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Thursday, September 26, 2013

John Merrow get off the Education Reform Status Quo fence

Well, Mr. Merrow, you missed the boat, the mark, and shot yourself in the foot with your blog about Diane Ravitch not being worthy of hero status.
You appear perplexed about teachers calling Diane Ravitch a hero. Perhaps you should be asking teachers. Why they are feeling under assault by many of the Ed Reformers you so often, have let off easy over the years?
She has stepped up to the plate for millions of teachers who feel our profession, our unions, and our professionalism is under attack. She is doing this during a time, when you and so many others seem to be playing it safe by sitting on that status quo fence of Education Reform. Staying on the fence never makes anyone a hero. I understand you never called yourself a hero. I just want you to know those people sitting on status quo fences can never be heroes.
One condition for being a hero is you need to get off the fence, and risk failure, and earned the love of the people by standing up for something worth fighting for. America's public school system is worth fighting for John. 
Dr. Ravitch, unlike most education reform pundits calls it like it is, takes on the education reform billionaire's club, and a status quo United States Department of Education that has spent 1.2 trillion dollars over a decade on policies that have failed to demonstrate real effects.
My five simple rules for being a hero for me are:
1. You stand for something that goes against the grain,
2. You fight for a truth that is not popular with the powerful and the mighty,
3. You give voice to the marginalized, 
4. You change people minds, including your own, and
5. Finally you are loved by millions.
Dr. Diane Ravitch's last two books, her endless quest to honor teachers and defend our public education system in every speech since 2010 changed my mind on her. You see John Merrow in 2010 I walked 400 miles from Connecticut to Washington DC to protest this testing reign of terror. The following year I would walk it again, and helped Save Our School March plan a DC conference, a rally, and a march to protest high stakes assessment. We had no major speaker for our conference. Then Diane Ravitch was speaking at Yale, and I ask her afterwards would you be a speaker for us. We could not pay for her to speak, or even pay for her travel and housing as well. All we could offer was a pat on the back, Her answer Mr. Merrow was YES.  You see Mr. Merrow, before she said YES she was just another respected education historian who failed to meet that final bar. You know rule number 5, to be loved by millions. That yes, and her passionate defense of our public education system in her last two books, and a thousand speeches honoring and defending our public schools and teachers met rule number 5. 
Counting myself as one of those that love her,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

For those interested in what song the Walking Man listened today on his walk, it was Mariah Carey's Hero

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

One standard for a nation

What would happen if our public schools focused on one standard instead of a series endless Common Core content facts? What if we focused on one standard deeply rooted in who we are as a nation? A standard that molded the character of generations of Americans. A standard that ended slavery, a standard that men and women have been imprisoned and died for. A standard that inspired presidents, workers, and a civil rights movenment. A standard that is more of a core belief rather than a fact. A standard we have never reached, but one our hands are always reaching for.

Here is my one standard America:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." -The United State Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776
Am I alone in imagining a public school system that inspires our young people, not with some cowardly fear of not being competitive in some future world market, but with a curriculum rooted in the character of equality, life, liberty, and dare we even imagine the pursuit of happiness?

I bet one John Adams would applause my one standard. “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.” ~ John Adams
No Common Core Groupie,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

If you want to know what the Walking Man listened to on his walk over the moutain's Malvina Reynolds "Little Boxes" 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What is the value of one art teacher's life?

The link above is to an article of a young art teacher who recently commit suicide. The article is not one of those feel good teaching stories.  The teacher's family and her colleagues are pointing to bullying as the cause of her suicide.  Bullying not by her students; but her administrators.  As a father and an educator this story hurts.  I remember the day I graduated from college like it was yesterday. It was the day I became a teacher, my Mom and my three sisters were so proud of the fact that their little brother had become a teacher. Mom has since passed away, but my sisters never stopped bragging about their little brother being a teacher ~ even 30 years later.  It is a source of great pride in our family that one of us became a teacher.  My career choice isn't looked down upon, it was never looked at as some career back up plan, it always was and remains to this day my first choice. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. 
My wife is also a teacher . We both have extremely rewarding careers in teaching. However, we advised our own daughter against  becoming a teacher. Just writing that line hurts.  But something dreadful has been happening in our schools these past few years, somthing has changed, not only for the children who attend our public schools, but for the staff who work in them too.
In a world of winners and losers, and chasing unattainable test scores.  Do we need to begin to prepare our future educators for Value Added Measures pressure? Restricted curriculums? And what about high stakes untested teacher evaluation programs?  Perhaps we should put a warning label on our profession "This career may dehumanize you, may crush you, may cause you great emotional pain, and even death" ~ is this where we are heading? 

Karen Babcock wrote on Facebook in response to this story: "There may be a few people who thrive under a winner takes all, race to the top, atmosphere. I would guess many of them land in "high stakes" jobs. Many people crumble under such pressure. Sometimes it doesn't end well. We are all unique in our temperament and what motivates us. But first we are all human. I hope our legacy is that we live up to that title. We've already lost some really, really good ones. Is the money really worth it?" 

My wife and I decidided not to push teaching, because of the emotional damage we began to see our colleagues suffering from.  It began to enter our profession via No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top.  
My immediate hope for our profession is that we start to help prepare our future teachers, counselors, and administrators to recognize the warning signs of depression and stress.  We need to help them understand that sometimes we need the help of others. 
My deepest prayer for our profession, is that we bring some humanity back into teaching, into our public schools, and into the lives of those children who attend them. Tragically for everyone involved, something breaks down when the purpose of education becomes simply a game of numbers

For Jennifer (in the article above) my prayer is that you forgive us for not warning you, for not fighting harder to save the humanity of our teaching profession. 

Jennifer Lenihan was an art teacher, 
A human being, 
A source of endless smiles for her parents. 
She brought color into a dark world, 
She brought light into darkness, and 
She opened young hearts to the joys of art.
In essence she is like a million other young teachers,
Filled with a heart full of dreams to make school a more humane place for our young people.
What did administrators do to welcome her into our profession during this time of insane testing mandates?
They harassed her!
What did they do to welcome her into our profession?
What did they do during this time of focusing on producing proficient little workers for the 21st century?
They did nothing,
They harassed her!

Jennifer is no different than every other young teacher entering our profession.
She deserved more,
They all deserve more
They should be embraced,
They should be welcomed,
They should be supported,
They should be treasured,
And yes they should be loved.
Farewell Jennifer Lenihan, may angels carry you to that place of peace, that place of love, that place of infinite color and beauty. And as Don McLean sang all those years ago, like Vincent Van Gogh "this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you"
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

 If you need to know what I listened to on my walk it was Don Mclean's Starry Starry Night

Thursday, September 12, 2013

OMG, the faith of the world is in the hands of America's third graders

It has recently come to my attention that the weight of the whole world is hanging on our third grade students. It seems America grew lackadaisical with it's third graders. We let them spend years running, jumping, dreaming of home runs, touch downs, reading books for fun, and worst yet let them play outside at recess. Woe to childhood! Thus enters Wall Street's supermen and superwomen of Ed Reform. They have an army of super heroes know as Common Core Groupies. Now my super heroes are faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and can leap tall buildings in a single bound. These Groupies can't really do much, but cry wolf.  

These Common Core Groupies dream of a nation of proficient little third graders. It appears the very faith of the 21 first century depends on our public school third graders. These CC Groupies have some serious trouble with 8 year olds who just want to be 8.
Now remember these groupies have spent very little, or no time in third grade classrooms. It's not their fault they live very, very, very busy lives. They spend their days at ALEC happy hours, Ed Reform Think Tanks get together(s), and Pearson golf outings.

They love to discuss how third graders need to be ready for college. You have to feel for them. They are such timid little creatures. Their world is one of gloom and doom, where world markets collapse, and whole nations explode in chaos, because third graders in our public schools are not on task.
The good news it appears is 8 year-olds in private schools are born ready for college, so they don't have to worry about the Common Core. This is why no one is selling the Common Core to our nation's top private schools. You won't find it in their promo(s) to prospective students. They are above anything common. As for the other 99%, the Common Core is here to save our very common children.
God can you save our children from these groupies?
Jesse The Walking Man Turner If you like to listen to what the Walking Man listened to on his walk this morning, it was Barry Lane's More Than A Number. Sometimes when those Common Core Groupies start to get you down you just need a little Barry Lane,