Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Trump is a hateful socio-path

 Trump is a hateful socio-path that abuses everyone in his midst for his self-gain all the time. 

He does not own his disastrous, hateful, murderous words or actions. He spreads propaganda and lies all the time to prop up his personal wealth, power, privilege, and pleasure. 

He and his deadly, destructive, inhumane team use and abuse everyone and anything they can get their hands on. 

Anyone that does any research will find that to be the truth.

And so many people have suffered due to his hateful, inhumane ways.

To gain power, he ensured that wealthy people like him would continue to enjoy their wealth and power, and he stepped on the little people instead--he created havoc in the lives of good, everyday people while he propped up the wealth and privilege of his cronies. 

He doesn't care about the everyday people, and he knows he can step on us because we don't have a lot of power. So that's what he did. He caged poor immigrants and creaed hate for them. That hate speech even incited a massacre in El Paso that took the lives of many everyday people. He supported White supremacists time and again,leading to murder in Charlottesville, Kenosha, and at the Capitol. He did not work for a peaceful transfer of power, but instead incited a deadly domestic terrorist event at The Capitol that killed people, injured many people, vandalized the Capitol, terrorized and unjustly obstructed the confirmation of a fair, legal election. 

We must keep our eyes on Trump and his deadly, unjust, hateful family and cronies. Joe Biden must appoint a commission to fully investigate his crimes and hold Trump and his family members and cronies responsible. 

We cannot let inhumanity, hate, and divide like Trump's continue in the United States. He and his adult family members and cronies are truly evil. We can't forget that. `


Did I do my best to empower teaching/learning systems?

 In late July, I decided to retire from a 34-year career as an educator. I felt that the school system had been hijacked by leaders who didn't understand what it meant to be a successful learner or teacher. I felt these leaders were more focused on their personal ambition and gains, rather than the truth of what works to empower strong, vital, impactful education systems. 

Over the years, I tried to work against leaders who put personal ambition ahead of what we could do to build a strong, just, successful education system. While I feel I made a few gains, overall, I am not overly pleased with my work in this area--I still feel that too many who lead education systems, don't do a good job. 

As I listened to educational leaders in June and July before retiring, I wanted to hear concern for teachers, students, and family's health, worry and ideas aobut bridging the gaps that existed in the system, and good analyses about what works and what doesn't. Instead I heard a lot of very long discussions filled with some bogus, untrue information as well as mindsets about learning that were outdated, and not supported by recent research. With a pandemic raging, I no longer felt that this extensive leadership team would enable me to teach in the year ahead in healthy, productive ways. I felt they were creating a too-tight, ineffective, unjust teaching/learning situation--the kind of situation that would frustrate me and make me sick. 

I spoke up, but few to none listened. Clearly, my ideas and work were not of value to these leaders. The good work I did, work proven in multiple ways, was not a priority for these leaders. 

There were some leaders who shared my perspective, but they were not heard or listened to. In fact, I felt they were mocked and underminded in many ways. 

So, in light of all this, I retired. I was nearing retirement as it was, so I could do that. I did lose about 1/2 million dollars over a lifetime with this decision, but I likely retained my health, sanity, and the reputation I had gained over years. To return frustrated in an unhealthy situation was likely to lead to disaster in multiple ways. 

So, as I think back to this situation, my first reaction is to consider if I sold out or not. While I wish I could have had more say and power over the situation, I didn't, and I do believe I made the right choice. Looking back, however, I see many ideas for better change in schools--the kind of change that gives teachers good power to do the good work possible. 

Grow leaders

As an educator, I was a hard worker. There were few to no opportunities to develop leadership skills. I think that schools needs to empower and develop leadership within schools, and this will spell better schools in the future. Right now there is a shortage of educational leaders. This shortage means that lots of supbar leaders are getting big jobs in education--this is harming education. We need to grow leaders from the ranks for educators to improve schools. 

Change leadership systems

If you study the way that leaders use time in educational systems, you will see a lot of wasted time--time that could be spent truly improving systems. Once, the foundation my husband works for planted trees at a school. At the planting event, he was surrounded by a handful of educational leaders for an hour or so that simply watched him plant a tree while they bantered with one another. What a waste of time! Think of what those leaders could have been doing. Audits of educational leadership time, talk, and initiaitves will illustrate a lot of wasted time. This needs to change. The way educational leadership teams work is often ineffective--this was a constant frustration for me as an educator. They often added layers of ineffective expectations to a teacher's day which kept us burdoned and worked against our ability to do what was possible. 

Diversify

I do believe that part of the fact that I could not make the changes I hoped to in education had to do with class and gender. It's more difficult for people to grow as leaders who have not had leadership models in their lives and who do not represent the same gender, race, or culture of the prominent leadership team in place. Leaders everywhere have to be sensitive to this and work to lift a diversity of leaders.

Realistic expectations

In many ways, educational personnel are oppressed with expectations that far outlast a work day and require far more supports and resources than schools provide. This presents unrealistic expectations which keep educators low. In some ways, schools are oppression pits, and when people are oppressed together, that creates a lot of havoc as everyone tries to do their job while oppressed. For example, no one has the time to do their jobs well. In fact, some teachers have so much time-on-task expectations that they can't even get coverage to use a restroom. A lot of injustice and lost potential occurs due to this oppression pit, and this has to change. 

School systems are ripe for modernization and change. There is so much more we can do to elevate educators, students, and families in this country. We need to find ways to work for betterment in this area. 

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Good teachers; bad teachers

 Rarely is there a good teacher or a bad teacher, instead there's a great mix of educators who are generally great teachers for some and not-so-great teachers for others. No educator has all gifts and can speak to all students, but there is rarely an educator who does not significantly impact the lives of some of their students. This is why it is important for school communities to include a diverse array of educators, and to recognize, value, and support the great diversity of skills, strengths, and impact they bring to the school community. 

This morning I received a letter of gratitude from a former student. As part of their high school wellness program, students are asked to write a letter of gratitude to a teacher who has impacted them. I LOVED getting the letter, and what I loved even more were that the qualities the student identified as positive, qualities that well-matched my overall pursuits in education. What I truly believed in impacted this young girl in significant ways. That made me happy.

Too often, people try to choose the best educator when, in truth, it is better to acknowledge the great diversity in teaching teams that make their programs spot-on when it comes to serving the variety of needs, interests, and potenteial in the school community's children and families. Most teachers are good teachers, and that good is exhibited in multiple, different, and meaningful ways. The key is to figure out who you are as an educator, and to hone those talents, skills, and perspectives. It's best that every educator work to be the best of who they can be, and in that way, they will impact students in significant, life-enriching ways. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Inspire students to create a composition studio

 As I wrote about my writing journey today, I recognized the need to update my composition studio. And as that thought filled my mind, I realized how important it is for writing teachers to help students create a modern day composition studio both in real time and online. What does this studio include, and why is this important? 

To compose is a journey

As all composers know, it is a journey to write, make film, craft musical scores, and publish podcasts. You get better over time, and it is the rich repertoire of work you do that informs later work. That is why it is integral to create online and real-time composition spaces that include the work you've done and the tools you use to compose. 

Images

No matter what you compose, whether it be poetry, stories, essays, musical lyrics, podcast interviews, or film, images matter. Images are rich resources of ideas, understanding, and share. Every composer needs a collection of images. For me, I'll start with figuring out how to combine my image collection from my phone and online to create a personal image gallery to use as a rich resource for future compositions. I'll figure out ways to organize that image library too. For writing students, it's a good idea to help them create image files they can refer to as resources for inspiration and content for their compositions. 

Music

Music inspires our creativity in countless ways. Music also helps us tell our stories and express our truth. It is in the best interest of every composer to create and save playlists of vital musical pieces to add richness to the composition work they do. Similarly, with regard to both images and music, is to understand copyright laws and practices. That is something I need to study more. If possible, creating files of your own music and images helps in this regard. Students can be encouraged to record the songs they play and music they create to use in their compositions. 

Words

Both written and spoken words should be stored in readily accessible places. As students compose, they will likely use similar ideas over and over again. They will grow their ideas and better their stories in countless ways. To be able to readily access the words they've spoken and written is a great advantage for any composer. 

Artifacts, Tools, and Creative Spaces

Every composer has a collection of artifacts and tools that support their composition work. They also have preferred creative spaces. Ask students to share their ideas related to this with questions such as:

  • What tools make your compositions better?
  • What artifacts inspire your creativity?
  • What spaces inspire your best creativity?
For me, tools that inspire my compositions and make them better include a great lap top, good head phones, a blogging spot, image files, playlists, movie-making software. Old photos, beautiful flowers, natural scenes, favorite books, wonderful art, and beautiful music. And as for creative space, light is critical for me. Comfort and simplicity matter too. 

Composition Studio

To add all of these elements together is to create both online and real time composition studios. Students may use these studios for invention and innovation too as there is great overlap with composition and creativity of all kinds. 

Beautiful flowers are a source of inspiration for my compositions. 

To truly inspire and teach students to compose well, you have to give them the opportunity to create their own creative studios. You also have to give them time to write, and avenues to share their writing with audiences that matter to them. 

Let your students lead their own composing by answering these questions:
  • What composition genre is your favorite? Is it writing, drawing, music, movie-making, podcasts?
  • What do you most like to think about, create about?
  • What audiences do you prefer creating for? 
  • Why do you compose?
  • What are the ideal objects for your real-time composition studio?  
  • What is your ideal online composition studio like?
  • What do you need to become a better composer? 
  • Where do you best like to compose?
  • Do you create better on your own or with others? What is the right mix of individual time and group time for your ideal compositions?
  • What can I do to help you reach your composition goals?
To teach writing and composition is to immerse students into this craft in organic, meaningful, personal ways, and when you do this you provide students with awesome paths to bright futures. 

Friday, October 23, 2020

What's wrong with schools?

 The pandemic is bringing to light so many of society's problems--areas of life, unsupported over time, are clear to us now as we rely on long held traditions, institutions, and lifeways more than ever for survival. What's wrong with schools is staring us right in the face now during these pandemic days. With this knowledge, what are the next steps?

Teacher voice

Sadly, in too many schools, teacher voice is ignored. This obstructs the good work possible and ignores educator investment, training, ideas and care. I know this issue first hand. In the spring, when the pandemic struck, I did everything I could to create a worthy, successful virtual teaching/learning program with my colleagues. While not perfect, it was very good and almost every student made significant progress. Where children did not make progress, we understood why. As the school year came to a close, I shared the many ideas we put in place as well as the additional needs that existed to make the program even better should the pandemic continue through the summer months and into the fall. Then when that happened and leadership began planning for the fall, they ignored teacher voice and opted to project their own lack of classroom experience and knowledge of what we had done onto the fall plans. They planned an unhealthy, disrepectful, and weak return to school in the fall--their plans not only neglected teacher voice or the good work we did in the spring, but their plans also put teachers' lives in danger--they saw us as their peons, people to manage, direct, and use/abuse, and not as the professionals we are, professionals with years of dedicated service, experience, knowledge, and skill. I knew that I could not return to such a situation--a situation where I would be used/abused and put in harm's way. I retired instead.

School systems that employ management/leadership models that negate educator experience, ideas, knowledge, and skill are on the path to destruction. Educators will not be able to work at their possible capacity in situations like this. Instead they will do what they have to for survival, and little else. The disrespect I noted in so many leaders' decisions, words, and voices were oppressive, inhumane, and frankly, simply not smart when it comes to building a strong, successful school environment. How money, time, and capacity are used and acknowledged in schools needs to be reconsidered with strength--there is too much good potential ignored and misused, and that includes teacher choice and voice. Educators, along with their students and families, should be the centerpiece of school systems everywhere.

Poor leadership models and infrastructure

Throughout my career, I was always dissatisfied with the wasteful organization, money, and time at the leadership level. While educators often didn't even have time to use a bathroom, go to a doctor's appointment, make a call, or take care of a sick family member, leaders had the luxury to do as they pleased with little accountability. Mostly leaders did not know what teachers were doing, and as long as parents didn't complain, they stayed mostly away from schools, teachers, students, and families. These leaders, including some school committee members, would talk about school without the knowledge of what was really happening and without the knowledge about how children learn and the many, awesome tools out there to help educate all children. This was always frustrating. In my opinion, there is a lot of waste in school leadership models--there are too many people distanced from the actual teaching and learning with too much power--these people are often a burden, not a support. How can we make change in this area?

First, it is essential to look at time-on-task for leaders. I believe school leadership models waste a lot of time with issues and efforts that don't matter or do anyone any good. I had coaches who were earning full salaries who had no idea what was happening in the classroom and did not understand the content being taught. These people would send out random ideas every so often that were either too late or too distanced from the curriculum to be of any use. In my opinion, the coaching models in place where I worked were a waste of money. Also, many leaders would simply hire consultants to do the work without any care of whether that consultant work was successful or not. Over my tenure, consultant after consultant was hired to update and better programs, and most of these initiatives were dead ends. The consultant came, shared ideas, and left without much change. There were a few instances where consultants did make good change. Further, there were many leaders who were so high on their positions that they never listened to educators. For example, I took a real interest in technology and used it to help students learn often. Yet the technology leader would never support my work--I had to pay for almost all the technology I used, and whenever I asked for support, all I got was a lot of negative feedback and forms to fill out. The technology department, for the most part, was a hurdle to any good work in that area. I had to do it on my own and with the help of outside consultants and experts who were willing to help. Leadership models in school are often poorly constructed, managed, and utilized--often leaders are without the knowledge they need to make good decisions. This was particularly visible with some of the system's school committee members who were making decisions with a lack of modern information about how learning happens or how schools work--they clearly had an attitude that teachers were dumb and they knew more. I believe, in the long run, they will find that this is working to their detriment if they want to continue to foster a strong school system. 

Neglected school buildings and environments

All over America, businesses have been building incredible campuses while school buildings have been neglected. The richest Americans send their children to gorgeous private schools often located on multi-acre campuses while poor and middle-class students are often relegated to old, crowded buildings with sometimes unsafe and polluted structures, schoolyards and communities. This is horrible. America needs to update their school environments for both in-school and virtual learning so that every child in America has access to an inspiring, workable, safe school environments. There are many creative ways to do this--one is to tax businesses more to support great schools. After all, businesses profit from well educated employees. 

School evolution

Schools and education have to continually evolve. In the past, I was very pleased with what my state, Massachusetts, had done to build a strong school system. In many ways, I've been disappointed with the leadership during the pandemic because I feel that our leadership at the state level has been disrespectful to educators and not broad-thinking about the needs of families, children, educators and schools.

The pandemic has laid bare the lack of support for working parents, children, the environment, teachers, and schools--it's a chance to take a hard look at what exists now and what we want to build for the future. In my opinion, many communities are still operating with outdated ideas about what makes a strong, happy family and school environment. We need to reimagine life in the United States to do better, and as we reimagine, we have to consider the following questions?

  • What can we do to ensure that every child and every family has what they need to be healthy, happy, and strong for themselves and others?
  • What can we do to create greater environmental health in communities, natural lands, homes, schools, and other buildings?
  • How can we connect child/family-care agencies in ways that streamline the accessibility to needed quality health, recreation, nutrition, and other supports?
  • How can we better support children from birth to age six--what can we do to ensure healthy, happy early life experiences. Strong, healthy, happy early life experiences prevent a lot of troubles later on--this is a great investment for any community?
  • How can we support working families more--what can we do to give families adequate leave time to take care of their children, the time/money to build their career knowledge/skill, and time for healthy, happy recreation--the kind of events that build a strong, caring community and culture?
  • How can we ensure that our schools and education systems are evolving with the best new knowledge, progams, and results? What do we need to do? 
While I know that everyone is busy just surviving during this pandemic, we cannot loose the opportunity to see this as a ripe time to analyze what's going on and to work on a better vision for our families, schools, and communities. David Culberhouse has some terrific writing and research which supports efforst like this. 

Tremendous opportunity for positive growth and change

The pandemic found most people unprepared for the changes we're experiencing, yet most people have risen to the challenge and maintained some success during this time. There is a lot more that we can do to use what we've learned to recommit to building strong supports and structures for optimal family life, the environment, education, health care, and communities. It's time to begin reimagining where we want to go and what we want to do. We have to ask the important questions about what matters to us and why that matters--we have to listen to the voices of all stakeholders to make optimal change and growth in the many ways possible. We can do this, and I look forward to working on a process like this in my own, new chapter of life--a chapter which finds me shoring up my capacity to contribute in ways I find both meaningful and productive for my own life and the lives of others.