Ciara Sees (the Dangers of Social Media)

Social media cautionAs you well know, the Parent Imperfect has often turned to this social media platform to rail against the evils of social media, especially for teenagers. How’s that for hypocrisy? In truth, I do feel quite strongly that social media, while surely a mixed bag, is damaging those young people whose social lives are so powerfully conditioned by their odd relationships with “friends” via hand-held computers supplied by their parents. I used to be able to feign self-righteousness on this until, just about a year ago, we made the irreversible and unforgivable mistake of getting Connie a smartphone. Being an eighth-grade girl is hard enough without an instantaneous connection to all the people who love you today, but will have a very different opinion tomorrow.

Setting limits is, of course, the way to a solution, but we find that setting limits on Vince and Connie has become much more complicated as they and their devices have become more sophisticated. The combination of being more knowledgeable about the space than their parents and boldly defiant at key moments has shifted the balance of power decidedly toward the kids in this discussion. Long, long gone are the days when strict parental controls on the Mac they used was all that we needed. Now setting limits usually means imposing similar constraints on ourselves, and we never quite get around to that.

Dystopian LitThen, just as the parents approach the abyss of mindless prohibition, one well-known (to us) social media maven writes something suggesting that she may have more understanding of the problem than those who would sanction her. Asked by her ELA teacher to indicate that she was awake during the class about dystopian fiction, our favorite SnapChatter came up with something called, “Ciara Sees.” In it, she hints at a world in which “The Device” has made the transition from being constantly clutched to becoming a defining member of the human body. What follows is an except from the words providing the door into this strangely familiar world.

…Ciara walks through the corridor, hurrying and trying to muffle the noise of her sneakers. It’s her daily trip to the bathroom at school, but there’s something else on her mind. Scanning her arm at the entryway, the door swings open and she walks in. Her device looks just like everyone elses, but it’s different. Ciara wasn’t born with a device on her arm. In Rafertin, everyone (except Ciara, clearly) is born with a device. This device is where inhabitants get all information. All humans rely completely on their device to function. Ciara doesn’t.

The DeviceThe bathroom is gray. Looking in the mirror, Ciara holds up her arm to view the device. CIARA 10 it reads. AGE: 16. HAIR: BROWN. EYES: GRAY. MENU- NEWS, WEATHER, EMOTIONS.  She chooses WEATHER. It reads -4 degrees Celsius and snowing. On her tiptoes Ciara peeks out the tiny window in the bathroom. It looks sunny outside. “But right,” she thinks, “I’m supposed to believe everything I see on the screen.” Her thoughts are interrupted by the swinging open of the metal door. In walks Galia 8. “Why are you wearing sneakers, it’s freezing outside and snowing” Galia barks. As Ciara begins to shake her head, she remembers that she must agree. “I must rely solely on the device,” she thinks. “Umm- well my mom, my m-.. I mean, my snow boots are too small. My mom is buying new ones on her device sometime today”, Ciara rushes to explain. She notes that her device reads 2:43 and counting. She has almost exceeded her 3 minute time slot for the bathroom. Hurrying, she swings open the door and stumbles out. “Weirdo”, Galia mutters.

A tear trickles down Ciara’s face. She begins to run. 2:52 2:53 2:54. She enters the classroom, panting. “About time, Ciara”, says the Device Studies Professor.  On the board the word OLIMENTAL is written. “Can someone please explain what this word means to our beloved classmate Ciara?” The professor gives her a sideways glance. There is a smirk on his face. “Anyone?” A hand goes up. It’s Diandra 2. “Well, it basically means you’re different, stupid, annoying, bad…” she trails off when the professor gives her a hard look. Ciara muses, “I’ve seen this word somewhere before. Where was it?” She shifts in her seat, waiting for an answer.

And just what word would that be?

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Open Letter to Teachers Unions, Professional Organizations, and Teacher Education

Parent Imperfect:

A long time teacher and now a teacher of teachers suggests that it’s high time to take back the profession. The Parent Imperfect needs to have the reality of the teaching life in mind when spouting off about the problematic teachers involved with his kids.

Originally posted on the becoming radical:

After speaking and guiding a workshop recently, I was struck by some distinct impressions I witnessed among several hundred educators.

First, although teachers and educational leaders coming to a conference are a skewed subset of teachers, I was impressed with their passion for teaching but more so for their students.

However, I must add that these teachers repeatedly expressed a lack of agency as professionals; a common refrain was “I [we] can’t,” and the reasons were administration and mandates such as Common Core (or other standards) and high-stakes testing. That sense of fatalism was most often framed against these teachers clearly knowing what they would do (and better) if they felt empowered, professionally empowered, to teach from their expertise as that intersects with their students’ needs.

This experience came just two weeks after my trip to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual convention, this year in Washington DC—where…

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Dearborn…still

Dearborn SchoolLast summer, the Parent Imperfect did a lot of blustering about the community slam around Roxbury’s Dearborn School, but hasn’t had a lot to say about it lately. Incredibly, the school turnaround project that was on the fast track during July’s hottest days, was still there just last night. In one more time-pressured meeting, the “stakeholders group” met to interview the two finalists to become the “external operator” in the turnaround plan.

Back in August, in this very space, I wrote an open letter to Interim Superintendent John McDonough suggesting that he drop the district’s puzzling proposal to hand the $70 million project for a STEM academy in Roxbury over to a charter operator who had almost no experience running a school and ZERO experience with STEM. We suggested that it would be better to enlist some of the people opposing that scheme–including Dearborn staff, parents and students–to develop a community-supported proposal that could convince the Commonwealth’s education commissioner to back off and give that proposal a chance.

CommishDo you wonder about the PI’s influence (Ha! ha!)? Exactly three days later, Mayor Marty Walsh announced that the City was going to withdraw the charter proposal, and the BPS subsequently came forward with a shell of an alternative plan. The kicker (and maybe the poison pill) in the plan was the BPS’s insistence that the plan needed to feature an “external operator” that would be acceptable to the City, the community and, most importantly, Commissioner Chester. The Commissioner was threatening to put the Dearborn into state receivership because of continuing low test scores. From Day One, many in the community were skeptical about this “external operator” idea, but a credible community stakeholder group came together and the process ground forward, always up against some deadline imposed by the State.

One of the interesting moments in last night’s meeting came when a Dearborn parent reported that he had still not seen the scores for which the Commissioner is threatening to take over the school. Those scores allegedly became “public” in September. Who the hell has those scores and why do parents at the Dearborn not have them?

The meeting, itself, was high theater. First of all, it wasn’t held at the “Dearborn” building. That building is locked up, tight as a drum, awaiting the wrecking ball. That’s a whole other story that must await another day. The Dearborn school community has been evicted to an upper floor in the building of Jeremiah Burke High School, in Grove Hall. The meeting took place in a small room that couldn’t begin to accommodate the interested community spectators. It was a very direct experience of the difficulties faced by the school. When I got there (late, of course), there were a dozen people in the hallway, trying to listen.

LazarusI knew who the “finalists” were, but I still couldn’t believe my eyes. There, like Lazarus, making a proposal to the community stakeholders, was the very same guy who I recalled so well making the ill-fated charter school proposal to a packed house at the Roxbury Presbyterian Church on a steamy night in August. He’s a perfectly nice guy (a JP resident, if I’m not mistaken) and obviously committed to education, but what does it say about this process that his organization has ended up as a finalist? The lack of relevant experience of his organization, the Boston Plan for Excellence, was one of the problems that the community had with the original charter proposal.

After the BPE proposal got its hour, in came an operation called MassPrep. Interestingly, the MassPrep guy stood up before the crowd and spoke with animo, where the BPE rep preferred to remain slumped in a seat for his questioning. The body language and the energy was completely different. Interestingly, MassPrep has no experience in Massachusetts (Hah?). In fact, it felt very much like a start-up, dependent on the name recognition and charter school pedigree of its co-founder.

This co-founder is another very engaging and intelligent guy, who began his talk by explaining that he had started on a path to Wall Street, but discovered School Street along the way. He started as an educator at a public school in New York, but quickly turned to the charter school sector and made a name for himself as a leader of the Mastery Schools network in Philly. When questioned, he failed to note that the Mastery Schools are well-known charter schools, but then proceeded to spend an hour talking about the relevance of the charter approach (without calling it that) to the challenges of the Dearborn.  I don’t know when I’ve heard the charter vision proposed more clearly, without using the words, “charter school.” In a tactical error, the speaker gave too little space to the women who accompanied him, including the other co-founder, a former basketball coach and quite a compelling speaker who actually seemed to have some direct knowledge of STEM education.

The most interesting conversation came after the finalists left. Not everyone among the stakeholders seemed ready to rush to judgement, but the pressure to move forward was palpable. The presence of a representative of the Commissioner, strategically positioned at room’s edge cast a long shadow over the proceedings, even thought the gentleman remained silent ’til the very end. Again, high theater. It’s hard to blame the community stakeholders for their hesitation. They are going to be accountable for this decision in the community, long after anyone remembers that it was the State and the BPS that pushed them into a corner with these two finalists.

How would you feel as a community member asked to stamp this process? After all this time, the process has come down to two finalists: an organization that failed with an earlier proposal and whose relevant experience has been questioned by the community since the very beginning, and a charter operator from Philly who doesn’t know Grove Hall from windfall. Neither group distinguished itself with its knowledge of STEM, the educational content that will determine the success of the future Dearborn.

Sitting directly across from these finalists, on the stakeholder group, was Dearborn’s interim principal, Mr. Willingham. The assumption–made by the State and not questioned by the BPS–behind this whole dance is that he and his team can’t turn the Dearborn around, yet he has shown on several occasions that he knows way more about STEM education than either of the guys with ties making proposals last night. I wonder how this makes him and those working with him feel about their efforts every day to keep learning happening under the most difficult of conditions at the Dearborn.

Cat playing organCity Councillor Tito Jackson, who sat and listened for most of the time, did his best to put a positive spin on the whole show. After saluting the efforts of the Dearborn teachers, students and community, he reminded people that it was their activism that forced the City to back off the original charter proposal and get back on the path of keeping the Dearborn a community school. As always, Tito was right, but I bet I wasn’t the only one wondering, “Absolutely, but what have we won if all this work comes down to a choice for a school operator that is between two guys who don’t know any more about STEM than a cat knows about an organ? One was the purveyor of the original proposal that we beat back and the other is a charter guy from Philly who needs a GPS to get back to South Station?”

Maybe this is simply what we have come to,..if people want a STEM academy in Roxbury, this is what it is. Maybe, but people didn’t seem quite ready to accept that, just yet. Somehow, even as the weather gets colder, the temperature around the Dearborn is likely to be unseasonably warm…still.

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The exam school choice, #13…something missing?

Latin EnglishThere is nothing quite like the Thanksgiving Day football game between Boston English and Boston Latin to get the Parent Imperfect thinking about the exam school choice in Boston. It is a huge choice for many individual families in the city, but it is also a choice that we, as a city, make each year about the sort of school system we want to have for our children.

This year, I’ve received an unusual number of questions about the BPS exam schools, some from perfect strangers. Last Saturday was the final day for students in Grades 6 and 8 to take the Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) in hopes of entering one of the Boston’s exam schools for the coming year. I remember well that the parental stress level increased greatly in the days before that test. Now, at least there is a little break before the next decision point, when one must register for school and state preferences regarding the three exam schools in the system.

The calendar has generated many of the questions, but there has been another factor this year. In the midst of this year’s selecting season, BPS leadership has endorsed some eye-opening proposals to change the way students get into the exam schools.

Earlier in November, a highly publicized study of Black and Latino male achievement in the BPS confirmed what everyone in the system knows perfectly well. That the exam schools and the Advanced Work Class (AWC) programs are key elements of a system of tracking that aggravates the achievement gap in city schools. The question is what to do about the problem.

Opportunity and EnrollmentThe study, co-published by the BPS and two of the leading educational research organizations in the area, makes a number of recommendations, two of which focus on AWC and the exam schools. It recommends making all grade 4-6 programs Advanced Work programs, which is a positive way of saying that we should end the current practice of, beginning in fourth grade, taking the kids who score highest on a certain test out of their school communities and grouping them in special classrooms. If that’s not bold enough, the study went on to recommend that only children who attend the BPS for Grades 5 and 6 be eligible to apply for admission to the exam schools. This would eliminate the time-tested path to the exam schools, especially Boston Latin School, that passes through private and parochial schools. The goal would be to make the student composition of the exam schools more closely reflect the composition of the BPS, as a whole. I’ve seen proposals like this before (even made some), but at least in my memory, I’ve not seen a proposal like either of these in a document endorsed by the BPS.

Does this change anything for the kids who just took the test? I doubt it, at least in the short run. As in the past, families will rate the exam schools, according to their preferences, and test results will be fed, along with students’ Grade 5 and Grade 6 grades into the mysterious function machine that generates invitations to the O’BryantBLA and BLS.

Deciding on our order of preference among the schools felt like less of a turning point when we applied for Vince, as the word on the street was that it was pretty easy to choose BLS at first, and then change one’s mind later (not surprisingly, to change one’s preference to BLS was less simple, but that wasn’t our strategy). Now, because more and more parents apparently are making either the O’Bryant or BLA their first choice, it is more difficult to later change one’s first choice, regardless of what it is. I can find no data that says that more parents are choosing the O’Bryant and BLA first, but the cryptic placement results received by Connie suggest that it is, in fact, the case.

Latin crosswalkIn Vince’s case we later wished that we had paid more attention to the choice among exam schools. Even though it wasn’t at all clear to us that Vince’s learning style would work well at BLS (Liz will say that she was sure that it wouldn’t), we were convinced by the argument that said, “If he gets into BLS, let him try it. If it doesn’t work out, he can always switch.” Don’t be fooled by that argument. I can name you 25 kids in Vince’s senior class who have struggled mightily for 5+ years at BLS, but have resisted the idea of changing schools. Some parents of such students were clear enough or desperate enough to make the decision for their offspring, but we are among those who did not do so. In public conversation, Vince will say consistently that he really likes his school, and I have stopped doubting him on this point. He really likes the friends he has made at BLS, some of his teachers have been excellent and I expect that he likes being able to tell people that he goes to the such a revered high school. But all that love has come with considerable stress and conflict (for the whole family) and no small loss of self-esteem for the young man.

BLS has 2400 students, give or take a few, which I believe is way too many for a school with its approach to teaching and learning.  The “business model” of the school requires that the school admit well over 100 students each year that will face serious difficulties in adapting to its standards. There are more programs in place to support students in their transition (Saturday Success School, peer tutoring, etc.) than existed 10-15 years ago, but seventh graders at the school are still very much on their own to make their way in a large and unforgiving environment. There are, after all, something like 525 of them in seventh grade, so support anything like that received at many private schools is simply out of the question.

We visited both BLA and the O’Bryant with Vince and Connie. They liked things about the O’Bryant, but neither was drawn to attend the school. We never explored the reasons for that enough, but they seemed to have a mildly negative impression of the school before we even saw the place. Both liked BLA and would probably have quite happily gone there, had their parents pushed the issue, but we did not. They visited BLS after BLA and then “shadowed” a student at the school for a day. They didn’t shadow at either the O’Bryant or BLA. After shadowing, they were officially caught up in the hype and, truth be told, so were their parents. In the end, both Vince and Connie were on pins and needles in the days before their assignment arrived, anxious to hear that they were going to BLS.

The HypeThere is so, so much to say about the “hype,” and I surely can’t do it justice here. The hype is a comparative framing of the three schools and the way they sit in the whole BPS system (remember the English-Latin football game). Much of it is about the “best,” the exclusivity of exam schools and the power of the history embodied, especially, in BLS. But lurking in the definition of “best” are also powerful, often subliminal, messages about race, class and difference. I’m not accusing any school or any group within any school of projecting such messages. No one needs to project them: They are perfectly obvious, even if you aren’t looking for them, and they are powerfully reinforced by messages we all receive daily.

The hype and all of the changes going on for these kids (and their parents) at this time of their lives creates an emotional stew around the exam school decision that is even more toxic than the one surrounding Advanced Work Class. As parents who are busy doing too many things already, it is very easy to not deal with the complexity of this decision, let “the flow” carry one to a decision, and then, two years later, be wondering what happened.

Community conversationsWhat does it mean to “deal with the complexity” of this decision? The two-sentence descriptions of each of the exam schools are, by now, well known. Visiting each school usually provides enough information and direct experience to begin to challenge the stereotypes. People (especially mothers) discuss the topic obsessively among friends. And, of course, we try to talk with our children about what they want for themselves.

All of this is great and necessary. We did it all, but felt that something was missing. Maybe what was missing in our experience was any kind of a space for a broader community conversation about the choice, one in which we could get outside of our tight networks of friends and hear what others–including others who don’t have the exam school choice–feel about that choice. I remember really wishing that we could have this kind of conversation, even among parents at the Hernández, when Vince was in sixth grade. Since Connie was only at the Irving for a year, we didn’t have that kind of connection with parents there, so a different conversation would have been needed.

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The land of disparities

City yearYesterday, the Parent Imperfect joined a standing-room-only crowd of over 200 people at City Year, that temple of youth development in Boston’s South End. I saw lots of Boston Public Schools parents there, including one of the authors of the report, whose middle-school daughter was sitting in the corner of the auditorium, reading a book for the whole time. The daughter was amazingly patient (can I purchase a couple of bottles of this patience?) and Mom was very aware of her daughter, even as she tried to wield the stage hook against long-winded speakers.

The occasion these little dramas was the launch of a report about how Black and Latino male students fare in the Boston Public Schools. This report was a little different than many such efforts in that the BPS commissioned the work, participated in the study design and signed off on its findings. The Center for Collaborative Education and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform did the research. Speakers mentioned the Barr Foundation about 20 times, so I assume the foundation provided much of the dough for what must have been (and continues to be) a very expensive piece of work.

Privilege and prejudiceFor over an hour, slide after slide drove home the point that everyone in the room came in taking for granted: Structural barriers to achievement lead to very different outcomes in the BPS for Black and Latino males, on the one hand, and Caucasian and Asian boys, on the other. I would call these barriers, “institutional racism,” but, given the prominence of big institutions in the process, the study was politic enough not to use such incendiary terms. “Structural barriers to achievement” seems so much more neutral and, therefore, appropriate for polite company. I guess it’s OK to allow the reader to draw his/her own conclusions about such terms.

Overly polite or not, this study makes its point with more detail and more nuance than I have ever seen it made, at least in Boston. Rather than just talking about this statistic for “Black” kids and that one for “Latino” kids, the study uncovers the diversity behind such words by exploring, for example, at the differences in achievement between African-American males, born in the U.S., and Afro-Latinos from the Caribbean.  “Whites” and “Asians” weren’t described with this same sensitivity to diversity, but I can live with that, given the point of this study.

All of this made for a more interesting (and lengthy) presentation, but the bottom line is still the bottom line. Girls do better than boys in the system, across all groups. Within the boys, Black and Latino boys face particular barriers to achievement. Among Black and Latino males, Students with Special Needs and English Language Learners face double or triple barriers.

The lack of economic analysis in the study disappointed me. The authors clearly wanted to keep the focus on the impact of race and ethnicity, but even a couple of slides acknowledging that children living in poverty make up a large part of the student body of the BPS and that social class also influences educational outcomes would have helped. I’m not sure we can understand how race impacts outcomes in the BPS without at least a nod to the way race is tangled up with social class in U.S. cities, but that’s a much longer thing.

METCOI also wonder if we can understand outcomes in the BPS without also including analysis of trends in enrollment and outcomes in charter schools, the METCO program and the region’s private schools. I don’t have data, but I am aware that significant numbers of high-achieving students, including more than a few Latino and Black males students that I know, have departed the BPS for these alternatives (and no small percentage of them come tumbling back into the district later). The growth of these alternative forms of educating our children is gradually changing the composition of the BPS student body and, the nature of the challenges faced by the district. But not even the Barr Foundation could pay for that sort of analysis. These things are on my mind, but they don’t take away from what is a really important piece of research by these people.

The best part of the study is that it takes the bold extra step of naming some of the causes of the problem, and then suggesting ways that we, as a community, might change this situation. It’s here that the tracking that is so central to the BPS experience gets a hard time. For these analysts, something about the way BPS has constructed and implemented Advanced Work Classes and the famous Boston exam schools make those two programs, as currently configured, an important part of the problem. Few of the study’s recommendations deal with AWC and the exam schools (two recommendations, I think), but those are two of the recommendations that are going to get the most attention. The “Village,” the community list-serve at the nation’s oldest public school immediately lit up with both indignation that anyone would dare question the current paths of access to the school, and indignation at that indignation.
Come togetherThe Annenberg Institute at Brown University can tell us just how bad the racial and ethnic disparities are in our schools. The Institute might even be able to tell us what we need to do to narrow those disparities, but it can’t tell us how we can come together to make it all happen. This coming together behind a different vision has always been the challenge and the glossy report handed out yesterday (pea-green and purple, for some reason) isn’t going to help us do that. Political leadership could help make that happen. We’ll see. For the most part, how to come together is something for those us–students, parents, teachers, school administrators alongside political and other community  leaders–who live and learn in the land of disparities to figure out.

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Ready for the new normal?

Education is a right 2The Parent Imperfect is raising his head again after yet another long hiatus. To explain my absence, I should be hiding behind the fact Liz has faced many challenges with her own family over the past few weeks. And, oh yes, Connie continues to do way too many things as she navigates the dangerous emotional shoals of middle school. For further excuses, this is the time when Vince, as a high school senior, is meant to be preparing his applications to take the next step in the adventure that is life. But the real reason I haven’t been writing is that I’ve been quite overwhelmed than usual by the task of trying to help pull off a little gathering of academics, advocates and activists to talk about education reform.

“Rethinking Education Reform: A Human Rights Perspective,” happened this past Thursday and Friday, sponsored by the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) at Northeastern University School of Law (NUSL). It brought together a really interesting group of people to wonder together whether or the human rights framework has anything to contribute to the debate about education reform. Teachers, students, and community public education advocates spent two days focused on the issues of charter school expansion, high-stakes testing and “zero-tolerance” discipline.

JVH in actionThey had important discussions about three topics that are on the mind of anyone who’s involved in public education today. New relationships formed and old ones were strengthened. Participants wrestled with real policy options and the real challenges of advocating for those options. My only disappointment was that we didn’t find a way to get more people into the room on a rainy night in Boston to hear the Institute’s keynote speaker, Julian Vasquez Heilig. A professor of education of education at Cal State Sacramento, Heilig crossed the country to deliver a powerful talk about the ways that certain policies that started out as conservative, market-oriented education initiatives have somehow managed to cloak themselves in the language of civil rights. He pulled not one single punch, conjuring up the memories of César Chávez and Martin Luther King, among others, to help him make the point. A self-identified Generation X-Man, JVH has something to say and he is using social media and other communications tools to make sure people hear him. If you haven’t seen his blog, Cloaking Equity, check it out. We’re going to hear much more about this man in the not-too-distant future.

pepper sprayNever has a policy discussion at a law school produced such immediate results. The mere suggestion that the PHRGE Institute was going to discuss discipline in Boston charters and public schools led the BPS to announce on Wednesday that they were popping a shocking trial balloon they had recently floated. They were withdrawing their suggestion that they arm school officers and other discipline staff with pepper stray to control students during potentially violent incidents. Even more amazingly, aware that such a powerful group was bringing a human rights lens to analysis of the charter school phenomenon, Charlie Baker made his first community appearance as Governor-elect at a charter school in Springfield. Subtle messaging, huh? The PHRGE Institute also assembled an extraordinary circle of present and former teachers from Boston, Brookline, Worcester, Newton, Milton, Lawrence, Somerville, New Haven, CT and New York to discuss the issue of testing in schools. As this group worked with FairTest members and others, to design a not-so-fictitious statewide human rights campaign on testing, the Department of Education announced that it had hired an outside firm to conduct an independent analysis of whether there is too much standardized testing in the Commonwealth’s public schools. Imagine if the PHRGE Institute had gotten any publicity!

Charlie at schoolMore seriously, PHRGE decided to convene its confab at a time when big cracks are appearing in the bipartisan consensus around education policies like high-stakes testing, charter school expansion and hard-ass discipline. As if by magic, at this very moment, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (or that small percentage of people who voted)  elected a Republican governor who’s a champion of market reform in the education sector. And in case we didn’t get that message in the campaign, Charlie wasted no time naming one of the most visible ed reform advocates in the Commonwealth to head the Baker transition team. Friends, the plot is about to thicken.

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On Parenting and Teaching: Confronting Regret and Rejecting Perfect

Parent Imperfect:

Reflections on “perfect” from a teacher/parent.

Originally posted on the becoming radical:

Regret is a significant part being human—especially for parents and teachers.

If I must confront my greatest regrets, most would be those too many times I have fallen short as a parent; close behind would be my failures as a teacher.

My parenting regrets are most weighty because I have one daughter, and thus, had only one chance each time along the way of both parenting and learning to parent. With students, we teachers suffer the delusion of starting over a little better each academic year with new students so the stumbles and falls sort of blend into all the years, as well as into all the many successes.

Kind words, loving words from a daughter or a student can mean the world, but I have noticed my daughter and many of my students are far too kind, far too forgiving, far too likely to have seen when I got…

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