A Christmas Wish for Education

Dear Santa-

I know this time of year you are filled with requests from children, asking for a variety of toys, trips and goodies. Some wishes are self-serving and others are filled with generosity. An example comes from my 9 year old son Griffin who wishes for a sled to enjoy the winter weather in Michigan and wants to adopt an pet from the Michigan Humane society to give an animal a home.  This year I have one Christmas wish that tops the rest:

I wish our society valued education!

Over the past few years, education has gotten plenty of lip-service from politicians and education reform groups. Teachers have been attacked, deemed the enemy and left out of reform process. Education has been viewed as an untapped cash cow, that corporations deem ready to take over. Instead of listening to educational experts, the voices of corporate reformers have taken center stage. World rankings of standardized test scores are often featured as prime evidence of need for reform. Poverty is often overlooked as a hindrance to the education process. Don’t reformers realize that our education system is just a reflection of our society!

What does our society value?

How does a society show value towards something? When we are willing to pay a price for it! Our society values sports and entertainment. We pack stadiums every weekend for college and professional sports, paying more than $30 per ticket (yes low estimate). The “Big House” in Ann Arbor has been selling out since the 1970’s, with over 100,000 attending each contest. Communities pass tax breaks and spend millions to fund new stadiums. Even Bankrupt Detroit wants to spend money it doesn’t have to fund a new home for the Red Wings.   Atlanta is replacing Turner Field which was built in 1996 for the Olympics with a new stadium in 2017. This sports infrastructure projects are happening while our educational infrastructure mostly built in the 1940’s t0 1960’s is crumbing and in major need of upgrades. Film companies spend millions to produce a few hours of entertainment, just think what schools could do with these budgets? Society accepts paying sports figures and actors millions per season or film, but to pay a teacher $70,000 for a year of teaching brings public outrage! Don’t these actions alone send the wrong message to our children about education?

How many books are going to be on your sleigh?

Did many children wish for books? Mine always get some, but do the majority of children receive them? Many parents give presents with education in mind. Giving a computer, tablet, or smartphone seems popular these days, often with the idea that it is an educational present (at least many advertisers want us to believe this). Do parents monitor the use? Do students know how to use them for education? Frequently the answers to these questions is NO. Often the presents are given with great intentions but when students are left to their own choices they use the tools for entertainment (not that there is anything wrong with entertainment). Society needs to model the importance of education. Instead it seems it mocks education every chance it gets. Ever notice that every mention of Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates includes that they both dropped out of College? Yet, it is rarely mentioned where other CEOs/ Celebrities graduated from college!

Santa, please make our society realize the importance of education as an individual journey and process, not one dictated by teachers or a common core. Have our society value EDUCATION and show respect for those that foster the process.


An educator…

All I want for Christmas

This past week has been a whirlwind on my emotionally, sparking my brain to fill with thoughts about the world today.

Last weekend, I received word from the Michigan Education Association (Teacher’s Union) that the Michigan legislature was going to take action on Right to Work bills before them on Tuesday 12-11-12. As a local union leader this was upsetting that such a divisive issue would be voted on quickly, without public debate, during a “lame-duck” session. I made plans to head to Lansing to voice my concerns, also contacted my legislators to share my feelings. Feelings of anger and resentment filled my brain on Monday.

Tuesday came and I awoke early. Abandoning my students for the day to head to Lansing in protest. I arrived early in the morning and sat in the gallery of the Michigan Senate as thousands filled the lawn.  I listened to chants, protest cries and eloquent speakers voice opposition to the bills. Concerns and objections fell upon deaf ears, as bills passed mostly along party lines to an instant signature of the Governor, who previously state he did not want to see a “right to work bill” on his desk.

Disheartened by the lack of a democratic process, on Wednesday I returned to my classroom. Students arrived early stating they “missed” my presence (having missed 3 days in two weeks). The teacher from across surprised me with a large Starbucks cup filled with a sweet tasting latte. She stated “for all your efforts on our behalf.” For the first time I felt valued as a union leader. My students appreciated my return as well. Asking why I had to miss school and begging me not to miss again. My heavy heart was lifted, good will exists in the world. Coming home that night I noticed a friend on Facebook, paying it forward with her children by handing out lotto tickets to strangers in the parking lotto of the local supermarket.

Thursday I was greeted with another gift from a co-worker, this time lunch. Wow! what had I done for two days of gifts? Pride of working with a caring staff overwhelmed me. It was catching on with our students too. Walking around the building I noticed the boxes for our holiday food drive were filling up. By this point in the week, many staff members had come up to me to voice appreciation for my efforts and the value of the MEA.

Friday arrived and I was in good spirits again. Anticipation of our holiday staff party and the weekend break were dominating my mindset. A causal check of Facebook between classes on my cell phone changed everything. A childhood friend, who lied in Newtown, CT and attended Sandy Hook Elementary posted a comment about a helicopter flying over. I had no idea what it meant. Returning to class, my curiosity was sparked. What was going on. At the end of my fourth hour. I checked the web to investigate further.

The horror that occurred left me (and probably everyone else) shocked. Asking Why? Our staff party all of a sudden wasn’t so festive. Leaving many asking questions that could not and will not be answered. I was uplifted again by the generosity of yet another co-workers gift of beer presented to me at the party. Even in light of the days events she thought of me.

Saturday arrived with busy family activities. Basketball camp for Griffin my 8-year-old son and then a scout trip to Cranbrook Science Center in the afternoon. It wasn’t till evening that I slowed down to think about all that had transpired the day before. I turned on the news to find out more details. Seemed like plenty of white noise, talking about the shooter, his family and speculation on how he obtained the guns. Checking twitter with my phone, I saw a line about not making the shooter an anti-hero and for society to focus on the victims. I liked this and was ready to turn off the news coverage.

But I am so glad I didn’t. The next person I saw on the coverage was Robbie Parker, the father of 6-year-old victim Emilie Parker. I could never imagine the grief he was and still is dealing with. I would have been okay for him to stand their and voice his anger. He did not. He voiced his condolences to all involved in the tragedy including the shooter’s family. Robbie Parker is the shining example of how to look horror in the eye. He loved his daughter Emilie this is so clear. He doesn’t want her death to taint her wonderful life. Robbie Parker is one of the true Heroes in all of this. Modeling how to face tragedy.

After hearing him speak. All I want for Christmas is good will towards all. In this day an age of wanting material goods, the latest and greatest items. We need to return to the Christmas spirit of helping others and the giving of ourselves. Avoid the advertisements that make us desire more “stuff”. Focus on how we can make someone else have a better day.

The saying goes what comes around goes around. Pay it forward so we change our culture, in turn this type of violent acts will cease to exist.