Be a Lorax for Education

 

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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.

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

Join me in Philadelphia at #AMLE2017 as I will lead a Spark session on being an Educational Lorax! 

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Tests, are they just a school thing?

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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

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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.

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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.