The Problem with Choice

I know too many people who are not educators (and some who are) that are in favor of the choice movement in education. The biggest reason people want choice is to improve the education for their own children and then create competition so that other schools will be forced to improve or shut down. Unfortunately, both reasons are based in misconceptions about education.

I will concede that “choice” is not a bad thing when you are talking about businesses, service industries, and commodities. We definitely want businesses to compete for our money. Competition makes businesses strive for excellence. That’s why people, outside of education mostly, thought that “choice” would make all schools better, but it hasn’t.

Why? First, because education is not a business; it is a human right (Article 26) that is protected as part of our inalienable fundamental rights to which people are entitled simply because they are human beings, “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour (sic), sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

In other words, if a business fails, the owners can start over, maybe poorer and a little wiser, but no real harm done. If a school fails, it has negatively affected the human rights of every child that went to that failing school.

So how does the “choice” movement hurt human rights? Bear with me as I try to explain this point.

If you are for “choice” in education, you want better “service” for your child. We all want what is best for our children–I’m not arguing that. But if your child is going to a failing school, and you have the money to pay for private schools, which is part of that choice movement, then you will no longer care about that failing school because you can give your child something better (unless your child makes a mistake which will result in an expulsion with no chance of return to that private school). That is great for you and your family, but what about all the other children who can’t afford to pay for private schools?

The next question is usually, isn’t that why people came up with charter schools, so that people who can’t afford private schools can still get a quality education? Yes. Charter schools, in general, are another great idea–on paper. You don’t have to pay for charter schools out of your own pocket—technically—but your tax dollars go to those schools. Our government gives charter schools a certain amount of money for every child enrolled in that charter school; so just like public schools, our government pays for your child’s education—that is if you are lucky enough to get selected, and your child behaves well enough to stay at that school. Most charter schools operate on a lottery system, so not all students will get in, and most schools will kick students out who make mistakes or make the school look bad in any way.

Once again, for those parents who want choice, this sounds great because those children who are selected have a great atmosphere for learning.

However, what people forget is that there are many students who will have to continue going to that failing school. If you can’t worry about someone else’s children, then just consider this: Pulling your child out of the failing school does not pull them out of the society in which they live. One way or another, the negative effects of that failing school will still affect you and your children.

Just to summarize the first point, education is not a business; it is a human right. Therefore, educational choice is about people only caring about their children—no one else’s. Those who can afford it will choose to pay for their children to go to private schools. Out of those that remain, some parents will apply to charter schools and a few lucky students will get selected. That leaves the rest in public schools because public schools will take every rejected and expelled student and do the best they can to educate those students within the confines of the system. Public schools also have incredible students who are successful despite the “choice” movement.

Is it any wonder our public schools look like they are failing if the wealthy and well behaved students are all going somewhere else? Along these lines, by eliminating the heterogeneous classroom in all three options, it makes it harder for those struggling students to see what work ethic, study skills, and perseverance looks like. On the other hand, a classroom that has students with different genders, talents, abilities, interests, backgrounds, and cultures will help all students work toward a higher standard. The students in heterogeneous schools can relate to the world better because they experience diversity on a daily basis. The homogeneous classrooms found in private and charter schools miss out on this necessary part of children’s education. Also, when you remove the top tier of motivated students, the learning culture deteriorates on multiple levels. Students with average ability, motivation, or interest lose that interest, and kids who struggle for whatever reason just give up. Remember, we want our children to be civic-minded and global citizens. How can they understand the global world or empathize with the struggles in our society if they grow up only relating to people just like them?

http://standardizedtests.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=4346 Denver Post cartoon satirizing the effect of standardized tests on public education.

http://standardizedtests.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=4346
Denver Post cartoon satirizing the effect of standardized tests on public education.

Second, it is important to note that private and charter schools don’t operate under the government’s watchful eye, which allows them to reject the highly controversial Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and refuse to participate in the corresponding state tests. Since these schools operate independently, they don’t have to participate in the very reasons that people are complaining about public schools. As a matter of fact, many private and charter schools saw the CCSS as a flawed document right from the start and opted out of it.

Remember, CCSS and the state tests are mandated for public schools by the government, while at the same time, the government is pushing for more charter schools that do not have to follow the mandates of the government. Does that make sense? So how can this “choice” movement improve the quality of all schools, when public schools don’t have the autonomy to fix their schools?

Third, to make matters worse, the government is giving money to private and charter schools because of that “choice” movement in the form of vouchers—money that could be given to public schools to improve those failing schools. Of course private and charter schools are going to appear as the right “choice” when they have money to purchase the newest technology, have the freedom to be innovative, and can reject the foolish educational reforms that are more about money than about our children.

Those outside of education do not understand that public schools cannot choose to change their operating methods, so it is impossible for public schools to compete in this so called “business market.” Besides the fact that education is a human right and not a business, the business competition model cannot change public schools because public schools are at the mercy of the government that continues to cut the budget of public schools to pay for tests and to give vouchers to private and charter schools.

Fourth, people and the government are not paying attention to the problems with some charter schools. John Oliver did this great piece on charter schools that exposed the problems with the government funding these unregulated entities.  Many “nonprofit” charter schools are finding deceptive was to make a profit. Once again, if “choice” education is supposed to create competition and a striving for excellence among all schools, Oliver’s research shows how that business model is failing even in the charter school industry.

On the other side of this issue, though, I will admit, there are some amazing charter schools out there. This is my biggest frustration: If there are innovative schools that are working, why can’t we adopt those innovations in public schools?

If parents truly want choice, this is where we as parents and educators need to concentrate our efforts. In Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the statement that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” should be taken literally and used to fix public education for all, not to give choice only to the wealthy and the fortunate.

If we want true education reformation, we need to make sure the public tax dollars are being used correctly to create an actual choice movement within the public school system itself: Increase money being spent on public education to improve ALL schools, regardless of location; increase teachers’ salaries to create a true competition for quality teachers; increase public school autonomy so that principals and teachers can use their knowledge and experience to innovate and create the right learning environment for their students.

If people are really concerned about choice, they should make sure their local public school is doing what their children need in order to thrive. Imagine a public school that has the elite academic prep curriculum of Phillips Exeter Academy for those students who are college bound; the innovation of The Ron Clark Academy for those who are creative or learn differently; the care and nurturing of the Learning Skills Academy for those with learning disabilities; and The Independent Project (https://youtu.be/RElUmGI5gLc) for those who want independence and a nontraditional education. Using these innovative schools as models to transform public schools would meet the needs of every student regardless of race, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status—not just the wealthy and lucky few.

Posted in Advice For Parents, Education Reformation, Letters I Need to Write, Pauline's Soap Box, The Moments of Impact, True Reformation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

The Top 12 Global Teacher Blogger Discussion: November 2016

How do you as teachers support children who are confused or frightened by events going on in their world?

election-2016As a parent, I had to calm my son down before he went to bed Tuesday night and when he woke up Wednesday morning. His “I’m scared, Mom” was difficult for me to hear because I had to take responsibility for his fears. I made negative comments before the election about Donald Trump in front of my son, and told him I was confident that Americans would not elect a person like that to represent our country. When we woke up to that shocking reality, I realized how I let my son down.

What I should have done is emphasized that the government was set up as a three-branch system to make sure that none of them would have too much power, so our president will always be tempered by two other branches, limiting his power and control.

What I should have done is told my son the truth about politicians: They work for us. They may make a lot of promises and threaten a lot of things, but politicians are supposed to serve the Americans they represent. They are supposed to, but that fact hasn’t actually been true for a long time. And, truthfully, we are responsible for letting politicians get away with serving themselves rather than the American people.

What I should have told my son is that many media sources want money more than they want to be vehicles for truth, so if they can get our attention with fear, they will also get money. We need to be discerning on how we get our information and what we blindly believe without investigating further.

Now, I am changing the conversation to empower my son and college students; I am speaking more passionately at home and in my classrooms about how to take our power back.

What I am now telling my son and students is that we have been given a wakeup call. There is no room for fear in our lives. Neither can we sit idly by and hope for the best. We have to let our representatives know what we want and what we will not accept. We have to investigate what our elected officials are actually doing with the trust we have put in them. We have to make our voices heard and back up our voices with action.

What I am continuing to tell my son and students is that we need to be the change we want to see in the world. If we want equality, then we must treat everyone as equals. If we want kindness and compassion, then we need to come alongside people in need to let them know they are not alone. If we want our voices to be heard, then we cannot silence those who see the world differently than we do, and that includes President-elect Trump. If we want to protect our environment, then we need to stop being wasteful and start supporting renewable, clean energy sources. If we want to feel secure in our beautiful country, then we need to stand up for our rights as Americans; we need to stand up to the bullies on the playground and in our governing houses—not with violence but with knowledge, courage, and solidarity.

Bottom line, as teachers and parents we need to support students and children who are confused or frightened by role modeling equality, kindness, compassion, intelligence, and fortitude.

http://www.cmrubinworld.com/the-global-search-for-education-top-global-teacher-bloggers-children-are-listening

Posted in Advice For Parents, Pauline's Soap Box, The American Dream, The Moments of Impact, Top 12 Global Teacher Bloggers | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Healthy Choices: Essential Oils

I’m happy to announce that I have joined doTERRA Essential Oils as a wellness advocate.

I was introduced to doTerra by a friend who has been using essential oils for years now. In the past she has given me oils for stress/anxiety, stomach aches, fever and body aches, and they have worked every time. At first, I thought it was coincidence, honestly, but the more research I did on essential oils, the more sense it made. People have been using essential oils for food preparation and health-care since the beginning of time.

In fact, many of the products we purchase in stores now are just synthetic versions of these natural oils. I truly believe that many of those synthetic, chemical products have created a health crisis in our society. Most of you know all too well about my son’s rare, cancerous brain tumor. Could his cancer, as well as so many other health problems around the world, been caused by these foreign chemicals that surround us?

In response to this belief, I have eliminated as many chemical products as possible over the last six months, and it has improved both our lives significantly. We are eating healthier, cleaning healthier, and allowing our bodies to heal with natural products instead of chemically created medicines. Not only do we clean with and ingest these oils, Ian and I also use a diffuser with essential oils for sore throats, congestion, and insomnia, and we wake up feeling healthy and rested.

img_2201A few products that I’ve been using on a daily basis for the last three months are lemon and peppermint oils. I have used other oils for specific reasons, but these two I take daily in my water and the effects are amazing. Every morning I mix about 5-6 drops of lemon oil and 2-3 drops of peppermint oil (too much peppermint can be overpowering) in a 2-quart container of regular tap water. I drink this water throughout the day. At first, I just liked the taste. It was a cool, refreshing drink without sugar or chemical additives. It helped me to fulfill the daily water requirement experts say our bodies need to stay healthy and hydrated. That in itself was a win for me.

As time went on, I started to notice that my desire for alcohol started to wane. I used to crave (for a lack of a better word) a glass of wine or a bottle of beer at the end of the day to help me unwind, but that craving stopped. Interestingly enough, I celebrated my 52nd birthday in October and was drinking, but it actually felt like I couldn’t overdo it. I was aware how much I was drinking because I was worried about the hangover I was sure to have because the older I get the worse those hangovers have become (like an all-day-long hangover). On my birthday, everyone was buying me drinks, but I didn’t feel drunk, while those around me were pretty intoxicated. The next morning, I wasn’t hungover at all. If anything, I was just tired from the late night. I thought that was pretty weird, but didn’t think much about it until I became a doTerra wellness advocate and started learning more about these two oils that I was using on a daily basis.

First, Lemon Essential Oil cleanses my liver and kidneys, and Lemon and Peppermint oils are known for their digestive benefits. I now know why I didn’t get a hangover. My liver and kidneys are functioning so well that my body just removed the toxins immediately. Because of the digestive benefits of both oils, I didn’t feel nauseated either. I no longer “crave” alcohol because these oils also have emotional benefits. Lemon oil helps with clarity, inspiration, and confidence. Peppermint oil opens the heart to joy and happiness, settles anxious feelings, and dissolves fears. I don’t need to “escape” from my day, which is why I craved alcohol.

If these things aren’t enough, here are a few other ways I have seen a difference in my life:

I started menopause in June, and I was struggling with intense hot flashes, especially in the middle of the night, which affected my sleep. During the day, I would go from a hot flash to chills, usually while teaching. I would lose my concentration and often forget what I was saying. After I started using the oils, besides putting the two oils in my water, I also created a body spray with lemon, peppermint, and lavender oils. My hot flashes stopped.

Whenever I have an upset stomach, I crush a DoTerra Peppermint Bead (a drop of oil in a beadlet) in my mouth, and the stomach ache stops immediately, almost like a Pepto-Bismol, but without the chalky taste and harmful chemicals. I also crush a peppermint beadlet after I eat at work to counteract any bad breath from the meal. It’s better than chewing gum, especially since I’m a teacher and shouldn’t talk while I’m chewing.

Ian is going through that painful growth spurt where his knee joint swells. It’s a common ailment for children between 10 and 15, and the only cure is time, but I have been putting Deep Blue oil-blend rub on his knee, and it instantly lessens his pain.

The other day, Ian was coughing and his chest sounded congested. A few days before he had spent the day with his sister who had a cough and congestion. I thought he must have picked up her cold. I gave Ian the bottle of On Guard oil blend, just to inhale the scent, and he stopped coughing and didn’t get sick.

I am looking forward to discovering the other benefits. I will keep you posted on my experiences with essential oils. Let me know if you’d like more information or would like to try any of the oils. I’ll be happy to assist you!

Here is my page on doTerra if you’d like to look at some of the products and the information on the company: https://www.mydoterra.com/paulinehawkins/#/

Posted in Essential Oils, Life After Cancer | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uncle Phil Radio Show Nov 11, 2016

I had the pleasure of talking about my book on the Uncle Phil Show on Friday. It’s a bit long, but a great hour-long discussion with Phil and Marshall. We had some deep conversations about education, bullying and how to help our children in this climate of fear, but mostly, we laughed and bonded over our mutual desire to make the world a better place.

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The Top 12 Global Teacher Blogger Discussion: October 2016

How do we better engender a healthy, happy, and productive school environment where both teachers and students can flourish?

flourishIn Martin E.P. Seligman’s Flourish (published April 5, 2011 with Simon and Schuster), he writes about the five elements people need in order to flourish. It goes beyond trying to find happiness:Flourishing rests on five pillars, each of which we value for its own sake, not merely as a means to some other end.”

So what are the five pillars and how do we create those elements in a school environment?

Here are my thoughts:

Positive Emotion

In order for our schools to flourish, they need to be a place where positive emotions reside. At the moment, school systems, teachers, and students are surrounded with negative emotions. Most teachers try to create a positive environment for their students, but so much depends on what happens outside of the classroom. If we want to improve that outer atmosphere, we need to make sure teachers are happy and not stressed out over the increased pressures surrounding their profession. If the teacher ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Engagement

Students engage when they have a sense of wonder and curiosity about the subject matter, which is a direct result of the teacher’s engagement. I engage with my students because I want to hear and read what my students think about what we are learning in the classroom. The more control I have over the content of my classroom, the more engaged I am, which creates that atmosphere for my students. When reform agencies dictate the content of teachers’ classrooms, engagement diminishes significantly.

Relationships

Even at the college level where I rarely see students for more than a semester, I have developed strong relationships with my students. I also encourage students to form strong bonds with each other because they need to trust each other when they share their thoughts in classroom discussions and essays in writing workshops. If students aren’t talking to and collaborating with each other, they will never build those necessary relationships.

Meaning

Teachers find meaning in their chosen profession; it’s intrinsic to their job description. However, the current educational trends take away that intrinsic process from students: Students’ choices are being stripped away, with most schools buying into the factory model of producing only college-bound students, instead of creating a place where students can discover their own passions and direction in life.

Accomplishment

One of the reasons video games are so popular with children and teens is that they offer a sense of accomplishment as players move through the levels. This element is sorely lacking in today’s school system. In middle school, students can move through the grade levels without passing a single subject. Some parents are demanding that their children are rewarded for little effort. What has hurt teachers in this area is the evaluation system that measures teachers’ accomplishments through a deeply flawed test. No matter what we tell ourselves about the growth we see in our students, if our accomplishments can be stripped away by a flawed test, we will operate from a defeatist position.

As Seligman states, each of these five pillars needs to be present for people to flourish. It only makes sense that they must be present in the school system for teachers and students to flourish as well.

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Hall of Fame Induction Speech

I graduated from Gates-Chili in 1982. I had amazing teachers here who affected my life. Mr. Ron Poness, Ms.Martha MacAdam, Mr. Jack Degan, and Mr. Dan Hickey are a few who bring a smile to my face. These amazing teachers made me want to become a teacher. I decided that standing in front of young adults would be my life’s work because I wanted to awaken dormant curiosities, light-up teenagers’ worlds, and speak to students’ hearts and minds just like they did.

Not only am I a teacher, but I’m a writer as well. My first book was published in April of 2015. I also write for an education column and have a number of projects in various stages of completion. Writing is just a continuation of my teaching. I have a much bigger classroom now, one that transcends the confines of a single building and includes adults as well as students.

With that said, I’d like to address educators for a moment. Don’t ever forget why you do what you do. Continue to make that positive difference every day and don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t matter or that you can be replaced by a machine. I remember my teachers 35 years later because of the way they made me feel, not because of how well they taught their subject matter. When students know you care, you will improve their lives.

And now to my students, for you are in my classroom now.

We’ve heard a lot about success lately and how education provides the building blocks to success, which is true, but first: I want to challenge how you define success. Do you measure success by money? Material possessions? College degrees? Respectable professions?

I don’t. I measure success by the positive impact I make in people’s lives. There is no greater joy. That’s why I teach. That’s why I write. That is my purpose: to improve the world around me, one person at a time because I believe that every word, every life, every dream matters.

Do you know your purpose? Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.” You were all born for a reason. Your unique presence affects this world. What kind of impact will you make?

So how do you discover your purpose? First, you need to know who you are now, so you can take the right steps towards who you want to be. There are 5 qualities you need before you can discover your purpose.

One: Love. Do you know what love is? Before you can love another person and receive it properly from others, you need to love yourself first. Choose healthy foods, daily exercise, and intelligent entertainment to nourish your body and mind. By loving yourself, you will begin to see that you are worthy of love, and you won’t accept anything less from others. You have to know what love is in order to give and receive real love.

Two: Kindness. Are you kind to yourself? Stop the self-hate, and take care of yourself; be forgiving of your mistakes. When you learn how to be kind to yourself, you will become a kinder person to others as well and will only accept kindness from others.

Three: Beauty. Do you see the beauty in yourself? When you truly see yourself as beautiful, you will understand that true beauty begins inside a person. Outward appearances fade, especially if that outward beauty covers up inner ugliness. Truly beautiful people radiate beauty from within because they can acknowledge the beauty in everything they see, touch, and experience.

Four: Respect. Do you respect yourself? When you acknowledge that you are worthy of respect just as you are, a world of possibilities open up for you. When you respect yourself, you will readily give respect to others and will attract respect in return.

Five: Honesty. Are you honest with yourself? You can’t attract love, beauty, kindness, and respect into your life if you are not honest with where you actually are first.

Having these qualities does not mean that you put yourself above others; it means that you realize you are lovable, kind, beautiful, and worthy of respect and then are able to give those things freely to others. You stop thinking about “what can I get?” and start thinking about “what can I give?” You are free from society’s definition of success, which will allow you to find your purpose in service towards others—not because you have to, not because you can make a lot of money, but because it’s the reason you were born—to make the world a better place.

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The Top 12 Global Teacher Blogger Discussion: September 2016

paint-brushesHow can we maximize the value of art and music in education and how can it be blended with more traditional subjects (math, science, history, etc.)?

I teach at a community college, and a professor there created an art therapy club for professors, adjunct, and staff. Nine people attended the first session where they colored with pens and painted with watercolors. Future sessions will consist of making jewelry, drawing, and using mixed media—all as therapy to help adults relieve a stressful week. This is brilliant; however, our primary and secondary children are going to school during a time when the arts are slowly being eliminated from their curriculum. I find this dichotomy painfully ridiculous.

Instead of answering the question this month, I’m going to ask a few of my own:

If schools embraced this idea of art therapy, would we have as many children and teens suffering from stress and anxiety?

If students were allowed to embrace their creative sides, would they grow up into adults who needed art therapy?

If art is therapeutic, why do we give it so little importance and relegate it to an elective in secondary schools?

Why do parents and educators allow people who don’t really care about their children to make unhealthy decisions for their children?

Why does the very notion of school imply that everything that is taught there needs to be quantified? Can’t we just enjoy learning without testing or assigning a letter grade to it?

Why are math, science, social studies, and English classes more important in a child’s education, than art, music, dance, and theater?

Why do people think that studying the arts is a waste of time and not preparation for college? Why can’t students who truly love the arts immerse themselves in those areas and continue to do so in college?

Why is our society so bent on educating only half the child? Do people not see the damage being done to our children when we eliminate the things that bring them the greatest joy?

 

Posted in Education Reformation, Guest Blogger, Top 12 Global Teacher Bloggers, True Reformation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment