Our Potential 

I love connecting with people because I learn so much. I am in awe of our potential. As an educator and father this is very important to me. It is also important to me as a human being. I want to continue to learn and grow so that I can share in all of the beauty in this amazing world. Connections matter tremendously, because to quote Margaret Wheatley, “ever human beings their own unique story.” Everyone has a life and a story to share that we can learn from, and I yearn to learn from all people, all religions, all music, food, and culture; in every corner of the world. 
Our original sin of separation, hate and evil is horrifying for our growth and development as a human race. We have halted! Stagnated by differences and discontent. We are more than we believe we are capable of, but we are distracted by constant stimulation to the reptilian brain (Michael Elliot). This is all my opinion of course based on my experiences, but the hard evidence also speaks for itself. We are unhappy and we need to do better. Not just for ourselves but for our family, our community, and all of humanity. We are not here alone so we must work together to make the world better. 

As an educator I see this clearly and I see the potential in this opportunity. We get to work with children everyday and learn along with them and our adult colleagues as we aim to make sense of and recreate the world. Our human purpose is to explore, connect, and create. From the wheel, to fire, to the internet that is what we have always done. I yearn for a life where we are beyond discrimination, fear, and oppression; where we work together to accomplish things beyond our present perception. Where LOVE and TRUST is our ultimate guide. This is where we have not been. This is what we have not tried. True integration. True collaboration. True love of humankind. There are so many languages to learn, music to sing and dance to, foods to eat, games to play and adventures to take. How much time will we waste before we decide to let go of that which continues to hold us back? When will we embrace the full potential of our mind, body, and spirit? When will we be ready for our ascension? 

Our thoughts, combined with our emotions, make up our spirit. If our thoughts are tainted with doubt, and our emotions are cursed with hate, then the strength of our spirit will become disoriented and unavailable to us. How can we find happiness this way; especially with trauma, stress, and distractions all around us? Will we survive as isolated individuals under the constant vicious attack of greed and gluttony? How do we begin to resist the social engineering designed for our self destruction? 

It’s time to connect and form human alliances of love. It’s time to self actualize. Connection is the healing and nurturing we need — desperately. We need to trust each other, uplift each other, and learn from each other. We need to be humble and practice “the beginners mind,” to continuously learn the world as we go. None of us have the answers to this world of infinite complexity. We can only share our truth, connect, and seek to learn more to improve a specific context. No so called solution works for everyone. Problems are subjective as much as they are objective. Our separated categories and classifications are necessary at times, while acting as a big part of the problem at others. If our purpose is to move the world and humanity forward in a healthy and fulfilling way, we must embrace “the other” as much as ourselves. 

Can we create a world where we all maximize our potential? A world where all children are born into nurturing homes. Where all caregivers continue to learn to do their best. Where children, run, jump, climb, play, dance, sing, build, paint, draw, read, write, swim, ski, fight, speak, listen, care, collaborate, initiate, manipulate, create, learn, unlearn, relearn, cry, yell, apologize, grow, and everything else in the present and future. How might we design, communities, to maximize the creative, joyful, healthy potential of every inhabitant? In my opinion, this should be our goal and we should give our souls to this purpose together. Let us together engage our whole world, whole community, and the whole child to move the human race forward. 

The Promise of Public Education

The Promise of Public Education

On January 9, 2017, I had the pleasure of attending a major education speech by American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. Ms. Weingarten, a former high school teacher in Brooklyn, New York, championed a vision for public education that celebrates the promise of our public schools, while also denouncing Betsy Devos as the wrong pick to be our next Secretary of Education.

As a public school educator for over seventeen years, and a father of three, I have experienced firsthand the education wars that have frustrated and demoralized the teaching workforce. We have been trapped in an over-standardized, one size fits all education system, while repeatedly failing to nurture the innate brilliance of every child. Top down, narrow policies, have silenced and misguided educators and families at the local level, while members of the “testocracy” continue to profit substantially off our kids. At this important time in our nation’s history, we need true leadership in public education.

Randi Weingarten displayed that leadership in her inspiring speech. Her powerful words were a call to action. A call to focus on the whole child, and to remind this country that the promise of our democracy will only be reached if we ensure a healthy and vibrant public school system. The test and punish policies of the past two decades have not worked for our schools. Achievement gaps remain, achievement overall has flattened, student engagement is declining, and new teacher applications have decreased dramatically. For the schools that are celebrated as panaceas of student achievement, they also carry abysmally high teacher attrition rates; with teachers consistently reporting feeling dejected and dehumanized. Ms. Weingarten’s speech urges us to pivot away from these oppressive policies, and to fully embrace four pillars of public education

In the most diverse country in the world, where ninety percent of our children attend public schools, where child poverty is growing and technology evolves instantaneously, the four pillars are a pathway to health and prosperity for all. First, by placing the well-being of our children at the core of our education policy, we recalibrate our moral compass as a nation, and invite all to support physically, mentally, and emotionally safe schools. By beginning with well-being, we will no longer ignore the importance of early childhood education, and will work to give all families the support they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Finally, well-being includes an academic curriculum inclusive of the arts, leadership and citizenship, and a socio-emotional curriculum that includes opportunities for self-reflection and correction, and restorative practices, supported by a well-staffed Guidance Department.

Ms. Weingarten also highlights powerful learning, building teacher capacity, and collaboration to round out her four pillars. The challenges of today, which include criminal justice reform, a growing economic divide, substance abuse, and increased diversity, require a dynamic approach to learning. Students must consistently work together to solve authentic problems, communicate effectively, take initiative and practice creativity. Further, building teacher capacity and continued learning is crucial to ensuring that teachers remain highly skilled and inspired, while guaranteeing that every child has a quality teacher in their classroom. Policies that focus on improving teacher capacity are incredibly impactful, because they affect classroom practice directly; which numerous studies have shown impacts student achievement the most.

Finally, collaboration serves as the essence of lifelong learning and critical for all to truly thrive in a diverse global economy. Through learning and working together, we will fortify our amazing profession and work to solve the world’s most complex problems. Collaboration, done genuinely, creates systems that troubleshoot naturally and harmoniously adjust to new ideas. If all schools are supported as community spaces for learning, where teachers, principals, students, parents, superintendents, retirees, and community based organizations come together to meet the needs of all children, we will all have a chance to benefit from and celebrate the promise of public education. I will answer Ms. Weingarten’s call to action, and encourage all who value public education to do the same.

The Whole Child

There is unlimited talent and potential within our schools. Children come to us full of excitement and infinite ideas. They believe and know that anything is possible. They are fearless, and not tainted by age, time, or the ridicule of failure. They are natural leaders; and when they find a passion, they’ll work vigorously to achieve mastery without provocation.

Whether shooting a basketball, practicing a dance routine, or playing an instrument, when children find an interest they are insistent. They don’t have to become “the best” player, dancer, or musician. For them, the continuous practice of perfection is priceless. Some will make it to the NBA, Juilliard, or Carnegie Hall, but the majority simply enjoy the pleasure of the pursuit, and accomplishing that which was once impossible. 

This behavior is natural. We are born explorers, artist, scientist, and acrobats. Kids will try anything on their own if we give them the space to do so. Of course, safety is important, but how many of our “stops,” “no’s,” and “don’ts” are as necessary as we make them out to be. Children are born brilliant, and if we guarantee that every child is born and raised in a healthy environment, they will ask more questions and generate more ideas by the age of 3 than we will know what to do with. Therefore, we must nurture, support and expose our children to the endless beauty of life, and we must work together as teachers, parents, and community members to leverage each other’s talents, and create boundless opportunities for our children.

It is often hard to avoid the ugliness in this world.  The media is a constant reminder of it. So much so that we begin to convince ourselves that the world is unkind and hopeless. This stagnates us, frightens us, and forces us into cowering from life. I am such a lucky man. I get to work with children every day. Children that despite their circumstances, bring so much joy, hope and love into my life. I can’t help but see and feel the beauty of the world because of them. They make me; whether I want to or not. 

Imagine if we created schools that allowed the natural brilliance of children to blossom. Imagine if we supported families that are living in dire circumstances with truly improving their lives. The mistakes of a teenage parent, high school dropout, substance abuser, or someone struggling with mental health should not be a life sentence. Every “problem” has a solution and there is a light at the end of every tunnel. All people need is help; help from other people. Not programs, protocols, or procedures; actual real people guided by a love for humanity. Throwing more money and technicality at a problem without investing in great people, will continue to lead us to pain and failure.

It is our duty as a country to help all people, because it has been our laws and behaviors that created the mess we are in. Mass incarceration, mass addiction, the “wealth” and “achievement” gaps, and mass shootings are all manifestations of misguided and inhumane policies that have left us in a state of confusion, fear, and extreme violence. The time is now to overcome — together. 

Let us come together to reverse the impact of man’s inhumanity to man. Let us build a culture of love, sharing, and creativity. Let us create humane and exhilarating spaces where children can be passionate explorers, collaborators, creators, and performers. Let us continue to learn from each other and take aggressive action against injustice. We don’t need a “leader” or “boss” or mayor, governor, or president to give us permission. We must listen to our hearts and follow our instincts to do what’s right for our children and communities; while continuing to learn along the way. The better we are, the better our children will be. The better they are, the brighter the future will be for all. 

The time is now to educate the whole child.