Time to Come Together Educationally

It is tough to be a public school educator. This is my 30th year in my beloved profession. It is a calling for most of us; but as of the last decade or so, it seems as if people have come to believe anyone can be an educator. Not TRUE!
As with all things in life, change happens. Sometimes it is change that you cause to happen, sometimes you are not in control and change is forced on you. Educators by nature are curious and testing the boundaries of learning; how can we help prepare more students for the real world in front of them while understanding the world they are currently living in as our students? What has changed is the way public school educators are viewed. What has changed is the way education is delivered. What has changed is the way today’s students and parents think about their education.
Most polls one reads will show that the American public have lost faith in public schools. But yet, when surveys are taken at the local school district level the education is viewed as a positive experience overall. Much more highly rated than the national surveys. Interesting phenomenon. Teachers get berated and made fun of more and more. Students show less interest in learning and more interest in challenging or disrespecting the professional educator. And in too many instances, the parent will back their student’s poor choices.
The days of “the teacher is always right” when a teacher called home expressing an academic or behavioral concern are mostly over. The philosophy of building all students self-esteem by making them feel like they are smarter, faster, stronger, than they really are has permeated our society causing students to feel more entitled and more able to blame others for their shortcomings.
We must come together soon to support our educators. We must be honest in our approach to teaching they youth of today. It is time to do what is right to help all children learn to be productive members of our society. Believe it or not, today’s educators are the best we have ever had; the trouble is the profession has been brought to its knees by greed. Those who believe schools should be big business. The focus becomes “profit” not “learning.” Education becomes a commodity instead of the learning institution it was originally designed to be.
Public education has not been allowed to develop its own path to success. Instead, the development of education platforms, systems, curriculums, and pathways are being decided not by professional educators but by powerful businessman and the legislative bodies they control through pumping money to legislators through their lobbyists and pacs. It is akin to a teacher or principal or superintendent to develop a new way to conduct open heart surgery or design a new way to fill a tooth. Educators know their limits and roles, they would never try to do those things in the medical or dental professions yet, the business profession & legislative members in our states feel as if they know how to educate our youth today better than those who have earned a professional degree as an educator.
It is time to come together with the realization we have created an educational system that is broke. We are hurting the youth of today. We are hurting the future for all of us for the current reality of a few. The media follows the money and articles are written that take the facts/data and twist it to make education in our nation look bad when in reality it has never been better. It is time to come together and bring back the needed respect for our educators. It is time to understand that it takes parents, students, teachers and a community with a positive outlook towards education to turn this around.
It is time to come together and be honest with one another. Not to be hurtful but to be helpful. If we work together indeed we can improve our student learning in all students. But we must face the unpleasant facts that not all students will learn at the same rate or in the same way. We must allow our professional educators the leeway to utilize their knowledge and talents to help all students learn to their potential. Educators are here to support, guide, teach, encourage, challenge, create opportunities for success, and teach students to persevere when things get difficult. Parents must believe educators main duty is to help their child learn and that we want to work with them to make that happen. Educators do not care to blame, rather, educators seek to collaborate with all to help students achieve. Educators do not look at education as a business, unless that business is student learning. And you can’t put a price on that.

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The Common Sense of Right & Wrong

Movies can make one think deeply about concepts and feelings that are hidden to the outside world. I am not a world traveler nor am I all that well read on world issues. What I think I know mainly comes from books & articles I have read and what others have spoken of on the worldly topics of our time.
So, what is happening to this world that we all share? Does anyone know? Who is in control of the life we all lead in our respective places on earth? Surely, there must be a puppet master making the world the interesting place it is. The media is powerful in that it is our means to our knowledge of the world; what is happening in our world. It speaks to us and tells us what we think we want or need to hear and believe. Sometimes I wonder if any of us not in power really knows the truth of our world. Seems to me, we only know what the puppet masters of the world want us to know. It can be so confusing, trying to sort out what and who is telling the truth to us all.
What can be done to make our world more clear to all of us? Is it found in our belief systems? Is it found in violence towards one another? Is it found through religion or education?
I believe it is found through the sense of love; love of one another, love of family, love of the understanding that this world was never meant to become what it has become but rather, it was to be a place where all of us could live in harmony if we only allowed “common sense” to guide us through the inevitable sea of “right & wrong.” We have failed one another in this endeavor. No side is right; somewhere along the way we allowed our “fundamental rights” to shift and become layered in power and greed. What once had potential to be a world in harmony, helping one another make the best of our world has been turned into those who are rich, powerful, and privileged versus those who are poor, weak, and underprivileged. It is not happening only in the United States but all over the world. We have stopped any of our leaders who have the stage to change our world for the better through commons sense, the understanding of right and wrong through politics, power, violence and the temptation of greed.
There is a common sense of right and wrong and we all know it. We all have the same basic instinct of survival. We all want to feel safe, loved, and needed. We all want to feel secure in who we are and what we are. Somehow, that has turned into meaning we must fight for having those needs met. This fight has left the world with two factions: “the haves & the have nots.” We are headed in the wrong direction and it gets worse and worse. This concept has been allowed by us to permeate all of our institutions; religion, government, education, our belief systems, and even our families. The world we all have allowed to evolve is one that will destroy itself in due time unless…
We come together, we find enough leaders who have the skills to use “common sense to right the world’s wrongs.” It shouldn’t be that difficult but, yet, it has appeared to be so only because we allow ourselves to be directed by those who are the “fundamentalists,” those who control the world through their abilities to orchestrate events that keep the balance of power in their favor while helping us all into a belief that our lives are what they are because that is our role. Some people believe life is designed for each of us through “fate”; that we do not control our destiny; others believe that we live in a world of “free will,” where we make or break ourselves and control our own destiny.
It is easy to follow the “fate” belief system because it always has a sense of preparedness built in for whatever happens to someone. “Free will” is not too far behind “fate” in that no matter what happens we can always point to the “choices” one has made leading up to the good or the bad in life.
To me it all does not matter. Our world will operate into the future the way it has not because of “fate” or “free will” but because we have allowed the human decency of using common sense in right and wrong situations/decisions to not matter. Until we can all find our “common sense” and realize that when there is a “wrong in the world” it must be “righted” without it causing another “wrong.” This seems to be the challenge we cannot meet in this world. We have lost trust in one another. I hope as a world we will soon figure out how to control the “cause & effect” of our actions.
There is a Common Sense of Right & Wrong, I hope we as a people occupying the same world can find it real soon.

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Catholic – Yes?

Let me begin by saying I realize talking about religion is not popular with many however, this post is not meant to persuade, anger, or have others take sides. It is just some late night thoughts about something very important to me.
First and foremost, let me go on record that I do believe in God and that yes, my manner of professing my faith is through the Catholic Church and its teachings. I mean, what choice did I have, I was born into a catholic family and raised in the catholic faith; I have to be catholic otherwise I would feel really “guilty.” :)
Being raised catholic has been a blessing. I don’t pretend to have understood my faith as a young child. It was what I was taught from a young age even though I never really understood all that was being taught to me through attending mass and catechism classes. All I knew was that it was an expectation of my parents that I go to church with them, be good, attend my catechism classes and earn the right to my 1st Communion and then my Confirmation. To me, it was cool because in each case they through me a party where I was the center of attention. At those ages I did not really embrace my catholic faith for what it was but more for the fact that it made my parents proud of me.
As I matured into my teen years I continued to practice my faith, that is, I kept attending mass with my parents and attend church functions as they wished. I became a “lecture” and read the word of God at mass. This made my parents happy and it also helped me grow in my faith while feeling like I was a part of the church. I can’t say that I studied what I read or understood most of it at the time.
As time went on I continued practicing my faith by attending mass. Even in college I attended mass on campus quite often which is fairly impressive at that age. I think I did because I liked how I felt when I was in the church. The peace it brought me, the hope it brought me. But, as time went on I attended less and less. Always having a “reason” which was really just an “excuse” not to attend mass. My attendance at mass became less frequent and for a while I became one of “those Catholics” who attended mass ONLY on the sacred HOLIDAYS of Christmas and Easter!! The shame of it all.
When I moved away for my first job out of state I found a Catholic Church in my community. It was progressive and seemed “young.” It was upbeat in its music and its message. I came back to the church. My future wife who was not “catholic” surprised me by taking classes and became catholic. She did this because she knew how important my faith was to me (not to mention it made her a “saint” in my parents’ eyes!) We were married a year later (after we took “marriage classes from the church!)
We joined the church, we became involved with it through its youth programs. It felt right. Then we got busy with our lives and our careers and we fell away from practicing our faith regularly. Did this make us less of a christian of a catholic? I didn’t feel any different; I didn’t feel less of a catholic or christian. I began to question some things about my catholic faith.
As I listened and read about my faith I began to question its teachings on some things more and more. Some I just could not agree with at all. I then began to see the church as big business, political and power hungry. The more I saw the church in this way the less “guilty” I felt about not attending regularly or giving of my time and money to it. I began to question if I was a Catholic or not.
I realized I would always feel like I had to be a practicing Catholic; I just began to practice it less formally. Then we had our 1st and only child. After many complications conceiving we had our miracle little boy. Guess what? We raised him “catholic.” He attended mass with us, he went to his catechism classes, had his 1st Communion and Confirmation (parties included) and I began to be active in my church once again. Then his teen years came upon us and life once again got in the way of being a consistent practicing catholic. Our son for awhile was our “glue” to our faith. He learned a great deal by attending classes and he began to study the Bible and interpret it for himself. He also was torn between his faith and his reality.
Sometimes the catholic faith just doesn’t measure up when you apply its beliefs or teachings to the common sense of the real world. Interpreting the Bible is not an easy thing to do and many different religions have put their own spin on various topics in it. I always end up going back to my upbringing and it brings me back to my catholic faith overall.
Do I know a great deal about my faith and the Bible? Probably not as much fact as I should but I do know the essence of its teachings. The essence is be the best person you can be not for yourself but in helping others. Believe and continue to love and have hope in the human race. There is more good in people than bad but that we must always be conscious that evil is a fact of this world. Service to and for others is the goal.
My faith has helped me in my life more times than I can remember. It has been my “rock.” I don’t pretend to understand it but I do know it has always been there for me when I needed it the most. Difficult times are hard to understand, the “why” question at times is unanswerable but when you have faith, it is just that little bit easier to manage yourself through the crisis.
Looking back and forward, I am glad I am a Catholic. I may not be put up for sainthood anytime soon but I am comfortable in how I practice my faith. I do believe in God and am thankful for being raised in my faith. Whatever faith you are be proud of it; it does not matter what faith you are but more importantly that you believe in God. God takes many different forms and names in certain religions however, it is ultimately the same higher being that we all pray to and have faith in when we need to.
Catholic – Yes? Most definitely but, I am the “new” catholic generation who believes in tradition while being steeped in common sense, real world, and service to others and who values free thinking while accepting other faiths as equal. After all, it is about how we treat one another in any faith…isn’t it?

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Observation on Life

Ahh, life! It is wonderous and beautiful. It is simple, yet complicated. It is challenging and rewarding. Life is made up of many, many things. Life is not to be taken for granted. It is something to treasure whether it is a good life or a bad life. Truth be told, I don’t believe there is a “bad life” out there. Life in it’s simplest form is always “good.”
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately; that can be good or sometimes not so good for me. However, through my “thinking time” I believe I have made a rather inconspicuous observation. It is this: People tend not to live their lives the way they really want to. Many of us, don’t really behave or act or speak or do what we really want to inside our lives. We tend to let “life” lead us into our existence. It seems as if we cannot ever obtain the life we truly wish to have because we are too busy “living our lives.”
Typically we reflect on our lives when someone we love or even ourselves in some cases, is facing a life ending situation or we watch a TV episode of a show that conjures up specific emotions as they relate to our lives.
Why is it that more times than not people will show their real feelings, say the loving words, and express their respect for another person when they know the person may die or you have hurt them terribly and need to make amends. Specific emotional situations bring out our true emotions for another and we express them easily in that moment. But, prior to that moment, we let life get in the way of our ability to do or say what we truly feel about them.
My observation on life is that we take it for granted, know we do, and do it anyway until there is not another option. I wish I could, I wish all of us could, be the person/people we want to be not just in emergency situations but in every day life. That would be living in a world of no regrets; a world that would be an awesome place for all of us.
Than is my Observation on Life.

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Life Can Be Cruel

Working hard all my life to make a difference for others. Chose education as my path to do so. Bachlor’s degree followed by Master’s degree. Added hours in school leadership. Took what I learned and applied it in the classroom as a teacher, in the extra-curricular area as a coach and athletic director. Helped adults further their education by administering a day and night school for drop outs through the old Community Education program. Became a high school principal. Have attempted to make a difference in all of my students, parents, faculty & staff each day. Staying positive, being realistic, always keeping “hope” alive for others.

Then, you get a call. Your brother has a rare type of leukemia. No bone marrow matches anywhere in the world. He is taken to the brink of death through the chemo process; given a 5% chance to survive. They try a very experimental process using cord blood from two different blood types to give him a second “birthday.” Over a year and a half period of time, much of it spent in isolation, he is CLEARED. All leukemia is gone!! Celebrations abound! He has set backs every now and then over the next year and a half. Life is not exceptional but it is still “priceless.”

Then, you receive another call that he is back in Mayo. Leukemia is back. No more options. He has weeks to live and his life can be prolonged using the chemo process again, if his body (organs) can handle the stress. He has the will to fight and chooses not to just “lay down and let the cancer take him.” He is scared. His sons and daughter and wife are scared. His 87 year old mother, who just lost her husband, his Dad, is beyond consolable. His brothers are broken-hearted. Each having their own health related issues to deal with in their lives.

Everyone suffers cruel happenings in their lives or the lives of the ones they love. I have always believed that the good Lord does not give anyone more than they can handle. And if a person is a person of faith, as I am, you know that if it seems to be too much, God will provide and carry you through your stress and grief.

Life can be…..Life is Cruel. It is the love of living that makes it so.

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H. S. Curriculum Dilemma

As the school year has come to close for the 2012-13 year and I think back on all of the progress we made in helping our students learn more about themselves and their learning abilities my mind wanders to “purpose.” Education continues to evolve as it shapes itself to those non-educators who think it best to tear down education as it is and promote a more accountable, test driven model, much like, a business model. From what is taught, to how it should be taught, to who it should be taught and by whom it should be taught. Included is the idea of evaluation for teachers and principals. Merit pay is seemingly on the horizon as we get more and more into data and added value evaluation. But, what about the students? What about their real learning? Not just their test scores in each course or on a state college entrance exam should matter but rather their real learning both in the academic realm and in their personal realm. How do we measure these types of “student growth” and which is more important?

Scenario #1: An 8th grade student enters high school after having failed every class as an 8th grader. He has no use for school, doesn’t see the point and can’t make a connection between school and his future. He has some ability in basketball and enjoys being on a team. His state test scores rank his ability in math in the bottom quartile and his English scores put him in the at-risk category as he is just ranked barely “basic.” His NWEA baseline testing puts his math ability at the 5th grade 4th month and his reading ability is at a 4th grade 6th month.

The NWEA testing says he could grow in each area with a full year of instruction to the 6th grade 7th month in math and the 5th grade 5th month in reading. He now enters high school and is placed in Algerbra I A and English 9A first term. He is asked to learn Algebra content and read about Shakespeare. High school is about teaching the content for the most part. It may or may not have interventions put in place for a young man like the one I am describing. If there are interventions in place, most likely they will concentrate on helping the student “pass” his Algebra I and English 9 classes. But what about his learning? Will he make progress on his quest to pick up a grade level in math and/or reading? High school teachers are not asked to teach students basic skills in either subject area; again, they expect to receive students mostly ready for that content. Those who are usually thrive, and those who aren’t usually struggle and most likely fail.

High schools must be concerned with drop out rate, graduation rate, attendance rates, state test scores, college entrance exam scores, special education test scores, failure rates in classes, and through all of this the question not being asked or answered is “is this student learning/growing?” I mean in a way that matters; not passing classes but learning how to do the basic math skills needed or to read and comprehend and write to communicate clearly. What are we truly measuring by comparing ACT test scores or state exam test scores? Is it student learning? I think not.

Where the system is “broken” is in the parameters set forth by the legislative branch of government. We must have “cohorts” and they must arrive at high school and leave high school at the same time while earning the right amount of “credits” as deemed by our state legislature. No matter the research is clear…students arrive at every level of school in different places, academically, emotionally, physically, and even their attitudes are different towards school. How does an educator make a difference in a student’s life? By teaching content? By helping them overcome their lack of knowledge in a specific area? People seem to think student growth is an easy measurement to make. It is not. There are so many varying factors that play a role and factor into a student’s ability to “learn.” Students are not all the same!! Hello!

We must understand the problem before recommending solutions and lumping all learning as the same. Being a student is a challenge in today’s school system; being an educator is even more challenging. For once I wish they would let us be the professionals we are and do what is best for our students, each one of them, instead of trying to make them all the same when we know they are not remotely the same in oh, so many ways.

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Staying Positive Is…

I am a “reflector.” I “reflect.” Things “happen.” I “reflect.” I pay attention to what is happening around me. Some good, very good; some bad, very bad. Watch the evening news. Very little reported is focused on the good taking place in society; most is focused on the bad or the questionable. Authority is never unchallenged anymore. The media questions everything, but the media. Staying positive about our society, our world, if you are reflective and are really paying attention to our environment, is in a word, “difficult.”

Staying Positive means you make the best out of all situations. You choose to find the positive out of all situations, you learn and grow. You don’t necessarily accept, but you don’t judge, you focus your thoughts and energies on making each situation more positive in its outcome. I suppose it may come down to “perspective.” Staying Positive when you witness so much negativity is draining. Why have we allowed ourselves to become so fractionalized?

Staying Positive should not be as hard as we make it. Treating others with kindness, understanding, and respect should be the norm; sometimes I see it as being the “exception.” That is where it all begins, how we choose to treat others. We are all different yet all the same; both for many reasons. We are so worried about our own lives we forget about what others may be living through; how they may be worse off than us. Staying Positive when we don’t really care about others to a deep enough level because we are too busy caring about ourselves makes all of our lives more difficult. Why does it seem to always take a tragedy to make us “come together?” Why can’t we sustain that sense of “togetherness” once the tragedy passes?

Staying Positive takes hard work. It takes understanding that others matter and that each of us is responsible for and to others. It takes sacrifice. It means opening your mind to the possibilities of helping someone else not so much for their sake but for your own.

Our society, indeed our world, would be way better off if we all took the time to Stay Positive. It doesn’t mean you can’t be a “realist.” Staying Positive begins with each of us. Staying Positive is a mindset; it is a choice. Having the strength to Stay Positive when all around you is not, is necessary. It is what will make the difference if we are to ever do our part to make our society, our world, a better place.

Staying Positive takes perseverance. It takes strength. It takes understanding that every situtation, no matter how bad, could be worse. Learn and grow. Adapt and change. Know that no matter what the situation it is not more than you can handle. Staying Positive will help you get through the most dire times in your life.

Staying Positive on a daily basis will cause others to take notice. You will be viewed as a person who people gravitate to. It will allow you to bring hope to others. It will allow you to pass along your strength to others because they will be inspired to “try” Staying Positive. You don’t have to try to “change” people, because you don’t judge, you just treat them the way they hope to be treated. With positiveness; people like to be treated and noticed for the good in them. Staying Positive will influence others in this way. Helping one person to experience the power of Staying Positive is the way to make a difference.

Staying Positive will help you be a survivor in any challenging life situation. I am working at Staying Positive each day. Some days I am more successful than others but the effort is still there. Staying Positive may help others not make bad decisions that bring harm to themselves and those who love them. We all matter. We must Stay Positive with ourselves and others because it makes a difference in ways we cannot even see.

Staying Positive with others is sometimes easier than Staying Positive with ourselves. That is why it is important to all of us to be reflective in our approach to life; thinking not only about ourselves but putting others first can help us Stay Positive.

For some of us, Staying Positive is our lifeline in this negative world we live in each day. Take a moment to reflect on your sense of Staying Positive in your life. I think you will see the power of Staying Positive.

Staying Positive is an effort that is necessary if we are to create a better place in which to live.

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