The Value of Experience

How do you quantify an experience? Some things cannot be measured with any degree of accuracy and that is difficult for people who equate “quantify” and “verify” to understand.

I remember a nurse coming into my room after the birth of my daughter with a chart that depicted stick-figure faces that progressed from happy to severely pained. The faces were numbered 1-10.  I was asked to point to the face that best represented my level of discomfort. Pain relief was offered when I indicated my pain was at a “7” face.

I laughed every time I was given this task because of how ridiculous it felt. My 7 could be someone else’s 10—someone else’s 4. My own 7 could be my own 4 had I been asked when I was less exhausted. Experience rooted in personal perspective and emotion cannot be assigned a number and then compared to others. The human experience cannot be normed.  The most recent teacher evaluation system is much like the hospital’s pain-face chart. It is attempting to quantify an experience.

I know my daughter’s teacher is highly effective because my daughter comes home happy. She made friends and when she didn’t get along with someone, she learned how to handle those emotions. She asks questions about the world around her because a curiosity has been sparked. Her teacher did not simply deliver curriculum to the class.  She shared 10 months of her life with them.  She instilled empathy and trust. She turned the apprehension of kindergarten into excitement for first grade. To assign a number to the magic that happened in that classroom is just as silly to me as pointing to a pain-face.

I refused all APPR testing for my daughter, so I cannot tell you if she is a 1 or a 4. However, I can tell you that yesterday, for the first time, she read a book from cover to cover and didn’t miss a word.  We were on our way home from the book store where she picked out Knufflebunny, by Mo Willems.  She also picked out Watch Me Throw the Ball, also by Mo Willems, because she “loves the author.” Because of her teacher, my five year old has a favorite author. What number effectiveness is that?

I listened to her read Knufflebunny while driving home. I heard her read “laundromat” and then quickly confess that she used the picture to help her. I heard her correct her “b” sound to a “d” sound when the word didn’t make sense. I heard the long silence between page turns while she studied the illustrations–appreciating the marriage of narration and art. I heard evidence of effective teaching in that silence because it meant my daughter had learned to love the multi-dimensional experience of reading.

Teaching is an art to be appreciated for its depth and ability to inspire in ways as unique as each child. I am thankful for my daughter’s teacher and the many others like her that continue to provide meaningful experiences for the children in their charge, even when the pressure is to simply deliver curriculum. Every day their instruction is driven by insight and instinct honed by years in the classroom, even when the pressure is to drive with data. To all of these teachers, may you have a restful summer to recuperate after a trying year. You cannot waiver in your resolution to protect the art of teaching from being transformed into the act of relaying information. Do not close your classroom door and wait for the tide to turn. Cast off your ridiculous numbers and unite. Use this summer to internalize the fact that you deserve respect. You are intelligent professionals, and for that you are strong. You are compassionate artists, and for that you are greatly appreciated.


Stronger Together

I wear a lot of colors. I wear my yellow ribbon for the brave men and women that allow me to speak freely. I wear my rainbow ribbon because love is love. I wear my pink ribbon for too many to count. I have purple, red and blue ribbons, lanyards and bracelets; all to raise awareness and show support. Most dear to me, however, are my green laces. I have been wearing them for years and they have sparked so many conversations about what is best for children and teachers. When 200,000 tests were refused in NYS this year, I felt like my laces played a little part in that victory.

Two years ago, when a rabbit and a pineapple asked, “Hey, what do you think about green laces?” I thought it was a great way to get conversations started, especially in faculty rooms, where silence on the issue of education reform was all too prevalent. Now, I am feeling that more than conversation is necessary in faculty rooms. We need action. Teachers, we need to stand up and tell our union leadership that we have demands and expectations for our profession. We need to be loud and persistent about our commitment to providing an education to our students that will allow them to be successful, happy adults. We need to demand that our concerns are heard and considered with legitimacy.

Complacency has shifted to awareness and awareness needs to shift to action. The moment I changed my white laces to green is one that will forever stand out in my memory as a defining moment as a teacher. Tonight marks another such moment. Tonight I filled out my membership form for ST Caucus, and in doing so, I felt a camaraderie and optimism that has not been evoked by NYSUT in a very long time.

Remember the String

The only tangible thing I give students in my English 12 class is a piece of bakery string. I don’t give them tests. I don’t give them jobs. I give them a piece of string they tie around their fingers. Today affirmed for me why it is the only thing many of my students have and will care about.

When he walked into the resource center in his Marine uniform, my memory of his high school self, blood-shot eyes, huge curly hair, and sleepy laugh, made me half uncertain I knew who had walked in. I rose to shake his hand, but it turned into a hug. It was him; a confident, calm diamond that was hidden in a cloud just a few years earlier.

As we spoke, I was proud of his transformation, yet I knew the change I saw was the result of Basic, not the classroom activities he respectfully endured in my class.

I asked if he remembered anything from high school. “No, sir. It’s all down the drain,” he replied without the giggle he once had in high school, yet was still the direct, honest person he was in class. “But I kept your string.”

A hot fuzzy ball filled my throat.

On his first day in my class, he participated in the string exercise which I use to learn students’ names, create a class culture, and demonstrate the lessons I focus on for the year: collaboration, problem solving, reflection, planning, communication, lateral thinking to name a few. For the string exercise, students stand in a circle state their names, share something they love with the group, tie the piece of the string around a finger, then pass the string to someone else in the circle. By the end, every student is attached to every other student by the piece of string and the middle of the circle usually looks like a spider web.

The lesson ends with the instruction, “Return the string to me.” He took the initiative to wrap the string around a pencil so it wouldn’t get tangled.

For the following 40 weeks, he was often late, seldom quiet, and usually high, but managed to pass.

On the last day of class, after dozens of projects, assignments, but not one test, his class went outside for the last lesson. “Here is the string from the first day of class,” I said. “Each person must have a piece tied to a finger. Cover as much ground as possible. Go.”

It took time for his class to untangle the string, but eventually, they made a large oval. “Is this the most ground you can cover?” I asked. I spoke about their year, shared how proud I was of all they had done, and took out a pair of scissors. I explained the metaphor as I cut the string connecting them. The message was simple. It’s relationships that matter and it’s the emotions we remember. Cutting the bakery string was at once liberating and painful for him and his classmates.

With the string between the students cut, the class could circle the globe and keep the relationships and memories from their time in high school.

“I kept your string.” My eyes watered.

For all the time, money, and intelligence spent trying to undo the educational knot and achievement gaps, what will the students remember that is of value from their time in school? They’ll remember the strings that connect us. They’ll remember who was in their circle, who wasn’t, why, and how they felt with the clarity only the heart allows.

Kids need connections. Teachers know this. Parents know this. Human beings know this. Kids do not need to be measured. They already know where they are expected to fit and measuring only confirms their insecurities.

To expect today’s teens to conform to a factory model system of education based on the enlightenment in a time of exponential growth and opportunity is as contrary to progress as giving a 6 year old who has been in the country less than a year an essay to write based on a passage written at level O.

Ophelia’s line holds true here. “For to the noble mind, rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.” It was the intention behind a piece of bakery string that kept it in the hands of a Marine and the reciprocal nature of love that moved the heart of his teacher.

NY Teachers- join ST Caucus and bring real change to your school house

We represent the combined effort of parents and teachers. We are ignored by politicians and union leadership alike.

Our strength comes in our numbers and our agenda is simple- we want what is best for our children.

I have tried to hold Randi accountable and have attacked NYSUT’s leadership every time they have taken us down a path that is harmful to our children. I am but a mosquito to these people, but there is hope…

I highly encourage like-minded rank & file teachers to join the ST Caucus. In full disclosure, I am not an officer nor do I play any significant role in the ST caucus (other than supporter). I know the people that have constructed this caucus. They are student centered and share our values. I believe in them. If teachers want to bring real change into their school houses, I encourage you all to join.

ST Caucus will be present at the NYSUT RA in Buffalo. Please tell your reps that you want to join or ask them to bring back more information.


#tellRandi to Drop Support of Annual Common Core Testing

AFT President Randi Weingarten is scheduled to appear today at the NPE Conference in Chicago.

No coincidence that just yesterday, she rushed to England to tell Pearson to stop spying on children.  (Back on March 15, 2015 it was discovered that Pearson was spying on children to make sure their precious testing materials were not leaked online.)  

This is not the first time Randi has flown to England to set the record straight with Pearson.  It was 1 year ago that she showed up to demand that Pearson lift the gag order for its testing.  Pearson has not lifted the gag order.

The spying continues, the gag order is in place, and the tests continue to not only to be linked to teacher evaluations, but in most cases are playing a more prominent role in those evaluations.  And yet Randi and the Aft continue to demand annual Common Core state tests continue.  She even went so far as to thank the NY Assembly for voting in the bill that now allows testing to account for 50% of teachers’ evaluations.

While Randi and the AFT claim testing is civil right and provides valuable data, she should have been listening to her counterpart from England at yesterday’s protest,

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said: “School curricula should not be patented and charged for. Tests should not distort what is taught and how it is assessed.

“Unfortunately, as the profit motive embeds itself in education systems around the world, these fundamental principles come under ever greater threat leading to greater inequality and exclusion for the most disadvantaged children and young people.”

Testing is not a civil right Randi and the data is only used to punish, not support students and their school houses.

It is time to #tellRandi to drop support for annual Common Core state testing.

Reformers Save Schools from Parents

Federal agents raided the homes and classrooms of hundreds of parents, teachers, and educational “advocates” today because of their involvement with the “opt-out movement.” This illegal act of defiance has cost millions in tax payer’s money and now the feds as well as state education officials are cracking down.

Among the charges these people face are endangering the welfare of minors, insubordination, and churlishness.

Mr. Glynn of Brookhaven Elementary School was removed earlier this morning from his school’s playground in which he was wasting valuable time for rigorous learning to play soccer with his class. It took officials a while to find him as they assumed he would be in the teachers’ lounge during his lunch break.

Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education was outraged over the number of parents who refused the tests in New York. “We made it clear that schools are failing,” he said. “We had scores, scatter plots, and expensive commercials made. Clearly the suburban white moms are not only in denial about the intelligence of their kids, but also about the quality of their schools.”

Former Commissioner, John King, who has lobbied to change the spelling to “commisioner,” was not surprised by the opt-out numbers. “As commisioner in New York, I clearly established that schools are failing by failing 70% of the students who took state tests. Parents in New York reject challenges it seems.”

Disgraced Superintendent, Dr. Joseph Rella was forcibly removed from a piano bench while accompanying his elementary school students’ concert. It took three federal agents to stop him from playing. The children’s choir, as if brainwashed, did not miss a note. It was only after the fifth grade chorus finished “This Land is Your Land” that the defiant Rella was taken. Many Comsewogue community members were detained including every member of the Rennard family. When Newsday asked for a comment, Dr. Rella replied, “I don’t speak English.”

Jeanette Deutermann, one of the masterminds behind the massive opt out movement was sentenced to life in Finland. She claims she is not from there.

Mike Mulgrew, recently appointed Education Czar was firm in his commitment to keeping America competitve. “These tests will return the US to educational prominence. I will drop kick the next person in the eye brow who says they ain’t.”

The number of arrested teachers tells the story of just how damaged the education system in New York was. On Long Island, 70% of the teaching force was fired for their ties to social media groups such as Long Island Opt Out, Lace to the Top, and NYSAPE to name a few.

Activity in these groups was deemed unlawful by the recently passed bipartisan bill, “Save Schools from Parents Act.” This bill will guarantee every child will be assessed and eliminate the agendas of negative social media groups that attempt to promote activities that are ruled to be “dangerous to the ideals and beliefs of the American people.” Any families that join these groups or “friend” members of said groups are considered a “threat” to the children in American schools.

New charter schools will be created for the children of identified families. One of the interview questions officials have shared will be “Are you or have you ever been a member of the Green Lacer party?”

Teach for America has decided to reduce the time required for students to be certified to 45 minutes in order to fill the enormous number of vacancies left by the teachers who refused to obey the directives of the State Education Department.

One art teacher who chose to remain nameless revealed teachers openly cared more for how pretty students painted or sang, rather than students’ scores on tests. “I was told to substitute a self-portrait painting project using paint and items important in a child’s life with the New York State art module on bubble-filling called, ‘The Art and Beauty of a Completely Filled Bubble.'”

Schools will save hundreds with teachers’ dismissals and a more efficient change to a color wheel with “acceptable shades of gray” which are #2 grey and graphite gray.

Diane Ravitch, was placed on the “No Quote List.” Ms. Ravitch has been a harsh critic of standardized testing and a promoter of test refusals. She was not contacted for comment as per the new law which states, “Those on the ‘No Quote List,’ which immediately and irrevocably denies any person with blogs with over 18 million reads on the topic of education reform, may not communicate any ideas about education no matter how logical and intelligent the thoughts may be, to any form of media under the penalty of virus on all Microsoft product said violator owns.”

One parent spoke candidly about the number of teachers fired. “I told them, don’t opt out! You’ll get in trouble. Guess that’s what happens when unions get crazy ideas into the heads of good law-abiding parents.”

Special counselors have been hired to help students transition to life with in their newer and more rigorous schools. New Commisioner, Ken Wagner said, “This will be a challenging time for our young people. Teaching is the core. We have an obligation to prepare our students for college and career. This is a team effort. One test at a time. We can no longer ignore our most neglected populations. Hakuna matata.” Commisioner Wagner chose his former boss’ spelling to keep his legacy of positive change alive.

Among the most infamous to be detained are Tim Farley the former principal and deviant radical from upstate New York best known for his insulting tweets and subversive posts.

Beth Dimino, union head honcho for Comsewogue and science teacher neglected her professional responsibilities to her job by feigning concern for her students’ well being.

Dr. Carol Burris, the former “Principal of the Year” turned insurgent was fined $100,000 for each article published in The Washington Post in which she claimed the tests used by NYSED were bad. Valerie Strauss, who collaborated with Dr. Burris has been transferred to work the alien sighting division of The National Enquirer.

Randi Weingarten expressed sadness over the loss of so many teachers and joy at the hope promised with a new era of testing.

The Bad (Expletive deleted) Teacher, B.A.T.S. were dismantled. Marla Kilfoyle did not go down without a verbal attack on the feds who tried to convince her to go quietly. “I will not allow you to destroy our kids futures!” she shouted. Officials pointed out that her group has a bad word in it, which means they should not be trusted.

New dress code laws were included with the bill including misdemeanor charges for wearing red in large numbers during outside of legislators’ offices and felony charges for any individual wearing green laces, lanyards, and/or bracelets.

All meme making software has been removed from the Internet.

Now that reformers have removed meddlesome parents from curtailing their plan, reformers have decided to move the SAT TO 4th grade and give any school without 85% of its students 1200 the death penalty.

Gates funded Fordham Institute purchased Fordham University. They wanted to create a college that would cater to the new college and career ready brand of student that schools were now producing. First order of business was to remove Dr. Mark Naison. The reason for his termination was “He kept it too real. Any professional who knows the definition of a term like ‘badunkadunk’ is clearly of dubious moral fiber.”

Leonie Haimson was also found guilty of over 2 million counts of endangering the welfare of minors for her actions which led to the end of inBloom, the group that envisioned a system that would ensure students’ progress could finally be taken out of the grasp of teachers and their unions. Her work with Class Size Matters will also be used in upcoming litigation.

It is believed that inBloom will begin data mining as early as tomorrow. An official reported, “We hoped to serve the tax payers of New York with reliable data for a snapshot of their schools.”

Governor Cuomo, the students’ governor spoke at a Success Academy dinner last night on the yacht, “Advoca-Sea.” He praised the feds strong stance against those who promoted opt out. “We are seeing a shift. The age of teachers’ monopoly over your children’s lives is coming to an end. Students will never again be used as pawns in labor disputes. Trust us. We care about all children more than greedy unions and misguided parents from middle class neighborhoods.”

The Newsday cartoonist parents & teachers are laughing at

In the words of Green Lacer Kevin Kirk, “This is today’s (4/16/15) Newsday political cartoon. Matt Davies’ cartoon is ill conceived and not even the slightest bit funny. The cartoon’s “irony” wreaks of desperation on the part of Newsday in its efforts to prop up Common Core support (through propaganda) to its readers. This cartoon simply exposes just how desperate Newsday has become in this endeavor. Instead of reporting the news, Newsday’s brand of advocacy “journalism” has exposed Newsday as the Fox News of Common Core.”


Pictures are worth a 1,000 words, unless you’re Matt Davies of Newsday.  His pictures are worth far less so he had to add the following caption:


It is clear that Matt has not dedicated much time to learning about the opt out movement.  From the looks of it, he hasn’t dedicated much time to his cartoons or humor either.

Matt & our friends at Newsday, we have a cartoon for you:

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 10.28.44 AM

Lace to the Top

On Facing Resistance

I googled “protest” hoping to find an image to add to the sign I was making.  I instantly found myself lost in a world of black and white snapshots of our country’s history.  As I scrolled through, I saw photographs of Americans desperate for change.  Their signs were timeless; they demanded equality and respect.   I had seen many of these images, or similar images, many times before.  What struck me this time, for the first time, was the opposition that was sprinkled throughout the rows of search results.  One image in particular grabbed my attention.  It was a picture of men lined up in front of the headquarters of the National Association Opposed to Woman’s Suffrage. They were reading the information posted in the window by an organization that was actively trying to quell the rebellion that was growing within a discontented population.

At every point in our history when people have demanded change, there have been those resisting that change.  Women demanded the right to vote.  Reasons to oppose this change included suffrage fostering an unhealthy competition with men, women only serving to either double or annul their husband’s vote, and the benefit not outweighing the costs involved.  These reasons were stated as fact, printed in brochures and disseminated widely. It must be noted that the NAOWS was heavily funded by those who were positioned to make profit from the sale of alcohol.  Was their opposition fueled by their fear that women voting would lead to the passage of laws that would limit alcohol consumption and sales?

The suffragettes faced fierce opposition for the same reason that we “refusers” are being opposed.  We threaten an established belief about how the world should be.  By refusing the tests, we are saying that our public education system has been bought.  That is scary.  We are forcing people to grapple with the idea of losing local control of their schools. That is scary.  We are exposing the plan of those that are positioned to make a profit from the privatization of our public schools.  That is dangerous.

We have to let go of the notion that we are “just” moms, dads and students opting out of a test. We are all equally important parts of a movement that will preserve public education.  We are teaching our children that education is to be valued. We are telling our legislators that they are being held accountable. We are telling millionaires that our schools can’t be bought.  When people tell us that we are teaching our children to be quitters, that the tests are necessary, and that there is no effect on their kids, we need to picture them standing at the NAOWS headquarters.  They are the resistors that have been present during every call for change.  We are the proud, brave people whose images will define the movement.

Old Math Trumps Common Core Math

I have grown a bit tired of engageNY videos and those that insist Common Core math is somehow superior to “old math.” Math is math. Look at the traditional example they always give to knock “old math.”

In order to understand this problem, one needs to have a firm grasp on place value. Place value is taught in kindergarten on up.

243 is 200+40+3

Many want to pretend that we simply taught children to cross out and adjust numbers because that’s what the algorithm decided- BS.

The foundation for this problem was previously laid down in K, built on in 1st, and practiced in 2nd grade and up. An algorithm would take seconds to teach, the “why” takes years- and before Common Core it did take years.

In fact, the groundwork was laid through hands on manipulative blocks.
I.e. 18-9. Students would physically manipulate the 18 from 1 ten and 8 ones into 18 ones before performing the operation. Why? Because you can’t take 9 ones away from 8 ones. Sounds like a pretty solid understanding and building of a number sense to me.

What we are now dealing with are highly decorated college profs that somehow believe they have become masters of math- mostly because teachers wanted to give it a chance.

The trial is over. Common Core math does little more than dilute the great work that we were doing before. Stop pretending this math was delivered from a mountain. It came from those with not an ounce of understanding about child development and their expertise in 3rd grade was granted because 20-30 years ago they were once 3rd graders.

Why can you solve this problem is a question that was asked and thoroughly answered long before Common Core.



In life, you are defined by your actions. Next week, we will be taking a stand against multi billion dollar corporations and the politicians they have purchased. We are taking them on with no financial support, minimal media coverage, and against all odds. It is truly amazing how strong you can become when your children need you. This is the moment that Davy runs full speed to fight Goliath.

I’m not guaranteeing that we will win, but I will guarantee that every SOB that has tried to profit from destroying our children’s education will retract from know-it-alls into the spineless cowards they truly are. The for sale signs they thought they saw on our school houses will read BEWARE OF PARENTS & TEACHERS!

You are heroes – act accordingly!

Lace to the Top