2007
  • pdf The Critical Years, For Teachers, Middle School Is Test of Wills, By Elissa Gootman.  The New York Times. March 17, 2007
  • My 8th-Grade Teacher’s Excellent Adventure (5 Letters) To the Editor.  The New York Times. March 21, 2007
  • Accountability; History Textbooks Receive a Failing Grade, By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.og
  • United Federation of Teacher
  • Childhood Obesity. Adult On-Set Diabetes. Osteoporosis. Soda, By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org.  May 4, 2006
  • Davy Crockett.  AmericanWest.
  • Help for New Teachers. Middle Web’s
  • It’s My Life. Middle School.  Public Broadcasting Services.
  • “Not Much, Just Chillin’,” a Window on Middle School Life, Wire Side Chat.  Education World.
  • “Not Much, Just Chillin’,” a Window on Middle School Life, Linda Perlstein
  • When I Become A Teacher, What Will I Teach ©

    Many of us played “school” as children.  even in those early years, there were those that knew they wanted to teach.  Some may have pursued the profession.  Others saw what teaching meant. 

    There are instructors that teach to the test.  Some lecture rather than listen.  Preventing change is a prominent curriculum.  A few mentors are sages on stages.

    Educators, enlightened or not do not necessarily have the opportunity to grow wisdom.  Many instructors are too burned out to seek meaning in their own lives, let alone to offer it to others. 

    Numerous professors prefer to preach; they rather not teach.  Countless instructors, gave up years ago.  The rules and regulations imposed by districts, administrators, or a negligent community have taken their toll.  Now the paycheck and pension are their rewards.

    Currently, politicians profess to have a greater understanding of pedagogy than teachers do.  The principles of critical thinking are found far below the piles of paperwork.

    Thus, the phrase “When I become a teacher,” has morphed into a monster.  The field of Education is no longer recognizable.  Instructors are paper-pushers.  Students?  We know not what they will become without caring and concerned adults to guide them.

    Teacher Resources . . .

  • When I Become a Teacher.  YouTube.
  • A parody of the monster.com commercial, By Lesley Lead Team.  Apple Teacher Institute.  Lesley University.