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Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Long Wait for an Answer

For years I've been working with a group of individuals that don't adequately respond to questions. This has been painstaking since the time between asking and getting a direct, understandable answer is often weeks. The reason this is so painful is that there is so much opportunity lost within those weeks.

For example, recently I posed a question, a question that impacts the work I plan to do with students. I received a response that the question would be forwarded to others. Then about two weeks after that I received an answer, but the answer was not understandable so I had to ask another questions, and now I am waiting for that answer.

All of these questions lie in a similar area of work, an area for which I see tremendous potential for student investment, contribution, and growth. I notice that children who are privileged have ready access to this area of learning, but children without as much privilege or leadership in this area are left behind.  I know that this gap contributes to the opportunity gap that contributes to variability in student scores and later opportunity/success in life. That's why I care about this area of work.

Yet for years I've been met with one steep wall after another as I attempt to integrate this teaching/learning effort into my work in meaningful ways. What's a teacher to do?

I will do the following:
  • Invest in teaching/learning areas where there is positive support.
  • Continue to advocate for betterment in the area that is blocked through other channels at the state, union, and advocacy levels.
  • Be patient as I know, in time, what I wish for will be true since multiple other school systems are investing good time and effort in this regard and getting strong results. This will grow to a level where it will certainly positively impact my efforts too.
In general, in areas where the teacher's voice is left out or minimal, less good, positive change occurs. When educators are fully integrated into the decision making and good work possible for children, betterment occurs. I honor those leaders and colleagues who support the ready, positive, and consistent integration of all stakeholders' voices and choice in matters that impact student success. I know that I'm not alone in this regard. 

Better Living

I'm focused on better living these days. I'm focused on this at home, at school, and with regard to the broader world we live in. How do we move towards betterment in all that we do?

Care, Compassion, and Kindness
Way back I was a bit cynical about these words. I saw them as superficial and meaningless in many ways. Yet with years of study and reflection, I recognize the strength and power these words and actions hold--truly if we care with compassion and kindness, we contribute to betterment in our own lives and the lives of others. Recently I witnessed the great power of these words once again, and was once again both humbled and elevated by the strength of these actions. We can disagree, and we can do that with care, compassion, and kindness.

Stepping into Another's Shoes: Empathy
We have to make the time to step back and reflect on what others around us are experiencing. This is so necessary as we face new immigration policies. When it comes to any group of people, typically "one-size-fits-all," uniform decisions aren't good. This is so true for immigration since there's so much history, personal experience, and contextual matters that play a role in this situation. We have to be highly sensitive as a people with regard to our immigrant neighbors, friends, and community members--what we do today in this regard will affect the lives of many well into the future. Quick, one-shot policy or decisions, in this regard, can only be harmful.

Building Better
Focus on how we can improve our homes, yards, parks, playgrounds, schools, community buildings, sidewalks, and other public spaces is essential. When we live in inspiring, beautiful communities, we live with greater confidence, happiness, and grace. How can we work together to make improvements to our public/private spaces, and perhaps, we can use this betterment to create more jobs too.

Simplicity and Sharing
Most of us probably need about one tenth of the material objects we own. The less things we have to take care of, the more time we have for shared endeavor and deeper commitments. Looking at how we can share our wealth of objects, time, and talent is one way to move towards betterment. If everyone reaches out with their best skills, talents, property, and wealth--more will do well in our world.

Support
Who can we support at home, in school, and beyond to better our lives and world. There are so many places that we can invest our time to better our situations and the situations of others. We need to think carefully about this and make sure we are investing in deep, meaningful work rather than superficial efforts. It's best if we think with others in this regard.

Commitment
We can all commit to contribution--giving time and energy towards betterment for ourselves and others. As I think about this, I'm hoping to do the following:
  • Continue to support those I love in obtaining their positive dreams, goals, and pursuits in life. 
  • Continuing to work with others in the school community to maintain and develop the best possible schools--places where children are welcome, cared for, and learn with strength, skill, knowledge, creativity, and confidence.
  • Continuing to look for ways to contribute to my community with regard to betterment. This is probably the most challenging call since there is a lot to learn about with respect to how to get involved, contribute, and interact with the complex communities we live in. 
When I listen to the news, hear the stories of friends and neighbors, dream, and think, I see tremendous potential for betterment. I'm committed to betterment because I believe that we have the opportunity as a people to forward the good life for all, and there is great joy in that. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Evidence Driven Conversation and Decision Making

I have always been drawn by emotion, big speak, and generalizations.

My father-in-law would always respond to my big speak with the comment, "Where's your evidence?"

I was mostly stumped as I couldn't recall the specific fact, data, or analysis that led me to that conclusion.

Lately as I advocate for school improvement and betterment, I've been drawn into a deeper conversation about what works and what doesn't. Our decisions as a school community often draw on multiple resources that provide evidence for our decisions. Thanks to the Internet, I have access to all kinds of data and statistics to prove or disprove points.

For example, as I watched Trump and DeVos speak to a panel recently, Trump used a fact. It didn't seem truthful to me so I looked it up to find that Trump was correct. Yet, when he spoke about Sweden and violence in America, the facts he used were not supported.

We all have to bring the conversation deeper. We have to move from "sound bite debates" to deeper, more thoughtful speak, discourse, and debate about issues that really matter.

Trump won his campaign with sound bites that demeaned many and made him seem like he was the solution to the ills that pain many Americans, yet sound bites won't solve problems--good, deep, critical process will solve problems.

Intrigued by a conservative event that's happening soon, I looked up the website. I noticed a video on the front page spewing all kinds of bogus facts about why we need to support new gun laws. It was clear that the film was using techniques of propaganda to fire up the masses with respect to gun laws. Then I looked up the facts to find out that the film was truly exaggerating data and statistics to gain support.

As a people we have to go deeper, get stronger, and be more specific about our discussions, decisions, and solutions. We can't rely on sound bites, big speak, and loose conjecture. We have so much information at our fingertips and we have to use that information critically and work together with the experts to make good decisions.

If there's been any lesson with the new President, it's that we have to be evidence-driven in our decision making. We have to seek out the facts and truths of situations and use our best "collective genius" to solve problems, create, and innovate.

None of us alone know what's true and right for a country of such diverse needs, interests, and knowledge, yet I think we can all still agree that our common aim of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," is where we can begin the conversation.