An Enrichment Proposal 3 (Almost There!)

First,  I have thoughts on the failure to move test score needles. 

“Value added assessment”, norm- referenced data analysis, grit and rigor, HEDI scales, tethering students more and more onto screens and into platforms that exist for data production, collection and analysis, moving learners away from the symbiotic, social and synergistic processes that grow an adept human mind

The real important stuff that lays the foundation for success (e.g.,social, emotional and psychological development) was back-burnered in the pursuit of data. In the aftermath of the 2007-2010 financial crisis, schools became the distraction and target for accountability for what was ailing the nation. The housing market crashed and people’s lives were ruined, so clearly schools weren’t doing their job. We began racing to the top, and a decade later even Bill Gates had to admit his thoughts on how everybody else’s kids should be weighed and measured didn’t work out so well. 

Well, if a test score needle didn’t move, it’s no wonder. You aren’t going to save a crappy potato salad with even the most well-intended, highest quality, thick sliced hickory smoked bacon bits. It might get easier to choke down, but the salad will still be crappy, and people at the picnic will wonder why you wasted good bacon bits. 

Said more directly: academics will be a struggle if you don’t tend to the person and prepare the mind.   

An increased focus on more explicit counseling and social-emotional targets in the instructional day is really an admission of failure and/or unwillingness on the part of policymakers and society around schools. The role of public schools has more overtly become to fix the damage done by problems we refuse to take care of outside of school which transformed the natural process of SED into a necessary remediation/ intervention called SEL.

 I don’t resent it or anything, it just is what it is, and educators have already been doing it all along because we’re confronted with the growing needs daily. It’s just being officially made part of the job now. 

I say this gives the professionals a nod to not just do it as another one more thing you need to do, but do it right. Do it proudly, too, knowing that we are the ones with graduate degrees and experience, and we are capable of targeting academic skills while addressing the needs of the whole-child in order to create lifelong learners who can handle grit and rigor when it comes along. If we start enriching, in order to empower, it will be easier to educate. 

So as i work my way closer to how, know that I believe those working in schools already know this:

By treating children in the school setting like young human beings that go through stages of development that can be supported and encouraged, the same as we would with our own children out in the wild, just think of what we could accomplish. 

There’s that ringing again.


An Enrichment Proposal, Part 1.

Writing out of the humanity side of it all:

In the Introduction I lay the groundwork.

We are either blessed or burdened with one life on this tiny speck of dust, in a universe we can’t begin to truly comprehend or define, for purposes we may never know, and maybe weren’t meant to or don’t need to know. If you lean into believing there even is a purpose, and/or a demanding, all-knowing old guy in the sky doing all the work, you should honor blessings with real efforts, not just assume a merit badge or a train ride home for saying you believe. So when faculty meeting requests for ideas regarding how to best spend extra funds and invest efforts in the wake of COVID-19 began, it rolled me through that honor-my-blessings (and opportunity?) process.

Sure, I was a little leery. I’ve been in plenty of meetings where ideas are enthusiastically called for and collected. I’ve been disappointed. Pieces of chart paper hung all over with multicolored marker wish-lists/what do you needs/what should we dos in a wide variety of handwriting styles, fonts and sizes. That part was cool, I love it when collaboration and creation happen-we need more of that. It helps strengthen community and build spirit if it’s done right. 

It was almost always the same sort of stuff on those lists, though. Math facts. Phonics. Fluency. Explicit, direct instruction in handwriting. A packaged, produced and published curriculum that takes all the guesswork out of delivering content and interventions and gives lotsa books and copies to be made. Some rare glimmers of inspiration. Some definite worn down copier issues to come.

But when there was a call for Enrichment proposals, I was excited. There had been directives to think big, think “out of the box”, to think of something because we haven’t been able to move the needle on test scores for about ten years. I felt as if in the midst of a chaotic pandemic recovery, state-level decision-makers and NYSED had woken up and decided to leave behind the past ten years of their poisoned paradigm. They were sending word down from above to empower the people actually doing the job of educating children. Like they now really did want to hear from teachers and give them some say. 

And to suggest Enrichment! To me it felt like a dare. Like I might be taken off the leash. 

It felt like the universe was ringing.

I’ll explain the ringing in a sec.

An Enrichment proposal in this situation shouldn’t be an individual application or an audition for an isolated opportunity. It shouldn’t be a “Hey, here’s this suggestion that’s specifically for me and some cool thing I’ve always wanted to do with a few kids,” type thing. That’s not very inspiring or enriching. To me, a proposal is a great big, collaborative deal. 

For example, a proposal is me having the nerve to suggest to a beautiful young woman who is still way too good for me that she spend the one life she has on me, and a request that she allow me to spend my one life trying to prove what we make of it together was worth her while in the end. It might sound a little melodramatic, but looking back, the universe rang the moment I was introduced to her, when I purposely held her hand a little longer than I should have for a simple pleased-to-meet-you handshake.

I think about how lucky I am today for having had that moment, and I hear that ring from way-back-then. 

So in honor of the blessing and the ringing in my head

Once some tiny bit of that vast, magical unknowable (sourced from science or the divine) is captured, then mixed with some piss and rubber from melted down tires, with the magical ending of an ass getting inked onto this jailhouse called Earth…I gotta believe that creation comes with obligation. An obligation to listen for that ringing, and to try and make it happen for others.

That’s where Enrichment begins.

An Enrichment Proposal: Introduction


Teaching has changed. Apparently becoming  a teacher is changing as well. I just saw an article out of NYSED saying so, I think. I have to go back and see for sure but I believe I got one of those widely spread, “from the office of…”, release/emails from the office of NY Ed Commissioner Rosa mentioning the Ed Department making it easier for student teachers to get into the classroom. 

At the start of the most recent “reform” movement, when the intent was to present lack of teacher quality and education accountability as the critical issues in student outcomes, it felt as if the certification process was made more difficult. Maybe a pendulum is swinging in the other direction? I don’t want to lower standards for those educating the citizens of tomorrow, but overall I think making certification a more coherent process is a good thing. I think making it more honest is even better. For the sake of honesty: I don’t think the quality of educators and candidates for the field, or difficulty of getting into the profession is at the heart of the “why” in teacher-supply challenges.

I think it’s more a matter of purpose and lack of integrity in those who began pushing those reforms a little over a decade ago. The teacher shortage was a widely recognized concern long before COVID because the job is getting more difficult and thankless and has been getting that way for some time. Invaded by the consequences of a lack of political will outside of schools, educators are left to battle the fallout from inhumane policy blowing into schools.

If you’ve worked for more than a handful of years in the classroom, you’ve seen that fallout for some time. You know children are being neglected and left behind by “American Exceptionalism”, becoming harder and harder to engage and educate. They are more absorbed by the eye-candy found on screens and the sales of superficiality (i.e. being tick-tock famous, having lots of “hits” and “likes”, owning the latest model of this or that…). We are raising other people’s children first in order to teach them, and the ones who do come ready to learn get shortchanged in the struggle to meet the needs of all.

Education, as it is being mandated from above, is less about the value we are adding to humanity and more about competing on the playing field of standardardization, the “free market”, the statistics, and determinations of value within human beings as demonstrated by the data they produce. Educators are continuously tied to these numbers in this statistical paradigm which lumps the ready to be “proficient” with those who struggle to be so. In this manner, our attention is drawn away from the actual human beings involved. That we are just all victims and left with oh well, what can we really do about it, to me, is complacency and surrender.

That shouldn’t be acceptable for other people’s children any more than it is or was for my own. That all being said, with much more to say, I’ll get to the point. I am proposing that educators do Enrichment. With a capital “E”. Not as an intervention or an add on, but as a mindset and approach for all.