Tag Archives: corp. ed reform

Day 21: Thanking Teachers and Wondering

Dear Readers,

As we near the end of the school year (only three days left next week), I got to thinking about my early days at school.

I started ballet lessons soon after seeing Swan Lake when I was four years old. I remember wearing  my blue velvet dress and white tights and looking at the stage and thinking–I want to do that. My teacher, Paulette, taught me how to grasp the barre, how to hold my head up, how to tie my hair in a bun, my first plies. There was leaping across the wood floor.

My 2nd or 3rd grade teacher (I can’t remember her name) taught me how to write haikus. One day she said, “You don’t have to give a fake smile when your real smile is so beautiful.”

My gym teacher in 3rd  grade made up  knock knock jokes with my name,  it was funny and silly (pre-politically correct days) and I learned to walk on the balance beam and do gymnastics.  I was a good sprinter and  did well running short distances really fast. One of my teachers (was it Miss Julie?) ran a Boston Marathon and we went to cheer her on. I was terrible at baseball, always afraid the ball would hit me. Once I hit a home run, but had to  be told (yelled at, really), “RUN! Go, go, go!” I never liked ball sports. That’s been a constant.  These days, I  enjoy a short game of throwing a ball back and forth (preferably a large, light, beach ball type deal) with M. Somehow with him its fun.

In  4th grade I won my first art award, Best Design for The Great Paper Airplane Contest. It remains one of my prized possessions. I had painted my paper airplane with the blue stars and stripes of the Israeli flag, rainbow colors, peace signs, and flowers. It didn’t go far or fast, but that wasn’t the point.


Ever since I was very little, I was into the arts and the performing arts . I did well with language, reading, and writing. I adored painting,  drawing, and just about any art project. I loved dancing and playing make-believe and had a very imagination filled childhood. I spent hours making up stories, making mud pies, talking to imaginary characters in my head, in the garden. I don’t remember being tested much. I don’t remember having to do excessive amount of homework. But maybe that’s the kind of stuff one forgets? I don’t know.

I watch M  and he spends a long time making up his own stories. His most interesting pictures are those he makes himself in the spur of the moment— inspired by something, he will say, “I need paper and to paint.” And off he goes, choosing his markers, crayons, or sometimes coming into my room  asking me for my paints. Sometimes  we paint side by side. I never tell him what to do. I ask open-ended questions. I tell him all colors are beautiful, and he can choose whichever he wants and put them together anyway he likes. I tell him there are no mistakes in art. He usually has confidence when he draws, or paints. He  does his thing. One teacher  told me  last week that “he’s an out of the box thinker.” I beamed with pride.

I’m  lucky, I guess, to have had a progressive, well-rounded public school education in the suburbs of Boston in the 1970s. To have had parents who were artists (wacky, no doubt) who believed in coloring outside the lines. I have passed that on to M. And I hope what happens in our district doesn’t squash what he has. If I was a child who had to go through what is being suggested for my child, I’d be sad. And I am sad, that the district we live in now, that we moved to especially for the schools, is now infected with a sickness of sorts.

I wonder if or how teachers can teach freely,  passionately, and happily when they’re afraid. I wonder what kind of effect that has on the atmosphere of a school. I wonder how much that will be noticed when M goes back in September. Or  by some miracle will things  stay the same? Is it possible? I dread what might happen but at the same time, can’t let M know all this.  How do I make everything be OK? This is a child who wants to play. Paint. Make up stories. Be with friends. Investigate and explore. If they say he must be tested or assessed in first grade, do I allow it? Do I opt him out? Instead of sitting here simply able to enjoy his accomplishment of finishing Kindergarten, I’m now worried about what first grade will bring. I try to compartmentalize this so that I can be here now and be happy in what he’s done and where we are. His potential,  abilities, and mind are always growing and changing, but some things of his essence probably will probably stay the same.   I will do whatever I have to to make sure he gets the kind of learning he needs. I thought I had found IT. But IT has changed. The ground we stand on has shifted.

Goodnight, good morning.

Happy Summer.


Day 19: Exhaustion and Purple Hearts for Courage

Dear Readers,

I’m seriously tired. It’s been non stop.

In a recent FairTest Resistance Reform News, the story about us and the petition makes the list (second from top).

Last night, I read a comment on one of the news stories here that broke my heart. A student  expressed how discouraging it was to have spoken up, gotten so many petition signatures, and was left feeling ignored and unheard. I offered words of support and others did, too. It’s  not fair that students have to deal with this nonsense.

Sharing these purple hearts with you and for anyone who has helped us so far. For those that had the guts to stand up and speak out at our town BOE meeting on Monday, and anyone who is going through this in their town, wherever you are. Thank you for working to save our schools.


Purple Hearts by Elana Halberstadt

Day 18: The BOE Meeting and a Swinging Pendulum

Dear Readers,

May I request a moment of silence for the death announcement of the Montclair School District, as we once knew it?

Yesterday evening, we had almost 400 online petition signatures plus more hand signed ones. The students had almost 600 signatures on their own petition.

I’m still trying to process what happened at the meeting. I’d send you a link, but inexplicably, the broadcast cut off just as the first speaker got started at the podium during public comments. We are investigating what happened. Was it technical? A WiFi glitch? Or was it intentional. Hmm. We will see if it’s posted eventually, or if I get an answer to my question about this.

Anyway, the dog and pony show, led by the CORPORATE FORCES TASK FORCE FOR STANDARDS & TESTING and BOARD OF EGREGIOUSNESS & ERONEOUS DECISIONS—- was an excruciating thing to sit through. It started at 7:30pm and went until about 11:30pm. SUPER OF the district, or maybe we must call her The Royal Highness of Gobbledygook and BS (Via THE BROAD ACADEMY)  and the corporate ed reform machine of GREED & AWFULNESS told  us all about the PLAN and how great it will be for our children. I managed not to throw up, but I did feel nauseous all the way through.

Lies upon lies upon more lies. It’s just beyond! BEYOND!

So, we spoke. The first one started reading the petition. She didn’t make it all the way through and was stopped. The crowd protested, “Let her speak!”  But, whack, down came that gavel and that was the end of that.  One by one against the plan, parents and residents spoke up asking for a deferment of the plan so the community could have more time to become informed, absorb it, have more input. And one by one we were reminded, “There is no dialogue.” Direct questions were asked of them and not answered over and over again. Except selectively, in some cases, when they didn’t answer, but repeated canned lines or lies or both.

For my turn, several people after our first speaker, I continued reading the petition where she’d been cut off–until the end. I asked for a vote. I then continued with my personal comments. I handed them a copy of the printed petition with signatures and many comments from petition signers.

The students spoke beautifully and courageously. One said that she’d met Pete Seeger recently, and he had told her that he supported the cause. Not too shabby. Maybe we should start testing them more to see if they understand basic civics. Oh wait, you mean NOT a test, but a real life experience? That’s progressive. We can’t have that here in our town. OY!

Then the ones for the plan spoke. There were less of them in number than our group and they mumbled a lot.

To end the night, the BOE did a vote to pass the PLAN. But first they regaled us with their personal comments and views. I really did almost throw up at this part. On and on. Lies, vague statements, a collective cheer for the PLAN. One of them compared our children and education to a kitchen renovation job project. Many were offended and insulted by that particular train of thought. Yet again, the swinging pendulum was mentioned. All I could think of was Edgar Allen Poe and that we are somehow trapped in a real life horror story.

As they started saying YES or ALL IN FAVOR or whatever Board- speak they use, we stood up, and walked out, and we yelled at them, “SHAME. SHAME ON YOU! SHAME!”

We’ve received a flurry of supportive messages from all over town. We’re going to regroup and plan next steps. The work has just begun. There’s a bunch of local press links below in case anyone is interested.

I’ll choose to believe in reincarnation, or evolution and change, and that we will one day reclaim what is being taken away from us. There are thieves stealing from our children (and community, taxpayers, etc). In the meantime, Rest in Peace, MPS District.


“Be original. Think out of the box. Color outside the lines.” From my comments at meeting 6/17/2013











Oh, big surprise, one of new hire to our district ran a Charter School in Chicago, IL. AKA, land of the largest mass public school closings in our history.


Day 15: Father’s Day & the Revolution

Dear Readers,

Whew. The Revolution has begun! So much going on and I’m prepping for the next BOE meeting on Monday.  Hoping to get a big turn out of parents and community.

And tomorrow is Father’s Day.  For anyone  celebrating, I hope you have a wonderful day. Here’s to all the dads who make our children’s world go around.

Mine taught me how to be a rabble-rouser; to speak up and protest when I see injustice. He taught me how to read  starting when I was   a toddler. He used antique printing blocks to teach me letters and words. We had an old printing press for woodcuts (made by my mother) and signs and did all kinds of hand printing work, too. He helped me publish my first “book.” He showed me how make art; how to capture a moment in photography;  how to look for  light or shadows and really see them.  Among many other things, he’s been a   Civil Rights , social, and environmental justice activist for decades, and to this very day.

Thank you, Dad.

Remember this?

photo credit copyright Jerry Halberstadt