That Old Expired Jar of Mayonnaise (Part 1)

Spring, 2022

“Well kids, we did it,” said Mr. McConnell leaning back in his teacher’s chair looking exhausted and relieved at the same time. State testing was finally over.

“You all handled that well. It throws a little bit of a wrench into our days, I know. Believe me, if I had my way you’d show your learnin’ on the McConnell Hilltop Compound Academy- wearin’ some work gloves and pickin’ rocks, plantin’ flowers and pullin’ weeds…”

He leaned back a little more and worked up a sort of entranced smile, eyes going kind of dramatic-dreamy. He pantomimed fanning himself in the sun and holding out a glass to act out a brief make-believe story about getting a kid to refill his iced tea, motioning for a little more “C’mon Owen, top that bad boy off, don’t be stingy,” sipping and ahhhh- ing… “Eva, not there, drag those branches over there…yeah, that’s it!

A few students protesting the thought of being turned into unpaid labor brought him to act woke out of his daydream.

“Oh sorry, where was I?” he asked the class.

This was all for show, of course. Unless there were volunteers for the Hilltop Academy (and oddly enough, they always volunteered).

The ridiculousness of the reverence and preeminence bestowed upon these tests had been growing for over a decade, and the chore of proctoring with tightly scripted directions (under threat of law, loss of teaching license, invalidation of student exams…) had led to even the inclusion of a very long list of electronic devices test-takers could not have on them because it risked the security and integrity of the data.

Data, incidentally, that can, has and will be used against public education. But to be scripted to go back in the proctoring script to repeat the list of devices, as if you are giving the second and final warning to any nefarious third-grade test spies that might just need to feel the heat and severity of the hypothetical consequences for the discovery of them having any of their spy stuff on their person when the government documents and cheap pencils are distributed…

“What have we become?” wondered Mr. McConnell in the moments he went back and challenged himself to read that list with one breath. He’d gotten very good at it.

“So, boys and girls,” he paused dramatically, looking around nodding slightly/eyeballing the kids with just a pinch of drama and that be ready for this look he liked to give when he wanted students to pay attention and be ready, “…I think with all that testing stuff done, today is the day.” His expression shifted to a satisfied, anticipatory, almost pleasure and at peace with the situation look.

“I think the time has come. You know what I mean.”

Mr. McConnell leaned back in his chair and reached with his left hand behind him for the spoon that rested in a coffee cup on the top shelf of the bookshelf that was in his corner of the room. It was a cheap soup spoon with some of that fake-fancy cheap spoon scrolly stuff on the handle. He transferred it to his right hand and reached back and up with his left again, saying:

“It’s time for the Because you never know mayonnaise.”

His hand found and retrieved the small jar of Helmann’s mayonnaise that had been there since day 1 of the school year. Indeed, had been with Mr. McConnell for some number of years, because it was three years expired at least. Students had asked about it, looked it over, and wondered why he even had it. Wondered about it on the very first day of the school year, in fact.

“Why do you have that jar of mayonnaise, Mr. McConnell?” a student had asked.

“Because you never know,” Mr. McConnell responded with a shrug. Truth be told he didn’t know why he had even said it at the time other than his tendency to drop nonsense on students just to make them think, ask more questions, ask better questions maybe.

After that, all year long, when describing preparation, readiness, and response to a problem or a situation that required a “You do this because you never know when it could help” mindset, Mr. McConnel pointed to the mayonnaise as an example. “You do this because you never know…You know, like that mayonnaise (insert casual gesture to the old jar of expired mayonnaise)

They probably didn’t expect him to bring that jar down close, affectionately even. The sigh, the look of anticipation, the almost whispered “I ‘ve really needed this”… They definitely didn’t expect him to twist the cap off that jar, dip that big old soup spoon in, and take in a big old sloppy mouthful with a satisfied and near euphoric expression on his face.

Just wait for Part 2!

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The shadow cast by NAEP

Following the October 24th release of “The Nation’s Report Card” by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), it’s no surprise that the rhetoric of education reform is once again on the rise. In reality, the tide of assault on public education had only receded a little in the quiet between “Race To The Top” and COVID. 

Now, on the heels of the pandemic, if you choose to believe it’s actually over, NAEP has provided important data that should be no surprise to anyone but is likely to be used to steer us even further away from the real reforms needed if better educational outcomes are desired.

Take, for example, the words of  U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona when talking to reporters about the NAEP results. “Appalling and unacceptable,” he said. Also, “This is a moment of truth for education,” and “How we respond to this will determine not only our recovery but, our nation’s standing in the world.”

“Our nation’s standing in the world.” My lord, you couldn’t write it more silly and lacking in substance, and this guy is the head edu-honcho for the entire country? Implicating public education in the threat to or erosion of our nation’s standing in the world indicates either ignorance or willful deflection from the stuff that actually does make us look bad to the rest of the world. 

We have been going about education reform all wrong and so-called leaders in education,  are largely to blame. The misguided assault on this human endeavor should end and we should engage in real education reform.

Dropping Pebbles in the Pond

I don’t know that this quote has been accurately attributed to Mother Theresa, but some time ago I came across a meme that did. The quote was:

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.

Think about that concept. 

It’s unlikely that an individual or individual actions are going to create a world-changing difference. There are standouts in history where big things happen due to the ideas and actions of individuals, but on a day-to-day basis, faced with the challenges put in front of humanity in today’s world, the thought that one person alone can change the world for the better is a bit of a reach.

And yet there’s a reason we know who Mother Theresa is.

Whether it was her that said it or not.

I DO like the idea of ripples as a way to affect change.

Casting a stone though…Sure there are ripples. But it skips away and across, leaving that trail of expanding rings. Neat enough, but as a teacher, I’ll use a stone when I’m looking to smash a window or get attention. 

Like a teacher should, you know.

But my approach when I’m educating, which when you think about it is changing the world for learners’ through their perceptions of the world and their approaches to it, and this is whether I’m speaking of my own children or about students in my classroom, is more about dropping pebbles than casting stones. 

More ripples. More intersections. More influence. More opportunities.

Many pebbles when I can, and right where I am. I want to be in the ripples. I want to see them intersect and interact, I want to watch what happens when students see them. I want to collect the data on what happens when I know that they do and are reacting to that.

Then I want to use what I see to decide where more pebbles should be dropped.

I’m the teacher. I have been doing this for over twenty years and in my time before and in my time now my world has rippled across hundreds of years of collective experience in education and intersected and been influenced by every sort of little pebble from state legislative leaders of education, down through commissioners of education and state department regents, down through superintendents…down to food service workers, custodians, health office staff, parent volunteers, board members…

It has never really been education or schools that needed reforming, but a game is being forced into play as if it was and is. The world is placing its burdens on schools and educators are being expected to pretend that it’s the school’s responsibility to fix the world. This is where Mother Theresa nails it, I think. And she did it in this interview almost twenty years ago, around when I started teaching.

 “There is a poverty in your country that is just as severe as our poorest of the poor… In the West there is a loneliness, which I call the leprosy of the West. In many ways, it is worse than our poor in Calcutta.”

Our “American Exceptionalism” culture drives us into separation and isolation.

We are expected to accept “the economy” as the measure of our success as a people, and in schools that economy has become standardized testing data. The norming of results to take that data and further dehumanize a human endeavor has turned our eyes further from the children and more to the screens, machines and spreadsheets that only facilitate further dehumanization of the human endeavor to educate.

The way real educators should.

Those are some pebbles from my one hand.

In the other, I’m still holding a stone.

If the world is to be changed, I think that’s how to get it started. With the right pebbles dropped in the right places at the right time.

I had a bit of a break from my last podcast episode, and I’m still trying to nail down the platform and approach. The next one will get into examples of how I have actually made that pebble and ripples thing work. A little twisted, a lot of fun, and very effective!

Real Educators and Real Education Reform

This might just be the first segment of the first episode of a new podcast.

Hello all, welcome. Come in, find your seat, or I guess find a seat- I won’t be assigning any yet so it’s okay, just grab the spot you want for now and if there are any problems I’ll move people around. Just know that if you choose to sit next to your bestie I’ll be watching to make sure you can do that and still make good choices.

Let’s get some definitions out of the way first. Since this effort I’m making here is called Real Educators, and Real Education Reform I should share the hows and whys of my using the terms “Real Educators” and “Real Education Reform”.

First, “real educators”. In my mind, if you are involved in any way with guiding learners as they come to grips with how to navigate this world we’re sharing, then you are a real educator. Most of the time my frame of reference will be how that is happening within the public school paradigm with a focus on classrooms and hallways.

But from parents to police, from presidents and their favorite porn stars to the guy at the newsstand on the corner selling the rags that reveal the darkest secrets of presidents and their favorite porn stars…

Everyone plays a role, so the key is paying attention to the role you play and the potential that lies within. 

You can make a difference, and chances are you do make a difference, but do you know that you can and do make a difference? 

Do you know that what you do and how you do it is a part of the education of others around you sharing this world with you? 

Do you think about what that difference you make might be or could look like? 

Maybe you see it as incidental or insignificant but it isn’t at all. All those tiny interactions add up. No matter how brief or in passing they are, they, and you, make a difference. Even tiny ripples travel and spread to the edges of a pond. Like the muppets sang on Sesame Street, they’re the people you meet when you’re walking down the street each day- except now you know that in the lives of learners you are those people. You are those ripples.

So sure, as a teacher my primary focus is on that role and other roles within the day-to-day school setting but having played that role for over twenty years the number one thing I have learned is that I am only part of the “real educator” team. A chance meeting, an every morning or afternoon hello from a fellow familiar…from cashier to construction worker, from preacher to police, all of these other humans tell us something about the world we are living in and tell school children as well. From puppets to porn stars it all informs us as we move forward through life. And if you are lucky enough to come across porn that incorporates puppets-definitely let me know. 

Purely for research purposes you know, I am a licensed, professional educator. Your children are safe with me

A Story (Part 1)

Little Danny stepped up to get his sled. His cousin Brian stepped up with him onto the other track as the two prepared to rocket into the record books on the “Alpine Slide”. And to think that only an hour ago they were getting ready to just run around Gram and Gramps whacking the bee tree and waiting for someone to get stung.

This was way cooler than that.

Not that the bee tree thing wasn’t interesting. Every year that giant pine tree was humming with hornets, and they were all around the house, and everywhere in the yard. There were no popsicles in peace or ice cream cones in the occasional calm. The sugar would bring-em. You’d be stung for sure.That’s why it was starting to get interesting. Someone was probably getting stung, and each boy was pretty sure it was going to be the other, but neither really cared. It happened every year, a few times anyway.

It had started with “Go run around the tree twice and then back to the porch,” progressed to three-times around, and even to the next difficulty level: taking the thin, yellow, wiffle-ball bat and whacking the tree before dashing back to the porch. That’s when the hornets became more interested. Up until then, whichever waited on the enclosed front porch would see a wisp of hornets pull away the way smoke above a candle does when your hand passes through. A few hornets would trail after briefly and then return to the tree. The bat was another story. A handful came all the way to the door and almost made it in before the runner closed the door. It was a whack-run-watch as hornets tapped and bounced off the glass of the porch door.

Still, it just seemed not quite dangerous enough for a couple men like them. They climbed onto roofs. They dumped entire pixie sticks into their mouths and washed it down with the sting of ice-cold Coca Cola. They snuck beers and cigars. They let Grandma drop them off at weekend bible camp, but only because it was a chance to sneak away from campfires and songs and into the woods with church girls.

So they decided the real danger from bees and such might only be elevated to the level of their courage if they smelled more flower-like during their assaults on the bee tree. Before they could thoroughly douse themselves with their grandfather’s green, Skin-Bracer aftershave (that being the most smell-good thing a couple stinky boys could think of) the call to load up into the family wagon came. They were heading to Song Mountain and the Alpine Slide!

Which brings us forward in time to Little Danny, atop his sled, at the top of the mountain, ready to ride that Alpine Slide.

People have had to be airlifted away from this ride! Little Danny thought. Which is probably why the teenage kid at the top did the safety thing he did every single time to every single person, probably every year Little Danny had been coming. How to stay on the track, don’t stop in the middle, how to push the lever forward to go faster, how to pull back to…

Little Danny pushed off fast before Safety Boy could finish. Sure he was probably five or six years older, 18 tops, but he clearly didn’t know how big boys played!

Make or Break Time for Education

As an educator, I saw an opportunity in the return to school after that COVID-induced stretch of remote learning.

Not that COVID is really over, as much as people want to pretend it is. Right now it feels like we are fudging our way through the positive tests and the obvious illnesses. Back to knowing that if a parent has no daycare options, a sick kid might be sent to school. Onward, implementing the merest measures as a society in order to keep people at work, and students in school, protecting economic interests first.

The pandemic revealed our society for what it really is.

Regardless of what political party holds the reins, it would appear that a market-driven strategy that defers to efficiency and easily quantifiable outcomes wins out over the human endeavor of educating. If a truly educated and capable citizenry were the goal, how we design and implement the systems that allow us to educate would reflect that. There would be more honesty in policy language coming down into our schools and classrooms from above, and it would be more about learners and a comprehensive, whole-child look at their needs, less about the limiting boxes on spreadsheets filled with standardized test scores.

The opportunity I saw in the return to in-person learning was a chance to rethink our priorities regarding the goals we are setting for students.

A reach for our better selves and a higher purpose in our service to students and communities is needed, and I feel we are in a make-or-break moment for choosing to do that. The data we are mandated to collect officially is far different than the data we are compelled to collect by the multiplying realities in the moments instruction should be happening. Those “confounding variables” keep popping up to get in the way of better outcomes.

What data educators collect matters. How we use it to build understanding about the learners as developing human beings with needs and inform our educational decisions matters more. Empowering the people actually doing the work matters most.

What Education Should Mean

I have long advocated for a better direction for education reform

Educators should be building a culture for learning, not standardization and perpetual testing, especially post-COVID. It’s not that I don’t think education needs to be done better-it absolutely does, and that’s why I am 100% pro-reform. But I am interested in real education reform. I’m talking about the type of education reform that turns our eyes away from screens, machines, and spreadsheets, education reform that empowers educators to attend to the learners as if they were actual living, breathing human beings right in front of us, because that’s what they are.

Don’t just take it from me, there are people who tell it better.

“But our obsessive need to measure academic progress and loss to the decimal point—an enterprise that feels at once comfortably scientific and hopelessly subjective—is also woefully out of tune with the moment…” (Stephen Merrill, April 2021)

      Merrill describes in that article the epic mistake of obsessing over “learning loss”, warning about focusing too much on the soulless bits and pieces of standardized assessment data during pandemic recovery. It’s a suggestion that we focus instead on the social/emotional return and support-allowing the bits and pieces to rise up from that foundation, the way it once did for the majority of students who once, long ago, arrived at school secure in themselves and ready to learn.

That article also states:

     “If there’s a pressing need for measurement, it’s in the reckoning of the social, emotional, and psychological toll of the last 12 months.”

     The best way to do that in the school setting is through culture-an approach to each other and our shared priorities and goals realized through instructional practice that includes a prioritization of social connections. Socratic Seminars are one example of how this can be worked into instructional practice. Another example, maybe even more powerful, is through storytelling.

On that foundation/culture:

     For years “Great Books” (or Junior Great Books) has been my response to the “What are your ideas/what should we do…” questions. What I really meant was the concept/approach, not that program specifically. There might be some meat on that carcass but I’d be building culture not buying more programs. The thing I loved about G.B. is the Socratic seminar format it relies on. It is engaging, challenging, and inspiring, given the right selection of texts to dive into.   

     I think using it in the youngest grades would include a lot of that morning meeting, What is the best way to take turns, …ask a friend to play, …say “I’m sorry” focus as the cognitive weaving is being done to establish social skills and consistent, reliable classroom and discussion norms. Once learners become acquainted with the thinking/sharing/ discussing around real life in and out of school, those skills can be turned towards exploring those issues and themes in what they read and in what they write about.

The Socratic Method is a way of thinking that involves three steps:

1) An initial definition or opinion.

2) A question that raises an exception to that definition or opinion.

3) A better definition or opinion

  Guided by a facilitator, individuals experience the three levels of Socratic dialogue, which are conversation, strategic discourse, and meta-discourse…

     That’s a technical definition. Execution in practice could vary a little, as the original purpose was to dissect a concept not pursue content. But teachers already engage students in this way (or something close to it), so it’s not an out-of-reach skill. Through specific activities like morning meetings and “fishbowl” discussions, it’s already done. Some teachers just have that instructional style and continually engage learners with thought-provoking questions, discussion, guided reflections and then follow-up questions, and so on.   

     Developing these skills (weaving that cognitive net) in K-12 would move that test score needle, and it might even create an eager reader/writer or two along the way. It will most certainly create learners who engage each other more productively. A more purposeful and systemic approach to creating a community of effective thinkers/questioners/ collaborators by doing Socratic seminars catches us bait that lands the fish that will fill our bellies with better test scores. 

On a personal note, this was/is my approach to my parental role in raising my daughters, and often is my approach to teaching.

     I don’t just talk a lot because I like to. I like to mess around with ideas and words and present them quickly in novel ways and I like to keep learners’ minds “on the hook”, with ideas followed by questions, then letting the line loose on occasion to see how they swim, letting them free when they’re ready to swim on their own. Whether it’s a content issue or a behavior issue I want the learner engaged in a thought-response-thread that keeps them weaving that net. Remember that net?

     So while my daughters have certainly suffered some, they are leaders because they are thinkers and reflectors. Their ideas today are a result of nurturing and engagement, and they learned early how to put good thoughts into good words. Why I remember clearly the day Chloe spoke what was (according to Jenn) her first full sentence:

“Momma, is that a crappy sidewalk?”

     With that one sentence, our little one demonstrated: great vocab skills, great recall and connecting concepts to words, presenting her idea in the form of a question to seek feedback and more ideas- a more concrete understanding (pun intended). She was out for a stroller ride around the block when we lived in Cortland, and you know how tree-lined streets in town tend to have sidewalk issues as roots heave cement and seasonal erosion takes its bites. The first thing Jenn told me when they got back to the house was the big “first sentence” event, and I couldn’t tell if it was a “proud tears moment for the scrapbook” thing, or a “this is because of the way you talk around her” thing, but casual talk and pointed and purposeful questions turned into reflective and responsive conversations as they grew. The McConnell’s “Socratic seminars” still happen, often around the family dinner table, but they are a little more demented these days.

We can’t go back in time with our students to create “ready to learn”

     …but I think we can work at establishing a foundation for and culture of learners in order to fill some gaps in that readiness while inspiring more to start weaving on their own and with each other. It will make their personal mission to learn more personal, meaningful, and relevant to their sense of belonging, to who they are, and to who they want to be. This is where storytelling comes in.

As educators we should embrace an understanding that storytelling can help educators make connections with each other and with their learners, making all feel valued and giving incentives to participate more. It is a path to better understanding, for both the listeners and the tellers. From cave paintings depicting the realities seen by long ago “historians”, to the epic oral tales of traveling performers, to stage performers and comedians like the late, great George Carlin, reflecting on our existence and sharing stories has educated us in ways that phonics drills and spelling tests never could and never will.

In my classroom, storytelling is one way I make connections and draw students in to engage their academic skills. Personal stories of my multiple foolish Tom Sawyer attempts to impress my personal Becky Thatcher (Carla) hit just right with students at that age. To know their own teacher was once living it and to have that connection makes them more tuned in to literary elements like plot, sequence, detail, characters, motivation, problem/solution… It’s about their teacher! Of course I don’t reveal that right away, but they catch on quick that the main character, “Little Danny” was me.

When I turn the stories I tell into short one-page stories they read, they are far more willing to write several sentences about the character traits of Little Danny and the mistakes he made, including descriptive details of the consequences. Some of these students, now grown, remember those stories and even the name of my crush. They remember the results of my foolish attempts to impress because those connections were built through the telling of the story. With that model to work from, students are better able to identify and track narrative elements of texts and stories they encounter, as well as start building the skills needed to develop narratives independently.

Conclusion:

Teachers need to be teaching with more stories. Not just stories in print or those read together and read aloud in class. I mean telling stories, sharing experiences and bits of themselves in a way that models for students how they can do that too. When people tell stories they provide their audience windows of opportunity to better understand the world, the others in it, and the experiences others have and are having. Creating communities of learners who engage in this practice would help strengthen the social and emotional connections humans crave and are sorely lacking in today’s world because this type of connection is what really matters to social animals such as ourselves. Stories and story sharing are primary ways learners build background knowledge, from cradle to grave, that they carry into their learning experiences.

An invitation to story time

This is a description of, and an invitation to, an endeavor that is purely for the enjoyment in participating and value in whatever takeaways you find. The path and destination are TBD, but the jumping-off point is gathering initial interest, in this school and in others around us, from former professors and teachers I know, and writers in the area. I’m collaborating with SUNY prof David Franke and we’ve spoken about what might come next down the road, but at this birth-of-an-idea stage, there’s no submitting for approval. There’s no post-conference survey, which means it’s no inservice credit thing. Right now it’s more of a gathering together, feel-good, self-care, soul project, SEL thing: 

Who doesn’t have a “got pulled over” story?  Have a “my favorite teacher” story? And everyone has a “What was I thinking!?” story! We tell stories from morning to night because they’re informative. They’re how we make sense of our experience. They’re a generous way to share what we know. The best stories are crafted, and for that, storytellers need a good audience.

Dan McConnell (Marathon SD) and David Franke, (Seven Valleys Writing Project, SUNY Cortland, English) would love to have you join us, first online and then in real space, to practice our stories. Our stories do not have to be about school and teaching, but we figure that will figure in. To put it another way, we have heard a lot of badly told stories (the news is an example), but we get few opportunities to tell our own.

If you are interested in listening or maybe even telling, you are already on your way to supporting the skills your learners need. Feel free to reach out and learn more, maybe even participate.

dmaxmj@gmail.com

More on Enrichment

Introduction

Public education has moved too far away from whole child and developmentally appropriate practices. The shift over the past decade-plus has been towards an endless pursuit and analysis of data that serves less humane motivations. This data, generally gathered through standardized assessments and representing student acquisition of discrete skills, is far too valued in the “how should we educate children” wake left behind the education reform and accountability movement from over a decade ago. Enrichment is the best way to shift the endeavor and focus back on the actual learners and their needs.

So what can we do?

Some of this long drive to Data-Town is beyond the control of classroom teachers and public schools. Through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) there are funds tied to efforts to “closing gaps” and accountability through data collection. States, my supposed teacher-union stronghold of N.Y. included, have had to develop plans for collecting statistically normed data for purpose of comparison, ranking, tracking of progress, and accountability.  

Now I like data and I crave information. Accountability, though, is a double-edged sword, and for a long, long, long time the only edge discussed is the one that cuts schools, educators, and in the end, students. Statistics I don’t like so much. I call it dishonest math for gentle liars, but I can understand why some choose to reach for numbers instead of truths and hug spreadsheets instead of children. I have little respect for it all, but it’s a fun thing to do with numbers if you’re not hurting people and it’s a low fence and a light lift. You get to avoid the hard truths.

My main issue, which I think could be largely resolved through enrichment, is that government agencies charged with oversight in a human endeavor like education continuously preach a caring message while perpetually falling back on that sterile and inhumane numbers-driven accountability bottom line. 

Take, for example, the goals of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative meant to close and “eliminate opportunity gaps” for boys and young men of color, and all students.”:

From p.7 of the 2020 revised NYSED ESSA plan

It’s easy to see that these are sequential goals, from entering school to a productive post-education life. The “Grow up in safe communities…” at the end is a sweet and hopeful goal.

But what about the first goal: “Enter school ready to learn”. Why is the Board of Regents, the body regulating public education, weighing in on what happens before students even arrive to participate in the public education they are regulating? What control do they have over what happens to students before they even arrive for day one of their public education?

“Ready to learn” happens at home and they know it. They know it, you know it, I know it…It happens in the community before they enter school. Otherwise, they enter not ready.

I need to gather my thoughts for part II. I’ll be getting more into enrichment when we get there.

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.