Be a Lorax for Education


Photo from Flickr HotRod

My class has been studying how humans impact our environment. I have been impressed with the passion my 6th graders have show towards protecting our resources. They have been shocked to hear about how little concern industrialists had for the environment. As a culminating activity for the class I choose to show the film of the Dr. Seuss classic the Lorax. The book was written in 1971 as a reflection on the side effects of industrialization. The Lorax speaks for the trees when addressing the industrialist Once-ler, hoping to stop the waste and destruction of the natural resources. The Lorax pleas fall on greedy ears as the Once-ler’s sole concern is profits and “human good”. Only after the last tree is cut down does the Once-ler realize the faults of his ways. The damage had been done.

As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels to education today. Teachers are the Lorax, speaking for the students, hoping the Once-ler Education Reformers listen. The Once-lers are killing the natural joy students have for learning. Making schools focus on content instead of students needs. Saying reforms are for the good of society. Reformers fail to listen to the experts like the Once-ler didn’t listen to the Lorax until it was too late. I don’t want to see a generation hate education because reformers fail to listen. We need more Lorax to speak up on behalf of our students before it is too late.

I speak for the students and their joy for learning! Without FUN and Joy in learning we will fail to have an inspired generation.

Tests, are they just a school thing?


As I sit in front of my computer mulling over recent student test data, I am finding myself surprised by some of the data. A few students who always seem to have the answers when we work in the classroom struggled. Some of those that never seem to be paying attention or have their work completed scored better than expected. Are my classroom observations off? Were my formative assessments not checking for the right understanding?

Examining students’ work does show if understanding is happening, but this is different than a test. When students work in my class they can talk to each other. I have taught them how to help each other become better students by asking the right questions: How did you reach your answer? What process did you follow? Where did you find your information? Our class motto is: Working together to achieve higher. Collaboration is a key element in all students success, in life and in school. BUT when it comes to tests students sit alone. NO help, NO collaboration, NO resources just them by themselves. All alone. Many students worry about their grades. Saying “If I don’t get a good grade I will be grounded!” etc.

Is an educational setting the only place where tests exists this way? YES, High Schools, Colleges, MCATs, LSATs, GRE, Medical and Legal Board exams all look this way. But where else. If I am a doctor do I face my patients alone, or can I call other medical experts for advice. When building a house do I work alone or part of a team? Obviously in most jobs tests occur but allow us to use the resources and our colleagues are available to find solutions.

In education we need to find a balance between the current high stakes testing world and the collaborative world that surrounds us. Our students are so much more than a multiple guess test score. Our students are unique makers striving to exist in a world that is not defined yet.

United we stand… divided our students fall


Our education is a divided house here in 2015. Due to our divisions we are failing our students. Education principles are being drawn in all directions. Divisions run in many directions: Public vs Private vs Charter Schools; Teachers vs. Administrators vs Legislators; numerous foundations pushing and pulling influence. All have ONE common goal EDUCATING leaders of tomorrow. Too often these divisions rip apart our education system.


In this time of limited resources, stakeholders need to join hands, united our voices and act as one for our students. Educators have to be the model we want our students to follow. If we can show students how to collaborate to solve the current educational crisis, we will succeed. This crisis was made by stakeholders attacking each other instead of looking at the problem in front of us. We can no long blame education’s issues on teachers, unions, or administrations. Our issues belong to all of us; our society.

Everybody in education is doing their best to bring success to their students. Many in the classrooms feel the battle is up a steep hill with many on the sidelines hoping of our demise. Without a collaborative effort our best classroom teachers will leave for greener pastures in administration or the private sector. Educators need to be lifted up from the babysitter class to be on a professional level with doctors, lawyers and financial advisers. If we listened to teachers, empowered them with collaborative practices instead of isolating them in ONE classroom, OH the PLACES education could go.

Any group that attacks teachers is not working in the best interest of education. Foundations and think tanks that focus on dividing schools and teachers leave education ripe for the picking of for profit corporations. These corporations are ready to swoop in, taking per pupil funding away from students as they line their CEO’s pockets. Foundations in education need to help raise educators diverse voices, facilitate connections across schools, districts and state lines, while creating resource databases for all to use. Instead many seem to be dividing education up in hopes of selling a silver bullet cure all for education.

The time has come for ALL in EDUCATION to stand UNITED.

Evolving into my father …

Photo by Mary C. Jones

I am clearing out our family office to make a bedroom for my seven year old son Gavin, who has been sharing a room with his 11 year old brother. I came across this picture of me and my dad. That is me on his right with the life jacket on. My father passed away in 1988, this is not how I remember him. During the 17 years I had with my father, I rarely spent time with him. He was a passionate physician. He worked 7 days a week for what seemed to be 20 hours a day. He made time for his children when he could. Always tried to make it home for dinner but more often than not his meal ended up sitting in the microwave till he made it home after our bed time. Mom was left to take care of us as he worked hard to be the caregiver for those that needed his medical skills. Often traveling with his patients most in need to hospitals in larger cities where they could get better care, since we lived in a small rural town in Illinois (Quincy).

I remember patients of his stopping by our house to drop off firewood, baked goods and produce as payment for services rendered. He explained that his patients needed care, their insurance didn’t cover services and this was all they could afford. He left a profitable clinic practice to run his own private practice because he disagreed with their practice of ordering unneeded tests that the insurance covered. He traveled all over the country to learn more from other doctors to be the best he could be.

As I reflect on my memories of my father, I see myself evolving into him. The good and bad all are showing up.

Since father was a third generation doctor, many in the family applied pressure for me to purse the profession. I resisted because I didn’t want my fathers life of being consumed by his profession. 27 years latter and I see it has happened despite my career choice. Like my father’s passion drove him to learn more and raise his voice in medicine, my passion in education has taken me all over the country and raising my voice for change in education. Being a Lead Fellow for Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship has been rewarding. Helping teachers raise their voice and share their passions needs to happen.

As a father I want a better education system for my 3 wonderful children. I just need to remember to find the balance that my father failed to have with me. I need to take breaks from my passion to spend quality time with my children. Dad did take some breaks, mainly in the summer but they aren’t the memories. I need to remember to take breaks all year round to make the best memories.

Photo by Amy Bloch
Photo by Amy Bloch

Evolving into my father isn’t a bad thing, like all of us he had great qualities and some flaws. His work ethic legacy lives on inside of me. I just need to remember to past the best qualities on to my children, to leave a legacy for them. I want them to remember our fun times, not just me working.

Its time to state our beliefs


It is time for ALL in education to state their beliefs. Education is saturated with interest groups; ranging from teacher unions, administrative associations, to non-profit think tanks, parent groups and for profit companies. ALL of us know we can do better. Most of these organizations have similar belief systems, but we are running parallel paths attempting to arrive at the same location. Our message often gets blurred in the public eyes. When we disagree, rhetoric takes over our focus and progress is stifled. Stakeholders need to start to work together for our students or our PUBLIC education system we know, value and cherish in American will crumble.

A few recent events have greatly impacted my thinking. First I saw the documentary Most Likely To Succeed, A must for ALL who care about education. It tells the story of what education SHOULD be instead of what it has turned into due to the unintended consequences of poor legislative policies.

Most Likely to Succeed Trailer from One Potato Productions on Vimeo.

If the trailer peaks your interest find a viewing near you. Next viewing in Michigan is at Fraser HS Oct. 29 6:30 PM where I will be to discuss a plan for the next steps in education. Second I attended the Association Of Middle Level Education Conference in Columbus Ohio. AMLE base all of their work on their core beliefs which are clearly written down in their position paper: This We Believe. The belief statement guide every session at the conference and all that their organization focuses their work. In a conversation with a friend while reflecting that Michigan and the USA lack a clear belief statement, a friend pointed me toward Alfie Kohn’s recent post: To Change What We Do, Consider What We Believe.

What do we collectively believe in education? 

What if all the stakeholder groups could come together and clearly state OUR collective beliefs in education. Our beliefs for students, educations, and community and their roles in education. We might not all agree int he same path to the belief, but I am sure we COULD create a common, collaborative, extensive belief statement. Sure some of my readers are saying this is a mission statement that districts have. Our beliefs have more depth. This collective belief statement would guide our policies. ANY educational policy introduced would have to address a CORE COLLECTIVE belief, not just be on someones agenda.

HOW TO START: Write down our beliefs 

We believe all students can learn. We believe they learn in different ways and at different rates. How do our policies reflect theses beliefs?

We believe that teachers should be highly skilled practitioners, the top of their class. Skilled and passionate about their profession. How do our funding policies make this happen?

We believe that community involvement in our schools will make them successful. In what ways is this encouraged by policy?

What are your beliefs? Please use form to add them so we can make a belief statement for education!

Dancing out our Fridays

Photo by W. Janda

How does your school celebrate a successful completion of the week? At ours we have started a dancing tradition! Students work hard in classes to reach learning targets, their hard work needs to be celebrated as a community. Grades are individual accomplishments that show learning. Some families celebrate these grades by going out to dinner or reward grades by giving money for the number of A’s on a report card. These celebrations don’t happen at a high frequency, 4 time per year at most.

Our new principal decided we needed more visible celebrations IN SCHOOL. After a hard weeks work we dance out the last 10 minutes of our Fridays.  On Wednesday a survey is posted and shared with students and staff to ask for a song to inspire our dance moves. At 3:00 PM announcements are made to remind students of coming events. Then the music comes on the PA, students and staff get up out of their seats and GROVE to the music. The hallways fill up with smiles and movement. Their is no better way for a student to end the day than dancing with a smile out the door.


This small celebration has breathed new life and spirit into our building. Office referrals are down and smiles are up! Maybe one of these days we will have live music or be on the Ellen Show, but for now we love moving to the tunes and having fun as a community!

Photo by D. Sikora

Working hard to make sure teachers are inspiring the youth of tomorrow.


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