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Thursday, December 21, 2023

Tolstoy's Three Questions

50 years guided by 3 questions

I do not have big answers to the
Religious bigotry,

I have spent my life fighting not trying to save the world. Saving the world is beyond me. I have spent my life doing small goods. Not world changers, but maybe ones that help one person at a time. For, I was once that one person.

All I have are 3 questions,
Three questions with small answers,
To guide me in a world of hate, endless wars, refugees, and inequality.

Literature guides my thinking. Books and stories feed my soul.
Jon j. Muth's retelling of Leo Tolstoy's parable: "The Three Questions" is about an emperor who seeks a holy man on a mountain for answers he believes will help him be a great king.
This king believes that giving him the answers to the three most important questions will make him great.

Three questions we need to ask ourselves every day. Three questions that open our soul to our humanity.
1. When is the best time to do things? (NOW)!
2. Who is the most important one? (The one next to you)!
3. What is the right thing to do?
(The right thing)!

Simple truth: Being a humanitarian and making a difference, requires always doing the right thing, for the one standing in front of you. The time to do the right thing is always now.

May you live a just life,
May you stand tall on your last day,
May the love you give,
Last long after you are gone.

Happy Holidays,
Dr. Jesse P. Turner
A Tolstoy Fan

If you like  to listen to the tune that inspired my morning walk today, it is Nat King Cole's Silent Night.  


Thursday, December 14, 2023

No teacher is an Island we sail on that boat of past teachers and the books they shared

 My undergraduate and graduate students know about my journey from homeless kid to Professor through the lens of the loving, caring teachers who inspired me, and the books that held me strong in the darkness. Books and teachers saved my life, lifted me, and fed my soul with endless love ❤️

No teacher stands alone, every one of us is fortified by the teachers of our childhood, and the books they feed our souls. My teachers came in all colors and faiths.

I stand on a mountain of caring teachers, and the book they use to lift me up,

Dr. Jesse P. Turner 

CCSU Literacy Center Director
Uniting to Save Our Schools
Proud Badass Teacher 

I wish all teachers peace, love, joy, and hope. If you like to listen to the tune that inspired my walk this morning it is Barry Lane's "If You Ever Had a Teacher" > <

Standing together with teaching hearts full of love and hope 

Friday, December 8, 2023

I am not afraid of the Big Bad AI

 High-Stakes Testing & AI: Be careful of what you wish for? Upfront, know that I reject the notion that standardized testing should drive learning. 

The Impact of High-stakes Testing on the Learning Environment

“ Kids today are literally spending half of their school year on learning how to take a high-stakes test, testing is adding up to about 5 months of their schooling. In elementary school, we are teaching our students how to take a test through tutorials, then setting up practice labs, and then practicing the actual test, and then we add in staff meetings and staff tutorials, it is overtaking our schools. Day in and day out testing is at the forefront of learning, and it is consuming are teacher’s daily curriculum. The pressure is high when being put in a position of being sanctioned or rewarded so it is difficult to spend less time teaching the material that will be on an achievement test.” ~ Maddolyn Ritt (2016 The Impact of High-stakes Testing on the Learning Environment  > <

Should anyone be surprised that 2 decades of high-stakes testing reducing learning to multiple choice and brief correct responses have made it easy for AI to build essays using these kinds of responses? Never mind how such learning reduces how teachers and students interact with each other. AI is the perfect essay for questions built on those 5-months of endless test prep from grades 3 to 12. Testing companies/CEOs wished for ways to profit, and policymakers and legislators gave it to them. Perhaps our learning motto should be American Children are Test Scores and Profits? 

Negative Effects of AI in Education EDU Passport 

“To begin with, AI may reduce the opportunities for students and educators to interact and socialize with each other. These interactions are important for developing skills such as emotional intelligence, empathy, communication, and collaboration. AI cannot fully substitute the human connection and the emotional support that educators and students provide to each other in the classroom.”  >,empathy%2C%20communication%2C%20and%20collaboration. <

Rather than discussing ways to enhance our human connections? Rather than discuss how AI may reduce how students and teachers interact and socialize, we are worried about AI writing essays for our students. Essays that over the past 2 decades have been watered down to factual short learning responses void of our personal, social, emotional, and cultural realities. Essay made to order for AI.
My students no longer question what they are learning, they really question why or what I ask of them. However, they always ask for the rubric, count the points, and chase points not learning. They play a game of filling boxes, not their minds. 

I have learned to ask those bigger questions about why and what we learn, asking learners to discuss, question, and respond not only with simplified facts, but to elaborate on how what they learn impacts them personally, socially, emotionally, politically, and culturally. Are there hidden agendas in what Dr. Turner is asking you to learn?  My best defense against AI, is to engage my students in discussions about bigger reasons for learning.

I am not afraid of the Big Bad AI,                                                                                                                Dr. Jesse P. Turner 
CCSU Literacy Center Director 

A short video blog on the above.

 Just in case you like to listen to the tune that inspired my morning walk it is Peter Seeger singing the cover of "Little Boxes" by Malvina Reynolds >

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

High-Stakes Testing hijacked PURPOSE!


If you were to rank and sort my old high school according to today’s standards and test scores. James J. Ferris would rank at the bottom. 

A Ghetto school whose teachers could care less about test scores and rankings. Our teachers were on a bigger mission than test scores, their standard was far bigger than any Common Core State Standard. Their goal was to make us literate adults, readers who loved and valued books. Valued books more than movies, valued reading to understand books prepared us for the best of times, and armored us for the worst of time. They Left so addicted to books that there has never been a night without reading in my life.  

I remember Mrs. Sheeran saying we are going to read an amazing book. Imagine two men in love with the same woman, one about to be executed in his cell. The one she loved most was about to die. Girls, can you feel her pain? Now imagine the other who loved her so much he would give up his own life just to make her happy. She said boys all of you raise your hand if you would make the same decision? Only my hand was up. The others were you are crazy Jesse, she said not crazy, but a true Romantic. I am the books I read, and yes I am a romantic. Then she read Dickens's opening of “A Tale of Two Cities”

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

Then we got lost in that opening quote for the whole class. Increasing the pacing of her lesson had no place. She regularly stopped time for us, again and again. 

Then she gifted us with reading chapter one for homework. I read the whole book that night. Then each night I read each chapter anew as any True Romantic would. We love learning about the French Revolution, London, and Paris. She had us from day one and held us through novel after novel. This is how teachers did it before these high-stakes tests; hijacked the purpose for becoming literate. I hope this is the way a few still do.

Blessed by incredible teachers,                                                                                                            Dr. Jesse P. Turner
CCSU Literacy Center Director 

If you want to hear the song I listened to on my morning walk today it is Lou Lou's " To Sire With Lov" >  <