Saturday, August 31, 2019

Teacher Dreams: What do those dreams illustrate?

I have always dreamed a lot. My dreams are long, detailed, colorful, and adventurous. Over my life there have been a number of recurring dreams, and for the most part, I have been able to understand what those recurring dreams say about me.

As a little girl, the oldest of six children, in a busy house, I was conscientious, and my dreams  dreams had to do with completing tasks well. Again and again, my dreams found me working hard to achieve a somewhat simple, but necessary task. In fact, as I think of my dreams over time, many of my dreams related to achievement--striving to do something I desired. I remember that when I was about 12, I'd dream time and again about doing back flips, something I desired. I also had a period of memorable dreams about living on the Hudson River which I've yet to understand, but those dreams were really beautiful as I engaged in conversation and simple pleasures along the banks of the river with a creative crew. It's possible that those dreams began after a drive over a Hudson River bridge or a visit to a museum that featured Hudson River artists' work.

I started my teaching career with the usual teacher anxiety dreams which usually occurred just before the start of the school year or when dealing with a tough teaching situation. Then during the years when there was great struggle at school, my dreams were informative about the people that posed the greatest challenge for me. Those dreams, in part, acted as a warning system about whom to be wary about and why. Those dreams were actually very helpful.

Recently I've had a new recurring dream. The dream is extremely stressful as I will to do a rather simple task which keeps avoiding me. I think the dream could be somewhat connected to the national climate related to school safety, lack of political support for education, and my own changing role related to teaching and learning. I looked up all the parts of the dream which have given me some understanding of this new recurring dream. Again, as in the past, I'll take this dream seriously and respond to the lesson it is sending me.

Both day dreams and night dreams are fascinating. It continually amazes me that our minds can conjure up such tales of adventure, warmth, surprise, and warning. What dreams do you remember? How often do you dream? Do your dreams direct your life, in part? I'm curious.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Poor service

We have all experienced poor service, and it's likely that we've all been poor service providers at times in our lives.

What creates poor service, and how can we remedy that?

Poor service is characterized by a lack of seeing and understanding an individual for who they are. When we serve people poorly, we generally project our own perspectives on who those people are rather than making the time to listen to, observe, and learn about people. When we serve people poorly, we may jump to conclusions, judge quickly, or evaluate with the lens of our own insecurity rather than use an open mind.

I can think of lots of times when I've provided poor service to people. One time, long ago, with a new hire, I was quick to judge and jump to conclusions when the individual promoted a new initiative without my input, understanding, or knowledge. I felt invisible, and rather than meeting the situation head on, I reacted with judgement and frustration. It was a clear example of the old adage, "two wrongs don't make a right."

So poor service, in a large part, is hasty service--we may rush to judgement, actions, and decisions without the necessary time it takes to truly understand an individual or work with them.

In a case when I was treated with poor service, the service provider generally varied his story depending on with whom he spoke. That variability created confusion and a distrustful environment. The individual, I believe, didn't do it to be harmful, but instead didn't take the time and/or have the courage to solidify his beliefs, so rather than making people upset, he said what he felt would make people around him happy and satisfied. Yet that variability tore at the fabric of the community since people all held different narratives about what was really going on.

Good service is consistent, and good service providers make the time to read, research, reflect, and maintain their beliefs, values, and understanding. That doesn't mean that opinions don't change over time, but instead, that opinions stay consistent across people at the same time.

Poor service providers make too many promises they can't keep. As a big dreamer and an idealist, I have faced this challenge time and again. I come up with a good idea, share it, and then find out it is unrealistic given the time and resources at hand. Empty promises are evidence of poor service. Again, when good ideas emerge, rather than hastily share, we have to work through those ideas to see if they can become a reality. Going it alone is another typical characteristic of poor leadership--when we go it alone, we don't profit from the vantage point of others who help us to see an issue with a broader, deeper lens. Communities that focus on teamwork and collaboration are generally more successful due to the curation process that occurs with shared ideas and initiatives.

As educators we all hope to provide positive, transformative, and meaningful service to our clients including colleagues, students, and their families. We can do that by slowing down, knowing our clients well, enlisting them in the decision making, and being open minded to their individuality, needs, and interests.

There will always be room for growth when it comes to optimal service delivery, and if we're open minded to this proposition, we'll likely get better and better at it.

The school year calendar

I spent the morning reviewing the school year calendar. It's good to have that loose-tight calendar ready before parent night so that parents have a good idea of what the year ahead looks like. Parents in our teaching/learning community are busy people so they mostly appreciate the lead time this calendar gives.

The tight part of the calendar ensures that the most important events are scheduled ahead so that those plans are not interrupted by other events. The loose part of the calendar provides the flexibility needed to be responsive to students' and families' interests and needs throughout the year.

Spending the time on calendars and schedules up front in the school year helps all students, families, and educators to maintain a good balance throughout the year, the kind of balance that supports optimal teaching and learning.

Week one of the school year 2019: What did we learn this week?

Students began creating dreams folders as one way to focus their attention and effort as well as to get to know each other. 
The main focus of a school community is optimal learning, and the best way to get there is to build positive, trusting relationships with students, and embark in targeted. worthy, engaging, meaningful learning experiences.

As I think about week one, I'm thinking about what students learned. Week one was focused on trusting relationships and curriculum introductions.

Students learned the following:
  • They learned a lot about each other through a number of exercises where they discussed similarities and differences, shared their dreams, and focused on each others' names and why knowing one another's names and saying those names correctly are important.
  • They revisited story elements as we began the first read aloud, Hatchet.
  • They learned a few school year routines, routines that simplify the daily logistics so that there is more time for quality learning.
What will students learn next week?
  • In math we'll focus on team building with an activity related to variables, operations, and mathematical thinking. 
  • Science will begin our biomimicry composting unit.
  • We'll continue to review story elements and writers' craft as we enjoy the story, Hatchet, together.
  • There will be time to think about our learning goals as we complete the My Three Words video and Best Part of Me writing assignments. 
In these first few weeks of school, we're essentially laying the ground work for a positive, collaborative learning team--a team capable of tackling the many learning experiences ahead with teamwork, care for one another, and focused attention on the learning ahead. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

You Can Achieve Your Dreams!

On the first day of school, students and I created Dream Folders. The dream folders focused on our individual dreams for the people, places, activities, and things we hope for in life.

For me, my folder included the following:
  • People: future grandchildren, continued loving relationships, healthy active people, peaceful relationships.
  • Places: travel to beautiful places in the world, heartwarming communities, natural beauty
  • Things: a big, comfy chair, a simple cottage, and a garden
  • Activities: reading, writing, hiking, biking, swimming, travel, adventure
Students approached the project with varying degrees of comfort and interest. The classroom was a buzz of conversation as students discussed what they desired of life. I wanted to start with this activity because I believe it is important that students understand that they can achieve their dreams, and the first step in that action is knowing what your dreams are. I also know that to understand an individual's dreams is an important step with regard to building a knowing, trusting relationship with that person.

During one conversation with a young boy, the child said that he wanted to be rich. I said that he could achieve that dream, and one way to get rich is to study money. I told him the story of a college friend who also had a dream of getting rich, and then achieved that dream with a step-by-step effort that included studying money. 

Later teachers in the room helped out by finding pictures in magazines and asking questions such as who would like to be in love someday, who would like to have children someday, who would like to live in ____ someday, who would like to have a garden, travel, play a sport, work in a city, and more. 

Today students will have more time to work on these dream folders. Throughout the year we'll revisit this project and students will share this work with family members at upcoming conferences too. 

To know your dreams is the first step in achieving those dreams. To help children achieve their dreams, we first have to affirm and acknowledge those dreams, and then give them the needed capacity with regard to knowledge, skill, allies, advocacy, and connections to make their dreams a reality. 

School Year 2019-2020 Day Two: Reading the Students

Reading the students is a daily effort of educators everywhere. We read the children by greeting them with care, looking into their eyes, watching their body language, hearing their words, and observing how they get along with others. During the first day of school, I noticed a lot about my students when reading them. I learned that the children were generally happy to be at school, excited to see old friends, eager to play at recess, and for the most part, comfortable asking questions. I also noticed that there were varying degrees of awareness with regard to looking around, understanding directions, and engaging in the first day activities, activities mostly focused on the the team theme: We all belong here.

Today, day two, we'll continue the focus on belonging with the addition of activities that begin to put students in leadership roles with regard to leading their own learning and the learning of our grade five learning community. I'll continue to read the children and when puzzled, I'll ask, Can I help you? Do you need anything? How is the year going so far for you? I asked those questions a lot yesterday, and I learned a lot about what was important to children.

It is such a privilege to get to know a large number of new students and colleagues at the start of the school year. I know that these people will both enrich and positively challenge my year ahead. I'll change for the better because of their influence on me, and I hope that my influence on them will also result in positive change and growth. This is one of the great strengths and promise of the teaching profession, a profession that has the potential to positively impact people and their lives day after day.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Daily Teaching Challenge: Fostering a Listening Culture

What keeps me excited about teaching is the challenge to do better day after day. I typically focus on a new challenge each day. Often one challenge builds upon another.

Today, on the first day of school, I want to begin to tackle a challenge that I've had throughout my career which is the challenge to foster a positive listening culture.

In classrooms with large numbers of students, it's difficult to create a culture where everyone is patient enough to listen to one another with respectful attention and thought. Today we'll talk about this as a group and create some protocols to help all of us meet this challenge.

I imagine the protocols will include the following:
  • When someone is speaking, we stay silent and listen
  • When someone is speaking, if we have an immediate thought, we can write it down so we don't forget.
  • When someone is speaking, we don't raise our hands, but instead wait until they are done speaking.
  • When speaking, we're considerate of time and audience. We try to use words carefully and not speak on and on and on. (This is for the teacher too :)
  • We usually respond to the speaker by looking at the speaker, responding with respectful nonverbal gestures, and asking related questions or for clarification at the speaker's stopping points. 
To create a culture of good listening helps everyone in the teaching/learning community to gain good skills that they can use in all areas of their lives. This is a positive challenge. 

First Day of School: Multiple Iterations

I've planned the first day of school time and again. Each time I have come up with a new iteration thanks to ideas shared, technical details, and of course, students' needs and interests. As the plan stands now, we'll do the following:

  • Greeting
  • Set up student spaces
  • Class name word find
  • Focus on listening
  • Logistics: attendance, lunch count, after school destinations, the schedule. . . .
  • Gym (They'll love having gym on the first day of school)
  • A focus on names with a video/snack and making name tag puzzles w/a short lesson about table group supplies
  • Recess
  • History of graffiti and graffiti teamwork activity
  • Clean up
  • Lunch/Recess
  • Read aloud: We're starting with Hatchet since it matches our year-long science theme of survival. 
I will greet the children with care, observe their attitudes and actions carefully, and often ask, "What can I do to help you?" 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A New School Year Begins: 2019-2020

Yesterday marked the start of my 34th year of teaching. My classroom was the cleanest it has ever been--the custodians worked tirelessly all summer to clean, paint, and repair a number of items leaving the entire school looking GREAT! This was a terrific welcome.

The superintendent's talk focused on partnership, engagement, and trust--a positive message, and our union president discussed the importance of a year where we continually act in ways that distinguish teaching as a profession--an uplifting, inspiring talk.

Later in the day, we met with our dedicated specialists and thoughtfully worked on the weekly schedule. I was so happy to see that our scheduling analysis, meetings, and focus from last January resulted in a terrific schedule that gives us good time to teach all students well. Today we'll meet as a school team to discuss nuts and bolts, and then we'll return to preparation for the first days of school as students arrive tomorrow.

The one change to the start of the year I'd like to see is my desire to forward a better orientation process. I've written about this often and have tested the waters with my colleagues to forward a more positive orientation process, but we've yet to get the kind of systemwide support for this work, support that I'll continue to advocate for in the days ahead.

All in all, however, I am so pleased to see our school year starting with this positivity.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Starting the school year with a focus on graffiti

I've never been a great fan of graffiti, but as I watched the evolution of Red Can at the Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux Reservation, I became more interested and curious about the medium. Then today when I was setting up my classroom, I decided to focus the first day identity work on the history of graffiti. I'm still not a fan of painting on spaces illegally, but I do think that it's important for students to understand the history of this art, and ways that they can reproduce it in legal ways like they do at the Cheyenne River Reservation.

So on day one, I'll introduce this art form to students and then allow each table group to create a graffiti bulletin board with a focus on their names and other words and images that matter to them. This will also be a focus on teamwork and the fact that the classroom belongs to them.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: School Year Notes

I wanted to place all  my notes about this wonderful book in one place for ready reference:

2019-2020 Reading List

Solidarity Economy
White Fragility

Be a helper

This is the first of the last three years of my teaching career. It is also my 34th year of teaching. Last year, my 33rd year of teaching, was my best year to date thanks to the incredible collaboration of my grade-level team and the modern ways we teach today. We truly fostered a dynamic teaching/learning community and reaped many positive results with regard to students' overall experience of school and academic success. Of course there remains room for growth and goals to achieve, but I've never felt better about teaching with a new school year on the horizon.

With three years left, time to do the job well, a good level of experience, and an open mind, I want to spend my final three years doing the best I can by my grade-level team including students, families, colleagues, and community members. I also want to help out when and where I can. Since there are many new educators and leaders in my midst, I can offer a historical perspective to the school system and community in general. That being said, I am also excited to learn from the new educators and administrators too--I love the way that new people can inspire your outlook and add to your knowledge and skill.

How do I plan to be a helper? I plan to be present should people have questions or needs. I plan to help out with time and support when available, and I plan to add my perspective when I believe it is helpful. I also plan to step back too in order to let others lead with their ideas, experience, and perspective.

I want to end my teaching career with as much good dedication and service as I can. That's important to me, and a positive way to begin a new year. Onward.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Some things are not meant to be

This week I worked towards a couple of personal and professional initiatives that simply are not meant to be. I worked at those efforts in a large number of ways, and when obstacles arose, I did the research and tried to work at them in different ways. No matter what I tried, I didn't make any headway, and I used up a lot of time trying. When I give it my all, and no one is losing out significantly, I do give up if an effort doesn't work after numerous tries, and that's exactly what happened with these events--eventually it became clear that for whatever reason that may exist, those efforts are not suppose to happen right now.

This has happened to me in my life in the past, and generally when I've tried and tried and tried, and events don't go as hoped for, I eventually look back and recognize that the events simply were not meant to be and by not engaging in those events, room was left for other, more important efforts.

The lack of success with these relatively insignificant events alerted me once again to the advantage of good planning and lead time. In many ways, these events were somewhat spontaneous and the schedule was already full. On the other hand, there was another event added on at the last minute that turned out to be just perfect--a smooth, easy add-on that resulted in positivity.

Not all goes as planned, and some things are not meant to be. Those are adages that come in handy on days like this.

School Schedules and Calendars: Lead Time Matters

We received our school schedule yesterday a couple of weeks before the start of school. It's advantageous for educators to receive those schedules ahead of the first few teaching days of the year because it allows us to carefully plan classroom routines and events.

We also have a shared school calendar, and that helps a lot too. The more that educators have shared calendars, scheduling documents, and apt processes related to effective scheduling, the better. Lead time and good process help us to make plans for awesome field studies, expert visitors, and student-centered programming and learning experiences. All educators know that once the school year gets started, there's little time for this kind of good planning and prep.

Now that our system leadership has shared the schedules, teachers can begin the next leg of planning including the following:

Scheduling Intervention Services
Multiple educators push in and pull out with regard to providing specialized services and therapies to students. Now that we've crafted a draft schedule, we'll want to carefully plan those service routines so that students do not miss essential class time and so that students receive the good services they are supposed to receive.

Scheduling Field Studies and Expert Visitors
There is substantial phone time and paperwork related to scheduling expert visitors. To do that before the school year begins is advantageous for all.

Team Time and Weekly Routines
Having this information allows our collegial team to plan a healthy, positive weekly routine of learning experiences and team time.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Teaching in Trump Times

Trump times are times when our rights and freedoms are being challenged every day. The Trump administration is pulling at our good lives by challenging our economy with tax breaks for the wealthy and a deficit that's increased by 27%. Trump times are tearing at freedom of speech and freedom of the press with their derogatory comments, lies, and now their challenges to free share on social media. Trump times shows little support for public education by positioning a Trump-crony as Secretary of Education rather than an experienced individual, and less support for our diverse student group with disrespectful language and roll back of multiple supports for happy, healthy living and learning. Also Trump's own inability to lead with respect and dignity stands in opposition to typical rules of respect and good character that exist in every school community.

Trump is not a friend to public education or education in general. This makes it very difficult for educators to do their jobs well since we don't have the support of the President of the United States, and his lack of support creates a trickle down disrespect and lack of support for the good work we do in schools throughout the country.

What's a teacher to do?

In our private lives, educators who truly believe in the power that education holds to better lives and make countries strong, have to work against Trump's self serving leadership, leadership that's suspect and leadership that tears at the fabric of American values, potential, and good living.

In our professional lives, we have to continue to work with our best ability and effort to move schools ahead with a top-notch, modern education for every child, the kind of education that gives students a terrific foundation for the good living ahead--good living that includes a strong academic skills $& knowledge, positive relationships, positive work/endeavor, contribution to the community, and peaceful, positive living.

In a sense, educators today are working against the tide. As an educator during the Obama years, I felt so empowered. Though I didn't always agree with Obama's team, I always felt supported by he and his team's respect and advocacy for education. Michelle Obama's focus on healthy living also had a great impact on families and students. During the Obama years, families were responding to a positive national dialogue that supported healthy, happy living for all children as well as positive support schools and the life skills and routines that support school success. Obama's support for education overall had a positive trickle down effect on students and schools.

In the days ahead, I'll focus in on what I can do to make my classroom, grade-level, school, and system a welcoming learning community where every child has the support and opportunity for terrific, positive academic, physical health, and social-emotional learning growth and success--a positive goal for the year ahead.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Positive School Year Patterns

One of the greatest challenges during the school year is the challenge of sticking to a positive routine since there are so many temptations to deviate from the path set. The temptations include new initiatives, committee work, hallway conversations, and more--often, the allure of these events take you from your primary focus and most important work. Schools are very busy places with lots of people and lots of events, and if we're not focused well, it's easy to lose direction.

So what will be a positive pattern for the school year ahead? What behaviors and rituals truly do foster the best possible work for the children, their families, and colleagues? For each educator, that answer will be different, but as I think of the goals and work ahead, these are the routine components I want to make sure I focus on.

Happy, Positive Start
As I've done in the past, I'll begin the school day with the schedule out front, some morning tasks for the children, and time to welcome all and troubleshoot any student issues that may occur at the start of the day.

Early Morning Help
I'll open the classroom door at 7:15 two mornings a week for students who want extra help. I'll choose the mornings once I meet with my team and get an idea of the weekly schedule too.

Afterschool Help
I'd like to offer one afternoon a week to help students who need and want an extra boost with math as well. I will also choose that day once the schedule is set.

All Stop and Read
I'll work with my colleagues to foster this effort daily and support this initiative in a number of ways. We'll add this to our schedule.

Math/Science Routines
I'll work with students to establish routines that take the focus away from organization and transition procedures so we can focus in on the most engaging, collaborative, and meaningful areas of math and science study.

Daily Professional Learning, Planning, Reflection, Research
Mostly before and after the school day, but also including planning periods which are directed towards work that can only be done at school.

A time to connect with students as they play.

Office Hours
Time for meetings set aside one afternoon a week.

Time to focus on collegial matters

Content Focus

  • Math/Science Education
  • Reading
  • Dynamic Learning Community
  • SEL and Culturally Responsive, Brain-Friendly Learning/Teaching

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Godin highlights character attributes

I'm a fan of the way that Godin encapsulates important lessons with a few concise words. I'd like to see him have more to say about the politics of the times, but in the meantime, I still read his wisdom and lessons often. Today he highlighted character attributes a post.  I translated those attributes into actions I can forward to make those attributes visible in my life. It was a good exercise. Take a look if you're interested:

  • Discipline: read, research, write each day, healthy routines
  • Rigor: Attention with detail with regard to the learning experiences I support and facilitate
  • Patience: Listening more than talking.
  • Self-control: Making wise choices about time, money, entertainment, collaboration, and professional efforts.
  • Dignity: Respect for self and others.
  • Respect: Less judgement, more encouragement.
  • Knowledge: Regular reading and research, periodically attending and presenting at professional conferences.
  • Curiosity: Exploration via museums, travel, reading, research, and engagement in new endeavors.
  • Wisdom: Choose a mentor group of living and historic wise leaders. Reading their words, following their lives.
  • Ethics: Making decisions with seven-generation thinking; what's best for all of us today and into the future.
  • Honor: Acting in a way that exemplifies the best of whom we can be as humans: honorable speak, acts, choices, connections.
  • Empathy: Putting myself in the shoes of others and seeing challenge, choice, and effort through their eyes. Go hard on problems, not the people. 
  • Resilience: With every error, knock, troubling judgement, and struggle, recognize that life is a path of hills, valleys, and plateaus--weathering life's terrain with resilience builds strength, capacity, positive perspective, and success.
  • Honesty: We have to be truthful to ourselves and others as that builds great strength and support for overcoming obstacles, gaining good connections, and achieving in meaningful, positive, proactive ways.
  • Long-term: Look ahead and be willing to sacrifice today to achieve tomorrow.
  • Possibility: Make time to dream, and work for the possibility your dreams create.
  • Bravery: Always have the courage to do what is good and right.
  • Kindness: Be honestly kind and helpful to all that you live and work with.
  • Awareness: Stay abreast of the people, places, and events around you, and act with respect with regard to current events, emotions, needs, and potential. 

Final days of summer vacation; school days on the horizon

It's a wonderfully crisp August morning that brings good energy and thoughts about the school year to come. Plans are mostly made, summer study mainly completed, and a number of collegial meetings to come as well as upcoming room prep and set up.

Specifically, I want to complete the following;

Math Routines
I committed to reading this book over the summer, and I know that it will empower my math start, so I'll read and apply to the year to come.

Collegial Planning and Prep
Together the collegial group does amazing work. We'll likely get a lot done when we meet this week and during the first two teacher prep days of the year.

Room Set-Up
I'll power through this during the first two teacher prep days.

Initial Lessons and Units
I'll focus in on the initial community building, math, and science lessons and units set.

Goals for a Successful Year

  • Healthy, positive routine
  • Successful science and math teaching and learning
  • A warm, happy, collaborative, inclusive TeamFive learning team of students, educators, family members, and community members
  • Positive contribution and collaboration as a WTA member
  • Positive political action to support the best possible candidates and agendas for local, state, and national offices. 

Teacher Dreams: Collaboration vs Competition

I've come to know those dreams that wake me up at night as teachers. Typically if I make the time to think about the dream, I find a deeper message. Like many teachers, I usually have teacher-dreams before the start of the school year and throughout the year. Like most dreams, the teacher dreams include many fragments of uncompleted thoughts and actions and a myriad of people and places I've thought about or experienced recently.

Last night the dream had a wide variety of educators I know dressed in white crowded around a big table. The conversation was snarky rather than productive, competitive rather than collaborative. The way words, facial expressions, and body language were used spoke of competition rather than collaboration. As with most dreams that have something to teach me, the dream woke me up and I couldn't go back to sleep. So, I decided to dig into the dream--what message did it hold?

Impacted by my summer study related to green chemistry and biomimicry, I initially thought about John Warner's call for us to seek survival of the compatible rather than survival of the fittest. Warner wants us to mimic nature's success story of the survival of an amazing number and variety of species on Earth. He marvels at the way that these species live mainly in harmony rather than rivalry. This is a good focus for the school year.

In my dream, the words used were words of competition rather than words of collaboration. There was less listening and more grandstanding, and there wasn't a clear focus of who we were together as we sat around the table--little harmony, more cacophony. In the dream, I, as much as anyone, contributed to the clashing voices, expressions, and body language too.

So, how do we work for greater collaboration rather than competition in schools, and why does that matter?

Choose your words carefully
First, we all have to be mindful of the words we use. In the dream, I asked a few questions that awoke frustration in some. That wasn't my intent, but replaying the scenario, I can see how that happened. Then others reacted with similar questioning and comments and so a subtle battle began rather than the good work possible. So many know this already, but it's best to think about the words you will speak and the focus you will have before entering a meeting. When we let competition get in the way of our good work, we forfeit the positive energy and time possible for what good collaboration can brings.

Focus on the good work ahead
In the dream, the focus was on past efforts and result rather than the good work ahead. This also created a greater spirit of competition rather than collaboration. Instead had we been discussing a future goal and how we would work together to achieve that goal, I believe the spirit of the conversation would have been more positive and collaborative.

Use good process
So often good conversation and collaboration is blocked by poor process. You can't put 25 or more people at a table and expect to have a good conversation together about anything. That's too many people talking all at once. It just doesn't work. On the other hand using good process to work together makes a significant difference when it comes to the kind of work we do. World cafe and hosting conversations are two processes that work well in this regard.

As I think of my own work this year, I am thinking about the areas in which I want to collaborate with colleagues. In the dream, the focus was something that's not all that important to me. I would have been better off simply staying quiet, not getting involved. There will be countless important initiatives at school this year that don't involve my interests or will to get involved simply because those efforts are outside of my main responsibility and my main focus areas. I'll help if I have something to give, but in the areas that don't involve me, there are typically many others ready and willing to help since those areas impact their daily work and long term goals/vision as educators.

For me, I want to work collaboratively with peers for the areas that matter most to me and my students which include apt science and math teaching, social emotional learning, and classroom/school community building--these are the areas I'll dig into in the year ahead.

In thinking about these areas of school life, I want to stay focused on the essential questions which include:

  • How can we successfully teach math and science in culturally responsive, brain-friendly, and student-centered ways? 
  • How can we best embed social emotional learning into all endeavor in ways that help develop students' experience, spirt, and expression of wellness, camaraderie, advocacy, self-care, and respect for each other?
  • How does the learning team of students, family members, educators, specialists, therapists, administrators and community members work together in ways that elevate all in positive, proactive ways?
Good words, good focus, and good process as well as essential questions are critical tools when it comes to a collaborative year rather than a competitive one. I'm looking forward to that. 

Friday, August 09, 2019

Focus on what you can do

President Trump weighs heavily on the minds of those like me who truly want to uplift life for all with good values, care for one another, and honest, uplifting work. It's disgusting to see him elevate his ego day after day with poor behavior, hateful words, no empathy, and errant self-serving showmanship and decision making. Yet, we can't let him and his me-first cronies take us away from the good work possible.

What can we do to lead positive, promising lives for ourselves and others.

First, Trump clearly exemplifies a need for us to choose better leaders. Do we really want the kind of world he displays day after day, a world that demeans most people, works against the rights and opportunities of most people, pollutes our planet, and leads the way to elevate only a few wealthy folk. I don't want that world, and I will do what I can to work against it by supporting Elizabeth Warren for President of the United States, researching and writing about the issues, and voting.

I will also do what I can at home and at school to nurture children well, and work to be able to give the best possible modern education and care. I'll also work to live a cleaner, more Earth-friendly life with less one-time-use items, more plant-based diet, and reducing my own carbon footprint. Onward.

Make time to work with children

I fear there's a growing divide between those who work with children day after day and those that tell people who work with children online and in real time what to do. This divide creates an unnecessary gap between leading and doing, a gap that's costly and a gap that creates unnecessary steps between learning and teaching.

I have noticed this gap recently when I've attended professional conferences. At the conferences there has been more leaders, directors, and coaches than teachers. Now I know that those educational leaders, directors, and coaches will return to schools and try to disseminate the information to teachers, but there will be a considerable loss of effect and depth in translation. I believe that it's better to have teachers, the people who are working directly with the children, attend the conferences as that will eliminate the loss in translation while also boosting the camaraderie, enthusiasm, and shared knowledge amongst educators. Will Richardson from Modern Learners would like to take this a step further by including students in these learning events. I believe that Will's idea, to a large degree, is rightly directed. I've often felt that we spend too much time talking about students rather than talking to them and including them in our planning, problem solving, and learning events. One great way to enrich our schools and elevate the learning for all is to plan professional learning events that include students. Our team has done this and plans to do this again this year as we know it is very helpful.

Online share also includes lots of educators who do not have significant experience working in schools or with children. When these experts get online to tell educators what to do, their words often add up to greater obstruction to good work rather than the good work possible. As I state this, I do want to say that I believe education like any discipline can profit from the viewpoints and perspectives from those in other disciplines. That's why I like Twitter so much, I learn many ideas from other disciplines and then use those ideas in education. That's helped me to be a better teacher. That said, however, I do think that we have to beware of experts that don't regularly spend meaningful time working with children and schools. We don't want to be spending critical education dollars and time supporting experts without dedicated experience with children rather than supporting those who work with students day in and day out. Teachers should not be considered the do-its, instead they need to be considered as professionals who deserve the time and attention for apt professional learning experiences as well as support for the work they do each day with state-of-the-art learning environments, materials, schedules, and leadership too.

In any profession, the people who sit on the sidelines advising alone rather than getting involved in the daily details of the work they advise about are not as valuable. If you want to influence education, you have to spend some time working deeply to help students learn. That will make your words and work meaningful.

As educators, we can't be fooled by those who haven't had this experience. Yes, there will be a few, who are able to share information well and motivate without good time with students, but for the most part, we need to support and look to experts that have experience and experts that continue to work with children regularly. Those that do not make the effort to work with children regularly are typically less relevant, helpful, or worth the time or money. Onward.

Using brain-friendly learning strategy to teach biomimicry

Zaretta Hammond's book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, provides many ways for educators to help students move from independence to dependence when it comes to learning. Other reports I've read this summer also emphasize the need for students to build a significant knowledge base in order to learn effectively. As I think of this brain-friendly learning, I am thinking about how I'll teach students to take new learning seriously and apply the brain-friendly questions above to the new learning we engage in.

For example, sometime early in the year students will be introduced to and/or review the concept of biomimicry. As students review that concept, I will apply Hammond's ignite, chunk, chew, and review steps (see chart below) for effective learning:

  • Introduce the new learning by saying to students, "We're going to learn about a topic that might be new to many of you. We're also going to practice learning this information as well as we can."
  • Pose the essential question:
  • Watch a short video. Students are invited to take word/picture notes while watching the video.

Now that you've watched the short video and thought about our essential question, What is biomimicry?
  • Students offer words, a definition is arrived at: Biomimicry is the practice of imitating life. We use biomimicry to solve problems. 
  • Consolidate: I'll ask students to spend a few minutes writing and illustrate the definition in their own words. Students may quietly talk as they spend about 10 minutes on this consolidation activity. 
  • I will introduce students to the chart at the top of the page. 
  • I will ask students to talk to each other and add their ideas to an enlarged copy of the effective learning diagram above, ideas that answer the questions below:
    • When we watched the video, what was the perspective (point of view) of the people explaining biomimicry?
    • How does biomimicry relate to your own life--when have your experienced this, noticed this, learned about this, used this?
    • How does biomimicry connect to what you already know? What other subjects, study, information or learning does this connect to?
    • What greater systems of learning and living does biomimicry fit into? 
Students will do a gallery walk and look at the sketch/word notes that students added to their enlarged diagrams. Then we'll watch one more short video about the topic:
Consolidate again: I'll tell students that there are many ways to help this new learning move from the small, limited short term memory to the long lasting long term memory in their brains including the ways listed on the chart below. I'll ask them to take what we've learned today and use one of the choices on the chart to help solidify that learning.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

How will your actions mirror your beliefs in school year 2019-2020

As we watch political leaders like #trump use amazing positive humane words and then act in opposition to the words spoken, we must consult our own use of words and our own actions. Do our actions mirror the words we use? In school year 2019-2020, how will you ensure that your actions match your words, what will you do? Simply stated, I aim to do the following:

In order to make sure that I run a children-first classroom, I will employ the following actions:

  • slow down
  • listen more and listen better
  • focus on the children during teaching times
  • design and embed learning experiences that respond to students' needs, interests, and desires
  • do all I can to support each and every students' success and happiness at school
Collegial Collaboration
  • Go hard on the problems, not the people
  • Listen more and better
  • Work together to forward the best possible teaching/learning programs
  • Advocate with courage and detail when needed
Culturally Relevant Teaching
Place the research-related posts I've written this summer in a guiding binder and use those posts to guide my teaching efforts and collaboration with colleagues. 

The way we treat children provides a glimpse of what we can expect in the future

If you're curious about the future, look at how we treat children today.

Trump and his errant cronies are raising hate amongst so many young people as they speak out against their family members with racist, bigoted, hateful statements, and act with similar sinister intent as well as harmful passivity in the face of traumatic, harmful events.

Every seed of hate they sow will come back to haunt and harm the American people. As I watched crying children speak in Mississippi yesterday, children who came home from school to find that their parents had been taken into custody in immigration raids, I was angry, frustrated, and hurt. All I could think about was the hate that was planted in those children's hearts and minds as they watched a wealthy, privileged government take their parents away and leave them alone to be later cared for in a gym by local good samaritans rather than in their loving homes. It was also ironic that as Trump went to El Paso to pay respects to people targeted and murdered because of their Hispanic culture, his officers were also rounding up Hispanic immigrants while leaving their children parentless.

Let's look deeply at this. First, the people taken away worked at a food plant. We can only imagine that the work was not glamorous as well as challenging and low paying. We also need to wonder if the owners of that plant treated these people who were gathered well--were they paid well, and were they treated in ways that helped them move towards citizenship, or did the business take advantage of their illegal status? And, we can question the way the government dealt with this. If these people truly had illegal status in the United States, and as noted in the news account, working and living in the United States for many years, why didn't the government use a humane process of working with this situation, a process that looked out for the children first.

Rather than round up people with illegal status who have committed no grave crimes, why can't the government work with humanity and good process to deal with the situation in the following way:
  1. Start by working with companies that employ these people with illegal status to look for win-win ways to move these people towards citizenship. If these people are working for American companies and providing a needed service in our country, why not help them become the good tax paying, involved citizens they can be.
  2. Why not work harder to offer these many people with illegal status who have been living and working in the United States for years, an honest, positive path to citizenship? Why not let them stay?
  3. If families, for any good reason, have to be deported, they never should be taken without their children. Instead it needs to be a family meeting with family members and children to decide on a humane plan to make sure children are not left alone without knowledge about what is happening and where their parents are. 
Clearly we have to deal with the immigration challenge in smart, humane ways, not the bullying, inhumane, hateful ways that the Trump administration is dealing with immigration. They are planting great seeds of despair, anger, frustration, sadness, and hate--those seeds will grow in the children, families, and individuals who have been treated with such disdain, and we will suffer the consequences unless we do something to make change now. We have an obligation to take care of the world's children, and to treat children and families inhumanely is about as low as you can go as a human being. 

Facing challenge one step at a time

Yesterday I wrote a post about the Trump challenge, a challenge that finds me distraught with Trump talk and acts, and a challenge that finds me thinking about what I can do to work against the cancer that I believe Trump's leadership is to the United States.

As I consider this challenge, I want to be both positive and steadfast in my efforts to stay open minded and continue to work against what I believe are dehumanizing statements and actions by Trump and his many Republican cronies, who like him, appear to put their own personal interests and advantages ahead of their oath to "insure domestic tranquility" and "secure the general welfare" as they promised to do when they took their oath of office.

To be open minded is important, and I can work at that by continuing to be curious about those that support Trump. Questions that might lead my observations and listening as I encounter these supporters are what's in it for them, why does this President appeal to them, and how can I understand the psychology behind this support.

During these troubling times, times led by a President, his family members, and cronies in ways that don't support what I believe in, invest in, and work for in my life, I recognize that my advocacy to make change has to be a step-by-step positive and hopeful approach that includes reading, research, collaborative work, and of course perseverance.

With a focus on education rather than Trump-like manipulation, I'll seek to research specific positive efforts that good Americans are forwarding to elevate lives for all in the United States, and I'll research the errant self serving efforts of Trump and his cronies--efforts that obstruct good living by better serving a wealthy few rather than most Americans.

Yesterday I made an important step in another challenge I face. It felt so good to meet that challenge with a positive step forward, I'll remember that feeling as I work against Trump self-serving efforts in a positive, hopeful way. Onward.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

The pain off Trump leadership

Like many, I find Trump's leadership to be a pain, not unlike the pain of an illness that just won't go away. When you're really sick, you remember the good days of health. These days of Trump make me look back to the good Obama days, and to be truthful, the days with most other Presidents were far better than these diseased days with Trump at the helm.

It's easy to become obsessed with Trump's disrespectful and harmful words and ways because he is an offense to everything that most of us value--he throws aside the civility we've learned to use as we work with others, debate, make decisions, and get along. Instead he goes about his merry ways with overt praise for those who do or say what he wants them to do or say as well as his demeaning shaming, blaming, lying, exaggerating, and name calling for those who go against his ideas or actions. His script is simple: love talk for those that elevate his wealth, ego, power and hate-talk for those who challenge his self serving actions, words, and interests.

What is not so simple, however, is the impact that he is having on our culture. He truly is dividing the American people with his divisive hate speech that incites violence against innocents. Some think this is Putin's bidding since it seems clear that Trump has some suspicious ties to that errant very wealthy dictator known for his human rights violations. Others see it simply as Trump's will to elevate his own power in the world--a world in which his businesses have multiple ties and investments. Trump shows little concern for the country in general and less concern for most Americans--his words and actions demonstrate mainly his will to reign and be on top financially, with respect to power, and having it his way.

So what do you do about Trump--he's a cancer that just won't go away. A loved one of mine did beat cancer, and I'll follow what he did with regard to Trump's painful Presidency.

Don't Give Up
My loved one did not want to succumb to cancer's awful grip so he didn't give up. He fought the disease tooth and nail, and fortunately he beat it. I need to use the same tenacity when it comes to working against the hate, violence, and contempt the Trump reign is casting our on our country.

Be Smart
My loved one read everything he could about his disease. He found out what the richest people with the most power did when they got the same kind of cancer. He said that if they have all the money in the world and the best doctors, then I'm going to do what they did. He followed their lead and his research. It is important to understand what Trump is doing, the laws that he is challenging, and the ways that he is undermining our country's value of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. Then, like my loved one, it is important to use that information to work against Trump's self-serving, heinous leadership, actions, and words.

Make Connections
My loved one used every connection he could to work with the best possible doctors and experts related to his cancer. That landed him in a study that eventually, in part, rid his body of the cancer. We have to work together if we want to defeat the errant leadership and policies of Trump and his self serving family members and cronies. Good political action requires that we connect to one another to work against evil regimes, ideas, and policies. That's difficult for average people in America to do since many are working around the clock simply to do their jobs and keep up with their chores and responsibilities, but we have to make time to work together for what really matters. I am supporting Elizabeth Warren's campaign with a few dollars and hopefully with some real time volunteer work soon. I am also supporting other worthy Democratic candidates by showing support for their words and actions. I want change and will join with my teachers union, Warren's campaign, and others to make this change happen.

Have a Hopeful, Healthy Routine and Outlook
My loved one did not give up. He pushed himself to stay involved in family events and his own interests. He challenged himself to research the best nutrition and exercise to stay as healthy as he could. He continued to support others in the family with his time and resources. He had a healthy routine of walking and caring for himself with as much good effort as possible. During these Trump days, we can't let him suck the life out of us, but instead we have to maintain and strengthen a hopeful, healthy routine and outlook via good work, positive relationships, and healthy habits.

Of course there's a bit of fate and luck embedded in every challenge. My loved one did all of the above and also was the recipient of good luck too. He was the only one that survived the study he took part in, and one of the few that I know that totally beat that cancer for good. Yet, if none of us use persistence, intelligence, connections, and a hopeful, healthy routine, we'll have no chance to turn this country around and put it back on course as a country that prides itself in justice and liberty for all.  In the days ahead, I'll follow my loved one's routine, and I hope that in mid November 2020, I'll be reading this post and thinking, like my loved one, we've beat that cancer that's been crippling our country. Trump is no longer the President, and the promise of a new and better President of the United States is here.

Professional Path: Next Steps for School Year 2019-2020

One of my great professional challenges is spreading myself too thin. Another is making sure that my actions live up to my words. Knowing this, I want to refine the path for the days ahead. What matters? Who will be my primary affiliations? How will I spend my time?

What matters?
The priorities for the year ahead include the following:
  • a welcoming classroom community
  • culturally responsive teaching
  • a deep focus on math/science education
  • a positive grade five teaching/learning routine that includes time for deep and enjoyable reading every day
  • apt collaboration with the greater grade five learning team including students, families, grade-level teachers, coaches/interventionists, special educators, therapists, and specialists
  • Twitter PLN for ready resources, current events, inspiration, support
  • MTA/WTA: Union support and affiliation to advocate for fair working conditions, salaries, and support for doing the best possible work for students
  • NCTM: to support a deep focus on math education
  • MA DESE: to support the good learning/teaching possible
  • YouCubed Facebook page: great source of current information related to math education
  • Massachusetts' Audubon Drumlin Farm: continued partnership to elevate hands-on, engaging, relevant, standards-based environmental education
  • Elizabeth Warren campaign for the presidency
  • Daily reading/research
  • Monday-Friday focus on good teaching, nurturing students' academic, social/emotional learning, and healthy activity engagement and success
  • Time for family, health
  • Contribution of time to Elizabeth Warren campaign for Presidency
  • Health and happiness
  • Continued learning and good work
  • Student happiness and academic success
  • Family support and happiness
  • Contribution of time, talent, and money (when possible) to people and places I believe in

Should Political Campaigns Manipulate or Educate?

For the first time in my life, I'm digging in deeply with regard to the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election. One reason I am very interested in this election is that I believe President Trump works against the values, efforts, and beliefs I've held and worked for my entire life. Like most Americans, I've worked hard, sacrificed, and put my best effort forward in my family life and profession. To have a leader who disrespects all that you've worked for and valued your whole life works against who you are, your dedication, and what you believe is right and good for your children, grandchildren, and the future of a country you are proud of.

I have always been proud of America's basic value that everyone should have the opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I have always been dismayed and troubled by acts of prejudice, inequity, hate, and violence. I have also always sought to better what I can do to get along, treat people fairly, and rid myself of the prejudices, bad habits, and ignorance that I have. Like all, I'm a work in progress, always seeking better. I am comforted and led, in a large part, by Theihard de Chardin's words that essentially say that we are spiraling up as a people moving towards greater good. I see that in so many actions in the world as we evolve towards greater and greater respect towards one another and human rights. It's not a steady movement forward, but a halting movement of more forward steps than back steps, but a positive direction nevertheless that has been affirmed by researchers such as Pinker.

As I thought about these ideas today and the will for wonderful leadership in our country, I thought about political campaigns. Should campaigns be manipulative affairs where candidates shame and blame their opponents with name calling, disrespect, slick sound bites, lies, and rally theater or is a good campaign one that focuses on educating the people about what can happen: the possibilities that exist for better living and the ideas that can become promising supports and pathways to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. Of course, as I think about this, I support campaigns that choose to educate people rather than manipulate people. What can those campaigns do?

The advice of Zaretta Hammond in her book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, actually provides a good direction for effective campaigning as well as effective teaching. I especially like her brain-friendly approach to ignite, chunk, chew, and review. How might this become a campaign strategy?

Wake up Americans with a vision of what can be with the strategies listed in the chart above.

Trump actually does this well. He chunks his information in bite-size pieces, but unfortunately he relies on lies, shaming, blaming, exaggeration, name calling and other examples of poor conduct and ignorance in his chunks. I propose honest chunks of information that educate the people about what's possible to elevate their lives and build a stronger, more positive country for all.

Again the chart above provides many ways to do this, but essentially this is the time for candidates to engage people in conversation or shared effort. I believe that candidates can bring their work into the field for the "chew" as they engage in service work, contribution, and care. To couple their message with good work for and with others would provide a terrific opportunity to process the candidate's good ideas, experiences, and leadership.

This is the interactive follow-up for a campaign. The after event survey, letter writing, and creative responses that solidify the candidate's message and promise.

I believe that campaigns can become educational rather than manipulative--I believe that whether a candidate wins or loses, if they invest in educating the public about the potential that exists rather than manipulate the public to optimize their gain, fame, and ego alone, those candidates can be proud of the good work they endeavored and their supporters can also be proud of the positive efforts they forwarded.

I think this can be a positive move for American politics, and in the future as we reform political funding laws and policies, we can invest public money into these efforts to educate rather than manipulate in an effort to choose the best possible leaders for our country and world.

Isolation: What do we do?

In every community people are isolated. What is isolation, and what can we do about it?

Suburban isolation
I am not a great fan of suburbia even though I live in a suburban neighborhood. I believe that the way many suburban communities have been built leads to isolation--often these communities include tracks of similar-looking houses that are distanced from shops, libraries, town services, schools, and more. The fact that most people need a car to get around or do their chores, I believe, creates isolation. Also because many Americans are working a lot, there's often not a lot of activity in suburban neighborhoods daily. That prevents people from knowing each other, working together, and supporting one another.

In the best of circumstances, I think society has to begin to think about their landscape--what kinds of housing, neighborhoods, and architecture lift us up, bring us together, and lead us to the best possible living. Dull strip malls, little green space, no sidewalks, few bike trails, less public transportation, and inaccessible services all contribute to isolation.

Urban isolation
In some urban areas, the need for safety creates isolation. I've heard about families who don't let their children play outside because they fear for their safety due to gun violence, gangs, poor transportation patterns, and pollution. Poor public transportation also creates isolation in urban areas because people can't access the places and services they need. I grew up in a relatively small city. At that time, the public transportation was terrific, safety wonderful, and services accessible. There was a strong community at that time. Since then, however, like most urban areas, the services are not as strong, safe, or accessible.

Service isolation
It appears that needed services are not as accessible these days. For those without transportation, good health, and knowledge, services are hard to access. I fear this is a way, for some, to reduce the costs of those services because if people don't know about them and can't access the services, they won't use them thus reducing costs.

The trickle down affect of social problems
Social problems sadly have a trickle down effect. For example if parents suffer from great poverty, domestic violence, drug addiction, alcoholism, and/or psychological problems, it's likely that their problems will impact their children. Supports and education for social problems never receive enough funding and support necessary to help out, and that's why so many children suffer from the poor parenting and the lack of support these problems create. Children who have experienced poor parenting often have a difficult time parenting their own children continuing a cycle of struggle. We can definitely do better in this regard in the following ways:
  • Recognize the social problems that challenge good parenting and good lives for children. 
  • Educate the population deeply about the struggle these social problems create.
  • Provide great help to families that face these devastating social problems with the knowledge that good education and help will slow down and possibly stop this devastating cycle. 
  • Rid society of the factors that greatly promote destructive behavior in realistic and researched-based ways. For example, many Republicans demeaned video games recently related to gun violence, yet research does not support that claim. Whereas research does support the need to reduce, regulate, and restrict the number and kinds of guns on the street as one way to greatly reduce gun violence. 
  • Provide positive supports for families including bike trails, clean and attractive natural spaces, top-notch schools, state-of-the-art recreation facilities, sidewalks, accessible nutrition-filled farmer's markets/grocery stores, libraries, and more.
Nurture children
We can take much better care of our children in the United States. Children are often the last consideration for policy makers and leaders.  I can't stop thinking about the five year old in El Paso whose mother and father were gun downed because of their cultural background and the hate and prejudice of a young killer and our many racist, hateful leaders in the United States including the President of the United States whose words have promoted hate and violence repeatedly. When children today hear the President's name, there are two possible reactions--sighs and sadness or expressive hateful rhetoric similar to the President's tweets. This clearly demonstrates a President who does not demonstrate any concern for the welfare of children, a President who puts young children in harm's ways with his hateful, bigoted rhetoric.

We all know what children need. It's not that complicated, but because the country has worked against children's rights and needs for so long, we have a lot of work to do. If the country really cares about children and its future, the country will do forward the following:
  • Structurally and environmentally safe schools
  • Wonderful playgrounds
  • Healthy, nutritious lunches and snacks for all students at school
  • Access to healthy, affordable food for all families 
  • Welcoming, safe, and clean homes for all children
  • Safe neighborhoods
  • Clean, accessible transportation
  • Accessible, safe, healthy recreation
  • Laws that support realistic, safe, and positive work schedules, salaries, and conditions
  • Affordable, accessible health care for all
  • A society free of prejudice and hate
  • The ability for children and their families to live as they choose as long as their lives represent respect for the law and people in the community
  • Leadership that sets an example of good living, respect, and care for one another
Young people need positive endeavor, models, and direction
I read that the El Paso killer had been out of work for five months. We all know that old phrase, "Idle hands do the devil's work." While I'm a big fan of down time and time to think, I do believe that when young people are isolated too much and not engaged in positive activity, there is a great potential for those young people to embrace negative behaviors and affiliations. I always say that one of the greatest teachers for young people is to work. Working teaches children so many skills and provides them with perspectives they would never be exposed to. Particularly jobs such as being a waiter, waitress, shop clerk, maintenance worker, lifeguard, camp counselor, and any other service work that demands hard work and meeting all kinds of people are positive because those jobs expose people to what it means to serve others, and those jobs typically build a sense of empathy and respect in young people for the many workers out there that do those jobs day in and day out. 

When I saw the picture of the boys wearing McConnell campaign shirts clutching the neck of a cardboard cut-out of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I was horrified. I know that young people do stupid things, and when that happens we have to teach them better with consequences and better education. If the hate and ridicule they displayed (hate and ridiculed fostered by Trump and McConnell words, actions, and passivity in the face of racism, hate, and violence) are not countered, those young men will continue to develop in ways that look down on people and potentially ways that hurt people too. Did they think that was funny because they were supporting their President's ignorant, bigoted, hateful speak? Did they think that was funny because she's a woman and they have no respect for women? Did they think that was funny because they have no regard for government leaders or the policies they foster, policies that can truly uplift lives? I'm not sure, but their action was hateful, and when we promote hate, we tear at the promise and potential this country holds for positivity, unity, and strength.
It is not natural for people to kill other people. To a large degree, the senseless, avoidable deaths we see via domestic violence, human trafficking, mass shootings, suicide, accidents, and avoidable illnesses are due to our lack of attention to the many factors that isolate people--factors that create greater hate, neglect, frustration, and anger. As a society, we have not thought or acted deeply enough with regard to our potential to lift lives everywhere, instead we're stuck at the surface level of band-aid responses that do little to truly make a difference for lives today and our country in the future.

I do think it might be in our country's best interest to institute more opportunities for young people to do service work of some kind at ages 16-18. This might be a step in the right direction. We also have to elevate the supports for our lost, wayward, and ignorant young people--people who need affiliation, direction, and greater education in order to do better and live good lives for themselves and others. 

We can do better. We know what we need to do. What stands in our way is ignorance, greed, and an unwillingness to work together for better in ways that truly make a difference. Everywhere I look I see opportunities for betterment; everywhere I look I see ways that we can uplift lives for children, families, and the community. We have to do our homework and then elect the best possible leaders, leaders who will bring the country forward, not leaders who support racist, hateful, greedy acts and agendas--this is the time. 

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Does Trump Speak the Truth about the Days Ahead? Time will tell.

We know that Trump lies a lot. We've all seen how his stories change over time. The story that exemplifies this the most to me is the story related to his dealings with Michael Cohen, his one time good friend and lawyer, who now sits behind bars for doing Trump's dirty work. With regard to Michael Cohen, Trump's praise for him turned to multiple derogatory remarks. To me, this was one of the most easy to understand, and witness, examples of Trump's fair weather friendship and persistent lying.

Yesterday I watched Trump read the speech that appears to have been written for him on national television. Unlike his theatrical performances at his rallies, Trump's voice was mostly monotone as he struggled to accurately read the words before him. To me he read the words without heart, empathy, or emotion, but instead, with a focus on accuracy. It seemed like someone told him he had to do this and he was complying--we have seen him read similar make-up speeches before with the same kind of quiet obstinance, a demeanor far different than when he's amongst fans and friends at his rallies as he performs his predictable Trump Theater routine:
  • a slow walk on stage
  • an audience w/people positioned so there's a good smattering of diversity and lots of people who look like the mainstay of trump's fan group
  • loving words for his fans
  • slow, repetitive, praise for a local hero repeated again and again - sometimes the local hero comes on to the stage at that point
  • more loving words for the audience spoken slowly, repeated with emphasis w/gesturing, smiles
  • then the criticism, hate, name calling, chants and slogans agains the "bad guys" - people who #trump is running or working against. Repeated again and again w/follow-up slogan chants by the audience
So let's take the high road and negate what I witnessed and believe that Trump truly believes in the words he spoke and will follow-up with action. Let's see what that means for the days ahead. Should he follow his own speech, we can look forward to better days ahead with the following actions:

I agree that "We are a loving nation, and our children are entitled to grow up in a just, peaceful, and loving society." If Trump truly believes that he will work for that justice, peace, and love by supporting education, health care for all, and anti-racist efforts to make all children safe and happy. Let's see if he follows these words, let's remind him of these words regularly.

When he says, "In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America," I am happy to hear those words. Let's see how he acts with this in mind. Will he respond to the fact that the El Paso shooter appeared to mimicTrump's sentiments against Mexicans, immigrants, and refugees. Will he continue to forward hate speech such as the quotes below? Let us remind him of these words in the days ahead.

It seems clear that the El Paso shooter followed Trump's Internet calls to demean, disdain, and make life difficult for immigrants, refugees, and specifically Mexicans. When he reminds us that "We must recognize that the Internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts," does he recognize that his own words, in part, led to the massacre in El Paso in this way. Young men in America who share his ideology look up to him and follow his words--will  he take the ways he uses the Internet more seriously from now on or will he continue to incite hate and violence via Twitter and his rally theatrics? Think of the multiple hateful statements he made recently when talking to conservative youth:

We all have to think carefully about the words we use. This is emphasized when Trump says, "The perils of the Internet and social media cannot be ignored, and they will not be ignored." Will Trump follow his own words and use more care with his use of social media--use that often includes hateful, racist statements, lies, name calling, shaming, blaming, and disrespect. Will he change? Will Trump speak out against the way his followers often spread mistruths to ruin people's character? Will he speak out against the hate his own cronies/fans display on social media? Let's see if he follows his own words in this regard.

I agree that "We must seek real, bipartisan solutions," but I haven't seen Trump truly work for that kind of compromise. Friends tell me that during the Regan years, it was Tip O'Neil who had the great foresight and skill at working for bipartisanship--people tell me that his efforts to work for compromise were positive during those years. I have to study up on that more, but I see no effort on Donald Trump's part to date with regard to working on bipartisan solutions. The disrespect he shows his democratic opponents continuously serves to divide, not unite. You cannot unite with lies, disrespect, and self-serving policies for a few--you unite with a common vision of what's best for ALL Americans with respect for the viewpoints, hard work, well meaning and intelligence of each other. 

I totally agree that "We must stop the glorification of violence in our society," and I believe this starts with President Trump. The video below shows Trump glorifying violence time and again. While I too don't think that a steady diet of violent video games is positive for young minds, his argument here does not hold true. Yes, the United States sells the most video games and has the most gun-related violence (we have the most guns too), but the countries that come in second, third, fourth and so on don't also come in on tops with regard to violent deaths or gun ownership either. I also agree that ". . .it is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence." Just recently outside a Trump rally a young man beat up an anti-Trump protester. Trump rallies provide that "culture that celebrates violence" for today's youth. Will Trump continue to create that kind of culture at his rallies or will he doe as he supports in the quote above?

Again I agree with Trump's words, "Cultural change is hard, but each of us can choose to build a culture that celebrates the inherent worth and dignity of every human life." How does Trump reckon those words with his hateful speech related to so many of us, where we live, and the groups we belong to? His words time and again do not celebrate the inherent worth and dignity of every human life. Will he change his racist, hateful, prejudiced rhetoric? Let's remind him of this quote in the days ahead should he disdain good, hard working people, people with inherent worth and dignity.
Trump stirs hate for Mexican immigrants and refugees.

I also agree that ". . those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms," and I wonder why Trump and Mitch McConnell are standing in the way of the common sense gun laws that are ready to go forward in the Senate. Why do they stand passive when we know there is so much we can do to make our country safer. Is it their allegiance to the NRA money that holds them back? Is it there lack of understanding that a comprehensive public health assessment and plan to curb gun violence including the reduction, restriction, and regulation of gun use will mitigate this problem? If he truly believes as he says, he will get busy right away making change. The United States has far more guns and far more gun violence than any other wealthy, industrialized country in the world. 
While there are countries with more violence by guns, when we compare the United States with countries with a similar standard of living and economic success, we, by far, have more gun violence and we simply have a lot more guns. We can change this. (graph reference)

Trump calls for "unity" here. Unity is the result of exemplary leadership work, not the kind of work that disrespects and divides a country. Trump's legacy of bullying, manipulating, and lying to get his way, does not create unity, but instead creates divide. Will we see the President reverse course and act for unity. Let's remind of his words, ". . .and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion, and love." in the days ahead--will these words lead a new era of Trump talk and action, or is this simply a President saying what he has to while he continues he tenure of torment that divides and harms the American people, economy, and land we love. Let's see.