Category Archives: Education

Press Release (Reblog): Save Our Schools Response to Hurricane Sandy

Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 5, 2012
Contacts:
Bess Altwerger, SOS Action Committee bessaltwer@aol.com
Bob George, SOS Steering Committee jorgereads@mac.com

SAVE OUR SCHOOLS RESPONSE TO HURRICANE SANDY

Please Donate to the Hurricane Sandy Student and Teacher Support Fund

Save Our Schools calls on all local, state and federal authorities to spare no expense in rushing aide to thousands of school children and teachers affected by hurricane Sandy. The devastating loss of homes, clothing, books and school supplies will result in a serious and prolonged disruption to education. Schools that have suffered destruction from flooding will need immediate assistance to replace materials and restore a healthy, safe environment for all students and employees. Students experiencing the trauma of fear and loss need counseling and other social services to ensure their emotional health and optimize their ability to continue learning. We need to do all that we can to make certain adequate services are provided. Building a sense of connection and care, and providing opportunities to process with others what has just occurred should be a key focus of instruction at this time.

Learn more at saveourschools.org

Hurricane Sandy Two Important Research Findings on Children and Trauma Support the Halting of Testing in K-12 Public Schools: An Open Letter to Governor Christie, Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg

Dear Governor Christie, Governor Cuomo, and Mayor Bloomberg,

I write to applaud your rapid response to Hurricane Sandy. You have been decisive in your decision making and tireless in your efforts to care for all those who have suffered because of the brute force of the storm. Many of the decisions you have made have been courageous, some unexpectedly so. I urge you now to make one more decision for the sake of the children who whose lives have been so tragically impacted by Sandy.

It is imperative that executive decisions are made so that displaced students are not required to take benchmarking assessments in their new, “temporary” schools. Of equal importance is the suspension of all testing of children whose lives have been deeply affected by the storm. The focus on all new evaluative procedures should be postponed. The push to fully implement APPR, SLOs, DASA, HEDI, summative evaluations, benchmarks, and baseline rubrics, should also be suspended.

An immediate necessity is the push back of the end of the marking quarter. “For my district and I imagine most others, missing this past week means projects, essays, and tests upon return to round out the quarter average that is already stunted by the APPR benchmarking assessments,” a teacher states. “We are scheduled to close our gradebooks Friday and report grades by Tuesday the November 13.

Such pressures in times of catastrophe increase the possibility that children will experience lasting effects on their health and well being as well as their academic development. In the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic event or in an on-going emergency, school administrators and teachers need all testing to be suspended so that they can work together to: (1) support the social and emotional well-being of children; and (2) create classrooms that encourage resiliency. It is of vital importance that all pedagogical initiatives ensure that every child has the opportunity to engage in activities that support their learning in healthful and productive ways.

Two research findings provide a framework for schools to establish safe learning environments for K-12 students in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  Both findings are supported by ethnographic research in locations where catastrophic events have taken place and/or emergency situations exist; and by medical, psychiatric and psychological research on children and mass trauma. The first finding is that it is important that we do everything we can to restore the social fabric of children’s everyday lives if they are to have the best chance possible to recover when catastrophic events take place. The second finding is that children need to experience joy if they are going to have the best chance possible to recover from potentially traumatic experiences.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy these two findings support the focus on schools as social environments that can enhance the health and well being of students as well as their academic development.. The research based recommendations are presented in depth in “Recommendations for Administrators and Teachers Reopening Schools in the Aftermath of the Storm”. Summarized here, they are deceptively simple:

  1. Establish schools as safe, joyful places for children and teachers;
  2. Ensure that schools are nurturing environments in which children who have been    evacuated can become welcome members of the school community;
  3. Promote children’s health and well being by providing them with increased opportunities to participate in art, music, drama, dance, and physical education;
  4. Enhance academic learning through meaningful literacy activities, listening to and reading stories, participating in constructivist math and science projects, and other meaning making activities;
  5. Encourage family and community participation in the daily life of the school;
  6. Make sure that the school takes part in community events and activities.

These recommendations are not earth shattering suggestions, but to implement them will take a suspension of stressful mandated requirements. There is no doubt that the current intense focus on testing and value added assessment increases the pressures on children and teachers who have experienced a potentially traumatizing disaster such as Hurricane Sandy. Thus suspending these testing policies and mandates becomes critically important if teachers are to focus on creating environments in schools which will contribute to the restoration of the social fabric of children’s everyday lives.  In such circumstances creative, imaginative and joyful learning experiences that are responsive to the social, emotional and intellectual needs of children, and which support their learning in healthful and productive ways are absolutely essential.

Sincerely,

Denny Taylor
Professor of Literacy Studies
Founding Director of the International Center for Everybody’s Child
Hofstra University

Hurricane Sandy Recommendations for Administrators and Teachers Reopening Schools in the Aftermath of the Storm

Recommendations for Administrators and Teachers Responding to Hurricane Sandy:

            Hurricane Sandy has created long lasting catastrophic conditions in the North East of the United States. People are making heroic efforts to respond to the emergency.  At hospitals in New York City nurses arrived on Sunday and did not leave until Wednesday evening. On Monday Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of NYC, called on New York teachers to be first responders in public shelters in the city. Teachers are strong, capable, compassionate, and always ready to take care of children and their families, but, unlike doctors, nurses, the police, firefighters and EMT’s, teachers receive little or no training.

Nevertheless teachers are leading the way.

One teacher from Long Beach writes, “I have been running our medical triage where we assess patients and then dispatch them to ambulances or to busses to be transported to shelters. We also have a doctor working off of a trolley trying to see as many people as he can to get medication and vaccinations out to the people who need it. The outreach has been amazing”.

“I am wondering what they are doing about the public schools here?” the same teacher writes. “They got a lot of damage from what I understand and many students have been displaced from their homes”.

“We have a meeting at one of the schools in Long Beach on Tuesday for those who can make it,” another teacher writes. “I’m going to attend, and see what my district plans on doing in regard to the school year. My school also had 3-5 feet of water in every classroom, and is in the worst shape out of all buildings in the district. I can’t imagine how we are going to have school.”

School districts across the U.S. have developed emergency plans; however, few educators receive preparation to be first responders in the aftermath of catastrophic events when schools reopen and children arrive whose homes have been damaged or destroyed. Some will not know what has happened to family and friends; others will have lost their pets. Many of their families will be living without light or heat and some will have difficulty obtaining water or fresh food to eat.

In such circumstances many teachers will have experienced similar losses and hardships, and yet they will return to school to make sure their classrooms are safe places for students to be. The following recommendations are based upon the findings of psychiatric and medical research and build on the advice the National Child Stress Network (2006). The recommendations are also supported by the findings of my ethnographic research in schools in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and in schools in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The most recent review of the recommendations took place in May 2008 when teachers in St. Bernard Parish and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana reflected on the impact of the storm (their advice is included in parentheses).

The enduring message, in hindsight, from the teachers in Louisiana is that in the aftermath of catastrophic events all potentially stressful activities (test prep and testing) should be suspended and schools should to be safe joyful places for children to be.  have the opportunity to recover when catastrophes take place. Every effort should be made to recognize the importance of children’s families and friends.  Have a plan, share the plan and stick to the plan. Build strong communities, incorporate health and well being into pedagogical initiatives. Every attempt should be made to take care of the whole child, every child, and make school a joyful place for children to be. This is the basis for school and community preparedness for catastrophes. In the aftermath of teachers in Louisiana stood outside with umbrellas to welcome children back to schools that put the pressures of unreasonable mandates to one side so that they could take care of every child. Here are the recommendations with the addition of the advice of Louisiana teachers are in brackets:

First Responses in Shelters When Catastrophic Events Take Place:

  1. Talking with children and youth and their families, who have experienced a catastrophic event, is an intervention. Just being comfortable with the fact that children are distressed, helps first responders.
  2. Make sure children with special needs are located and that their immediate needs are met. This might include making sure the child receives medical attention (“be prepared to take care of children who are autistic” “and those who are wheelchair bound”).
  3. When there are young children involved, activities that promote a sense of well being include: (a) Playing with children to help distract them; (b) If parents are present holding babies so parents can eat or rest; (c) If there is nothing to do, helping with care giving, just making yourself available, and “being there” with them.
  4. Do not ask children to reveal emotional information, but if they do, listen, (“provide opportunities” “give them crayons”)
  5. Try to focus on their immediate needs by reducing hassles for survivors. If you assist doctors and Red Cross workers in problem-solving and logistics (e.g. making telephone calls, replacing personal items, etc.) you are providing a service.
  6. If possible provide personal hygiene items including antibacterial wipes, tissues, lotion, tooth brushes and tooth paste, child and adult diapers, female tampons and pads.

First Responses in Schools:

  1. Assume that students are doing their absolute best to cope.
  2. Encourage students to engage in self-care.
  3. Help students feel as much in control as they can.
  4. Make sure students with special needs receive assistance (“think about allergies” “peanut butter”).
  5. Don’t assume first responders have taken care of basic needs.
  6. Make sure students have food, clothing and shelter.
  7. Keep parents informed and send letters when possible (“If possible” “Finding ways to communicate is very difficult”).
  8. Teachers should not provide psychological intervention, but simply listen and support students who are in distress.
  9. It is important that students are not asked to tell their stories. Talking about what happened to them and their families can lead to students reliving the catastrophic event and to retraumatization.
  10. If students talk about the events that have taken place, listen and “be there” for them.
  11. If students focus on the catastrophic event when they write or draw, make sure that they keep their work.
  12. Respect students’ wishes.
  13. Do not make false assurances.
  14. Re-establish basic routines with students (“try to do this as soon as possible”).
  15. Engage students in creative activities. Music and art are important.
  16. Read stories and then more stories
  17. Suspend all activities that might be stressful.
  18. Test prep and tests should be postponed
  19. Make sure there is time for students to play, have fun, and participate in sports activities. Participating in pleasurable activities is essential for recovery.
  20. Reassure students that with the exception of self-destructive behaviors and emotions, their feelings and reactions are reasonable given the situation. (“We are seeing students who coped after the storm who are now having difficulties”).
  21. If you are concerned about a student, know what to do to triage that student and get them mental or physical health services at your site.
  22. Let an administrator or someone in charge of the relief effort know what needs you have identified, so services can be provided to help meet the needs of your students.
  23. Make sure that every teacher has a list of resources and knows what services are available.
  24. Remember that teachers have also experienced the catastrophic event and need support too.

Learning from Teachers who were First Responders in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

In Louisiana in May 2008 teachers talked about the importance of making time for teacher support groups. Meetings can be held at lunch time or after school. Teachers need time to discuss what’s happening and share feelings. These groups should be non-hierarchical and rotate leadership.

The Louisiana teachers emphasized the importance that time is also set aside for students to talk. “Morning meetings,” one teacher said, “we roll a dice with happy, sad, embarrassing, scary, and funny on it and children talk if they want to.” They all talked about the importance of helping students find out what had happened to their friends and of reuniting friends whenever possible.

“One catastrophe can lead to another,” a teacher says. She recounts, “A child holding on to a tree with his mother and father was coping okay and then his mother tried to commit suicide.” Other teachers shares similar stories. Three years after Hurricane Katrina tragedies are still occurring. They talk of time. “Catastrophes happen and children might cope but a year later, two years later problems might surface.”

The psychiatrist, Anand Pandya (2006), provides verification of the experiences of the Louisiana teachers when he speaks of the expectation of “symptoms” during the acute phase of an emergency that become “transient and fluid,” often recurring weeks, months or years after the disaster happened. He spoke of the “let down,” and so did the Louisiana teachers, who spoke at length at the changes they were observing in their students’ behaviors, as they began to understand that their families, schools and communities would never be the same as they were before Katrina.  One teacher spoke to the way in which she is approaching this problem. “When something is happening in the community I point it our,” she says. “’Did you see the street signs!’” “’Did you see the new trees they’ve planted?’”

The Louisiana teachers talked of recovery, of the lack of support from Federal agencies and repeatedly spoke of schools as the center of the recovery effort. “It’s important for schools to have a single point of entry for all services that they need,” one says. “If there was a place in school,” another begins. “If schools could have a resource place just like a medical tent,” another continues. “When the school reopened it was the only place parents could eat.” “They came in to use the bathroom.” “It was the only place they could get help.” “We took care of the parents too.” “We are still helping them.”

Writing Pictures and Painting Stories: Creative Acts of Imagination Challenge the Monetization of Public Education

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In Writing Pictures Painting Stories we begin by making connections between people and the planet. I read Italo Calvino’s brilliant story, A Sign in Space, and invite graduate students to imagine the universe. Calvino begins with science as he often does, and he tells the reader “the sun takes about two hundred millions years to make a complete revolution of the Galaxy”. He introduces Qfwfw who when I read to my students I call “Q”. When I read the story to myself Qfwfw is Calvino, an Italian philosopher and literary genius.

Qfwfw draws a sign in space so that he will find it two hundred million years later when he has completed one complete revolution of the galaxy. And it is at this moment that humans begin to think. Before eyes, teeth and noses, making a sign is the first thought.

“What sort of sign?” Calvino pretends we ask. “It’s hard to explain because if I say sign to you, you immediately think of a something that can be distinguished from a something else, but nothing could be distinguished there”.

“As to the form a sign should have, you say it’s no problem because, whatever form it may be given, a sign only has to serve as a sign, that is, be different or else the same as other signs,” but as Calvino explains, “in that period I didn’t have any examples to follow, I couldn’t say I’ll make it the same or I’ll make it different, there were no things to copy, nobody knew what a line was, straight or curved, or even a dot, or a protuberance or a cavity”.

In a few short pages Calvino writes the history of the human race, which reaches the end heaped up with signs and false signs in a universe that no longer exists. But following the story on the first morning, in a conference room that we use as a studio, we begin at the beginning, and I ask the masters and doctoral students in our course to make the first sign in the universe. Later students talk about how challenging it was to make a sign that had no meaning. Students have hours to produce this work. It is a time of deep contemplation. Does life exist without meaning? Is it possible for humans not to mean?

The syllabus suggests otherwise. I won’t repeat it here. In the afternoon students work in small groups reading chapters from Maxine Greene’s Releasing the Imagination, sharing paragraphs that have gained new significance since they made the first sign in the universe. Calvino and Greene make the course magical. Calvino connects our physical existence to the galaxy, for him science, philosophy, and literature are intricately connected. Greene views life on Earth in similar ways. For her, philosophy, literature, and the aesthetic experience are also intertwined. Greene’s writings are not always easy for students to read and they start out hesitatingly at the beginning of the course, but the studio experiences make it possible for them to inhabit the book, and from her writings become part of the artwork the students create.

Quoting Jonathon Kozol’s Savage Inequalities, Greene rejects the narrowing of students’ lives and the cul-de-sacs of the dominant decision makers restructuring of schools. She writes of “looking at things as if they could be otherwise”. Greene brings in John Dewey and the idea of imagination as the “gateway” through which meaning is derived, and Hannah Arendt on the “startling unexpectedness” that is “inherent in all beginnings”.

And so we begin. Together the students recreate the universe, in ways that represent all the ideas they are interpreting about signs and symbols, and about functional and aesthetic texts. There are conversations about language, literacy, color, texture, and design, and discussions about emotion and empathy, hopes and fears, as well as reason. At night their research becomes digital as they explore data sets in a different space on the history of writing systems and the human development of social semiotic systems. If you look closely at the photos of the exhibit you will find a laptop with a slideshow. The laptop is a physical object integral to the installation, as well as a gateway to a digital world that signifies a galaxy of visual and textual information.

After a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the students’ studio work becomes infused with symbolic representations that signify ancient and modern meaning systems that connect them to the ethos of the people who created them. Ethos, mythos, and logos are not separated. They become one, a celebration of humankind. In their group installation people and the planet are reunited irrespective of gender, ethnicity, race, or religion. The work is physical and digital, but the one communicative form does not dominate the other.

On Friday when the installation is complete, students trace the evolution of their thinking and the progression of their textual productions. There are no time limits. Students are just invited to speak. Each presentation is a tour de force, and they surprise themselves as well as each other as they tie together their studio work with their philosophical readings and their visit to the Metropolitan Museum.

And all the while the question that consumes us is: how can we create such opportunities for children in schools that are so crippled by the imposition of program and assessment mandates to support the billion dollar industry that public education in America has become? Releasing the imagination of children from the tests that bind them requires creating spaces in which graduate students can imagine the possibilities for a more just and caring world by teaching in the cracks of dominant and dominating schools “reforms”.

Imagine the possibilities for social and political change if public schools across America made test days “Writing Pictures Painting Stories” days. This would be a creative act of rebellion against the monetization of public education. On Writing Pictures Painting Stories day, Maxine Greene and John Dewey would be back in the classroom, opening up the possibilities for children to imagine themselves in a world that is decent, just, and full of caring. The great artists, philosophers, and scientists could participate in a digital space that anticipates the future as well as the past. Calvino would be in their classrooms with his stories of science and philosophy, encouraging teachers to resist the false signs of the money makers that have “superimposed and coagulated, occupying the whole volume of space”, so that there is “no longer any way to establish a point of reference”. He would extol the importance of creative and imaginative human learning, and encourage us to seize this moment, warning us that if we don’t, we will forget what it is like to think imaginatively and do original work.

“Making signs that weren’t that sign no longer held any interest for me,” Calvino, writing as Qfwfw, tells us. “I had forgotten that sign … so unable to make true signs … I started making false signs, notches in space, holes, stains, little tricks that only an incompetent creature … could mistake for signs.”

Writing pictures and painting stories impacts students’ lives, infusing their hearts and minds with life as it could be otherwise. It is always a significant moment when the students disassemble the installation, and then leave without a trace of the remarkable work they have done. It’s August and the students’ art work fills the floor of the atrium, but the few people who come into the building barely notice as they hurry along the narrow pathway at the edge of our universe on their way to meetings to discuss new mandates including the “common core” which realigns faculty as well as graduate students, flatlining us into meritocracy for profit with false signs and little tricks.

We all pitch in and clear up. When it’s done, students say goodbye to their new friends and to me, but they linger, just standing, as if they want to hold on to the moment. At the end of Calvino’s story Qfwfq wonders if space had “never existed”, if it had been just signs “heaped up”. Perhaps in those last moments before leaving the building and going home the students knew that once they left, the universe that they had created would be lost without a trace, as it if had never been. But we have the photos to prove they were there, and it is in more than our imagination their work exists.

This morning as I think back it seems to me that what they created when they painted the sun with a ray for each student was a golden compass, perhaps more primitive that the one in the book of the same name, but a compass all the same. If we are going to find our way forward and share with our children our common humanity, it might be that the only possibility we have left is to incite imagination and transgress in a day of collective creative action, writing pictures and painting stories instead of passively administering mind numbing and dumbing tests.

Now that the intense week of writing pictures and painting stories is over students have one last assignment, which is ten hours of “field work” in which they share with children the inspiration they have gained from releasing their own imagination in an environment that nurtures language, literacy, science, philosophy and art. When the projects, girded by thousands of years of history, supported by scientific empirical research, by deep understandings of the humanities and the arts, and enacted through a pedagogy that is supported by our current knowledge of human development, arrive in defense of the human spirit, the contrast is striking between the creative and deeply intellectual work of the children and young people, and the work that both young children and older students produce when they are restricted by inappropriate program mandates, and by required but indefensible commercial tests. The quiet, thoughtful conversations that take place in the pedagogical environments that the graduate students establish, are supported by a century of research on human development and learning, and reflect the work of teachers in classrooms across the country, who through their teaching, now transgress. The contrast could not be more striking with the false conversations required in classrooms in which teachers are forced to prep for tests that find their genesis in the vitriolic and denigrating rhetoric of the political decision makers pushing privatization of K-12 public education that is a 500 billion dollar industry for corporations.

“It was incredible to see how creative and imaginative she was,” one graduate student writes of the six year old girl with whom she worked. “I barely helped her and it was fascinating to see what she came up with on her own, in terms of every given task. It was amazing to see what she created by sitting calmly in a relaxed setting with a paintbrush in her hand and paints to play with.” She writes of the child’s interpretations of the letter “W” in Braille and Chinese, and of her “inventiveness while creating different patterns”, and “her ability to apply a message from a book to her own life and to express these insights on paper through art”.

“She really showed me the extent of her knowledge,” the graduate student states. “Not only did I enjoy doing this activity with her, she kept saying over and over how she would love to do this every day in school.”

“Just by her statement,” the student reflects, “I have learned that it’s so crucial that all children need to be independent and have the opportunity to sit, relax, use their imagination and create! I cannot wait to better my teaching strategies as I start a new year with my preschoolers. As an educator and simply as a human being, I have learned that creativity and imagination is a necessity for growth, success, and inner peace for us all, especially for our children. Children and adults need to be inspired on a day to day basis. Imagination allows us to tap into our own inspirations.”

Another graduate student in Writing Pictures Painting Stories worked with two high school students. She writes, “First, I read “The Universe” by May Swenson (LINK to poem) and had students try their best to put what they were visualizing on paper.” It is a Calvino moment. Science, philosophy, and aesthetic experience all wrapped up in a poem.

“What is it about the universe, the universe about us stretching out?” May Swenson asks. She writes, “We, within our brains, within it, think we must unspin the laws that spin it.”

“We think why because we think because,” she responds in verse. “Because we think,

we think the universe about us.” A physicist or philosopher could take these lines and “spin” a book. A literary critic could “spin” the poem. It could become the basis for a conference on people and the planet. For sure, it is as complex as any human thought can be, and yet it is written with simplicity and the high school students seize the moment.

“I asked them to think about the relationship between the universe and humans,” the graduate student explains, “and how we created the concept of meaning.”

“I was surprised to find that neither high school student asked any questions before or after we read. It seemed that they had seen the paint, pastels and paper in front of them and just knew what they wanted to do. As soon as I stopped reading, I expected blank stares, but instead found that the students went right to work, hands grabbing for paints and brushes before I could even find any more instructions to give them. I kept quiet and started my own artwork to keep the creative energy of the room flowing.”

“When it came time to share, one of the high school students held her artwork up and began to talk about how she’d watched a program on Stephen Hawking once in physics class and had found a way to connect it to the poem. Her discussion focused on the idea that the Big Bang started with just a single point. This point accumulated as much density and energy as it could before exploding and continually creating the universe. The strokes of color signified how energy occurs in cycles, moving through various forms until you can’t trace where or what it had been before. The black edges represented the knowledge that we do not yet know, but are aware that we do not know and search for.”

Maxine Green would smile and nod, and possibly say, “Yes, that is how I imagined it would be.” In the concluding paragraph of the paper on her field work the graduate student writes,  “Maxine Greene states, ‘it is imagination—with its capacity to both make order out of chaos and open experience to the mysterious and the strange—that moves us to go in quest, to journey where we have never been’ (1995, p.23). This class has helped me to learn the power of imagination and what it has the capacity to do within the classroom.”

“I have learned so much from this experience, and hope that I do get the opportunity to infuse these ideas into my own classroom one day,” she writes. “It is vital that as teachers we show our students how important their imagination is, and that we allow them the time to use it, reflect on it, and grow from it.”

Again she quotes Maxine Greene: “Imagination may be a new way of decentering ourselves, of breaking out of the confinements of privatism and self-regard into a space where we can come face to face with others and call out, ‘Here we are’” (Maxine Greene, 1995, p.31).

“As Maxine points out over and over again,” she continues, seizing the moment, “imagination is a tool of empowerment, something that helps us to exceed our expectations and travel to places that we would not have dreamed of. …This should be what we strive for as we create our classroom communities. Amidst the textbooks, skill and drill, and standardized testing, students need the opportunities to let their creativity flow and let their own colors shine through into the world.”

“With the first days of school approaching,” another graduate student in Writing Pictures Painting Stories writes, “I’ll meet all my “little ones” and remember the creativity you inspire through acceptance and celebration. You seem unconcerned or worried about an end product and guide an amazing, open process that allows for, and encourages the unexpected. I loved and learned from the journey, grateful to have been “orbiting” with peers.”

In Writing Pictures Painting Stories I try to give to my students what great educators, both scholars in universities and public school teachers, have given to me. From one generation to the next we evoke the human spirit, and create classroom communities that are caring and compassionate. We create intensely intellectual spaces in which students, who are often marginalized in American society, are nurtured, supported, and succeed in re-imagining the possibilities of their lives.

It is forty four years since I entered the classroom, and in that time I have never administered a test, and yet students learn and have no difficulty understanding the importance of hard work in any worthwhile human endeavor.  In these troubled times I teach to transgress, and will not participate in any initiatives to teach teachers to test. I reject the idea of “value added” which is borrowed from economics, and I challenge the government mandates that impose a “common core”, and I refuse to accept the imposition of mediocrity on teachers, children, and American society.

In her ninety sixth year Louise Rosenblatt, the renowned teacher and scholar, wrote in an email to me of the “generosity and bravery” of teachers. She wrote, “Those who sit back and wait are, I believe, ignoring the children whose lives will be affected. To minimize the bad effects on good schools as well as the poor ones, we must try to influence what is happening. If we fail, as well we may, we shall at least have spread the ideas, have educated some who will continue the resistance.” Louise never gave up. She was writing letters to Congress in her hundredth year. In her memory, in honor of Maxine, and in the spirit of Calvino, I hope we can find the courage to organize and transgress, and to write pictures and paint stories instead of administering another test.