Sometimes They’re Right

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know I am an unabashed advocate for public education in America.

And, as you may have gathered from my last post, I get angered when individuals or entities use falsehoods and erroneous generalizations to perpetuate an inaccurate narrative of failing schools for political or economic gain.

Contrary to what some policymakers and pundits have said, American public schools are not failing. They are among the best in the world.

To begin with, public education is an absolute right for every child in America, not just the privileged. No other school system anywhere in the world exceeds the United States in providing free access to education for everyone. And that, alone, makes us exceptional.

Our nation has made a commitment to providing a free and appropriate education for every child, regardless of what their parents can afford to pay, regardless of their access to transportation, regardless of whether they can afford uniforms, school meals, or even if they have a home. We even provide education to children who are here without proper immigration status.

We have developed a special education system to help children at the edges that many other countries just can’t touch. In many countries, students with severe physical, emotional, and cognitive impairments are simply excluded. In others they are institutionalized. In some countries it’s up to parents to find ways to pay for special services. The United States is one of the few countries where these children are not only included and offered full and free access, but the schools go above and beyond to teach these children well beyond their 12th academic year.

Even more, the education provided in many of our schools is some of the highest quality you can find in the world. We teach more subjects, provide robust extracurricular opportunities, provide safe and secure learning environments, and produce more high level university scholars than almost any other nation.

Over the past century, the children from the American public education system have changed the world in every area imaginable – from technology to medicine to the military and more.

And yet we are likely the most criticized education system in the world.

And sometimes our critics are right.

When they say our schools are conspicuously segregated by race and class, sometimes they are right.

When they say many children are trapped in sub-par schools with inequitable resources, sometimes they are right.

When they say we don’t do enough to rid our ranks of mediocre teachers and school leaders, sometimes they are right.

When they say we inflate grades rather than hold students accountable for learning, sometimes they are right.

When they say schools disproportionately target students of color for suspensions and other severe discipline, sometimes they are right

When they say districts fail to assign our best and most experienced teachers to our most challenging students and schools, sometimes they are right.

When they say we lower our academic standards to teach to the middle of the class, sometimes they are right.

When they say we don’t provide enough academic rigor in our classrooms, sometimes they are right.

When they say we give up on some kids, sometimes they are right.

When they say homework and other assignments are nothing more than busy work, sometimes they are right.

When they say our teachers don’t collaborate enough, causing significant gaps from one class to another, sometimes they are right.

When they say we love our rules more than we love our kids, sometimes they are right.

When they say children graduate from high school lacking important job skills, sometimes they are right.

When they say our grading practices are unfair and don’t accurately assess student learning to academic standards, sometimes they are right.

When they say our curriculum and pedagogy is outdated, sometimes they are right.

When they say we don’t use research and data effectively to improve teaching and learning, sometimes they are right.

When they say school is boring and lacks meaning for many children, sometimes they are right.

When they say we try to avoid accountability for things within our control, sometimes they are right.

When they say we don’t do enough to communicate and form positive connections with our parents and school community, sometimes they are right.

When they say we are too defensive and averse to change, sometimes they are right.

When they say we could do more to improve education in America, sometimes they are right.

So, yes, we must continue to advocate for our students, teachers, and schools. We have much for which to be proud.

Yet, to serve the children in our schools and communities well, those of us who work in schools must be harder on ourselves than anyone outside of our schools.

As professionals, we must ascribe to the theory that there is no limit for better and pursue excellence in all we do.

We must be more accountable to the families and communities who entrust us with their children.

We must be reflective and critical of how we and our colleagues think, act, and behave. Self respect without self-awareness is useless.

Here’s the bottom line.

The best counter to those who disparage and criticize public schools to promote school choice in America is to ensure our schools are the unequivocal BEST choice for America’s children.

Are you ready to roll up your sleeves to make that happen?

The Box of Shame

In case you didn’t know, dog shaming has become a thing.

Dog shaming is the practice of uploading pictures or video clips of our canine friends, typically with some sort of sign describing a recent negative behavior – perhaps chewing up our favorite pair of shoes, humping your house guest’s leg, getting into the trashcan, pooping on the bed pillows, or snagging a steak from the counter.

Apparently this poor fellow on the left engages in multiple activities worthy of public shame, hence the “fill in the blank” notice on his personal “box of shame.”

There are actual websites devoted to this endeavor (www.dogshaming.com); a few books have been written, and special youtube channels are devoted to cataloging these often hilarious images of dogs expressing either shame or indifference to their acts of destruction.

All in good fun, right?

Welcome to the club, Fido.

For many in public education, the box of shame is all too familiar.

For the past few decades, the practice of public school shaming by policymakers, education reformers, and pro-school choice advocates has evolved to an art form through the use of hyperbole, extreme over-generalization, artful rhetoric and cherry-picking of school data.  These entities use shaming to perpetuate their narrative that public education is systemically broken and that educators are primarily self-serving and dispassionate to the plight of children.

The latest edition of public school shaming is an article from the real estate site, NeighborhoodScout, an online database of U.S. neighborhood analytics created in 2002 by geographer and demographics specialist Dr. Andrew Schiller.

Using the highly charged headline, “Top 100 Worst Public Schools,” Dr. Schiller essentially employs an unproven and unsubstantiated statistical algorithm to rank American public schools based on (what else?) … student test scores in math and reading.

This article recently made waves in Oklahoma due to the fact that ten of the schools making Schiller’s “Top 100 Worst” are in our state – five in Tulsa: Central Junior High, McLain High School for Science and Technology, Project Accept (an alternative school for elementary school students), and Whitman and McClure elementary schools.

Neighborhood Watch claims to have created a patent-pending, first-of-its-kind “nationally comparable” method for rating public schools.

Since states use different academic standards and assessments to measure student progress and comply with federal accountability guidelines, the use of testing results to rank schools nationally has been illusive.

Well, that is until Dr. Schiller came up with his magic formula.

Schiller uses a comparison of state passing rates on selected assessments to disassociated passage rates of a small group of randomly chosen Oklahoma children on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to compute a factor which he then uses to align the results from every public school in America.

So simple, right?

Here is how Schiller explains it on the web page:

To make each state’s No Child Left Behind test scores for each district and school comparable to other schools and districts in different states, we subtracted the percentage of students in the state who scored proficient or better from the state-NCLB test from the percentage of students in that state who passed the NAEP, and used this difference (or gap) to align each school and district test scores across the nation. Then we ranked the school districts, and Viola! A curve that brings all districts (and schools) to a nationally comparable rating based on the all-important NCLB tests! This is a first time this has ever been done and it is patent pending! It is really fascinating, and it is exclusive to NeighborhoodScout!

Yes, Dr. Schiller, a highly educated man with a PhD in demographic research, actually used the noun Viola, a stringed instrument, to describe the magic of his formula instead of the word I assume he meant to use: Voila` (pronounced Wah-lah), which means “to call attention, to express satisfaction or approval, or to suggest an appearance as if by magic.”

Maybe he should have just gone with Ta-Da!

To label this exercise of ranking schools nationally using an unproven, overly simplistic, ignorant-of-context mathematical formula as simply irresponsible doesn’t go far enough.

It is reckless. It is immoral and unethical. It is wicked.

Let me be clear. I am not a statistician or professional researcher. I will leave a comprehensive review of Schiller’s methodology, results, and conclusions to those far more adept and schooled in this area than I am.

At the same time, I do possess a high level of healthy skepticism and am reluctant to accept broad conclusions extrapolated from minimal data that lack full vetting from the research community.

In other words, my BS meter is generally pretty accurate.

Grab a shovel.

Do you find it puzzling that 35% of the schools in Schiller’s Worst Schools list are from one Midwest city with a population of only 688,000: Detroit, Michigan. I know there are struggling schools there, but 1/3 of the worst 100? I’m guessing Dr. Schiller doesn’t own any property in Michigan.

It also seems odd that 82 of the top 100 are from only four states: Michigan (52), Ohio (11), Oklahoma (10), and Pennsylvania (9). There’s not a single school from 41 states in America, including Mississippi or the District of Columbia?

How about this? Of the five most populated states: California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Illinois – only one school in Porterville, California made the list. So, zero schools in Los Angeles, New York City or Chicago? Really?!

Let me set aside Schiller’s questionable statistical methodology and conclusions for a larger point. What is the purpose of this study?

Let’s remember this is a real estate website, operated by individuals who have ZERO experience or credibility in assessing school quality.

Schiller has made no effort to factor out any of the contextual factors which affect school and student performance – critical considerations such as generational poverty, unsafe crime-ridden communities, unemployment, lack of community support, absence of adequate health services, and inadequate school funding – just to name a few.

These findings also give zero credit to these schools for the positive aspects they contribute to children – music, arts, and athletics; food, clothing, and health care; positive role models in a safe, secure environment; access to technology and academic enrichment, and daily exposure to dedicated, loving, compassionate adults.

Instead, they profess to have created a magic formula which will produce an accurate ranking of schools based solely on a suspect comparison of school testing data.

For that they want a patent?

It is nothing more than a SHAM.

The sole purpose of false school shaming reports like this one is to discourage families from purchasing homes or property in any of the cities or school districts represented by a “worst 100” school and encourage them to buy elsewhere.

That’s it.

It won’t prompt federal, state or local leaders to increase funding or support of these schools.

It doesn’t provide any instructive feedback to help these schools improve other than “raise your test scores.”

It will make it more challenging to staff these schools with high quality educators since the premise of working at one of America’s “worst schools” is hardly inspiring.

Moreover, it will undercut the morale and spirit of the hard-working teachers and school leaders already working at these schools. It is a slap in the face.

Trust me, the folks who work at all of these schools know better than anyone the areas in which they are struggling. They are working hard every day to help children overcome the challenges of their lives and find success.  They don’t need to be shamed into working harder.

And, what about THOSE kids? Those kids who are almost exclusively poor, non-white, and often neglected and under-served by society. Children growing up in shattered, tenuous homes located in broken neighborhoods and communities.

What about them?

Many of these children are struggling with unfair labels and judgments as it is.  How does the “knowledge” that they attend one of the worst schools in America make these children feel about their own life experience, about learning in general, about their future potential, and about society’s support of children like them?

I can tell you this. The last thing any child needs is to be put in a box of shame with a sign, “I’m stupid.”

Come to think of it – even dogs deserve better than this.

It Never Always Gets Worse

Too tired to keep running, too committed to stop.

This is precisely how I felt after completing the second of three 16.67 miles loops during a 50-mile ultra-marathon in Tulsa this past 4th of July.

Seven hours and 33 miles into the race, I was soaked to the bone after hours of running in a constant rain, which began with a full-fledged thunderstorm at midnight. I was hungry and weary from lack of sleep. My legs were cramping, my energy level had waned, and the proposition of running one more 16 mile loop seemed insurmountable.

I’ve been in this spot before – in the Marine Corps, in running, and in my life. I have learned the key to beating any significant challenge in life is to just keep going.

When you’re tired…

When it hurts too bad…

When you’re too far behind…

When it would just be easier to quit…

When others are telling you to just give up…

You just have to push through it. And what I’ve learned when I do this is that often – not always but often – the best experiences are right on the other side of this decision.

Legendary ultra-marathoner, Gary Cantrell, the creator of “The Barkley,”  a 100-mile trail ultra-marathon held in the mountains of Tennessee (a course so difficult that only 15 runners out of about 1000 since 1986 have finished within the 60 hour cutoff), once said:

“It never always gets worse.”

What I believe Cantrell means is that in our absolute depths of despair or at the peak of frustration all we see is that negativity extrapolated forward. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Our minds are skilled at telling us what will happen if we don’t stop. It reminds us if we don’t change course, we will suffer and be miserable.  That we can’t possibly do what we have been challenged to accomplish. That there is nothing wrong with stopping short of our potential.

The worst thing we can do is listen to that voice.

Not on the 50-mile run you don’t think you can complete; not in the middle of a stressful year in the classroom; not in the middle of a fight in a relationship you’re starting to think it’d be easier to just walk away from; not in that moment when you think you’ve taken on more projects and responsibilities than you can possibly handle, and not during the game that doesn’t look like you could possibly win.

Because it doesn’t always get worse.

What the mind can’t see is that many of our challenges in life are leading somewhere good—that a rough experience can transform into a rewarding opportunity or cherished memory. That those painful miles, stressful experiences, and frustrating days are adding up to something. That the taxing days in the classroom are making you a better teacher; that the relationship is having growing pains while it is becoming something better; that the project has value because it is hard and forcing you to stretch yourself; that nobody knows how a game will end until it’s over and that winning isn’t all that’s important.

You know this to be true – not everything that’s hard is good, of course, but almost everything good and worth doing is sometimes hard.

What is that challenge in your own life you are struggling to overcome? I am the first to admit that running fifty miles pales in comparison to some of the challenges faced by many of you in your own lives.

Sometimes it’s going to get worse, but then other times, it is going to get better.

We all have experienced that feeling of being too sad, too tired, too frustrated, or too inadequate to go on. But if we can muster the confidence and fortitude and commit ourselves to push on for one more mile or one more day, the rewards can be indescribable.

What’s on the other side of your toughest challenges?

I’ll tell you. You. You are on the other side of those struggles. A you that is stronger, more resilient, more self-aware, and more alive.

That’s why you gut it out. Why you don’t quit.

Because it never always gets worse.

Because sometimes it gets unimaginably, suddenly, awesomely better.

After the soreness wears off anyway.

 

Remembering Our Heroes!

Memorial Day weekend has become the unofficial start of summer. A time when our thoughts naturally turn to long, restful days at the lake, cookouts with friends and neighbors, pool parties, and family vacations.

It is also an opportunity for many major retailers to promote special “Memorial Day” sales. Today’s Tulsa World included circulars for Belks, Dillards, Sears, Kohls, JC Penneys, and even Big Lots. While I understand that these companies are simply trying to make a profit with the underlying theme of American patriotism, I wish they would leave this holiday alone. Having a special sale on outdoor grills, hand bags, and summer clothes is perfectly appropriate–just don’t tie it to what should be a solemn observance of Americans and their sacrifice (in my humble opinion anyway).

Originally called Decoration Day, from the early tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, Memorial Day is a day for remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers.

During that first national celebration, former Union Gen. and sitting Ohio Congressman James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there.

We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.

James A. Garfield
May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery

Several years ago our nation lost Frank Buckles of West Virginia, the last veteran from World War I. The number of World War II veterans is also shrinking at a rapid rate. While we still have these great Americans with us, it remains a civic duty to recognize their service and sacrifice to our country.

As with Independence Day, Memorial Day is a day for all of us to set aside our many differences and focus instead on our common beliefs and heritage, while honoring those who died in service of our great nation.

Music has always been an important part of this observance. Over the years, quite a few musicians have shared their talents to perform poignant, often emotional tributes to our military men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Here is my short list of favorite Memorial Day songs. If you choose to watch the videos, grab some tissues in advance. Please leave links to your favorites in the comments. I would enjoy listening to them.

“I Drive Your Truck,” Lee Brice

Telling a story of a parent who’s mourning a child killed in battle, this song strikes deep. I cannot even imagine the pain. It’s a simple, heartbreaking image: A father continues to drive his son’s truck as a way of easing the pain of losing him to the war in Afghanistan. The song, based on the true story of Paul Monti and his son, Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti, won Song of the Year at the 2014 Academy of Country Music Awards.

“I Won’t Let Go,” Rascal Flatts

The lyrics to this song are intentionally vague to relate to a wide audience, yet the video clearly connects to the loss of a loved one in service of our country.

“If You’re Reading This,” Tim McGraw

This one gets to me. For those who have served in a war zone, the idea of writing a “goodbye letter” to loved ones is incredibly difficult. What can you possibly say to adequately convey your love while attempting to soften the tremendous loss felt by the person or persons reading your words? I am blessed that my wife and children never had to read mine.

“Dress Blues,” Jason Isbell/Drive-By Truckers

Beautiful, bitter, and sad, this 2006 ballet has not been widely heard. The song is dedicated to Jason’s high school buddy who joined the Marines at 18, fought in the Middle East and never returned home. The refrain is compact and evocative: “You never planned on the bombs in the sand or sleeping in your dress blues.” Whew!

“Some Gave All,” Billy Ray Cyrus

Though not nearly as well-known as “Achy Breaky Heart,” I enjoyed this song by Billy Ray Cyrus much more. The chorus sums up the purpose of Memorial Day well:

“All Gave Some, Some Gave All
Some stood through for the red, white and blue
And some had to fall
And if you ever think of me
Think of all your liberties and recall
Some Gave All”

“Hymn to the Fallen,” John Williams

A moving instrumental which highlights American cemeteries around the world along with the number of Americans who gave their lives on foreign soil in defense of our nation.

“Proud to be an American,” Lee Greenwood

Any list of Memorial Day songs has to include this classic. I first heard this song in April 1991 as a Marine Corps Captain during the flight home from the Persian Gulf War. The pilot came on the intercom and told us that “this song” was all over the radio while we were overseas. After eight months away from my family, let’s just say this song struck a chord with me and many other Marines on the plane that day.

It was the only time I ever saw a General cry. It will always be my favorite.

“And I’m proud to be and American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.”

Finally, I want to remind everyone about the “National Moment of Remembrance.” This resolution was passed in Dec 2000 and asks that at 3 p.m. local time each Memorial Day, for all Americans “to voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.”

God Bless our fallen heroes and their families this Memorial Day!

The Little Legislature That Couldn’t

There was a little legislature with nice words and false praises
to Oklahoma’s teachers, I’ll bring you some raises.
While the OKC Chamber and Big Oil worked to kill 779,
the little legislature assured teachers, “you can trust me this time.”

“Choo choo, choo choo, choo choo, choo choo, I feel so good today
Oh, clear the track, oh clickety clack, I’ll go our merry way.”

The little legislature stumbled and bumbled its way to sine die,
it was clear from the start Senator Holt’s 10K plan was not going to fly.
The same fate was in store for Mike Roger’s 1-2-3
As least I’ll build a framework – believe me teachers – you’ll see.

Yet, by early April, indeed we did see
the promise of compromise was never to be.
There would be no new revenues to support teacher pay,
so the little legislature just gave up and now seemed to say.

“I can’t go on, I can’t go on, I’m weary as can be
I can’t go on, I can’t go on, this job is not for me.”

The little legislature started catching some flak,
when a great big engine called OIL came a whistling down the track.
They asked if they would pitch in few cents on the dollar,
but with a high and mighty sneer, OIL scornfully hollered,

“Don’t bother me, don’t bother me to pull the likes of you
Don’t bother me, don’t bother me, we have already paid our dues.”

The Dems all started crying cause that engine was so mean
so the Repubs came back with tax tricks and several new fees.
On cigarettes and new cars, $300 million will bring,
add Rainy day and one-time funds and we got this thing.

The little legislature hitched on to the plan and sang this song

“I think I can, I think I can, I think I have a plan
And I can do ‘most anything if I only think I can.”

But the teachers shouted out, what about our raises?
The little legislature replied, “how ungrateful,” you owe us your praises.
We held your schools harmless in our fragile house of cards,
quit being greedy and kindly give us your regards.

As the little legislature closed up and left town in a hurry,
Thousands of teachers yelled out with much fury
Little legislature, you told us you could, yet denied us again,
you protected your donors and left us to fend.

You are the little legislature who couldn’t,
We’re not surprised; many knew that you wouldn’t
For many Oklahoma’s schools, you’ve now sealed their fate
As hundreds of our best teachers soon leave the state.

The lack of respect and years of false hope,
Is more than many can continue to cope
They’re off to new jobs or switching careers
Spreading their wings and shedding their fears.

And very soon they’ll start to say, I always knew I could
I knew I should, I knew I could, I knew I would
I hate to move on after all the years I have fought
Sadly I must because of a little legislature that could yet would not.

And they’ll say,

“Choo choo, choo choo, choo choo, choo choo, I feel so good today
Oh, clear the track, oh clickety clack, I’ll go our merry way.”

The little legislature speeds from the station,
leaving our teachers’ pay dead last in the nation,
As our state moves forward, there is now no mistaking
The cliff we’re approaching is of our own making.

Extraordinary Moments

“You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this.” ~ Trace Adkins, 2007

*************************************************

As the number of my tomorrows becomes increasingly fewer than the count of my yesterdays, I have become acutely aware at the speed with which time moves.

In schools, this is the time of year when we hit warp speed. There are spring sports, Special Olympic events, music concerts, drama performances, academic fairs, final exams, graduations, baccalaureate, grade promotions, awards assemblies, field days, senior slide shows, class parties, yearbook signings, and report cards.

Teachers are occupied with completing all the mundane tasks to finish the school year and prepare their rooms for the summer break. They are busy collecting textbooks, computing final grades, stowing away technology, organizing cabinets, conducting equipment inventories, planning class parties, covering bulletin boards, and cleaning out lockers – while of course keeping their students actively engaged in rigorous and relevant learning.

The mood in schools during this period is typically upbeat and positive. This is the time of year when elementary students might take a trip to the park or zoo; middle school students build and launch rockets, and high school students begin planning for athletic camps, summer jobs, and long, lazy days hanging out at the lake with friends.

It is a time for bright smiles, meaningful hugs, heartfelt tears, and genuine joy.

I recall vividly the end of my first year as a middle school teacher in 1994. Despite my youth and ten years of experience as a combat-trained Marine officer, I finished that year mentally exhausted and beaten down.  The challenges associated with teaching 140 young adolescents each day while parenting five of my own children at home seemed at times overwhelming. If not for the loving grace of my wife and the patience and mentoring of my school colleagues, I’m not sure I would have come back for year two.

I am so glad I did.

24 years later, I am blessed to have had the opportunity to serve as an educator in three different school districts. I have worked with hundreds of terrific teachers, scores of supportive parents, and tens of thousands of young children. My mind literally overflows with positive and poignant memories of thousands of faces and personalities, random events and incidents, successes and mistakes, laughter and tears, and opportunities taken and lost.

Viewed collectively, these events would strike most people as rather ordinary and routine aspects of an educator’s life. Yet, the older I get, the more I realize how extraordinary and meaningful many of these people and events truly were.

The past few decades have marked my face, silvered my hair, and chiseled my spirit, but my inner core has not changed. It is to this sense of child-like wonder that I bring a heart that has felt much, hurt much and hopefully given much. I would hope that time’s coarse touch has calmed the impatience of my youth and stretched my spirit towards greater wisdom, empathy, and appreciation for the smaller things in life.

I recognize that time’s march will not stop. I have no control over it. But I can slow my pace as I walk through the days and years I have left, which I hope are MANY!

I encourage you to do the same, especially during this important time of the year.

If you are an educator, take the time to really see and feel these special moments in the last days of school, for truly they will not pass again.

At some point in your life, trust me – you ARE going to miss this.

So, as you enter your classroom these last few days, allow yourself to bask in the joyful exuberance of children, the unrestrained laughter and unforced smiles, the genuine affection, the odd and quirky attributes, the silly jokes, and the general hilarity that children bring to our world.

Take a moment to think about how far your students have come this year.  Reflect on how the child who you had to pull from her mother’s arms nine months ago now runs to yours as she enters the classroom each morning. Notice how your students have become more independent and comfortable in their own skin. Recognize the child who can now read independently, do their math facts, write computer code, speak a second language, play an instrument, create an original sonnet, play a sport, or graph an algebraic equation. That’s all because of you – your knowledge, your skills, your commitment, your warmth, your love.  All of that made a difference … and it’s forever.

Slow the pace of your brain when conversing with those you meet and greet throughout my day. Make it a practice to listen more and talk less and to judge people (including yourself) in the most favorable light at all times and under all circumstances.

Delight in the simple joy that you am not alone and others are doing this life with you. And that this life as an educator matters every day.

The truth is that every ordinary moment working with children as a teacher or coach has the potential to be extraordinary. That is the power and privilege and challenge we have all been granted.

Too often, in the rush of our lives, we underestimate the power of a gentle touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, a sincere compliment, or the smallest act of caring.  All of these have the potential to turn a life around.

Don’t miss out on this chance. Relish in the honor and joy of being a teacher. Don’t forget to take the opportunity to say goodbye to every child. Look into their eyes and smile.  Share with them one thing you appreciate most about them and what you will miss after they leave your class.

Then watch their face.

This can be an extraordinary thing for both of you.

You don’t want to miss it.

 

Oh Crap! What Have We Done?

satire

May 12, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY—According to bewildered and contrite legislators, a major budgetary mix-up this week inadvertently provided the state’s public schools with enough funding and resources to properly educate Oklahoma’s children in the upcoming fiscal year.

A spokesperson for Senate Pro Temp Mike Schulz’s office reported that as a result of a clerical error, $400 million earmarked for state testing vendors, turnpike repaving, tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, and future income tax cuts for Oklahoma’s millionaires was accidentally appropriated to the Department of Education for the upcoming fiscal year’s education funding formula. To compound matters, $160 million was mistakenly appropriated to provide Oklahoma teachers with an across-the-board $3,000 raise.

According to a source from Governor Fallin’s office, speaking under the condition of anonymity, “This money will likely be wasted by schools to increase teacher salaries, reduce class sizes, buy new textbooks, increase technology integration, offer more academic courses, and promote educational excellence”—an oversight that apologetic officials called a “major SNAFU.”

“Obviously, we did not intend for this to happen, and we are doing everything in our power to correct the situation and discipline whoever is responsible,” said one senior member of the House Budget and Appropriations committee while expressing remorse for the error. “I want to apologize to the people of Oklahoma. The last thing we wanted was for schools to upgrade their technology and lower student-to-teacher ratios in hopes of raising a generation of well-educated, ambitious, and skilled young Oklahomans.”

“That’s the type of irresponsible misspending that I’ve been focused on eliminating for my entire political career,” the representative added.

Former House Speaker Jeff Hickman told reporters from the Daily Oklahoman that “this kind of reckless decision-making would never have happened under my watch,” adding “I just don’t understand this new breed of Republican that prioritizes essential state services and schools over the fiscal well-being of corporations and millionaires.”

Hickman continued his rant: “This is an embarrassment to our state. Fortunately, we still have some leaders like Representative Mike Ritze doing things to shed a more positive light on Oklahoma conservatives. His idea of rounding up children of illegal immigrants and shipping them home is nothing short of brilliant and represents the type of creative budgeting we need more of in Oklahoma.”

Another embarrassed member of the Republican Platform Caucus angrily acknowledged the $400 million budget slip-up will “unfortunately” help schools statewide retain more qualified teachers as well as supply students with modernized classrooms and instructional materials. Struggling to control his frustration, the representative said he prayed the costly mistake would not result in allowing thousands of Oklahoma’s students to graduate with strong technology and higher order thinking skills.

Ironically, former State Senator Kyle Loveless (R-OKC) called for a full investigation into how the state’s schools were able to secure the necessary funds to adequately compensate teachers at the regional average. “Hell, if we weren’t wasting time and money on personal witch hunts against highly respected legislators, this kind of crap wouldn’t be going on right under our noses.”

Loveless updated his statement a few hours later: “Never mind, I don’t really give a s*!@ anymore.”

Jason Nelson, former state representative (and potential candidate for something in 2018), called into a local talk radio station so angry he could barely get his words out: “This careless mistake may result in fewer teachers retiring or leaving the state. It will have a highly deleterious effect on the growth of our state’s promising charter and virtual school movement just when we’re making real progress. It may also end up financing new teacher training programs and collaboration time, allowing educators to become more than just glorified babysitters. It is just outrageous!”

Nelson continued, “Now we are left with a situation where schools can attract talented professionals who really want to teach our children, which will, in turn, create smarter and more motivated students who wish to one day make a contribution to society. What kind of future is that for our state?”

Current House Minority Leader and 2018 Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, Scott Inman (Dist-94), smiled coyly and winked when asked about the budget snafu. “I just have no idea what might have happened. No idea whatsoever. It is just one of those things that happens when people are in a hurry to start their four-day weekend. I can say that when you play shell games long enough, it can be easy to lose track of the ball.”

Representative Inman was later seen giggling with colleagues and doing a cart-wheel on the fourth floor rotunda of the Capitol building.

During an impromptu press conference on Thursday afternoon, Governor Fallin stated, “I know I’ve talked about increasing revenues and helping out our schools for years but I assumed the legislature knew it was all just political pandering. It never occurred to me they might take me seriously. In all my years in government I have never seen such a shameful error.”

“Our appropriations process has gone horribly awry and I for one demand to know how it happened. I thought I was signing an additional tax cut for Oklahoma’s beleaguered upper class,” explained Fallin. “When I realized I had just signed a bill to appropriate more money to public schools, I was crushed.”

Senate Finance Vice-Chair, Josh Brecheen, echoed his fellow legislative leaders and vowed to do “everything in his power” to resolve the costly error that could lead to schools updating their curriculum to emphasize STEM initiatives and 21st century skills by providing students with instruction on how to use newly purchased computers and connect with the world outside of Oklahoma.

“Once these kids learn to read and think critically, you can never undo that,” Brecheen said. “In 20 years, we could be looking at a nightmare scenario in which vast segments of our populace are fully prepared to compete in the new global marketplace.” “It could take a whole generation to cancel out the effects of this error,” Brecheen added.

Congressional leaders also stressed that providing the state’s students with an adequate education that prepared them for college and 21st-century jobs could also have a devastating impact on the economy by creating a new class of citizens uninterested in working at Wal-Mart or settling for fast food meals.

“Politicians will be adversely affected as well,” Brecheen later remarked. “What will our state do if the next generation knows that all we care about is our own selfish interests and pandering to corporations, the religious right, and the wealthy elite? We will be creating a generation of young people able to think for themselves. Is that the future you want for Oklahoma? I certainly don’t.