Dear Mr. Cuomo – A Fourth Grader Speaks Out

This is going to be my third blog about a Student Hero. My newest hero is Josh – a fourth grader from NYC who has a legitimate beef with Governor Cuomo. Here is the very persuasive letter he wrote to the governor: 10407630_10153047556870798_3534263753656568750_n He is my hero because he is bold and brave and not afraid to express himself in writing. He is also my hero because he wants his words shared with the world. Josh happens to be the son of a filmmaker. Josh expressed his desire to impact the world with his own words just as his father impacts the world with his movies. His dad agreed to post his letter on Facebook and included his own fatherly rant with the posting. In the rant, his father stated:

…for full disclosure josh will never take a standardized test not while im around to make sure he doesnt. but we have watched as schools here lose their budgets and the pta turns into a fundraising arm to supply every single bit of funding for art, music and science, and we have watched the class size grow and recess and lunch get shorter and shorter. we love our school in spite of it all, and i will say to gov cuomo, you’ve really pissed the kids off…

It is time for those who hold the power and the purse strings over our schools to start listening to the voices of students and parents. Thank you Josh and thank you Josh’s dad for speaking out truth, and thank you for honoring me by letting me blog your letter. Now let’s just hope and pray that your power-packed words are heard.

Hopefully, this will be the first of many letters written by students to the governors of their states speaking out about the negative impact of school reform.




A Special Guest Posting from The Walking Man – Dr. Jesse Turner – “An Ode to Education”

From the Walking Man  – Dr. Jesse Turner

An Ode to Education

I Love Public Education
I cried the first time my Mother left me at your door,
I would learn to love you with every morning cookie and container of milk,
I would love you more with every song we sang within your hallowed walls,
I found your love in every teacher’s smile in your halls
I loved the reverence and respect you showed our flag every morning.
When the evil darkness of assassination
took the life of President Kennedy ~ you were there,
You calmed us, and helped us understand that although things could never be the same ~ our nation would be mended,
You kept us warm during the winters from 9:00 to 3:00 ~ when there was no heat in our old cold-water flat,
You were there when they murdered our heroes Martin and Bobby, to help us wipe away our tears,
You ensured that although they were taken from our world ~ these men would remain in our hearts forever,
You gave us hope through the riots and the protests,
You gave us color when there were no crayons in our homes,
You gave us poetry to ease our pain,
You gave us poetry to celebrate our lives,
You gave us history to give us roots,
You gave us geography, the stars and the moon landing ~ just to let us know we had no boundaries,
You taught us mathematics and science,
But most of all you gave us literature,
You gave us a love of books,
You handed us a little more of our dreams every single day,
You were there, year after year, as we spent our summer vacations under the cooling spray of fire hydrants ~ dancing in the streets,
As every summer ended we longed for another school year to begin,
You were beaming with pride at every graduation,
My loves still grows
I am confused by:
A nation’s leaders ~ who bash public schools at every opportunity,
An American media ~ that ignores 150 years of noble service to our nation’s children,
I find myself distraught ~ by the titans of industry, who blame you for every social ill, while they drink from the cup of plenty, time and time again,
I am troubled by their mantra of testing will save us,
I am saddened by their infatuation with fictional heroes like Superman, and homage to those with no real classroom experience,
I am bewildered by leaders who say teachers are the essential ingredients to success, and then in their next breath say our teachers are not good enough.
All I am I owe to you,
I can’t remember one single standardized test,
I do remember teacher after teacher telling us those tests were no measure of who we really are,
I remembered loving Mr. Bass’s reminders that poor boys and girls could be anything they dreamed,
His boys and girls were more than test scores,
We were his endless possibilities,
Yes, I love public education,
I love public education enough to fight for it,
I love public education enough to stand up for it,
I love public education enough to take it back from the
The billionaires club,
The politicians,
The policy makers,
The ones who only see test scores,
The ones who count numbers not tears,
The ones who refer to America’s children as “Data”
Yes, I love public education; enough to walk to Washington DC again in 2015.
Forever in your debt,
Jesse Turner


You are all invited to take part in Jesse’s 400 mile walk from Central CT to Washington DC beginning this June 11th. Jesse be walking  to protest the education malpractice that is demoralizing parents, teachers, and turning our children into human capital.

He will be walking 400 miles in 40 days.

Please check out his FaceBook Event page.

Perfection – A Teacher’s Saturday Morning Rant

Sometimes perfection comes from just living in the moment and finding peace in the warmth of the fire and the beauty of freshly fallen snow…

In a perfect world ~

each child would have two loving parents
a school building would be warm and inviting
teachers would be esteemed and respected
there would be no need for unions

In a perfect world ~

all children would be able to go to college
or enter a trade
and choose a career path they love

In a perfect world ~

communities would demand the truth
politicians would denounce the lies
journalists would reject bias

In a perfect world ~

all children would love words
all teachers would love children
all parents would love parenting

In a perfect world ~

there would be no illiteracy
there would be no discrimination
there would be no harassment

In a perfect world ~

we would truly love each other
we would truly care for each other
we would truly respect each other

In a perfect world ~

we would live each day
dancing to the harmonious beat
of love, peace, and compassion

we would sleep in peace
and wake up to life
and live each day as if it were our last

we would grow in grace
and learn from our mistakes
and take one step closer to our life’s Final Goal

In a perfect world ~

you and I would understand each other
we would talk and write and text and share
all the glory and awesome events in our days

In my perfect world
this snowy Saturday morning
I wait
to hear
the heartbeat and precious breath
of the Spirit of Life ….

When that moment happens
my world becomes
….. Perfection …..


I Have Who Has: It’s NOT a Game

Here is a great post from Stacy Biscorner – Care4Kids

The War Report on Public Education

I have students’ best interests in mind.
Who am I?
Answer: Teacher

Who has no interest of students in mind but is only concerned with personal gain, being elected into office or getting rich by profiting off the backs of students?
Answer: Policy makers, politicians and greedy corporations

I have the knowledge and ability to not only be involved in conversations and planning about education topics, but to MAKE DECISIONS FOR MY STUDENTS.
Who am I?
Answer: Teacher

Who has developmentally inappropriate standards that are being shoved down the throats of our children, choking the life out of them along with the joy for learning?
Answer: policy makers, politicians and greedy corporations

I have the professional training and expertise in education?
Who am I?
Answer: Teacher

Who has never been professionally trained in education, no experience in a classroom and no knowledge or understanding about what kids need?
Answer: Policy…

View original post 302 more words

Ten Snippets from a Poetry Teacher’s Poetry

Looking through my poetry from the last 20 years, I excerpted just a few “snippets’ and put them together in this blog post.  I hope you enjoy.

We stand as poets strong and tall

while our roots reach deep to find the perfect


to place, so delicately, on our paper.

In a perfect world ~

you and I would understand each other
we would talk and write and text and share
all the glory and awesome events in our days

The jubilee in this lighthouse trip is that I am no longer so heavily burdened by the problems of my students – their difficult lives, their wrong choices, their inability to say no to peer pressure. The burden has been lightened and my liberty is real. I am ready to be restored and renewed and to take on new beginnings this summer.

Listen to me my students, as I sit reflecting in my quiet
captured and clutched in the frenzy of faith for this time.
Faith for you, faith in you, faith that surpasses this moment
and enters the realm of the spirit of truth.  Faith that does not pause
for even a moment. Faith that will abide
and bring joy not sadness or fear. I am certain.

We teach because we are called to teach.
We teach because the children need us now.
We teach because we need to love them.
We teach because it is life to us.

How can we say “no” to them and walk away?

The achievement gap widens.
The terrain becomes more barren.
The house falls into further decay.
The green in the landscape
melds into

When will
no child
be left

She is like thousands of children
abandoned and neglected
in this prosperous country we call

When will no child be left behind?

Save the children –
all the children –

even the dark and lonely

and silent children.

To meet each student with a smile and a happy word,
to execute my lesson the way it is planned,
to correct with kindness and to praise with integrity,
this is an excellent day.

Priceless is the smile
on each face –
as they sit in cap and gown
with their senior class
and receive their high school diploma.

Who could ever put a price tag
on even one of their miracles?

I hope you enjoyed my little verses. If you did, I have a lot of  haiku and senryu about being a teacher I can share as well. More to come because “POETRY IS LIFE.”

Out of the Mouths of Babes Comes Truth

Today I read this very moving piece from Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post Answer Sheet – Test-weary second-grader asks school board:’Is that all that matters to grown-ups?” It was the story of a remarkable little 7 year old, Saige Price, who took on the New Jersey Board of Education and formally testified about the lack of play and the excessive testing that she had undergone in her short two and a half years in public school. It really made me sad and it also made me angry. Paige cries out in the middle of her testimony when she is talking about the tests, “I remember being 5 and feeling mad and sad because the questions were always too hard for me.” I cannot fathom being only 7 years old and having such awful memories of being a child and going to school. To me, this is nothing short of abuse. As a teacher and as a grandmother, I join my voice to Saige’s and I also say that “school should be about play time and exploring.”

I am copying Saige’s testimony in this blog post for all to see and to share. Please read it and think about what we adults can do to make the world a kinder and more loving place for our youngest children. I do not want my grand children subjected to a drill and kill continuum of tests, nor do I want them being tested at all. I want them to play and to explore and to create and to be loved and to be cherished.

Here it is:

Dear members of the New Jersey State Board, and fellow stakeholders:

Hi. My name is Saige Price. I go to Briarwood Elementary School in Florham Park where I attend second grade. Thank you for allowing me to speak today. I would like to talk about play in school and the need for more time for free play. Children should have more recess because it allows us to play with our friends. Instead, we spend most of our time just reading, doing math problems, taking math tests and reading tests.

Is that all that matters to grown-ups?

What about more lunch time, more time for violin, doing more creative stuff in art, dance, or musical theater, more gym time, or more time to learn what we want? What about creating our own problems?

I love my teacher but at the beginning of the year I did not want to go to school because I thought school was boring; I still do. Sometimes, when my parents try to wake me up for school, I would cry and say I am too tired or sick so that I would not have to go to school. I don’t think school lets me be myself and be creative.

I remember when I was 5 years old, I told my mom that I did not want to take iReady [a standardized diagnostic test]. Whenever I got a low score I would have to go back to the computer lab until I got a higher score. I hated it. It should be against the law. I think kindergartners should not have to take any standardized test or practice standardized test like iReady. These tests are too hard for kindergartners.

I remember being 5 and feeling mad and sad because the questions were always too hard for me.

Every time I sat at the computer after I was done with the test, I would think to myself, “I stink! I am bad at this.” No kid should feel that way about school. People should not feel, ‘I stink at this,’ at 5, 6, 7, 8  or any other age. School and all of these tests kill our love of learning.

I think school should be about play time and exploring.

Have you ever been in a kids’ lunch room at lunch time? If you go to many of these cafeterias, you will see there is hardly enough time to even eat. Many kids end up throwing their food away. Some of the teachers often ask us if we are sure we want to throw the food away but many do anyway because we want to play for the few minutes we have.

Out of all the hours we spend in school, we have the least amount of time being able to eat and play.

If you want to fix schools you should ask kids, the teacher’s helpers, and teachers.

Thank you for your time.


An email to my fellow urgent care workers by Stacy Stelmack Biscorner

Amazing letter from an amazing teacher, activist , parent, and friend. Everyone please read the letter this courageous woman wrote to her fellow workers.


An email to my fellow urgent care workers.

A Wonderful Story about My New Super hero – Ewan!

” Ewan Drum, 8, of New Haven, is the founder of Super Ewan, a nonprofit to help the homeless, the (Port Huron) Times Herald ( ) reported. “We give goods and clothes to homeless people,” Ewan said. “I thought it would be helpful. People smile when they see my cape show up.” In July, Ewan told his parents when he became a teenager he wanted to dress up like a superhero and give the homeless food and clothes.

Ewan now has his own website and his own FaceBook page – Please check them out and give him some love and encouragement.

The Huge Lie Behind our Culture of “Following” and Not “Leading”

We have become a nation of “followers.” We follow each other on Twitter and FaceBook. We follow our “mandates” from our schools, our districts, our state, and our government. We follow what our favorite non-profits are expounding. We follow what our unions tell us is right and important. We follow our political affiliations and we follow what our real-life friends follow sometimes without even checking out what they are following. My question today to me and to you, my gentle reader is – who, what, and why are we following and should we stop following and start leading – again?

I watched an horrific news show today on Fox News about the slaughter of innocent Nigerians in the town of Doro Baga by the Islamic radical group Boko Haram. I have been hearing rumors of this slaughter since January 7th, coincidentally the same date as the murder of Charlie Hebdo and his staff in Paris. I have been looking at the news, at FaceBook posts, Twitter posts and blog posts for news about the Nigerian catastrophe. There was very little out there and some of the initial postings were later removed. It made me think the story was a hoax. But now there is what looks like photographic evidence that truly this loss of perhaps 2,000 innocent lives did happen after all. Why do I have to wait a week and a day and hear the report from Fox News? And why is there not a huge outcry from all those I “follow” against this atrocity? Are we all sitting back and waiting for our favorite FaceBook group to denounce the act, or a preferred politician to make a statement, or our chosen non-profits to issue a statement, or a twitter storm we can join to protest this event? Why are we not individually speaking out? What are we all waiting for? Why are we not leading the charge to right this terrible evil in some way? Where is the justice? There is no poetry here.

So, I ask all of you to examine just what you are following and what you are waiting for before you will take a step up and speak out against the wrongs all around us? We may not be able to stop the evil forces bent on overtaking a nation, but we can stop the forces bent on taking a free and excellent public education system away from our children and perverting it into a for-profit money making machine for the Education Monsters.

I believe we have to confront the lie that says the organizations we are following are in control of the narrative and in control of the war against the education reformers. I believe we all need to go rogue and speak out for what we believe is right. This is the kind of “mandate from our hearts” that I was speaking about in my last blog post. The huge lie is that organizations will help the children – unions – non-profits – Facebook groups – it is all a lie because organizations get corrupted by power and money and ego issues. We have to be rogues and relentless and remain unbought. This is our hardest endeavor. We need to become leaders once again and not just followers.

Revised 1/15/2015 to correct the village name.

What Education Policy Do Civil Rights Groups Want?

From Diane today

“What changed their views between October and January?At that time, civil rights groups wrote:““he current educational accountability system has become overly focused on narrow measures of success and, in some cases, has discouraged schools from providing a rich curriculum for all students focused on the 21st century skills they need to acquire. This particularly impacts under-resourced schools that disproportionately serve low-income students and students of color. In our highly inequitable system of education, accountability is not currently designed to ensure students will experience diverse and integrated classrooms with the necessary resources for learning and support for excellent teaching in all schools. It is time to end the advancement of policies and ideas that largely omit the critical supports and services necessary for children and families to access equal educational opportunity in diverse settings and to promote positive educational outcomes.”They called for “Appropriate and equitable resources that ensure opportunities to learn, respond to students’ needs, prioritize racial diversity and integration of schools, strengthen school system capacity, and meaningfully support improvement.”Among the needed resources, they said them, are:“Qualified, certified, competent, racially and culturally diverse and committed teachers, principals, counselors, nurses, librarians, and other school support staff, with appropriate professional development opportunities, including cultural competency training, and support and incentives to work with students of greatest need; andSocial, emotional, nutritional, and health services”But now they support the Bush-Obama emphasis on test-based accountability, with testing that exempts only 1% of children with the most severe cognitive disabilities and that exempts English learners for only one year.”

via What Education Policy Do Civil Rights Groups Want?.