Tag Archives: WPLongform

In the snow

Dear Readers,

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Newtown has never quite left my mind this past year.

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One child, Noah  Pozner (z”l) had a birthday only one day after M.
When it happened, when I saw his picture, when I read stories about him, when I read about his mother and his twin sister and the impossible horror of it all, my heart ached for this beautiful boy who had just turned six; he was  like my little six-year-old, who always tells me, “I’m not little. I’m big.” And my heart hurt for  his mother. This is the transcript of what Veronique Pozner said in the video (within link just above):

“I would like to show you the last picture taken of our son, Noah. It was taken the night before he was murdered, Thursday, December 13th, before our world changed forever. It shows him holding up a lit Hanukkah candle and staring and smiling into its flame. I will forever cherish this photograph. He looks so innocent and full of wonder. He was cheated of his full potential. I can now only dream of the man he would have become.

Sometimes when a tragedy or an event of this magnitude happens and the facts are so uncomfortable for us to sit with, we tend to render into this abstract concept of memorials and angels and teddy bears. And that’s all beautiful and wonderful; that’s true. But there’s an undercurrent of an ugly reality that made those memorials necessary.

Governor Malloy did come to the funeral, I did ask him to come and see my boy. We did have a private viewing for a select view only. For me it was important to put a human face on what happened. I just felt like I owed it to Noah and to the governor, too, as a major official in the state to bear eyewitness testimony to the ravage of that event. How it just destroyed not only innocent lives but of course, there’s tons of collateral damage, right, when you talk about an event like this. It’s like a ripple effect in a pond. When you throw a stone in, the stone sinks and the ripples just expand. And it just – it was like a mushroom cloud that went off in my family. It went off in the community. And we’re every day suffering the effects of it.

The only way that I feel that I can bring some purpose to it is by speaking out on the issue of gun control. The very fact that an individual close to a permit holder can gain access to these type of weapons and use them as tools of mass carnage demonstrates that such weapons have no place in our society. Noah, and the 25 other victims whose lives ended tragically that day, were stripped of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This is not about the right to bear arms. It is about the right to bear weapons with the capacity for mass destruction. We’re talking about a .223 caliber that is designed to penetrate a steel helmet on a battlefield, that was modified for that purpose, or to take down a 250, 200 pound deer, going into 40 pound children. You know, do these weapons have a place in our society? I say they don’t. Who am I? Well not anyone other than a mother who lost a child.”

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I found this picture of “WE ARE NEWTOWN” on the Healing Newtown Facebook page. It was posted with this comment:

“Friends, To show support for Newtown as the anniversary approaches, we’re asking that people use this picture as their Profile Picture this week. But, more importantly, we ask that you perform an act of kindness in your own community as a way to spread our committment to transform this grief into a committment to kindness. Thanks!”

In November, my little big boy turned seven with a party, balloons,  cake and cupcakes and oh, so much fun and celebration.

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The following day would have been Noah Pozner’s birthday.  I thought about him. About his twin sister turning seven,  about  his mother, father,  family and friends.

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As a parent of a child in a public elementary school in America, I now count on the list of possible  things that could happen there (lice, skinned knees, hurt feelings, math and testing stress) —- mass shootings —-God forbid.

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It’s too real to contemplate for very long and yet it must be and more people must speak up or things will never change. They do periodic drills at  school, which makes me sad. None of it makes any sense. None of it.  It is impossible that this continues. If this were an illness caused by a food product, from which tens of thousands of Americans, men, women and children were dying every year, would this government not ban that food product?  These are weapons of war and they have no place in the hands of   citizens.

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I saw this in my news feed on Facebook the other day.
It’s from the good people at Healing Newtown :

“In the days after the Newtown massacre, Connecticut Poet Laureate Dick Allen had no intention of writing a poem about it. In fact, he penned an op-ed piece in The Hartford Courant lamenting the deluge of poems that newspaper editors receive from well-meaning, novice poets after a tragedy like Newtown.

And yet, over and over in his head, he kept hearing the words “in the snow lightly falling.” Against his better judgment, he wrote the short poem “Solace” for the victims of Newtown.

Allen sent the poem to a few friends to get feedback, including a music professor, who sent the poem to Pulitzer prize-winning composer William Bolcom. Bolcom was struck by the beauty of the poem, and set “Solace” to music. Here is William Bolcom’s setting of “Solace” performed by members of the St. Patrick/St. Anthony Gallery Choir.”

https://soundcloud.com/wnpr/dick-allen-reciting-solace

https://soundcloud.com/wnpr/solace

It’s haunting, exquisite, devastating.

Meanwhile, the Brady Campaign reports that 30,000 people have been killed in America by guns since Newtown. According to Mother Jones  194 children have been killed since Newtown

MOMS DEMAND ACTION and  no more silence and it goes on.

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I listened to this beautiful poem /song
spoken  and  sung.

We held hands and played in the first snow as it fell.

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Love and peace,

Elana

It never stops hurting and love is everything

Dear Readers,

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My 9-11 tears came last night. Today, I won’t watch TV or look at footage or read  about it much. I think of everyone who lost someone on 9/11/2001,
especially my friend who lost her cousin, Michael at age 27 years old.
His name is engraved  on the 9/11 memorial at Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange, NJ.
I went there a few weeks ago on a beautiful evening at the end of summer, my 13th wedding anniversary.

The view  includes the new tower that is almost complete. It doesn’t seem real. I thought of my friend and that day, and everything. Everything. I touched his name. It changes nothing. But it connects me to her in my heart. It connects me to remembering what is impossible to forget. It hurts. It makes me feel insignificant, small, the way I feel when I stand under giant trees, aware of how fleeting life is, how I am dependent on others. Holding my son’s hand or kissing his cheek is perfect but when he reaches for my hand,  or kisses me, it expands my heart.

My husband’s hand holding mine is what keeps me standing up as we look for the names we know,  just breathing and looking at the lights, remembering. We’ve been together 18 years. My life was altered for the good because of him. That’s a fact of my life that can never be taken by anything or anyone, and it’s with and because of that love that I have everything.

What a miracle, how love grows from sparks and laughs and chance encounters. How sadness over loss can’t be quantified or measured or wrapped up or closed. How it hurts and I stand there and I allow it to hurt. And then I must turn my head away and walk towards the trees. I shake my head over the names and the ages and the randomness of it all, the deliberate act, the spectacle, and  I try to shake off the hurt. I breathe in gratitude for what I have. I have everything. Everything.

I think of falling down  as I look over and away and down, and my heart skips a beat because I’m afraid of heights. I’ve  been there at the top and it was so incredibly high.  I imagine what it was like to choose to jump and fly down instead of burning or gasping for air. What thoughts went through the minds of people who leapt?   Did they know peace in those moments? Would that even be possible?  Because I want to believe that peace comes and fear is erased and love wins. Or is it in this moment today that I must find that?

I think of witnesses who watched people fly down and those who had to pick up the pieces, and my heart  breaks over it all, for people I didn’t know, for people  suffering in fear, and I ask myself what have I done to make the world a better place? I ask— who am I? What can I do?  Have I loved my family today? Can I be more patient? Will I choose to be kind? Will it matter if I do or don’t do anything? Over what do I have control? When do I let go? I am afraid. Is it OK to say that out loud? I am afraid and I know I have everything and I don’t want to ever lose what I have which is everything.

And so I align my day to that LOVE. What do I need to do for my family today? What do I do for a friend? For a cause? What do I do for me that is about love so my tiny smallness, the crazy world, the terrible sadness, the never-ending violence, has a place to go, while life goes on in my corner. Trying to find the words and put them in context and be clear and feel it and go on. Letting go of the fear as it washes over me. How to make it not about me but not lose myself?

I think  of  those that survived. I think of bravery and courage and  love.

Here are two previous pieces: an excerpt from a poem and this. 

I search for ways
to go through this day that overwhelms and brings tears
and is simply, still, impossible to fully grasp.

It is an unusually hot day. It’s  not like the  crisp, cool day of  12 years ago, and repeated annually, with planes flying and life circling around and trying to accept what happened and always in the end, just being entirely overwhelmed by sadness and allowing it in but also needing to not let it swallow me up.

It’s  back to school week in my town and my son has gone three days in a row and I have pride for him, because it isn’t easy to start something new. He’s conquering fears. I’m  grateful. I can’t wait until I can go wait for his bus and come home together. I’ll offer him  ice cream and I know his face will light up. It will light up and my heart will be calm because he’ll  be with me and we’ll  enjoy ice cream together and that will be the happiest moment of this day. This evening, my husband will come home from work, and as he walks through the door, another happiest moment will happen. And when we all finally go to sleep, and Ringo snuggles on the bed, too, I’ll  be happy because I have everything, and I’ll  be grateful for that always.

I hold on to  the people and things that matter to me and wish for comfort
for others who have lost their everything.

I hope for peace in our world.

I fall to my knees.

Always, always,

Love and peace,

Elana

Day 29: The intangibles and my time in the desert with students

Dear Readers,

This  post by Frank Nappi from The Badass Teachers Association  is fantastic! I  relate to it in a few ways.  A long time ago, I was an educator /counselor in the Israeli army education branch (Gadna) of the IDF in 1985-1987 for my two-year service. I worked in a poor and disadvantaged rural community in the Northern Negev. Many of the children I worked with had illiterate parents with minimal grade school or no education of their own. They were some of the most warm, welcoming, caring, and generous people I’ve ever met. And they were also suspicious of me, the army, and outsiders in general.  They held patriarchal, conservative,  religious, and superstitious views of society. Women’s roles were  defined as wives, mothers, caregivers, food makers, house cleaners–traditional, old world views that were entrenched in their lives and viewpoints which they had brought with them from the social norms of the day in various Middle Eastern countries.

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They had been placed in these remote settlements, in my opinion, wrongfully set aside and marginalized by the establishment of the country. They felt ignored and for good reason. They made the best of their situation as they had no choice. One family grew flowers. One had fields of radishes. Their homes were small but very clean. They made delicious food and hung laundry on clothes lines outside.

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The women  seemed to work harder than the men, and they showed it in their  bodies which appeared older than their ages, always serving others. They were tired, but never stopped. They always wanted the best for their children.

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When  I entered their homes, I was  treated with respect and the well-known, Middle Eastern hospitality; immediate offers to sit down, and an abundance of food and drink placed before me in an instant. It was considered an insult to refuse and I learned quickly to always accept tea, water, a delicious pastry–something. The children I worked with ranged from elementary school to high school and beyond. I taught in classrooms, in fields, in bomb shelters, around kitchen tables,  on the side of dirt roads, etc. It took a while to gain their trust. To do that,  I made house calls. One house at a time, meeting the parents and grandparents, explaining why I was there. Showing them that even though I was a woman and in the army (which they generally disapproved of), that I was a decent person, that I meant no harm, that I was there to help their children. I  listened to their stories.

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I realized early on that the children primarily needed attention and love along with help channeling aggression and frustration. They needed me to show up and wait for our group meetings even though no one came at first. I told them when I’d be there and I waited. Eventually, they started coming. Just a few, then more, then all the kids that could. We played theater games and role played situations to help them deal with all kinds of issues and problems. I did art projects with them and we played for hours. I had a general curriculum we were expected to follow, but within that, I had a lot of flexibility to do whatever worked with my group. I made sure to follow what was prescribed to us, but I made it as fun as I could, and I often added my own topics or ways of delivery.

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One of the older students was the leader and all the others followed her. She was smart,  funny,  cheeky, and gave me the hardest time. I started bringing a camera to my meetings and visits. I started photographing the children and showing them the pictures. Many suffered from  low self-esteem, so I decided that showing them how I perceived them, how I saw their surroundings (they thought it was ugly, but I saw beauty in it), would maybe help them start seeing themselves as worthy and beautiful human beings.

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It worked.  It also gave me chance to hand my camera to the students themselves,  and I showed them how to use the camera. A camera was not something most of them had, so it was a novelty. My father gave me one of his Nikon cameras to use. That was kind of big deal. I was always afraid it would get ruined by the sand and dust that was everywhere, but it survived just fine.

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The students had a blast posing for the camera and thought it was silly that I kept telling them, Just do your thing and I’ll grab the pictures. You don’t have to pose. But pose they did. Showing off bike tricks, running, “Look what we can do!” I praised them for their strengths and abilities and offered support and help where they lacked confidence or knowledge. I often helped them with homework, never doing it for them, but tutoring and helping them arrive at their own answers. The most difficult student came around to me. She loved the camera and taking pictures. Once she accepted me and started changing her attitude, the rest followed suit.

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Long after I finished my army service, I learned that she had become a photographer. It was a truly gratifying moment.  I wondered if  my work with her had anything to do with her choice to pursue photography. I’ll never know for sure, but it could be, and that’s enough to think about how much one person can influence another when you’re able to  teach in the best possible way. No tests or punishments. Just love,  attention,  communication, and learning to develop a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. The information and academics followed from that and were weaved in between the games, playing, conversations about things that mattered to the students. All the topics got covered, but first the work was about building relationships. They had to trust me first. I had to meet them where they were.

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As was written in The Little Prince by Antoine St. Exupery:

“What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Love and peace,

Elana

Day 27: The day after and swimming in the pool with friends

Dear Readers,

Last night M cried before going to sleep. “Mommy, will I ever see my class friends again?”

I said, “Yes, you’ll see them. Most of them will be going to your school again in the fall. And friends are friends. We’ll see some of them in the summer. Plus, you have camp coming up, and you’ll make some new friends there.”

M wasn’t convinced. “But, Mommy, I want to know which of my friends will be at my camp. I want my old friends.”

We have these conversations every time there’s  a beginning or an ending. Before school starts, before it ends, before camp, and then by the time camp is over, he’s made new friends and doesn’t want to leave them.

I told him we were going to see one of his class friends the next day. He fell asleep. Finally.

I fell asleep right after him. I woke up in the middle of the night, disoriented. I didn’t know what day it was. After going back to bed and sleeping in (until around 8am!) I felt better. This graduating K business is exhausting. Endings usually are followed by a need to rest. But so are beginnings–all that excitement,  fear, and loss mixed in with  the unknown ahead. Until you know, you don’t know.

We took our cat to the vet today for her annual checkup. I need to call tomorrow morning to get the results of some tests the vet said she needed to run. Ringo has lost some weight. She’s 14 years old. Senior kitty. I spent today trying to not to think about it. I’ll know more when I call in the morning. But of course there’s dread. What ifs. I push it all out of my mind. The same way I reassure M that yes, he’ll  most likely see his friends again, I tell myself, everything will be OK. I can’t even allow the thoughts in. What’s the point in fretting too much when you don’t know and you can’t know until you know and until then, you just don’t know? Being comfortable with unknowns is difficult, and  one thing that works for me (sometimes) is to get very involved in the present moment. Literally, only be here now. It isn’t something I can always sustain, but when I do that, it helps.

It’s the same with friendships, beginnings, endings, transitions, comings and goings, all life’s separations. We need to tell ourselves that we’ll see our friends again. That our cat will be OK. Until we know differently, we have the hopes and wishes and that moves us forward. It’s as if we must choose to be happy about what is NOW, what is good right now, until we’re confronted with news that might shatter that. We’re  here now.

M was thrilled to invite his friend over to play in our little pool this afternoon. It was proof to him  that he’ll  still see his friends. A person needs concrete proof sometimes. Or maybe often, that what’s  real is real. Saying it is one thing, but a six year old wants to see it in action. Until then, it’s just words. When will we get there? And then we get there. When will my friend be here? And then they arrive. And they are here. Now, it is real. And the fun begins.

The afternoon passed with M and his friend playing and splashing and laughing. The other parent and I chatted in the shade and kept an eye on the kids. It was easy. Not all play dates are, but this one was. Every time we make a connection with someone, it feels good. Since it’s been almost three years since we moved here, we’re still new in town, but every new friendship makes this feel more like home, and makes the thought of what is happening here feel harder. Because know we know more people and care about more people. Nothing is hypothetical anymore. It is here. It is real. The friendships are real and what threatens us is also real.

And it all comes down to that. People. Friends. Our cat. Having fun and being silly whenever possible. So, I hope, I hope that the work I’m doing with our parent group here in town will have an effect and that we’ll  change things for the better.

I know that kids learn when they can  move around and DO things. So, I’m not worried about “summer learning loss.” Children need to play. They learn best through play. They need some unstructured time where not too much is planned and they can just BE.   I’m certain M will learn a lot this summer.  But mostly, I hope he has fun. I worry about the future but I’m also determined for us to have a happy summer. To not go into future worry about what might happen, but instead, to keep our eyes on the prize, to take every step we can to create change, and to allow ourselves to enjoy our lives as best we can while we fight hard for  our schools.

I’m glad M told me he was sad about missing his class, about it ending. And at the same time, he’s really looking forward to the next step. I don’t know if there’s a way to not feel this ambivalence. I’m not sure life is any clearer when you push one feeling aside for another. It’s  just one step, one splash, one friend at a time. And it’s quite possible to be completely thrilled one has finished something big,  and  at the same time, deeply sad that the something big is over, and you have indeed finished it and are moving on. Graduating.

Nemo said, “Keep swimming.” That’s what we’re gonna do. Keep swimming.

Thank you again and again to all of you for sticking with me through this crazy month, for posting,  liking, and encouraging me, and to the recent newest subscribers–welcome. Just a few more days of the WordCount Blogathon 2013, which will end on June 30.

Good night and good morning,

Elana

Day 23: Thanking My Teachers Near and Far

Dear Readers,

Sorry, I didn’t have time to add pics. And this is  a bit long. But here you go. A bit from Israel and my college days and years.

I was at the end of 4th grade, on May 8th, when my family left the US and immigrated to Israel (also known as making Aliya; a word in Hebrew which means  to go up. We landed dazed, confused, jet lagged and wearing matching denim jackets circa 1976. It was hot.

We lived on an Ulpan on a kibbutz. My Hebrew teacher on the Ulpan on the kibbutz (a focused period of immersion into Israeli  culture and language for new immigrants designed to help one get over culture shock, learn the language). Plus  the experience was  supposed to help my parents decide if we want to live on a kibbutz permanently. I was ten when we arrived. I knew maybe two words in Hebrew. My teacher was patient and kind. Many kids were cruel to us, but when the teacher was around, I felt safe.

We ended up moving to Jerusalem after six months on the kibbutz. I started 5th grade in Jerusalem. My teacher was lovely. Welcoming, supportive, gentle with me. I was “adopted” by a group of kids who taught me how to speak Hebrew without an American accent. They walked me to and from school. They helped me learn how to be an Israeli. I was the only English speaker in my class. I had to learn the language fast, and I did, as children do. No one tested me. I was treated with kindness and generosity. I was given time and endless patience.

In high school I had one extraordinary teacher for  Hebrew Literature, Raya. She was beautiful, tall, with dark olive skin, shiny, long black hair, and she wore the coolest clothes. I wanted to be like her. Composed, graceful, smart. Hers was an  advanced level class.   I loved it and did well. She was intelligent,  tough, and challenged us to push beyond what we thought we could do. She believed in me. In my ability to write, to be a reader, to understand literature, or life.

When I was around 16 or 17, the year before I’d graduate, family problems left me deeply troubled and I dropped out of school. She reached out to me repeatedly, and finally one day she offered to take to me to lunch, and I accepted. We spoke at length. She said, “You have a gift of a good left and right brain. I cannot let you waste that. I can’t let you   waste your mind. I’ll  help you catch up. You need to come back to school so you can graduate. I promise to help you.” I decided to go back. And she was good on her word and helped me. I spent hours going to her house where she tutored me in the months of material I’d missed. I caught up.  I got to my senior year and I graduated and passed everything except Math.

When I went to college in the US starting at the age of 22, after the army, after traveling in Europe, I enrolled at CUNY Hunter College in NYC. I went using Pell Grants, student loans, and a few odd jobs. I was also broke.  I was a theater major/ dance minor. I took a remedial math class (great teacher) and passed. I had a few excellent teachers there. When I was going through a rough patch my dance teacher held my shoulders in her hands, looked me in the eye and  said, “You’re  going to come out of this on the other side and you’re going to be OK.” It was soul restoring.

I couldn’t keep going to school full time, pay rent, and eat, so  since I had to support myself, I quit school when I finished that semester in order to  work full-time. My theater professor and I had become friends.  Dan always encouraged me, writing me excellent recommendation letters whenever I needed them. A champion. He said “You’re a great student.” It meant the world to me.

A few years later, while working at Sesame Workshop (then Children’s Television Workshop), I got full staff benefits which included tuition reimbursement for undergrad course study related to my job or company. I signed up for part-time classes towards my B.A. at The New School for Social Research. I did one year there and then my job was cut and I had to drop out again. I had a great screenwriting teacher and got good grades, which I had to do keep at a certain level in order to qualify for  the tuition help.

In 2002, I went back to school for one final try, and at age 38, I finally graduated from SUNY Empire State College, the Manhattan Center in NYC. There, I had the great pleasure of working with an outstanding teacher and mentor, Shirley. She literally held my hand and helped me figure it all out. She was also my lit and writing teacher and her classes were a complete joy. The two years I worked to complete my degree were some of the most fulfilling and rewarding. I wrote all the time. I was   in the most incredible writing groups with amazing writers who I became friends with.   I did this with the generous support of my husband. Because of him, I was able to work  part-time and focus on school without fear of losing financial security, food, or shelter. It was a revelation. I graduated in 2004 with a B.A. in Creative Writing and the Performing Arts. My   lifelong dream of graduating from college came true. It remains  one of my proudest accomplishments. I couldn’t have done it without the moral and financial support of my husband.

I would not be standing (or sitting) here without the many teachers who I’ve had throughout my life. I would be remiss  not to mention my gifted improv teacher, Christine. One of the funniest people on the planet. She helped me return to my roots of improv (first done when I was 15 and in Israel), after I had a crisis of confidence and was going to quit performing all together somewhere around 2004-2005. The fun and laughs and growth I experienced with a group of hilarious people  was pure magic. Needless to say, there were no tests and I didn’t need advanced math skills. For the record, I can balance a checkbook, stick to a budget, and can compute sale percentages and mortgage calculations. Up to a point anyway.

Good teachers give their students things that cannot be measured on a standardized test. The  ones who reach down to pull a student up from the depths of despair are doing a job that is life saving. No one can tell me that the teachers I learned from didn’t save me. They all did. The believed in me before I  believed in myself. When I believed in myself they pushed me harder.   I believe in the power of teachers to transform the lives of their students and I want their respect and autonomy restored. I want them to be allowed to teach and be themselves. The good ones save people on a daily basis.  I know they saved me. My gratitude for that will never end.

Good night, good morning, and thank you!

Elana

Day 4: I survived my first BOE meeting!

Dear Readers,

First of all, welcome to the newest followers and subscribers! And to all the LIKERS and commenters—Thank you! Good to have you here.

Thanks to my neighbor and him driving us to the meeting, we had  a chance to chat on way there. He had some excellent suggestions and edits on the comments I wanted to make (and letter to send) and it was very helpful to have a veteran BOE meeting-goer giving me tips and advice. I was nervous but felt better once we got there. Oh, man, it takes a village. It does.

The first part of the evening was an award ceremony honoring outstanding  district teachers. Our Kindergarten teacher was an award recipient (nominations are made by parents–yes,  we’d nominated her.) Well, it was wonderful to cheer her on in person and see her receive such well deserved recognition. She’s a truly outstanding teacher and we LOVE her.

Each award winner got to have a little bit  about them by the presenter, including   quotes from parent/nominators (without mentioning their  names). For Ms teacher, they quoted a few of the words I’d written in my nomination letter. I was stunned once I recognized them as mine. It was a  little moment of hey you really never know where your words are going to end up —- an unexpected and happy surprise. A cool circle of mutual good going around parent-teacher-child–and it was nice to be a part of that feeling.

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It was intimidating at first. Big auditorium, all the BOE members and Super sitting behind long tables, stacks of strategic plans, and after a long presentation by the Super (with power point projections), they opened the floor to comments.I ended up speaking as did all the members present from our core parent group. Everyone did very well,  made great points, and asked tough questions.

I asked about “data driven instruction” and said, “Our district should be moving far away from this, not closer to it. Why is it not child or student driven instruction?” I asked about my concerns about the data storing company, cost, privacy concerns, etc. I told them I like  our current mode of communication with our teacher and school and want to keep it that way. I asked about their recurring use of the word “customers” in many of the strategic plan drafts and other written materials and on the district website. I was assured by the super that language was out and changed. But  “Central Services”  (formerly Central Office) will still be offering “customer service” although to students and parents, not  “customers.”

Step right up, data for sale! Come and get it!

The reaction from the room was positive and I was immensely relieved.

I didn’t feel any of our questions were really answered. I felt like there’s a wall. And some tiny slivers of cracks in some places, but mostly, a very rigid wall. We’ve got our work cut out for us.

Anyway, the super answered me. I honestly am not sure what she said exactly (except for the part about not using “customers” anymore–that was clear), although I tried really hard to follow her. Then two BOE members responded. One said, “You know, I have a friend in NY who says the Common Core is just great. Really, I’m telling you,  they love it.” As if she was talking about a brand of shampoo.  Clearly, she’s in favor of the whole corporate ed reform business plan. It was good to see the different positions of the BOE members. Subtle in some cases, obvious in others, not much ambivalence, but  a smidge from a few.

It was an interesting statement in light of this out of New York and everything we already know about other places and the growing resistance movement against Common Core and High Stakes Testing.

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There’s  obfuscation and vagueness, sound bytes, canned lines, corporate jargon, and it felt a bit  like his:

Let’s pretend I asked: What time is it?

Answer:

Well, our research shows that when the data is measurable, 80% of the students
can do better and achieve  higher expectations and scores, but we need to really give a good structure and rigor to the measurable goals–in addition to the ten week assessment cycles, which is really a long time, plenty of time to teach what’s necessary and not to be confused with NJASK or coming soon PARCC. And testing, no, not high stakes testing or teaching to the test, no, testing to evaluate where we are.  Standards are important, and we need to aim higher and everyone can be excellent. Yes, maybe the timing could be slower but we really do have the mandates from above and the State, and certainly all students can be smarter and work harder and teachers can collaborate together and share lesson plans with each other!

By time, if you mean we need answer the question about what time it is, let me refer you to our plan, which is ever-changing, and a living breathing document, and certainly, not in stone, and will be changing as time  passes. Change is hard, and we won’t change things just for changes sake. Multiple measures and data is really where we need to be in the 21st century. Let me tell you, the students will need to be college and career ready, but even if not everyone goes to college, plumbing isn’t easy. I’ve looked at those handbooks and manuals –it is  hard to read those plumbing and electrician handbooks, so EVERYONE will need to be at a certain level to succeed and we’re going to do this together over time….see what works, what doesn’t.   And will you look at the time….It’s just about that time now!

OR like this:

Question: What time is it?

Answer: We’re out  of orange juice and milk, but we have apple juice. Also, my socks are beige and one size fits all.

To sum up, I learned a lot. Still gotta fully unpack
all that was said last night. I met great people. Felt empowered. Lots of work to do.

They will win if we comply, if we are silent. If we don’t speak up, we have no chance. Our group is energized and determined. I’m grateful for my fellow parent group people.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. 
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

—Margaret Mead

Love and Peace,

Elana