Digital Badges and Professional Development


I still believe that the best way to improve instruction is through professional development.  Not everyone agrees with me.  I know that many teachers groan when they even hear the words professional development. To illustrate the point, in Michael Fullan’s The NEW Meaning of Educational Change, (2007), he quotes a teacher who states, “When I die I hope it is during a professional development session because the transition from life to death will be so seamless” (p. 283).

An Education Week survey conducted in 2016 showed that 42% of teachers say they have little to no influence on the professional development available to them.  Teachers perceive that a wide range of common professional development activities would make a difference in their classrooms, including common planning time and mentorship for new teachers.

Some districts are trying something new called micro-credentialing.  Part of this movement allows teachers to choose their own learning and customize it.  At least three states, Delaware, Florida, and Tennessee, are piloting micro-credentialing programs, along with New York City and other spots around the country.

Micro-credentials are often in the form of digital badges.  Just like in the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, when you spend time working on a specific task, you earn a badge.They are sometimes called mini-degrees or web badges.  They can be described as a small certificate for taking a kind of shortened form of a college course.  Some of the work may be done on-line, but work can also be completed collaboratively, or in one’s own classroom. A micro-credential can take anywhere from four weeks to a year, depending on the subject. Providers such as the nonprofit Digital Promise,  allow educators to provide evidence of their knowledge, including student work or videos. Amid the growth in popularity, there is also increasing attention to the need for standards around rigor, value for stakeholders, oversight and teacher incentives for earning them.

Another provider, Learning Forward, requires educators to demonstrate the skill in practice with students.

While there is no empirical research yet on the impact for students, advocates say the benefits for students, are, as their name implies, on a micro level.

Still, as this form of PD becomes more popular, there are a lot of unanswered questions.  According to Education Week, “Not all micro-credentials are created equal , and states and districts have yet to come to a consensus on the level of rigor they must meet and the value different stakeholders  should put on an earned micro-credential” (Education Week, April 26, 2017).  There are also questions regarding who should assess teachers’ work, and what kinds of incentives should be tied to the attainment of the badges.

Many teachers are required to complete a set number of PD hours each year.  This new approach is certainly something to carefully examine.  Sustained, personalized professional development is successfully provided in most fields.  I think most teachers would welcome the change.

For more info on micro-credentials, Read the article in Education Week.








Teens and Dating: High Schools can Help


Information for this post came from Peggy Orenstein’s article in Education Week,  5/10/17 and When Teen Dating Turns Dangerous by Jan Brogan from The Boston Globe’s article from 4/1/13

If you ask a dozen teens what their definition of dating is, you will get a dozen different answers.  Some define it as ‘hanging out together’ and others talk about people they ‘hook up’ with, and others think of it as having a special friend or a friend ‘with benefits.’ That lack of a common definition can lead to a lot of misunderstanding.

In a 2008 national online survey posted on, nearly half the 1,043 children age 11 to 14 queried said they had already been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. One in three said they knew a friend who has had intercourse or oral sex. According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40% of high school students have had sexual intercourse.

Teenagers often don’t know what constitutes a healthy relationship. Many pattern their relationships on what they see on TV or the movies.  These relationships are usually dysfunctional or idyllic and far from reality.  We need to instill the values of compassion, kindness, respect, and caring  into dating that we want our children to embody in every aspect of their lives.

Nine percent of high school students in the state reported being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner in the last year, according to the 2011 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey. A 2011 national study puts the number of teen victims of dating violence at one in 10. When the definition of abuse is expanded to include verbal insults and controlling behavior, studies report the incidence at more than 20 percent. Teen dating violence includes emotional, physical or sexual violence. Risk factors include depression, anxiety, drug abuse, early sex and violence at home or in the surrounding neighborhood and peer bullying, according to research.

“All teens, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, are vulnerable as they experiment with their first intimate relationships,” according to Judith Siegel, a social worker and the director of mental health services in Boston Children’s Hospital. Although the majority of abuse is boys against girls, boys can be victims of girls and of other boys, she said.  Abuse is not restricted to heterosexual relationships.  “A teenager’s first romantic relationship plays a critical role in helping an adolescent develop a sense of who he or she is — personally and sexually,” said Deinera Exner-Cortens, lead author of a study at Cornell and a doctoral student in human development . “If a teen’s first intimate relationship is abusive, it may skew what his or her view of what a healthy relationship looks like.”

The study, which was published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics, analyzed a sample of nearly 6,000 Americans 12 to 18 years old from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. They were interviewed as teens and again five years later.

Females who had experienced teen dating violence — defined as psychological or physical violence — reported increased symptoms of depression and were 1.5 times more likely to binge-drink or smoke and twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts than those who did not experience dating abuse. Males who experienced teen dating violence reported more anti-social behaviors and were 1.3 times more likely to use marijuana and twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts.  The research also indicated that avoiding social media after a break up from an abusive relationship is helpful.

There are a number of programs that high schools can weave into their health classes to help teens deal with the dating landscape.  Schools need to make this part of their curriculum.  In addition, parents need to have an open dialogue about dating.  Parents have talks about drugs and alcohol, but often ignore information about relationships and dating.  Our children need some very clear discussions about the dynamics of real relationships.  They deserve that.



Science and Fiction: Your Brain and the Power of Story

Much of the material from this post came from Your Brain on Fiction,
By Annie Murphy Paul  published in the NY Times on 3/17/12

When history was shared with me through story I never had a problem recalling the sequence of events or geography of the place.  I knew that stories somehow helped me remember and I knew it helped others remember as well.

Researchers have long known that the “classical” language regions, like Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, are involved in how the brain interprets written words. What scientists have come to realize in the last few years is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains as well, suggesting why the experience of reading can feel so alive. Words like “lavender,” “cinnamon” and “soap,” for example, elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those devoted to dealing with smells.  The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Fiction — with its redolent details, imaginative metaphors and attentive descriptions of people and their actions — offers an especially rich replica. Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.

In 2011, Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, performed an analysis of 86 fMRI studies, published  in the Annual Review of Psychology, and concluded that there was substantial overlap in the brain networks used to understand stories and the networks used to navigate interactions with other individuals — in particular, interactions in which we’re trying to figure out the thoughts and feelings of others. Scientists call this capacity of the brain to construct a map of other people’s intentions “theory of mind.” Narratives offer a unique opportunity to engage this capacity, as we identify with characters’ longings and frustrations, guess at their hidden motives and track their encounters with friends and enemies, neighbors and lovers.

As I continue to examine the curricula we offer to our students, I keep the importance of reading stories in mind.  In the past few years we have placed a great deal of emphasis on non-fiction reading, and I think this was important because it had been neglected.  However, too often in education we let the pendulum swing with   a treacherous arc . When we discover something worthwhile, we abandon all else. Students need to read from a broad range of genres.

Dr. Oatley and Dr. Mar, in collaboration with several other scientists, reported in two studies, published in 2006 and 2009, that individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective. This relationship persisted even after the researchers accounted for the possibility that more empathetic individuals might prefer reading novels.  These findings will affirm the experience of readers who have felt illuminated and instructed by a novel, who have wept with Charlotte and Wilbur, and admired Atticus Finch.


Aloha.   Not only is this the Hawaiian equivalent for the English ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye,’ but the embodiment of the Aloha spirit of compassion and peace. Last week I had the incredible good fortune to visit the big island of Hawaii and hike the forests and acres of volcanic rock and black sand beaches. There were many beautiful trees and flowers, notably the banyan trees that I thought only grew in India.  But there was one tree that  really stood out and that was the oheo tree.

The oheo tree is very special because it is the first tree that grows after lava has flowed.  The lovely Lehua flower is the fruit of the Ohia tree, displaying colors of orange, red, and yellow. It grows beautifully in the forest, but can also grow in an arid climate, shooting off air roots to capture moisture in the air. The ranger I walked with also said that during periods of drought the tree will take in less water through its roots, shooting off air roots,  so that a neighboring tree can survive.  We can learn a lot from an oheo tree.

The tree is also steeped in Hawaiian culture.  There is a legend that says that Pele, the goddess of the volcano,  desired a handsome man named Ohia. But, Ohia was already in love with another–the beautiful girl Lehua. Enraged, Pele transformed Ohia into  a tree on the mountain. Lehua pleaded with Pele to return Ohia to her, but Pele refused. So, Lehua went to the gods and begged that she be reunited with Ohia. The gods, having pity on her, turned Lehua into the beautiful red blossom of the Ohia tree so that they could be together forever. It said that when someone picks Lehua, still today, it rains because you have separated the lovers, and the rain is their tears.   No child in Hawaii ever picks the Lehua blossom.  Aloha.


Mother Moon

This is an old Indian story and one of my favorites.

Once upon a time, a long, long while ago, the Sun, the Wind, and the Moon were three sisters, and their mother was a pale, lovely Star that shone, far away, in the dark evening sky.

One day their uncle and aunt, who were no more or less than the Thunder and Lightning, asked the three sisters to have supper with them, and their mother said that they might go. She would wait for them, she said, and would not set until all three returned and told her about their visit.

So the Sun in her dress of gold, the Wind in a trailing dress that rustled as she passed, and the Moon in a wonderful gown of silver started out for the party with the Thunder and Lightning. Oh, it was a supper to remember! The table was spread with a cloth of rainbow. There were ices like the snow on the mountain tops, and cakes as soft and white as clouds, and fruits from every quarter of the earth. The three sisters ate their fill, especially the Sun and the Wind, who were very greedy, and left not so much as a crumb on their plates. But the Moon was kind and remembered her mother.  She hid a part of her supper in her long, white fingers to take home and share with her mother, the Star.

Then the three sisters said good-bye to the Thunder and Lightning and went home. When they reached there, they found their mother, the Star, waiting and shining for them as she had said she would.

“What did you bring me from the supper?” she asked.

The Sun tossed her head with all its yellow hair in disdain as she answered her mother.

“Why should I bring you anything?” she asked. “I went out for my own pleasure and not to think of you.”

It was the same with the Wind. She wrapped her flowing robes about her and turned away from her mother.

“I, too, went out for my own entertainment,” she said, “and why should I think of you, mother, when you were not with me?”

But it was very different with the Moon who was not greedy and selfish as her two sisters, the Sun and the Wind, were. She turned her pale sweet face toward her mother, the Star, and held out her slender hands.

“See, mother,” cried the Moon, “I have brought you part of everything that was on my plate. I ate only half of the feast for I wanted to share it with you.”

So the mother brought a gold plate and the food that her unselfish daughter, the Moon, had brought her heaped the plate high. She ate it, and then she turned to her three children, for she had something important to say to them. She spoke first to the Sun.

“You were thoughtless and selfish, my daughter,” she said. “You went out and enjoyed yourself with no thought of one who was left alone at home. Hereafter you shall be no longer beloved among men. Your rays shall be so hot and burning that they shall scorch everything they touch. Men shall cover their heads when you appear, and they shall run away from you.”

And that is why, to this day, the Sun is hot and blazing.

Next the mother spoke to the Wind.

“You, too, my daughter, have been unkind and greedy,” she said. “You, also, enjoyed yourself with no thought of any one else. You shall blow in the parching heat of your sister, the Sun, and wither and blast all that you touch. No one shall love you any longer, but all men will dislike and avoid you.”

And that is why, to this day, the Wind, blowing in hot weather, is so unpleasant.

But, last, the mother spoke to her kind daughter, the Moon.

“You remembered your mother, and were unselfish,” she said. “To those who are thoughtful of their mother, great blessings come. For all time your light shall be cool, and calm, and beautiful. You shall wane, but you shall wax again. You shall make the dark night bright, and all men shall call you blessed.”

And that is why, to this day, the Moon is so cool, and bright, and beautiful.

Being a mother is the hardest job in the world.  Our children don’t come with instructions.  There are no degrees in parenting.  Yet—we all need help with this important job.  Many of us have received expert help from our own mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, aunties, and sisters.  Never be afraid to reach out when you need help.  Someone, somewhere will have a way to guide you.  Thank you to all the mothers before me who helped pave my own path—–my own mother who taught me a sense of humor, my Aunt Lil who taught me about family gatherings, my friends Marsha, Darlene, Debbie, Doris,  and Anita—who told the truth about their struggles. I am especially grateful to my grandmother Mary, who spoke so lovingly to each one of her grandchildren.  She taught me the power of the spoken word.  Thanks to my babies who have now become mothers.  May your path of motherhood always be lit by the moon.

Let the Music Play

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Berthold Auerbach



A few weeks ago my granddaughter played her violin in her first evening concert.  She is 6 years old  and her violin doesn’t even measure to my elbow.  String players from every grade, including the high school, played, and she was inspired to accomplish the sophisticated sounds of the seniors. She was struck with a bit of stage fright but managed to push through.  When it was over, she was filled with a sense of accomplishment that I had seldom seen in her.

As school districts everywhere enter into a new budget season, I worry about the status of music programs everywhere. With strict tax levy limits, increased unfunded mandates, and demanding curricula challenges, the arts can appear as an easy target to cut.  Here are some research based reasons why music is so important to our students:

1. Musical training helps develop language and reasoning: Students who have early musical training will develop the areas of the brain related to language and reasoning. The left side of the brain is better developed with music, and songs can help imprint information on young minds.

2. A mastery of memorization: Even when performing with sheet music, student musicians are constantly using their memory to perform. The skill of memorization can serve students well in education and beyond.

3. Students learn to improve their work: Learning music promotes craftsmanship, and students learn to want to create good work instead of mediocre work. This desire can be applied to all subjects of study.

4. Increased coordination: Students who practice with musical instruments can improve their hand-eye coordination. Just like playing sports, children can develop motor skills when playing music.

5. A sense of achievement: Learning to play pieces of music on a new instrument can be a challenging, but achievable goal. Students who master even the smallest goal in music will be able to feel proud of their achievement.

6. Kids stay engaged in school: An enjoyable subject like music can keep kids interested and engaged in school. Student musicians are likely to stay in school to achieve in other subjects.

7. Success in society: Music is the fabric of our society, and music can shape abilities and character. Students in band or orchestra are less likely to abuse substances over their lifetime. Musical education can greatly contribute to children’s intellectual development as well.

8. Emotional development: Students of music can be more emotionally developed, with empathy towards other cultures They also tend to have higher self esteem and are better at coping with anxiety.

9. Students learn pattern recognition: Children can develop their math and pattern-recognition skills with the help of musical education. Playing music offers repetition in a fun format.

10. Better SAT scores: Students who have experience with music performance or appreciation score higher on the SAT. One report indicates 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math for students in music appreciation courses.

11. Fine-tuned auditory skills: Musicians can better detect meaningful, information-bearing elements in sounds, like the emotional meaning in a baby’s cry. Students who practice music can have better auditory attention, and pick out predictable patterns from surrounding noise.

12. Music builds imagination and intellectual curiosity: Introducing music in the early childhood years can help foster a positive attitude toward learning and curiosity. Artistic education develops the whole brain and develops a child’s imagination.

13. Music can be relaxing: Students can fight stress by learning to play music. Soothing music is especially helpful in helping kids relax.

14. Musical instruments can teach discipline: Kids who learn to play an instrument can learn a valuable lesson in discipline. They will have to set time aside to practice and rise to the challenge of learning with discipline to master playing their instrument.

15. Preparation for the creative economy: Investing in creative education can prepare students for the 21st century workforce. The new economy has created more artistic careers, and these jobs may grow faster than others in the future.

16. Development in creative thinking: Kids who study the arts can learn to think creatively. This kind of education can help them solve problems by thinking outside the box and realizing that there may be more than one right answer.

17. Music can develop spatial intelligence: Students who study music can improve the development of spatial intelligence, which allows them to perceive the world accurately and form mental pictures. Spatial intelligence is helpful for advanced mathematics and more.

18. Kids can learn teamwork: Many musical education programs require teamwork as part of a band or orchestra. In these groups, students will learn how to work together and build camaraderie.

19. Responsible risk-taking: Performing a musical piece can bring fear and anxiety. Doing so teaches kids how to take risks and deal with fear, which will help them become successful and reach their potential.

20. Better self-confidence: With encouragement from teachers and parents, students playing a musical instrument can build pride and confidence. Musical education is also likely to develop better communication for students.

As budget season looms ahead, consider what is really important in the education of our children.  It is my fondest hope that my granddaughter will play on that stage as a senior and will inspire another first grader to forge ahead.

20 reasons are credited to the National Association for Music Education




There is an enlarged cartoon hanging up in our main office at the high school.  It is a picture of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.  A potential resident in Heaven is approaching him. “Just one moment,” says St. Peter.  ” I need to check your Facebook account before I let you in.”

We have become very good at teaching our students about Internet safety and how not to post embarrassing pictures of ourselves on social media. What we need to do now is model for our students how to leave a digital footprint that is positive and impressive.

“One of the reasons social media has grown so fast is that it taps into what we, as human beings, naturally love and need and want to do—create, share, connect, relate” ( Jamie Notter & Maddie Grant).

We need to show our students how to create messages that persuade, entertain, and influence our audience.  Our messages must be written with intention, including an awareness of an audience we can only imagine. Facebook, WordPress, BlogSpot, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat have all had a profound effect on our schools, our families, and our cultures.  Let’s model how to drive these vehicles so that our travels are accomplished with an appropriate seat belt instead of proceeding with reckless abandon.

“Social media is changing the way we communicate and the way we are perceived, both positively and negatively. Every time you post a photo, or update your status, you are contributing to your own digital footprint and personal brand”( Amy Jo Martin).  Social media is not going away.

When I started my blog I had zero followers and I wasn’t following anyone.  That is how everyone starts out.  The important thing was my message.

Perhaps it is because I know we are our stories that I want people to share—to tell their stories and know that these stories are important for everyone. I think this quote sums it up…

“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that… there are many kinds of magic, after all.”
Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus   


Black and White BUT Mostly Grey


Children are natural question askers.  They want to know why things happen the way they do and are trying to figure out the world. They are able to see things from multiple perspectives.  As we age, we get more rigid in our thinking.  Many of us have been raised on multiple choice tests in classrooms that covet the right answer.  But a major symptom of this style of learning combined with our natural proclivity to cling to easily digestible answers, is that we start thinking in two dimensions.  Something is either right or wrong, black or white. Opinions are formed and then held to, partly because it is easier to think in slogans.  “War is bad; democracy is good.”  These slogans become substitutes for actual understanding, and it’s not as benign as it seems. The slogan isn’t just a shorthand: It replaces thinking for many people, because it’s hard to generate real understanding.  It’s a lot easier to land somewhere simple and stay there. It requires less energy.

What I have  found is that most of reality lies in the land of grey.  When we look at those we admire, we try to find perfection.  Our heroes are flawed, but their lives are worth examining because we can learn so much from them.  Instead of trying to put a black hat or white hat on them, they need to be thoroughly examined.  People are complicated and we need to use many lenses when we consider decisions that were made and roads that were taken. Taking a point of view directly opposite from our own gives us a multidimensional view of an issue.  Putting things on a continuum, assessing the scale of their importance and quantifying their effects, understanding both the good and the bad, is the way to do it.   I think most truth lies quietly in the land of grey. For some of us this can be very challenging.  We are used to being on one side of the tracks or the other.  After all, if you don’t pick a side and stay on the tracks, the train is going to run you over. Perhaps we need a different paradigm. Rather than tracks or a boundary line on which to take sides, we need a continuum…. a line that runs in a circular pattern, giving a 3-D effect.  Understanding the other side of an argument  better than your own is the way to do it. Because truth always lies somewhere in between, and the discomfort of being uncertain is preferable to the certainty of being wrong.

It isn’t easy, but it’s not supposed to be.


Some of the material in this post is from a blog post titled The Value of Grey Thinking by Farnam Street Media.

Pivotal Events


According to Merriam Webster a pivot is  “a person, thing, or factor having a major or central role, function, or effect.”  Recently I listened  once again to the Stanford commencement address given by Steve Jobs.  He tells three stories, each one a pivotal event.  I thought about what was a pivotal event  that changed me.  One of those moments was when I became a reader.

  When did I begin to read?  My earliest memory of reading was at the Brooklyn Public Library.  It was a modest brick building that was arranged like a split  level.  The downstairs housedlibrary all of the adult material, the upstairs was the children’s book section, and the central level held the librarian’s desk, periodicals  and newspapers. On Saturday mornings, my mother washed and waxed the floors in our apartment.   She systematically removed the table and chairs from the kitchen, and she would shoo me out  the door with my older  sister,  “Go and play and don’t come back until the floors are dry.”   We left the house and my sister was terribly annoyed that she was stuck with me for the morning. I had no idea how long it takes for floors to be washed or waxed and was happy to go with my sister.  My sister knew how to navigate the neighborhood.  She liked adventures.  She announced we were going to the library.  I was in second grade and she was in fifth.

The library was ten blocks away from our house, which was a long walk for me. I remember that it was hot and that my sister promised me that the library was air conditioned. The cracks in the sidewalk were filled with black tar and if I shuffled my feet a bit I could get the tar to stick to the bottom of my Keds and drag it along.  “Oh mom is going to love that on her clean floor,” my sister blew in disgust.

When we arrived at the library my sister stationed me upstairs at a table .  “Don’t’ move,” she ordered, “I’ll be back in a little while.”  She dashed downstairs to the adult section.  By  fifth grade she had read mot of the books in the children’s section and was granted special permission to take out books from the adult section.  The air conditioning was unbelievable.  It was even better than she promised.  I made myself comfortable and began to read my favorite story, The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss.  I never tired of that book.  After some time, my sister found me and gasped.  “Oh my goodness,”  she exclaimed.  “You are still reading Dr. Seuss books.  You are going to grow up to be an idiot.”

She sprinted to the shelves and returned with three books:  Charlotte’s Web, a picture book of Indonesia, and An American Anthology of Poetry.  “You will finish these by next week and from now on I will pick out the books for you to read,” she commanded.  I never complained.  I was a little scared of her.   I remember sitting in my father’s great upholstered blue club chair and reading Charlotte’s Web.  Until that moment I did not know that a book could make you cry.  The day I finished that book I became a reader.

My sister was as good as her word.  Each week she picked out a selection of three books that I was to finish by Friday.  Sometimes she would ask me questions about the books.  I did not know what genre was or fluency or what level I was supposed to be on.  Sometimes the books were very hard.  Most of the time, I loved them.   Perhaps that is why I became a reading teacher —so that I could help people discover the treasure of books.

My sister still sends me book titles that she thinks I should read.  Now I know how lucky I am.

Do Report Cards Make the Grade?

report_card_color_curvyThis week I visited my grandchildren in Massachusetts.  My kindergarten granddaughter proudly showed me her wiggly tooth and then asked if I wanted to see her report card.  I wondered what this could say.

It was a simple report card that showed how she was faring in reading and number concepts.  There were a few areas that indicated if she was doing well or needed support and then there was a beautiful narrative that really told me what I wanted to know.

The summary was addressed to her, and although, this was logical, so few report cards are addressed to their students.   From reading the comments, I knew her teacher truly knew her.  She spoke about her artwork and how it calmed her and allowed her to relax.  She described her social skills and love of stories.

I thought of the elementary report cards that I worked on with some dedicated teachers.  I am not sure they achieved what we set out to do: tell our students and their parents  how they were doing in school in clear and simple language. Thomas Jefferson wrote that “there is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.”  Every student in our classrooms succeeds or fails for a multitude of reasons.  Sometimes, students aren’t interested in the topic , sometimes they have a broad background in the topic, sometimes they haven’t had breakfast or lunch or dinner the night before. But however they are doing, we as educators need to help them understand their progress with accuracy and gentleness.  Our students are as resilient as young twigs and as fragile as glass.  They remind me of eggs.  An egg  in its shell can withstand tremendous pressure, but if you don’t hold it just right it will shatter into a yolky mess.

Our report cards are an academic reckoning.  We must remember they hold us accountable just as much as our students.  We must deliver them with honesty, not jargon, with much attention to the affective side of the child.  Although many teachers hate the arduous task of the narrative, I think it is the best way to deliver a message.

One of my favorite authors is Patricia Polacco.  In one of her books a grandfather gives his granddaughter a book and pours a bit of honey on it.  The honey is to remind her of the sweetness of learning.  Perhaps if we can wrap our words with a bit of honey, our messages will be heard more clearly.  I am so glad my granddaughter’s teacher took the time to write so lovingly of her progress.  I will treasure that report card.