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Changing Education One Post At A Time

I have written often about my battle with weight. I’m back in it now. Having reduced myself to 215 pounds, and feeling really good about hitting my goal, I took a break a while back. That break led to more and more unhealthy eating. When I finally hit 233 pounds, I hit a wall in my head that caused me to make a turn and try to start peeling back the pounds once more.

I’m about 99% on a Paleo diet. I make cheating choices occasionally that still fit the low-carb mindset, but might fall outside the pseudo-science of the Paleo diet.  It’s really about low-carb, real-food choices as opposed to the quick-and-easy fast food route.  And it’s working.

At least it appears to be working. (No, that is not my scale).

They tell you to only weigh about once a week when you are dieting.  That makes sense to me, since you should not be obsessing about where you are on the journey.  Make healthy eating and living choices, and let the weight fall where it will.

Yeah.  I don’t do that.

I usually weigh before bed and again when I get up the next morning. I want to know, with more immediacy, if I have strayed too far too quickly.  However, I do only record my weight in the LoseIt app on Sundays.

I’m two-and-a-half weeks back in the game. As of this past Sunday, I had gone from 233 pounds to 227 pounds.  I’m very happy with 2 pounds each week. I’m looking for results.  Not magic.

Yesterday, other than purchasing a Cobb Salad for lunch (which fits the Paleo guidelines), I did not do anything any different from any other day of eating.  Tuesday morning I verified I’m still at 227. This morning?  230.

Two hundred and thirty. A gain of 3 pounds in one day. What the….?

There is a part of me that understands this is a fluke. There are physiological reasons for this. The frontal cortex of my brain that controls logical thinking tries to assure my inner self that this will just disappear in another day. It is an outlier.

Then there is the lizard brain that shouts at me, “My God, Childers! A three pound gain in one freaking day? Are you serious? You are a failure, that’s what you are! A pretender! Just give up and eat what you want. You’re going to do that anyway. Your tombstone should read, ‘At least he ate what he wanted.'”

Some of you can relate.

Are teacher evaluations any different? Our teachers teach three classes every day.  They do this for 180 days.  540 lessons taught in an average year.

We look at 2 or 3 of them and make decisions on what the other 537 looked like throughout the year.

The tyranny of a single data point can be the difference between an under qualified teacher thinking they are rocking it with their kids, or the proverbial rock star thinking they are simply a failure pretending to be a good teacher.

Our teachers deserve better than tyranny.

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I hate grading.  No, not the actually giving of feedback on student work. I hate those numerical distortions of what that work actually means. The reasons we are stuck with grading are myriad.

  • Parents expect them (is there any way my child can get this high enough to at least be a B?).
  • Kids obsess over them (how much late work do I need to turn in to get at least to a 70?)
  • The press obsesses over them (this year’s valedictorian beat out the rest of the pack by less than 0.1 point)
  • Colleges look at them (what was your overall GPA?)
  • Grading is easier because of them (you got a 75 out of 100 on this assignment)

But what do they mean exactly?  Take a look at this chart:

This is a list of 10 grades for a teacher grade book. They are totally arbitrary in that they don’t represent any particular grade book.  On the left, the teacher decides that every missing assignment deserves a zero. On the right, the teacher feels that is too harsh and gives missing assignments a 50 in order to keep the kid from giving up.

In one class, the student receives a 45 average.  In the other, a 70.  The kid did exactly the same work. Even extra credit for the teacher on the left (don’t get me started on extra credit) won’t bring this grade up to passing. Both teachers gave a significant failing grade to missing work.

Or, take the tale of the teacher who gives 10 grades per grading period compared to the one who gives 25. Averages begin to change quickly. Poor work is penalized less when surrounded by more helpful grades.

Even emojis work better as feedback than arbitrary numbers on a page.

The Thumbs Up – I really like what you did here. It met the basic requirements of what we were looking for and is considered along the line of average work.  Good job!

The Heart – You went above and beyond on this assignment. You not only covered all the basics as required, but you added a lot of things that really made your work stand out. Keep it up!

The Laughing Face – I am absolutely giddy with delight over this work. It is one of the best I’ve ever seen. I don’t give out laughing faces lightly.  Well done!

The Surprised Face – Your work was really good. I’m happy to see that you included some elements I hadn’t thought about while reading it. I liked it so much, I’m going to change the way I look at this assignment in the future. I’m going to add some of your elements to my expectations. Way to go!

The Sad Face – I truly wish you had worked just a little harder on this one. It was close, but it did not meet all the expectations we laid out in the rubric for this work. I’d love it if you would try again. After we go over some exemplary work product in class, see if you can figure out where you went wrong and submit it again after you edit it. If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask me. Stay on it!

The Angry Face – This didn’t even come close to our expectations. In fact, you didn’t cover the material expected at all. I cannot accept this in it’s current state. Please do a complete re-working of your submission. Editing won’t help it. Stay Focused!

What do you think? What are you using that’s better than grades?

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Mar-30-2017

You’re Killin’ Me, Smalls!

Posted by Tim under Personal

Most of us of a certain age probably remember the movie, The Sandlot. It was an irreverent look at a sandlot baseball team made up of misfits who eventually come together and make something great of their team. Reminiscent of The Bad News Bears, it made us laugh at the uncomfortable situation of knowing these children were acting and talking like adults often do. After laughing, often times we might even be embarrassed by the fact we found something funny.

Because, you know, if that were my kid, it would not have been funny at all. And he may not have survived to play another year.

But it wasn’t my kid.  It was somebody else’s kid. It was somebody else’s problem. We could laugh at the words of these foul-mouthed youngsters because they were going home to some other parents.

It’s a fine line for teachers. Elementary teachers often have 25 to 30 kids in their classrooms that are theirs, but yet they are not theirs. Middle school teachers might have 125 to 150. Some high school teachers have nearly 200.

While they are in our classrooms, we expect them to act like they are our kids. Our rules. Our norms. Our expectations. And yet, a small group of students don’t do anything of the sort. They act out. They can appear to be hurtful and cruel and unfeeling and often seem to totally lack empathy.

It is interesting as a teacher observer to watch students in the classroom. I’m somewhat detached from the goings on. Just a fly on the wall. If a kid acts out, I have the freedom to sit back and figure out the why of her actions. Was she just hit by another student? Was she ignored by the teacher? Did someone take her backpack? Did someone invade her personal space by touching her arm with their finger?

Teachers are busy. They are juggling 17 balls, 8 plates, and 3 very sharp knives all at once all day. They can easily miss the cause of the behavior and focus only on the after effects. And, just like that, the student who was actually a victim becomes the villain. Hallway talks take place. Office referrals are sent. Parent phone calls are made.

I know. I was once in that position and making mistakes with kids all the time. Dealing with these behaviors, and their root causes, is something it takes most teachers several years to master. A few are naturals. But not all. Not by a long shot.

I struggled with classroom management as a new teacher. At the end of my first year, my principal basically said, “Childers, I’ll give you the summer to figure it out. But if it is like this next year, there won’t be a third.” Not exactly helpful, but at least it was motivating. And I figured it out. Mostly.

While I’m observing teachers I watch with more than a little envy while some of them just seem to have kids eating out of their hands. They’ve made that all-important connection. Kids that misbehave everywhere else calm down and do what is expected in this one class. I long to be like that as a teacher. As an administrator. Heck, even as a dad.

Two quotes have guided a lot of my in-class practice.  The first is from that same administrator I mentioned earlier.  He was quite fond of saying, “If you can’t control them, you can’t teach them.” And the second comes from my first Christian education textbook. “If the student hasn’t learned, you haven’t taught.”

Me? I’m better known by one of the more famous the quotes from The Sandlot.

You’re killin’ me, Smalls!

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Mar-29-2017

How Personalized Can We Get?

Posted by Tim under Personalized Learning

There is a big push across the country to personalize learning. As educators, we just shake our heads. Of course learning is personal. We’ve known that for decade upon decade.

And yet…

  • We standardize curriculum
  • We standardize classroom spaces
  • We standardize teacher preparation
  • We standardize testing
  • We standardize teacher evaluations
  • We standardize lesson plans
  • We standardize technology purchases
  • We standardize professional development
  • We standardize report cards
  • We standardize PBL
  • We standardize online learning programs
  • We standardize graduation requirements
  • We standardize maker spaces
  • We standardize libraries
  • We standardize textbook adoptions
  • We standardize IEPs
  • We standardize Response to Intervention
  • We standardize staff sizes
  • We standardize school lunches

I could go on, but I think you see my point. I get it. Standardization is scalable. It’s quick. It’s easy. You can budget for it. It fits nicely into a Google Sheet or a standardized PowerPoint file.

But let’s not kid ourselves. It isn’t personal.

And now it appears we are attempting to standardize personalization.

How personalized can we get in that environment?

 

 

 

 

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Mar-25-2017

Let’s Really Think About This

Posted by Tim under Personal

Teaching is one of the most stressful careers you can choose. You could list a million reasons why, but I want to concentrate on just one: the work is never done. If you are a teacher, you know that you live, eat, breathe, sleep, and caffeinate about this job all the time. It…just…never…ends.

This is why teachers don’t last too long in the profession at times. They probably thought, as I did, “How hard can this be? You talk to kids all day. They do stuff. You spend a few minutes grading a handful of papers. And you get crayons.”

Yeah. OK.

The truth is, teachers typically get to work thirty minutes to an hour before their contract time. Why? Well, for one, it’s quiet. There isn’t a line stacking up to use the copy machine. You can enjoy that last cup of really hot coffee before you drink all the cold cups later.

OK, that’s part of it.

But in reality, there are students coming in early for tutoring. And you know your planning period is going to be taken up with an IEP meeting, or a PLC meeting, or a parent conference, or a curriculum meeting, or…

You spend the day corralling kids, dealing with drama (sometimes from the teachers), talking Johnny in the hallway about why it is important that he pay attention in class in spite of his ADHD, being evaluated by an administrator, waiting another hour before class is over so you can take 45 seconds and run to the restroom, return phone calls to parents wanting to know why Suzy got a 93 on her paper instead of the 98 she deserved, and on and on.

Let’s not even talk about bus duty, after school programs, evening meetings, required professional development hours and more.

At night, you get home, try to spend some time with the family, eat dinner, maybe watch 30 minutes of news to cheer you up, and then start in on grading papers, planning the next lesson or unit, reading the book your administrators assigned to all teachers, and more. You fall into bed and lay there wondering what tomorrow will look like until you finally wear yourself out enough to sleep.

There is no end to the work.  We work when we get up.  We work through the day. We work at night. We work on weekends. We work, work, work. And, after awhile, we get tired of the work.  We’re stressed out. Our health suffers.  We burn out. And we suddenly dread the very job that breathed life into our existence just a few short years earlier.  Why? Because the work is never done.

Now, think about our students. Many get up way too early, stand out in the dark to catch a bus that takes an hour to get to school, and then slog their way through 7 hours of a work day. After that, they take another hour to get home, or perhaps they get picked up by a parent an hour or two after school because of tutoring or clubs or sports or…

They scarf down dinner, and then they sit down to do the homework assigned by their overworked, overstressed, overly tired teacher. Some of our high school students state they go to bed at midnight or later because of the amount of homework they have to do for AP classes, Honors classes, and more.

Our kids come to school tired, frustrated, stressed, and worn out. They feel like the work is never done.

Sound familiar?

“But wait!” I hear you say. “My homework should only take 30 minutes!” That may be true, but the teacher across the hall also gave 30 minutes, and the one in the section across campus gave 30 minutes, and another gave 30 minutes.  So now, with an hour to school, 7 in school, and hour home, and 2 hours minimum homework, we’re up to 11 hour work days.

And that doesn’t count the homework we assign over the weekends (many don’t…thank you) or the work they must be over fall, winter, or spring breaks.

Is it any wonder our kids have grown tired of school? We don’t want to be there at times because our workload never ends. Our kids often don’t want to be there for the exact same reason.

Should homework be abolished? I don’t think so. I think it should be meaningful. Drill and kill is never meaningful. Ever. Filling in empty spaces on a worksheet (I mean, really, worksheets??) isn’t meaningful.

So, let’s really think about this. Your thoughts are greatly welcomed.

 

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Mar-20-2017

Do Kids Need Teachers?

Posted by Tim under Personal

This is the question that will be asked over and over again in the coming years: do students need teachers? If you look to government funding of education, you might be convinced that the government doesn’t think we’re all that necessary. If you look at the drop-out to poverty to prison pipeline, you might be convinced we need more teachers than ever.

While my simple answer to my own question is yes (I’ll just get that out up front), my more complicated answer is, “Not always.”

I think this was brought more clearly into focus for me after a coupe of recent events. First, Sir Ken Robinson talked about all the heavy lifting learning toddlers do to learn to speak as part of a language formation. Parents may sit in front of their infants an coo, “Say dadda,” or, “Say momma.” But the reality is that while children do learn some of their language by parroting their parents or siblings, they make the great leap from word comprehension to sentence structure and meaningful conversations on their own.  And, depending on where they live in the world, they will do this in very different languages. At times, in multiple languages. In fact, most of our learning happens by age 5 or 6 as the brain forms synapses and dendrites to store and carry meaningful information. Curiosity is a great teacher.

Second, I’ve been tinkering with the Enlight app on my iPhone. I like to take pictures with my phone. Yes, I’m one of those that bought the iPhone 7 Plus for the camera. When I’m eating out along, or just sitting around the house, I like to go back to some of those pictures and use an app, or five, to edit them in certain ways. The Enlight app allows me to mix two images together in much the same way that Photoshop does. (I’ve been having a lot of fun using the twins from The Shining). But it is not totally user friendly until you play around with it. In fact, the tutorials offered by the developing company are a bit useless.  So, trial and error is the way to go. And that takes determination.  What some might call grit today.

These two things, curiosity and determination, are natural parts of the lives of some students. It can be the difference between the student struggling with Algebra 2 and another who takes five AP classes as independent study and scores 5’s on all the exams.

Sometimes it isn’t the teacher.  Sometimes it’s the student.

Yes, I am a firm believer that all children can learn. In fact, all children do learn. But some students are happy about it (that was me), and others have to be pushed forward often against their will. In fact, while this isn’t the point of this post, one could easily argue that some students need teachers just to be a positive adult role model in their lives.

Technology has the potential to do a lot of things to help our students learn. Using it for taking tests is not it. But utilizing technology to inspire curiosity could be the game changer.

Technology can also do a lot of the instructional heavy lifting. No longer is it necessary for a teacher to stand in the front of the room and lecture about every thing a student needs to know. That 20 minute lecture can be boiled down to 5 minutes of video with additional resources for the student to explore on her own. And that works great for adults. We’re still experimenting to see how well it works with kids whose frontal lobes are underdeveloped and often lack the critical thinking and logic that says inside their heads, “You have to stop playing this video game now and get back to that lesson.”

Teachers can help with the curiosity part. In fact, they can drive it with great content and delivery. But the drive to succeed is much more difficult to teach.

Do kids need teachers? Yes. But not always.

The tricky part for teachers is to know when you’re needed and when you need to get out of the way and let the learning happen.

It’s kind of like that for parents, too. But that’s an entirely different post.

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Mar-19-2017

Rethinking Questions

Posted by Tim under Assessment, Personalized Learning

This past week I was struck with an idea about questions in the classroom.  It isn’t new. I’ve come across it before. But for some reason it resonated with me.

One of the ways teachers evaluate learning is by asking questions. It is important enough that it is even one our teacher evaluation rubric. Asking questions that require deeper and deeper understanding of the subject to answer adequately is the goal. As a teacher evaluator, questioning is something that jumps out at me during a lesson. I want to see how kids respond.  All kids.  Not just the select few that are eager to please.

And so, this idea of questioning began to swirl around a bit.  I’ll use math as an example because it is probably easiest to make my point, but the idea can be applied to all subjects.

In math, one of the first things we do is easy types of problems.  We need kids to understand how numbers work. Like sight words for reading, some of the simplest problems are the place to start.

Sally, what is 2+2?

In this case, there is one answer. I remember tons of worksheets like this when I was a kid. Those timed 1-minute and 2-minute math drills were fun (although I don’t know what they assessed exactly). I was always competing to be the first one done.  Missing 3 or 10 out of 100 wasn’t of any concern for me. Being second was.

But this is the typical standardized test question that can easily be graded by bubbling something in, or choosing a number on a website. While handy, it is a very weak question. The answer is 4. The answer is always 4 (when working in base 10 anyway). Anything other than 4 is wrong. Try it again.

But what if we asked the question in a way that allows for an infinitude of answers?

Sally, what is 4?

Now the answer could be 2+2, or 10-6, or (2×10)-16. Kids now have the freedom to express themselves in ways much larger than 4. Just asking this question isn’t enough, however. We need to go deeper.

We need to personalize the questions.

Sally, why did you choose that way to express 4?

This is where we can truly begin to understand a child’s mathematical thinking. We can see if they are thinking in more complex math thoughts. And we can get an understanding of where to take them next.

Hint: It will be different for every child.

Have you considered the way you ask the questions in your classroom? What would happen if you started rethinking questions?

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Mar-16-2017

An Open Letter to Sir Ken Robinson #MACUL17

Posted by Tim under Personal

Dear Sir Ken,

I hope it is OK if I call you Sir Ken. It seems rather friendly for someone I just met today, but then you may be one of the friendliest people I’ve come across. It was an honor to meet you, however briefly, but even more so because I found you to be utterly down to earth and, might I say, humble.

I enjoyed my short talk with you immensely. You weren’t interested in sharing more of your tremendous insights into education and pedagogy (to which I would have eagerly attended). Instead, you wanted to know about my job, if I felt the school I was at was being successful, why I drive 90 miles one way to work, and the general well-being of my mother. You even offered to add one more viewer to my own TEDx Talk (I’m a few views shy of 300 million, but then it’s only been up a few months). And, in case you forgot my last name, here is a link to the video.

I wanted to share with you a thought that went through my head while you were talking today. It was during the time when you were discussing how children learn to talk without a teacher, the general model of education to which we have seemingly become addicted, and how reform hasn’t really worked.

My education background prior to being a public school teacher was in Christian education. We’ve experienced a lot of reform movements in the Church. Years ago I read a book by Gilbert Bilezikian titled, “Community 101: Reclaiming the Local Church as a Community of Oneness.” In that book (which I read while serving as a Christian Servicemen’s Center Director at RAF Mildenhall, a place you might know), Dr. B talked about the original model of the Church being one of community where everyone came and offered something to the setting of worship. For some it might be a prayer. For others a song. Others a word of edification. In all, the Gifts of the Spirit were free to operate, and the Church grew quickly.

As you said about public education, it was personal. It was local. It was cultural. And it was social.

Somewhere along the line, people started doing stupid things.  The Church was not operating as it should.  In Dr. B’s words, it was sick. The Apostle Paul then gave an admonishment to the Church that they should no longer be led by a group of people who were abusing the Spirit’s work.  Instead, they should choose one man of good report to be the “up front” person. He would direct things. And, it worked. The Church regained some focus, and things seemed to be good again.

They standardized the Church.

However, Dr B’s theory is that this should have been a temporary measure.  At some point, when the Church regained it’s footing, it should have gone back to a communal sharing of spiritual gifts. But it never did. And we’ve been operating in a “sick church” model ever since.

In spite of several reform movements, the Church has continued to operate under some pretty simple guidelines.  There is a man (or woman) at the front of the church that leads the service through its many phases. There is a singer, or group of singers, that “perform.” Congregants sit in pews (or chairs), face the nice man (or woman) up front, and listen appreciatively to the singers.  We’ve gone from cathedrals to churches to chapels to strip malls to store fronts to home churches to movie theaters, (we’ve even added coffee shops) but they all have this same end result: they cling to the “sick church” model because it is familiar and….well…easy.  Standardization always is.

As I said, I was a  Christian Servicemen’s Center Director.  And this is exactly what I did. I am ashamed to admit it all these years later. I didn’t really know how to break that cycle. And if there was ever a place where it could have been broken, RAF Mildenhall was it.

I said all of this to emphasize the point you made about school reform. We’ve gone through all types of pedagogical changes. We’ve bought books and watched videos (including yours). We’ve adopted Problem Based learning, Project Based Learning, and every other kind of Based Learning you can think of. We’ve emphasized STEM and STEAM and STREAM and more. We’ve tried college ready, career ready, and college AND career ready.

And yet, by and large, our classrooms are still made up of a teacher at the front of the room with students gazing upon their bountiful knowledge from nice, neat rows of desks (or circles or squares or whatever else we have room to try), and we feed them what we’re told they are supposed to learn and test them the way we are told to test them. And we’re not making much headway because we have this “sick school” model with which our systems have grown comfortable.  We’ve even standardized the way we evaluate success by trying to quantify teacher effectiveness.

I have often complained about district policies or state policies or federal policies that hold us back from doing the things we know work. Things that bring out the natural curiosity in our students. Things that ignite the spark of desire. Things that make light bulbs light up over the tops of our students’ heads.

But today, you said something profound for me. I even tweeted it:

This is a model espoused by my principal, Becky Ashe. She may not say it in these words, but she believes it with all her heart. It is partly why I drive 90 miles to work every day. She believes it. She lives it. She leads it. And our school, our kids, our teachers, and our district are the better for it. And yes, I am better for it.

You’d like her. I hope she gets to meet you one day soon. Oh, and she also has a really good TEDx Talk you might enjoy. You can find it here.

Anyway, it was great just hanging out with you. I thought I would feel really nervous being in the presence of such educational and Internet royalty. But you put us all at ease right up front. And that, in my mind, may have been your highest achievement.

Sincerely,

Me

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Mar-10-2017

Nobody Asked Me, But…

Posted by Tim under Personal

I know this post is a little late by modern time standards. I want to talk, again, about A Day Without A Woman.  It was two days ago.  That’s an eternity in social media.  If you are already over it and have moved on, just click on some other site that has more immediacy to it.

Still here? OK.

First off, let me say that I believe strongly in equal rights for all regardless of sex, ethnicity, religion, race, gender, etc.  I do have a few limits to that belief, so perhaps it isn’t totally true. But that’s another discussion. I think International Women’s Day is a great time for us all to realize the importance of women in our society, and to reflect on what equality truly should look like in it.  I’m happy to support March as Women’s Appreciation Month. (Why do I always feel I have to start with a disclaimer? No idea).

I’ve been married twice. I’ve been divorced twice. In my marriages, for some reason, I wound up taking many of those traditionally female roles. When my daughters were young, I ironed their clothes, got them dressed, and fed them breakfast as part of getting them ready for school. In my last marriage, my wife made twice as much (more like three times as much at times) money as I did, worked longer hours, had more responsibilities that kept her away from the home, and still had time to be a great wife, mother, budgeter, and checkbook balancer.

I say all of that to say, yes, I am a male chauvinist about some things, but I fall far shy of being a pig. I’m also empathetic towards the plight of women in the world and attempt to support their equality in small ways that I can do on a daily basis. And I’m a bit of a curmudgeon.

I have been thinking about A Day Without A Woman, and decided to blog about it not from the perspective of a man (although I’m sure it’s in there somewhere). I want to talk about it from the perspective of a school administrator doing a teacher observation.

With that in mind, let’s start with the reinforcement areas. In teacher-speak, that means the things that appeared to go well.

  • Getting the word out – It appears that nearly everyone knew that March 8 was A Day Without A Woman Day. Some within my own circle of influence were not aware that this was part of a larger experience called the International Women’s Day (and that included women). But, it got pretty good news coverage, and that coverage was mostly positive.
  • Being inclusive – One of the complaints about the International Women’s Day in general is that it is mostly the work of women who identify themselves as Liberal or on the Left. That is not always the case, but it is the perception. For this event, there seemed to be a push for all women, regardless of political views, to participate. Kudos.

Then come those pesky areas of refinement. Again, this is teacher-speak for the areas that could have gone better, or flat-out failed.

  • From my perspective, there was no adequate alternative plan. Obviously, not every woman can take the day off and leave their workforce hanging. Small businesses depend on revenues every single day just to survive. Emergency services still have to operate. Teachers are still expected to teach.
    • One alternative was to shop at women-owned businesses, or businesses run by women. Great idea.  Who are they? I would have shopped there as a man just to support them. I would shop there more often. But I have no idea who they are in my area.
    • Another alternative was to wear red.  Really? A strong statement of equality comes from a fashion accessory? How many people even knew that red scarf or blouse or pair of shoes meant “I wish I could have taken off work, but I’m still standing with others”?
    • I wish more emphasis had been placed on getting women from all walks of life to email or call their legislators.  I know some did this, but it wasn’t evident to me as an observer that it was the larger push.
  • One of the things we look for with assessments in the classroom are the end results.  You gave a test.  Great.  What happened? With the Women’s March after the Inauguration, the results were immediate. They were visceral. Women all over the world, not just in DC, marched in solidarity. Seeing nearly half a million women in DC was a powerful visual on the news. Seeing that repeated in cities all across the country and in other nations was also fantastic.  A Day Without A Woman was very hard to gauge for success. Here are the questions I would ask as an evaluator in the classroom:
    • How many women stayed home?  There is nothing in your data that tells me how widespread this action was.
    • What differences did you see between blue cities and red rural areas?
    • Did you get involvement from women who would not ordinarily support this cause? In other words, to use Seth Godin’s phrase, how has your idea spread?
    • In women-owned or women-run businesses, did they see a significant increase in sales that day? To my mind, and I have said this before, it appeared to be more of a “no one buy gas on  Tuesday” kind of protest. One day isn’t even going to register as a blip on the revenue screen. Do you have evidence that this worked better than everyone jumping up and down all at once in the Western hemisphere in order to get the earth off its orbit?
    • After what appeared to be such a rousing success with the march, this appeared to be an action taken because women were tired of doing real protests. More like “calling it in” than actually promoting change. Show me evidence that would tell me I am way off base.

The other thing that happens in a post-conference (usually at the beginning for me) is a simple question set: How do you think it went? What worked? What would you change if you did this again in the future?

I could go on, but this post is far too long already. Feel free to comment either agreement or something that tells me I’m just an old fuddy duddy man who doesn’t understand a thing about women or women’s rights.  Just keep them calm and persuasive.  I would love for this action to have shown more impact than it did.  Truly I would have. I know we can’t knock it out of the park every time we plan an activity.

Nobody asked me, but I decided to share my opinion anyway. If you made it this far, thank you.

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Mar-9-2017

Here’s Hoping For More

Posted by Tim under Personal

Yesterday was International Women’s Day.  To my surprise, a few people seem not to know anything about this day, its history, or its significance. You can catch up on some reading here.  (No, Wikipedia is not Wikileaks).

To sum it up, it started in 1909, and was officially listed as a “day” in about 1914. Begun by the Socialist Party, the day was offered as a way to emphasize the importance of women in society.  The right to vote was a priority for the movement.  In 1917, women helped bring down the government of Russia with their efforts on this day (although it was on March 8 in the Gregorian calendar…which was in February for the rest of us).

Like Christians taking pagan holidays and making them religious (Christmas, Easter, etc), I don’t lend any credence to an argument that International Women’s Day is a socialist movement attempting to overthrow democracy.  It has morphed since that time, and, in my mind, probably become so diluted as to be nearly meaningless on the world stage.  (But that’s just me).

Yesterday, I posted a question, a very poorly worded question, to teachers on Facebook about involvement in the Day Without a Woman strike. A small handful of school districts across the country were closed yesterday because such a large part of their teachers and substitute teachers were not coming to work. The numbers were small, but I still found it significant. And so I asked a simple question: at what point do teachers decide they cannot participate in such protest activities because the livelihood of children often depend on the schools being open.

What I found was intriguing to me. And here are my takeaways from that conversation:

  • First, not all women even know about International Women’s Day, let alone A Day Without A Woman.  No, this did not come up in my discussion, but from reading through posts of other teachers who are women. I found that to be quite sad. I am a believer in equal rights for all, and a day with this kind of historical significance should be known, especially by those who it seeks to empower.
  • Second, not all women agree with the strike movement. I haven’t done a geographic detail of who responded, so I don’t know if it is mostly based on the local culture or not. I’m in a Right to Work state, so strikes in the public sector are not allowed. We have found other ways to make our voices heard.  Regardless, the small group discussion on my post appeared to be about half the women in favor of the protest (and participating in some way) and half thought it more important to make sure they showed up at school (some wore red to participate while others did not participate at all).
  • Third, the disagreement on staying out of work as teachers was not divided down Liberal/Conservative lines.  That surprised me slightly. International Women’s Day is, in large part, a Liberal women’s movement, as was the march in DC recently. And yet, several thought this was not the protest for them.
  • Fourth, while men participated in the conversation, our voices were sometimes politely rebuked because we can’t possibly know what it means to be a woman in America…or the world. True. But I was extremely happy to see that men were not attacked. I wasn’t really sure how that was going to go. The only thread I had to delete (so far) was between two men, so there’s that.
  • Last, the discussion renewed my faith in  Facebook as a platform for social discussion. People made their points, some more forcefully than others, but everyone seemed to truly read the comments before posting a response. And, if they mistook someone’s meaning, the listened when clarifications were posted. That meant more dialogue and no shouting or anger. It doesn’t happen as often as I would like on social media, but it does happen.

I’ll save my personal thoughts on International Women’s Day for another post. Not that the thoughts of a white male administrator are going to carry much weight. But it’s my blog and I’ll post if I want to (or however that song goes).

The one thing that I will say is this: It is crucial that those who govern, as well as those who lead, represent all of the people of this great country. We will not survive if we maintain the status quo of white male administrators having control of the government, the businesses, the stock market, the school systems, and more. Days like the International Women’s Day can help. It has helped in the past. It can help again.

Here’s hoping for more.

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