Lessons from 1967

If is funny when people remember what you said years ago. About 9 years ago I was at my husband’s (who I was dating then) great uncle’s house for less than 10 minutes but while there I saw this basket in a corner and realized it was LIFE magazines from major events during the 1960’s. I made the comment that it was a gold mine and that I would love to go through those. Fast forward to a few months ago when his great uncle passed away. His cousin Katie remembered that I liked the magazines. So yesterday my mother-in-law gave me a huge box of them. Of course I was in heaven. Articles by Martin Luther King Jr., Moon landing, Memorial of Apollo 1, tons of JFK, and even an article about how Nixon followers are all moving into Watergate – I know, right?!


So while flipping through history, and kind of sad that we won’t have print like this in the future, I found an article interviewing Howard Howe II the U.S. Commissioner of Education in 1967. Now as someone as from the south I know that was a headache of a time to be in that position, this was during desegregation in the south. (You know, because here in Bham we are celebrating 50 years of civil rights while the rest of the country had been desegregated for 150+ years #thingsIdontunderstand) People were not happy on either sides at the moment. You think Arne Duncan has it bad taking over with CCSS and reform, nah can’t even compare.  So anyway the article had a bunch of his quotes bullet pointed. I really liked these, so decided to share with y’all. And of course comment, because I’m never straight to the point.

We continually have to be asking, “why are we doing this like this? Only because we did it like this last year?” We shouldn’t back into the future looking wistfully at the past.  

How about that? Um, yeah! Why 50 years later are we still having to remind each other this? I know it is because as humans we become comfortable, but it is sad when that happens. We have all been victim of this, but every year we need too look at our jobs whether we are classroom teachers, instructional coaches, or in administrative positions and think, “how can I make this better?” 1964 NASA was in the beginning stages of Apollo, what if they were still doing things the same? Thank goodness we still don’t do school the same as in 1964…Oh wait…oops… Ok scratch that, let’s start looking toward the future and not forget to ask these questions.

I like E.B. White’s book The Elements of Style. Style is one thing you don’t find much of in the educational world. Administrators and school superintendents tend to not express themselves very well on paper. I’m engaged in a minor war on this in the Office of Education. I have been trying to goose the establishment into a more direct way of saying things. 

 I love this. I hope blogs are changing this. I think they are to an extent. Finally 50 years later. But how many admins in a district do, probably a crazy small percent. I also see how so often the ones that are are having to defend themselves, Howe was on to something here. I think he saw the value of blogs, long before blogs!! This can go for teachers as well. We do need to reflect, we do need to teach each other. Admins, you are the leaders in your school/district, step up. Teachers would rather learn from reading your thoughts and ideas more than from a principal on other side of world. Also, I am terrible at grammar, maybe I need to download this book…

The tough thing these days is to get the innovations that are going on in all the federal branches of government together and to make sense out of the grand scale – coordinate them some how.

Yeah, do I really need to insert something here. At least we know it isn’t a new thing. At least websites couldn’t crash back then, paper always worked.

The influence of kids on each other in the school is very interesting. The survey of over 600,000 kids we did as requested in the Civil Rights Act shows that disadvantaged kids don’t think it will do any good to work hard and achieve because it won’t make their over-all chances of success any better. Put these kids in with kids from advantaged families, and this attitude definitely changes for the better.

Hot dang! Ok so some of you have no idea of my school’s demographics, but lets just say we have every one. It is a crazy mix. It took me months to get used to it. But I totally see this. I can’t usually look at a student and know what socioeconomic background they have, neither can kids, but those lower income kids know and know they get same opportunities. He was talking about race here, my school is almost 50/50 and race comes up less than you think it would. Kids are used to their friends being of different races. On the flip side, this can have an opposite effect. Students from a culture of apathy can disrupt and rub off on students whose parents have higher expectations. Especially in my grade, 6th, where kids are learning who they are. This is when your influence is most important.

So he was right on with a lot of stuff. BUT not everything. This is the quote that broke my heart

I have always thought schools should be in a state of controlled unhappiness. There is a gumminess about a happy school that is almost fruity. Ruts develop in any institution, especially schools.  

and I am afraid this is a trap we all can fall into. I’m bad about it, getting in the “do what you’re told” mindset. Why should kids be subjected to 7 hours of “controlled unhappiness?” I don’t want that for my kids nor my students. I like fruity, I mean who doesn’t want a Starburst now and then? Hopefully we have leaders who no longer think this, yet are our schools “happy?” Should they be? I hope so.

Any way, I wanted to share this little treasure and of course throw my thoughts out there. Happy Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for all of you and your encouragement and your leadership!


Vaughan, R. (1967, February) Tough, Blunt, Master of U.S. Schools. LIFE, 37-45.



An Open Letter To All Adults

I want you to stop for a moment. Think back on dumb things you did in high school. Like really dumb things. Like things that were ignorant, that you would be mortified if you did now. I’m pretty sure you came up with something. Now, other than your friends at that time, and maybe your family if you were busted on it, no one really knew about it or knows about it now. Right? I may be totally wrong, but the majority of us got away with a lot of crap as high schoolers. What idiots we were. Man we were lucky.

Our students, children, kids in our communities, not so much. They don’t get to be lucky. They make the same stupid mistakes that we did. They also do awesome things too. The bad part is that when they do dumb things, it becomes viral. It gets posted online. The local media picks it up and does news stories on it. Now that dumb mistake is pure drama and punishments for embarrassing the __ (insert school, family, etc, here) are handed out.

I preach time and again that we need to educate kids on how to have positive digital footprints. How we need to watch out for them, spy on them, what ever it takes to teach them how to do this. So if that is our jobs, why on God’s green Earth are the adults publicizing these dumb mistakes? Why are adults not trying to protect them? We are the adults here, right??? We are those in the community trying to teach them not to pass on post that shouldn’t be there. We are the ones teaching them when someone makes a mistake not to post it. I tell my students time and again, when someone does something stupid, you posting that online and getting others to dislike them or laugh at them is BULLYING.

So why my rant? Well I don’t want to get into too much because I am no different then, but most of you know that I used to be a cheerleading coach. Well as teachers and coaches, we get those groups of kids who some how carve their names on your heart. Well there was this group of girls who did so. They could brighten my day no matter what. Even when I wanted to scream at them and make them run for all of practice, they would some how make me smile. So those girls are seniors and juniors this year. They make a stupid goal post sign. Really stupid. Some turned into a racist (no it is not a black/white thing) comment. They were trying to be funny and catchy with their sign. Well pictures were taken and by the time I woke up on Saturday morning they were all over the internet. No one brought up the fact they were unsupervised. Punish someone, punish the adults who should’ve been there helping and guiding them. Telling them they were being boneheads. I know I would’ve told them that.

My point of all of this, adults need to be guides. They need to tell kids when they are doing wrong without public humiliation. See a kid posting inappropriate stuff, go to kid and parents to get it taken down, not superintendent till get them kick off sports team. Or post on Facebook the picture along with your “outrage” of there actions. Or write you news report and broadcast it report every 30 minutes. No one knew anything was there until YOU told them. They are children, people! They may look like adults but their brains are not there. Just like ours were when we were that age. Unless harm is being caused, step in as an example, as a guide, as someone who could use it as a teachable moment. Stop it from an embarrassment. Let’s not humiliate kids.

On a ending note, NBC 13, you want a story about a sign from MHS? Here you go. These same girls you embarrassed on your broadcast made this sign a few weeks ago in game against Brookwood. If you don’t know about #teamkelsey, Kelsey is a cheerleader on the opposing team who has bone cancer. They wanted to show her support and let her know how much they care. No one asked them to do this, they came up with the sign themselves. That’s the kind of girls they are. Not the racist heathens trying to get one passed everyone.


Update on 11/22
I just wanted to add this quickly:
If your comment mentions the school name or what sign says I will not approve your comment. My job as an educator and an educational technology and social media expert is to protect children and not put online anything that could add to their digital footprint negatively. This also goes to my employer. If you have noticed never on my blog has my school name or district been mentioned. Yes the school name is on the sign but a word on the picture is not “googable.” Also the quote in the sign will not be printed. That would be the point of the post, I will not spread the mistake. Lastly, before you start blaming my coworkers and calling our school below par, 1. Find a new forum for that 2. Look up state curriculum, take it up with lawmakers. I will not add to you harassment and the whole adults acting like children. Sorry if this upsets you.

Create Like a Girl! (Sorry Boys)

“Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”

Hey y’all! I’m still alive. I think this is the longest I have ever gone between posts. But I’ve been busy. I’m a mom as most of you know, and those kiddos take up a lot of time lately! Also, I have 2 teams/sports I obsess over, the University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team and the Boston Red Sox. Well the Sox just won the world series and Bama is still kicking tail and undefeated. Then throw in a brand new (unwritten) curriculum, the struggles I’ve been working through there, the GaETC last week, I’ve been busy. Did I mention I have 2 kids?! Anyway, I was beating myself up last week for not taking the time to write and had a pretty cool person (really a mentor, but don’t tell him that I look up to him, it’ll go to his head) last night remind me why, life is busy. My first thought was “Being a woman is tough!” It is, but being a woman is confusing too. This has been on the crazy mind of mine lately, and y’all know what goes in, a lot of times comes out here. So here we go.

“The world isn’t getting any easier. With all these new inventions I believe that people are hurried more and pushed more… The hurried way is not the right way; you need time for everything – time to work, time to play, time to rest.”

Yesterday was my idol’s birthday. (Well the idol not my mom, who is a successful business woman, amazing mom and “Munner”, and cancer survivor.) Her name is Hedy Lamarr. I have mentioned her before and every woman should read her biography. She was smart, beautiful, and a bad girl who took a huge chance. She went from a marriage where her job was to stand there and look beautiful and being hostess to taking that beauty and becoming one of the most wanted actress of her time. But you see, she didn’t just stop there. She was smart. Not only was she already educated, while playing hostess to her Austrian husband pre-WWII, she learned a lot of secrets of what went on behind the scenes when preparing for war. More than just guns. She took that knowledge and her studies and along with composer (yes music composer – music and computer science can be so close to the same at times) George Antheil came up with the “Secret Communication System” that allowed the submarines to change the frequency to their radio controlled missiles and stop enemy interception. It used Frequency-hopping spread spectrum. Sounds like spy stuff but you are using that technology RIGHT NOW. Yeah. This allows things to have their own frequency, so now can talk over electromagnetic waves privately. Sounds complicated, right? Nah, it is pretty much how your cell phone works. Yeah you have a cell phone because a woman was awesome. Not only that but using that technology, you have wifi. So the beautiful woman who was the first to make a R Rated movie, is the reason you can watch an R rated movie anywhere, any time. Thank goodness she married an idiot who made her dress up and attend all of those meetings where she learned all she needed to know. Don’t underestimate the quiet and beautiful. Or do, and she will bomb your butt. (BTW she is the voice behind all the quotes mentioned here.)

“I can excuse everything but boredom. Boring people don’t have to stay that way.

So this week I was at GaETC. I had 2 sessions, and both I had to start early because the room filled to capacity. (It was a small room, I’m not that popular.) But the room was filled with women. We are teachers, it is a profession where women are the majority. I noticed the percentage during my session, then afterwards someone pointed it out and I was reminded of this post by Amy Taylor (another beautiful woman who is awesome and has the power to bomb your butt too). She talked about how only 3% of creative directors are women. When she wrote the post I had it in an open tab for a long time. It was one of those post you really want to comment on and can never get the time or thoughts together. So here’s the comment Amy! I think girls do become creative women in a creative field. But I think because of our influences we don’t choose the path creative men choose. Think of the most creative, fun, inventive woman who influenced you growing up, she was probably a teacher or a stay at home mom. I say time and time again when working with teachers and technology, teachers are the most creative people I know. When you take the fact you were probably influenced by one and then add that some of us have that natural maternal instinct (I think my instinct is broken but then I was put in education school by accident, not a chosen path) and teaching becomes a natural choice. In college it is a place you fit and full of people like you, so why branch out. I think that is FANTASTIC, but I think as teachers we need to take the time to introduce other STE(A)M fields as well. Would’ve been sad if Hedy had just stuck with the norm. We may just be getting to Zack Morris phones in 2013, not smart phones. That would totally mess with Moore’s Law, huh?

“All creative people want to do the unexpected.”

But back to making sure girls are aware of other STE(A)M careers. Get them in STE(A)M courses. Put them in a makerspace and let them make! We need to give all kids, really, the chance to be literate when it comes to technology. We need to make sure they have the skills beyond Common Core. We need to show them where these skills can take them. And we need to make sure we are not underestimate girls. We need a generation of amazing women who are powerful and think they can do anything. There is nothing wrong with being a teacher, but so many teachers quit after their 3rd year. We now know it is because of burn out, but so often I wonder if that burn out is caused because it was just not the right career for them but they are unaware of the other options out their when in college. Girls move in packs, the packs are in education schools, teach them to be confident enough to leave the pact and go out on their own!

“Hope and curiosity about the future seemed better than guarantees. That’s the way I was. The unknown was always so attractive to me… and still is.”

Hero Cape

Lastly, don’t judge a woman by her cover. Women are the WORST at this. We all know, women dress more for women than men. We judge and it is not always nice. Don’t think the pretty girl isn’t smart. Don’t think the homely  girl is just a wallflower with nothing to offer. During the conference last week I had a woman tell me after the session that “many didn’t answer your questions because you are a blonde dressed up who knows what she is talking about.” That really bothered me. Women, we need to be each other’s biggest supporter. And while I LOVE fashion and shoes and even make comments about it, I could not imagine judging someone on looks and clothes. As a mom of a beautiful blonde, I have this hope that people judge her for her kindness as well as her brilliance. But I judged her. She is a girl who is an artist. I always call my son “my math kid.” So met with the gift teacher at her school a few weeks ago, she will be in the program next year. Her test scores tell us that she is in the 97% in math and science. Yeah she is my “math kid” but I judged. Even though the other day she came running in the room to tell me she figured out how to divide. She is 7. Only info she had to go on was that I told her dividing was like subtracting, the opposite of multiplication. I’m a math/science brain. Who am I to judge?! If I judge my own child, what on earth am I doing in my classroom??? Lets kick stereotype butts. Be a mentor. And don’t leave the boys out, they need the encouragement and education as well.

“I think women are concerned too much with their clothes. Men don’t really care that much about women’s clothes. If they like a girl, chances are they’ll like her clothes.”