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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Just tell me America-Where Is The Humanity

Dear America,
My role, as our CCSU Literacy Center Director is different than the typical university academic. Like other faculty members. I am responsible for being a good teacher, researcher, and to provide service to my department, my school, and the university. What makes my role different is most of my work in centered around teachers teaching real children at the university and in local public schools. It’s that roll that pushes me to be an education activist.
I have been at the university for nearly 20 years now, and I have never see more harm being done to children and teachers by high-stakes testing, inequity, and an endless amount of inhumanity coming from policy makers, billionaires, and legislators via the failures of their education reforms. It is not easy to be a student, or a teacher these days, and I have come to view a great deal of school failure as being trauma and racism related. An already irrelevant curriculum is becoming even more irrelevant with technology based learning programs deeply rooted in the Common Core.

Most faculty expect students coming to them seeking help from time to time, and we are happy to give it. Lately, though it is not about their struggles with assignments, but about becoming ill, depressed, and feeling humiliated at work. I am so lost in this role, I am seeing far too many good teachers walk away these days. I am also seeing potential teachers walk away as well. Saying Dr. Turner, I can’t see myself teaching.  This, hurts, and drives my activism. I may not be able to fix it now, but I will give it everything I have. I will give it until I fall, or win this fight. 

My role, also has parents coming to me, sometimes in tears, and always thankful for the time their children get to spend in our Literacy Center. The tears come from difficulties that are having getting services at their regular public schools, or the destructive negative impact of abusive high-stakes testing is having on their child. One parent said when my older son went to the middle school, he had a school librarian, an art teacher, a music teachers, a gym teacher, a social worker and a counselor for each grade. Now, there is a library without a librarian, and every one of those teachers are gone, and they have only one gym teacher. How can I send my daughter there next year? This America, breaks my heart. How can we educated our children with the arts, real librarians, and counselors? 
Another parent called me this morning to say her school will not honor her son’s IEP, (Individual Education Plan). Your Child’s IEP should not be a battleground. This happens more and more these days. I do my best to comfort and encourage our parents, but I can’t make it right. It makes me work extra hard to make sure childhood is celebrated at our literacy center. I can't change what is happening outside our Literacy Center, but I make sure that every child is viewed as gifted. What I can do outside our Literacy Center is to speak up, stand up, testify, and march for change. This is what drives my activism, because silence and apathy would crush my heart. I will fight until I fall, or win! 

I love what I do, but it is hard to witness the inhumanity of what education reform is doing to our children, parents, teachers, and public schools.
We have to start demanding to see the humanity in their education reforms? Trust me, when I say I have not seen it in NCLB, RTTT, or ESSA.

So, last night like so many nights these days I found a way to fight back. So, I drove down to Southern Connecticut State University to deliver my Social Justice Keynote speech "Where is the humanity"

SCSU Social Justice Month Keynote 

A key difference between these 2017 events now, and doing my first 2010 Walk from Connecticut to DC... Is everyone is room is clapping, and saying how can we stop it. 
Now you understand why this academic is speaking up, standing up, walking, and marching.

Family Literacy Night at Elizabeth Green Elementary 

When it gets to hard, I find some way to do some good in our public schools with my teachers. They are always willing and able. I have never found them lacking. They are my strength and hope. 
Like a small boat on an ocean, 
Jesse The Walking Man Turner   

If you want to hear what song inspired my walk on the Avon mountain this's Rachel Platten's "Fight Song"

Friday, November 3, 2017

It's the humanity not any Mumbo Jumbo of Teaching Best Practices

CCSU Literacy Center Teacher I missed you too 
I am blessed to work with new teachers, experienced teachers, parents, and children. There is not a single day that I don't see some act of kindness happening that inspires me. Helen Keller said: “Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all -- the apathy of human beings.”

I hear a great deal of "Best Practice" in teaching, but it's all twisted in rubrics of indifference. Tied to learning objectives, benchmarks, teaching as a science. The very things that no child will ever remember twenty years from now.

Just when I think all is lost, I turn around, and see what my friend Jamaal Bowman refers to as teaching as a pedagogy of love.
Teachers, Teachers, Teachers,
Every pat on the back,
Every sign of love,
Every message of hope,
Every good job,
Every Glad you came today,
Every I missed you,
Every hug for doing a good job,
Every I like what you are doing, can we work on it together,
Every kind word,
Every kind look,
Every Kind act,

Your humanity matters more than the all the teaching scientific mumbo jumbo.
Your humanity matters more than the test scores,
Your humanity is what children will remember 20 years from now,
Your humanity is what keeps you fresh, hopeful, and it is what makes you beautiful.
Hear's to the beautiful moments.
Jesse The Walking Man Turner
This medal may be plastic, but reading your first chapter book is all GOLD 
Teachers inspire me to walk. Vicki Soto was one of the teachers on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, that Adam Lanza Murdered while she protected her first graders.  I can't change the past, but I can choose to honor the courage, humanity of those 20 children murdered, and the six adults who died defending them. Vicki Soto sacrifice reminds me that there is something inside us so strong. Consider running, or walking with me some year in the VickiSoto 5k ( ).Newtown mother Nelba Marquez-Green mother of Six year-old Ana Grace murdered that day reminds us everyday "Love Wins".  Consider supporting the Ana Grace Project  
( )
On Saturday I choose to walk with love. Vicki represents the best example of teacher humanity I know. 

It the humanity that defines us, and it's our humanity that saves us.
If you like to listen to the song that is inspiring me to walk in the Vicki Soto 5k tomorrow it's 
Lira performing "Something Inside So Strong""Something Inside So Strong" 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Worth every penny

To all you commuter college students and their parents out there.
"Well darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety 'til I sank it
I'm crawling on your shores" ~ Indigo Girls

I never lived in the university dorm. Brought the meal plan. I took the bus and my lunch for my first three years to college. None of it hurt me. I made many friends on that bus, and many are still friends today. 
I always found time to read another chapter, or engage in great conversations on those bus rides. I needed to be near work and home.
Looking back being near home meant my biggest fans and greatest ch
eerleaders were always there to greet me at the door at the end of those bus rides. To ease my burdens, read my papers, and help revise and edit them. To feed me my favorite meal at the very moment I needed it most. The Home Team mattered a great deal to me. I owe a part of my degrees to my Home Team.
I always think at graduation the whole family and their friends should march up with our graduates. No one is an island. We never get there alone. Somewhere someone helped us stay the course, and get over the bumps.  
Here's to those who are commuting to community colleges and universities today. Take heart, you are not missing out on anything. It was all good, to be honest it kept me grounded, and out of a lot of trouble.
Also one more thing, all the sleepless nights, brain battering days, the feeling stupid moments, and yes all those student loans were worth it. 
Worth every penny,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

If you like to listen to the tune that inspire me on my walk this morning it was "Closer To Fine" by the Indigo Girls

Friday, October 27, 2017

I'm not waiting America's courts

State Heroine Prudence Crandall, with a Student in Hartford LOB.

At Howard University in Washington DC at the 2015 Save Our Schools Coalition
March and conference
I'm not waiting
Some educator reformers are inspired by Wall Street Billionaires, Presidents, and Politicians,
They look to these as prophets of justice and equity,
Some live on their every word,
Some live to touch their garments in hopes of salvation.
But, I say these are the very ones who have always compromised equity and justice in education.
These are the ones who say equity someday will come, but not this day,
These are the ones who say justice someday will come, but not this day,
Be patient people, you can't expect the world to change overnight.
Yeah, I know these people,
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew these people,
On April 16, 1963, he wrote his historic Letter from a Birmingham Jail,
Some know the reason why he wrote his letter,
But, more have no clue,
Some know the reason he wrote from an Alabama jail cell,
I suspect many of these current so-called Ed Reformers, and their idol Wall Street Billionaires haven't a clue.
I have read in between Martin's jail house lines, and found that April 12, 1963 Clerical letter: ALABAMA CLERGYMEN'S LETTER TO DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
I have read their words:
"We the undersigned clergymen are among those who in January, issued "An Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense," in dealing with racial problems in Alabama. We expressed understanding that honest convictions in racial matters could properly be pursued in the courts but urged that decisions of those courts should in the meantime be peacefully obeyed."
Oh, Yeah I have read the one before, the jail letter,
I know why Martin rejected their be patient Negro people,
Let our courts work it all out.

Those very same courts that enforced 3/5s of a human being,
The  Supreme Court that ruled that Dred Scott was still a slave, and if his owners wanted they could come get him anytime,
The court that said he had no right to file suit in these United States,
As he was not a citizen of the nation he was born in.
The courts that allowed Jim Crow to flourish,
The courts that allow voter intimidation in our land today,
The courts that gave no justice to:
Trevon Martin,
Michael Brown,
Eric Gardner,
Sandra Bland,
Alton Sterling,
Or a thousand other Black souls.
While, the privilege can be patient,
While, others can wait on the courts,
While, others can have faith in School Choice Policies without equity.
While, others can place their faith in Courts, Billionaires and Politicians,
I know, better.
I know, our nation's history,
I know, what the life of a real education activist looks like,
It isn’t no Principal Perry on CNN,
For I have studied the life of Prudence Crandall,
That American schoolteacher and activist who pushed for women's suffrage and the rights of Black Girls,
And, in old Canterbury,
They, burnt her school for Black Girls,
Like Dr. King, they jailed her.
But, like Dr. King no prison cell could hold her.
I am tired of patience,
I am tired of waiting,
I draw my line in the sand,
I am not standing with these Ed Reformers who say someday, but for now let our public schools compete against each other for limited resources.
I don't want justice in our public schools’ tomorrow,
I don't want our poorest school to compete against each other.
I reject that old notion of dog eat dog.

What do I want?
When do I want it?

What do I want?
When do I want it?
What am I marching for?
When am I marching,
Every day the call goes out.
Like Steinbeck's Tom Joad I'll be there.
Now you know where I'll be,
Now you what I am fighting for,
Now you know I'm marching  for,
I'll be there,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner
First United Opt Out Washington DC Department of Education
Like Tom Joad said at the very end. I am ready to take responsibility for justice. Like Tom I have come to understand we are each other's keeper. . I head the ghost of Tom calling me.
Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there.
Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there.
If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’—I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry n’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build—why, I’ll be there. See? God, I’m talkin’ like Casy. Comes of thinkin’ about him so much. Seems like I can see him sometimes." ~ Steinbeck Grapes of Wrath

If you want to listen to the song that inspired my walk over the Avon Mountain this morning it's 
Tom Morello "Ghost of Tom Joad" w/Roger Waters and Wounded Warriors

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Oh, where have you been, my walking man?

Rose Ryes and Jo Lib helping to map our my 2015 walk to DC
There is no doubt in my mind that the next generation. The one we tested until they cried, tested until they were broken, turned their childhood in data points on corporate scatter charts,  did all we could to kill art, music, drama, and play in our public schools.
For the love of money!

There is no doubt this generation will kill high-stakes testing when they inherit power. In the meantime this Walking Man is going to be in the face of these Corporate Pirates, their policy makers, and legislative lap dogs.

In the mean time here is a poem written for the Walking Man by Dr. Ernie Pancsofar from the Department of Special Education and Intervention at Central Connecticut State University.
This poem has its roots in Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall. My colleague and friend, Jesse Turner, walked from Connecticut to Washington DC on two occasions to protest the harm done to children by the high-stakes assessment culture that pervades our schools. I applaud Jesse’s dedication and advocacy on behalf of all children.

The High Stakes Tests are Gonna Fall
Oh, where have you been, my walking man? Oh, where have you been, out walking the land?
I’ve walked in my home state – yes, from the Northeast; 10 miles at a time in the rain and the heat. I’ve been in the country and I’ve been in many a town. My steps take me up and they also bring me down.
I’ve stepped on the sidewalk and I’ve stepped in the street. I’ve walked alone and with the many people I meet.
Each day’s a new dawn with the friends that I make. Their spirit is with me every step that I take.
And I’ll walk, yes I’ll walk, yes I’ll walk - - - for us all.
For the High Stakes Tests - - - are Gonna Fall.

Oh, what did you see, my walking man? Oh, what did you see, out walking the land?
I saw young and old and black and white.
I saw love and honor in the day and the night.

I saw signs and posters after walking many miles.

I saw hope on their faces and was met with huge smiles.
I saw defiance and grit and not backing down.

That’s what I saw as I went town by town.
And I’ll walk, yes I’ll walk, yes I’ll walk - - - for us all.
For the High Stakes Tests - - - are Gonna Fall.

Oh, what did you hear, my walking man? Oh, what did you hear, out walking the land?
I heard teachers, students, and parents all pleading, Get rid of those TESTS – our hearts are a’bleeding!
I heard shouts of anguish and long drawn out sighing.

I heard heart-wrenching screams amid all the crying.

I heard laughter from the people who make all their money,
Off the backs of the students who don’t think it’s that funny.
I heard critics who say we all can do better.

I heard from hundreds of parents who sent me their letters.
And I’ll walk, yes I’ll walk, yes I’ll walk - - - for us all.
For the High Stakes Tests - - - are Gonna Fall.

Oh, who did you meet, my walking man?  Oh, who did you meet, out walking the land?
I met the eyes of the students in all types of schools.
I met our next senators – the future makers of new rules.
I met parents who just want what’s right and what’s just.
They all are behind me – Washington DC or bust!

I met people who offered me food and a drink.

I met people who wanted to hear what I think.

I met hard working people who will not give up hope.

I met love and faith – two great ways we can cope.
And I’ll walk, yes I’ll walk, yes I’ll walk - - - for us all.
For the High Stakes Tests - - - are Gonna Fall.

Oh, what will you do now, my walking man? Oh, what will you do now, out walking the land?
I’ll talk to all people who know things are not right.
I’ll share all the stories and help them shed some light.

I’ll work with our teachers for better ways to assess.

I’ll help make real plans to get us out of this mess.

I’ll dedicate my life to the students I meet
in our literacy center – when they come each week.
I’ll never back down from the high stakes test lies,
from the people who deceive and pull the wool over our eyes.
And I’ll walk, yes I’ll walk, yes I’ll walk - - - for us all.
For the High Stakes Tests - - - are Gonna Fall.
Image from the end of my 2015 in Washington DC. Where BATS came to welcome me.

If you like to listen to the song this Walking Man is listening to on his walk this morning over the Avon's Barry Lane's Jesse Turner is a Walking Man
First, thank you Dr. Pancsofar for your gift poem, and second-yes brother those High Stakes Tests are gonna fall,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner