Sunday, January 31, 2010


"My husband and I believe strongly that arts education is essential for building innovative thinkers who will be our nation’s leaders for tomorrow. It's our hope that we can all work together to expose, enrich and empower Americans of all ages through the arts." --First Lady Michelle Obama

Here is the fifth in a series of nine articles discussing an education wish list of New Year’s resolutions from the December 27 blog. Art, music and drama should be funded and in every school.

As I look back on my own K-8 education in the arts, three things come to mind. Carol and William were the class artists – no one else was ever chosen. Right away that told me that I didn’t “have it” in the art department. I could sing, however, having been a self styled guest soloist in our little church down the road from the age of five. But that is a story for another time. In my Dec. 20 blog I talked about our class singing Wind Through The Willow Trees when the first row got to hold candles in our grade school’s annual holiday hall procession. I never got to hold a candle which made me mad every year. It wasn’t until later that I figured out the front row kids probably didn’t sing on key. The only activity I can remember regarding drama was some kind of classroom Robin Hood puppet show. I seem to recollect making a stick puppet that was supposed to look like our hero. I don’t remember the actual show, but I felt good about how the puppet looked.

High school offered me better drama opportunities when I tried out and proudly received lead rolls in the junior and senior plays. Carol and William still were the class artists, so my self esteem continued to suffer when it came to drawing. By this time my parents arranged singing and piano lessons and choir was an elective class. Carol was also better at singing than I was but we joined up from time to time singing duets for school programs so I don’t remember minding.

Today research results cited in study after study, and available on line, would say that early and continuing education in the “arts” – art, music, drama – sets the stage for academic achievement. I don’t know what happened to William, but Carol and I graduated from different universities and have had some degree of economic success, which might support these studies. Despite the research, classes in the arts are first on the budget chopping block. One can only wonder why.

Consider this. When the art or music teacher is riffed because money is needed for another classroom teacher or a couple of I.As, (instructional assistants) art and music instruction fall by the wayside. Many teachers do not know how to teach art, don’t like the mess, and don’t want to take time away from meeting the standards. The feeling intensifies when it comes to music and drama where I would say that most teachers have little skill and feel unqualified or intimidated.

In the mid 90s, a grant aimed at technology and the arts was awarded for a three year period at M. L. King Elementary School. A wonderful computer lab was installed with the latest equipment at that time. The P.E. teacher became a full time computer teacher and technician. The children were in good hands and learned a lot. At the same time a gifted classroom teacher, Dr. Darrlyn Smith, became the art director. A tap dancer, artist, poet and musician, she had earlier started tap dancing lessons at recess for anyone who wanted them and many students got their first taste of tapping at that time. Even some of the more challenging children found their way to her room and behaved beautifully as they learned to tap the recess minutes away.

Now, with the grant, she could devote the whole day to teaching tap, music and art to the entire student body in half-hour increments. She put on three musical productions a year which she wrote and choreographed. Every student in the school was in every production. They felt like stars. They were stars in the eyes of their proud families. Performers were in full costume and parent involvement was high. Enrollment, previously declining, started to increase. There was a feeling of pride in being part of the M. L. K. family. The day came, however, when the grant money ran out. Darrlyn was forced to become a kindergarten teacher, and eventually left the public schools to open her own studio.

The end of the grant money also meant the end of a manned computer lab. That teacher went back to P.E. and eventually left the school. The lab, without regular technical support, and with no one but the classroom teachers to supervise and teach, slowly fell into a chronic state of disrepair.

The loss of these programs was heartbreaking and demoralizing, and enrollment began to decline once more. Later the school’s doors closed, with enrollment too low to justify its continuing existence. If only the grant money had not run out. If only the school district could have recognized the power of Darrlyn’s work. If only school districts all over the country could see the benefit of dance, drama and art, and what it does for our young people, not to mention school enrollment.

In this story there was one bright spot. Some of the students went on to perform professionally, and several of them now teach dance in Seattle. I am sure they fondly remember performing at MLK and will certainly always cherish memories of the now deceased Dr. Smith.

I opened this article with a quote by Michelle Obama. Both she and her husband are committed to the arts in education. One of President Obama’s primary opponents, former Governor Mike Huckabee, also sees the value. I’ll close with some of his words.

He said, “I dream of a day when every child in America will have in his or her hand a musical instrument. . . And I dream of a day when there’s no state legislature that would even consider cutting funding for music and the arts because they realize that it’s a life skill that changes the lives of students and gives them not only better academic capability, but it makes them better people. We sometimes forget that many of us in this room, including this guy standing right in front of you, would not be where he is today if not for having music introduced in my life, because it gave me the understanding of teamwork, discipline and focus.”

With bipartisan support like this we should be able to accomplish the task of bringing mandatory “arts” education to our public schools. It’s another area where we can’t afford not to!



Here are some selections a teacher or parent might enjoy sharing with children.

For art, try the series about Harold and the Purple Crayon. These simple, easy to read stories prompted glowing reviews by readers who had fond memories of Harold, who drew his way from one adventure to another with his purple crayon.

A more serious look the world of art can be seen in The Blue Butterfly by Bijou Le Tord. This book offers a glimpse into the life of Claude Monet. Beautifully illustrated in soft pastels, the blue butterfly is one of his featured works. It’s a great way to learn about a famous artist, and to kick off a satisfying art lesson using water colors.

For music lovers Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin! by Lloyd Moss uses Dr. Seuss like rhymes to capture any child’s attention regarding various musical instruments – a great introduction-to-music book.

For budding actors, nothing could be easier in the classroom then acting out one of Aesop’s Fables. There are many “Aesop’s” books to choose from – even decks of cards with fables on them. After children hear a fable, and get set to act it out, they clamor to be the fox, goose, or any other character depicted in the tale. Children do not need to memorize lines, but just offer their own version, improvising as they go.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


“California is a global center of innovation, and if we were a country we would be the 6th largest economy in the world. But in order for us to really keep that competitive edge, we have to do much more when it comes to investing in career tech education…” - Arnold Schwarzenegger, March 13, 2007 Career Technical Education Summit

This is the fourth in a series of nine articles from the December 27 blog regarding an education wish list of New Year’s resolutions. That resolution stated that career and technical education (vocational) should be given more emphasis and respect in the high schools.

Alarm bells should be ringing in the heads of all thinking Americans when it comes to our diminishing economic status world wide. Most of us have our personal viewpoints as to why, and certainly various media will make sure we get their perspectives as well. Whatever the case, I think that many of us believe education is the key to keeping our domestic work force competitive.

I am happy to see reforms taking place across the United States that demonstrate our desire to tackle this problem. In Massachusetts regional meetings are being set up to focus on equity in career and vocational education. In Kentucky the mission of career and technical education “is to assist schools in providing students with skills necessary for a successful transition to post secondary education or work, and a desire for life-long learning in a global society.” In Missouri, career education is being combined with academics and occupational training aimed at students of all ages. Under the Department of Education, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education is working towards “helping all students acquire challenging academic and technical skills and to be prepared for high-skill, high wage, or high demand occupations” in today’s world. Also encouraging is the effort being made by the (National Governors' Association) to retool career and technical education. Their comprehensive web site is worth checking out.

While most articles on this subject refer to what is happening at the high school and community college levels, it is smart to expose elementary school age children to the world of work as well. Career Days at every level provide a meaningful peek at many different kinds of jobs.

Before it was consolidated, Seattle’s M. L. King Elementary School K-5 students learned that getting ready for the world of work was one of the learning objectives. We had a Career Day early in the year where twenty-five or more members of the community (many of them parents) came to share information about their workday with the children. Careers were across the board, ranging from manicurists, artists and public utility workers to firemen, doctors and college presidents. Prior to the event children heard stories about different jobs, were taught questioning skills, and learned social amenities in the work place. Games like Career Lotto and other activities were available.

On the “big day” all classrooms were set up with head tables, name placards for the presenters, and glasses of water. A school-wide assembly was held so that all presenters could be briefly introduced and entertained with poems and music. Afterwards, student guides from each room took two or three presenters to their class for 20-30 minute presentations followed by questions and answers. After certificates of appreciation were given to the guests, they were ushered to the library-hospitality room for refreshments and evaluations.

Evaluations were invariably glowing, and reflected a unanimous willingness by the presenters to return in the future. The career guests were also “blown away” by the good behavior, great questions, and serious demeanor of their young audience. Many teachers were so motivated by Career Day that they had “mini career opportunities” in their rooms throughout the rest of the year when they invited someone of interest to share his/her work.

For me, as a classroom teacher on the Career Day planning team, it was a school highlight. I am convinced that children, like the rest of us, need to see the purpose in what they are expected to do. Of course we want them to love learning for the sake of learning, but sometimes they need something more concrete. We need to help them understand that in today’s world some kind of post secondary education will be necessary in order to be ready for the world of work.

Whether they end up in four year colleges or career and technical education programs, they will be better prepared to make future decisions with activities like career days early in their education. Providing career awareness at this age takes the concept out of the ivory tower and into the classroom where the magic can happen. If it occurs throughout the country and throughout the different school levels, maybe our young people will be able to make the kind of informed decisions needed for their future careers and the future of America.


I would be happy to help teachers hold a career day at their school. Click on , then go to Career Day which will give you an idea of what could happen. Feel free to contact me for more information at

My granddaughters played some engaging career games on the link below. Have your class check out the site.

Teachers will find career exploration guides and resources on the link that follows.

Kids who love Lyle the Crocodile will find his antics amusing in the book, Lyle at the Office, by Bermard Waber. He gets into trouble when he visits his friend, Mr. Primm, at his advertising office.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


"Teaching students about the world is not a subject in itself, separate from other content areas, but should be an integral part of all subjects taught. We need to open global gateways and inspire students to explore beyond their national borders." - Vivien Stewart

Here is the third in a series of nine articles from the December 27 blog regarding an education wish list of New Year's Resolutions. The third resolution stated that we must understand that we are only one segment of a global society and that our students need to have classes with real world situations which help broaden their understanding of the people and cultures of the world in which we live. NOTE: Meet Hello Kitty, Hello World! along with lesson plan ideas and book resources at the end of this article.

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In 1996, when the internet was still young, my husband and I set off on a trip around the world, encompassing fourteen countries and taking more than three months. For him it was a chance to show me some of his postings abroad. For me it was to bring the world alive for my students during a second semester sabbatical leave. That trip was based on the game, "Where in the World Is Carmen San Diego”. Our version was called “Where, Oh Where, Is Mrs. Lind-Sherman?” and it was chosen for Carmen’s popularity among kids at that time. It was the game of choice for any classroom with a computer.

I loved it because it was an incredible way to study interactive “real world” geography. Kids loved it because, in their own words, it was awesome! Comments from internet articles about Carmen ranged from “loved how it made me think”, to “it was the best educational and strategy game.” One comment trumped all. “One thing I do need to do before I die is to arrest Carmen San Diego. I played, no joke, over 200 missions on various systems. Never once did I ever catch her…(It) instilled (in me) my love of geography, and I thank her for that.”

Needless to say the prep work for our trip became all consuming. Through research, not as easy then as now, I wrote about each country. We had an internet provider headed by Ian Freed of Ian Freed & Associates. The company donated its time and expertise to make the internet connection happen. Since we were among the first to connect with students abroad via the internet, there was much media interest.

Our prearranged visits were mostly in major cities and only in elementary schools. At the schools I brought greetings and small gifts of stickers and candy. We set up internet and snail mail pen pal connections depending on whether or not the students had internet access. We traveled with expandable luggage for souvenirs. Our backpacks were filled with a laptop PC, printer and video camera. We had no set schedule, and found our hotels or pensions as we went along. This worked well until we reached Rome during the start of Easter week, where the only accommodation we could find was in one of Rome's most expensive hotels.

Once in a city, our first task was to go on a city tour and take pictures of three “clues” to our whereabouts. For example, in Sydney, Australia it might have been the opera house, an emu and finally a kangaroo. Once the student guessed our correct location a menu opened allowing students to “explore” the country, as well as participate in seven engaging activities related to the country.

Upon our return to Seattle I turned an empty classroom at Martin Luther King Elementary School into a mini version of the world, setting up stations for each country complete with maps, books, toys, food, pictures, and activities. I think I can safely say that all participating students at MLK had as close to a first hand peek at other cultures as was possible. Students abroad who connected with us also had a chance to see what our school and student population was like.

Like a long ago TV commercial said, "We've come a long way, baby." Not only is the internet far more widespread, but we can actual "see" our internet pen friends and people abroad via video cams, pod casts, and distance learning programs.

There is much to remember about that trip, but one thing stands out. Almost without exception the students we met knew far more about our country, politically and geographically, than we did about theirs. Not only were many of them English speaking, but many could name our states, state capitols, branches of government and political chain of command.

While in Poland, we visited an elementary school where students spoke more than one language and spoke them well. This school did not have internet access-- only the universities were privileged to have that technology then. There was a charming innocence about the students and a thirst for knowledge. The class I visited was English speaking. Other languages taught were Russian, German and Czechoslovakian. A teacher told me that besides English, the Poles believe in learning the languages of those countries that border theirs. I was envious. I had taken a little French, studied Swedish because of my heritage and taken some Russian classes, but I was by no means fluent in anything. Why hadn’t our educational system placed a higher value on learning about other countries and languages? With Mexico to the south and a large French speaking population to the north, learning Spanish and French would make sense and give our students a sense of belonging in the world.

Some schools in Washington have a variety of language immersion programs, but I wonder about the depth of that learning. Though I am thrilled that my granddaughters are taking Chinese in their school I would like to see all students in this country take Spanish and be able to communicate well in that language. In a casual conversation with a Spanish language teacher in Bellingham, Washington I learned that all public middle schools there provide Spanish. This is great, but what comes after? In America there is no uniform plan to learn foreign languages, and the exposure we do have is influenced by budgetary considerations.

Many schools have students from other countries enrolled in ESL classes, some of them bewildered refugees. Undoubtedly some schools use the educational opportunity afforded by these students. If this were done as a matter of course, think how enriched our students would be to learn about the clothing, cooking and customs of people different from us. Think as well how much more welcome and respected those families would feel.

In addition to our foreign language deficit we are abysmally ignorant of world geography, political and cultural differences. An article by Amerispan Study Abroad stated that our ignorance of the world was a national liability and called for an increase in the number of U.S students to study abroad. They see this as one way to combat anti-American sentiment. In an essay for the National Review Online (October, 2001), Robert Conquest called for more and better history classes and a greater knowledge about the world outside of America. In an article (2003) Doug McGill in the McGill Report drew attention to Jay Leno's interviews with young Americans on the street. What they said would be funny if it weren't so embarrassing. When asked about Hitler's first name one young man said "He was just known as Hitler...Like Cher." A study by the National Geographic Society showed that nearly 30% could not identify the Pacific Ocean on a map, 85% could not find Iraq and more than half could not locate India. This is a serious national problem and it's urgent that steps be taken to remediate our ignorance.

At the risk of sounding flippant, perhaps Carmen San Diego can help. Other ideas anyone?


Hello Kitty, Hello World! illustrated by Higashi Glaser, is a wonderful introduction to thirteen of the world’s countries and some vocabulary words. Elementary school students will love the opening greetings, animals, landmarks, and foods unique to the featured country. In the China section we learn to say hello, “ni hao”. Cleverly drawn pictures show lanterns, potstickers, rickshaws, pandas, dragons, the Great Wall and other related items.

Suggested lesson ideas: Using this book or another like it, take monthly armchair adventures to the countries of your choosing. For example,time your study of China around the Chinese New Year. Set up multiple intelligences centers using ideas like the following:

Art: Have a calligraphy center
Work Together: Play Chinese restaurant. Have potstickers or noodles,and learn how to eat with chopsticks. One can buy inexpensive chopsticks for an entire class. It’s a skill kids love to master.
Move Around: Make simple dragon costumes (find ideas on the internet) and arrange for the class to “dragon dance” their way from room to room.
Music: Make drums and other noisemakers to use with the dragon dance
Read/Write: Read about pandas. Write a class story about the Three Little Pandas
Work Alone: Write a report about China naming several things you learned.
Math: Write the words and Chinese alphabet for numbers one through ten

Additional Resources:
Pandas, by Barbara Taylor Cork (Non Fiction)
Dinner at the Panda Palace by Stephanie Calmenson, illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott (Fiction)

Sunday, January 10, 2010


"If kids come to us from strong, healthy functioning families, it makes our job easier. If they do not come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important. by Barbara Colorose

This is the second of nine New Year’s resolutions cited in the December 27th blog.

"Develop a ten-year plan guaranteeing that 90% of graduating high school students would be college ready regardless of whether or not they choose to go on to higher education."

Impossible, you say! Overwhelming! Unrealistic! It is easy to get discouraged when one realizes the extent of the problem. However, my husband reminded me that when our country decided to put a man on the moon in ten years, we did it. We made it a priority, funded it, and it happened. Our children deserve the same commitment.

Recently we had lunch with Dr. Jill Wakefield, chancellor of the Seattle Community College system. The conversation ranged from roles of the colleges' foundations, to programs offered, and college readiness of entering students. The statistics she cited about the latter were sobering. Later I decided to check out the "readiness factor" of other states to see how we (Washington state) ranked with others. I discovered that the American College Testing program (ACT) is a rather complete source of information on this subject. Its web site overview states that it is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides a broad array of assessment, research, information, and program management solutions in the areas of education and workforce development. ( Although the percentage of students tested from state to state varied, the results reflected data similar to that shared by Dr. Wakefield. Scores were shockingly low. Why and what can be done?

There are countless articles and blogs devoted to airing opinions and supposed facts on the subject. The remarks and counter-remarks show the complexity of the problem. Each writer states a reason for why we are failing our children: Teachers who, for whatever reason, cannot teach effectively, financial inequity between schools, poverty of the stakeholders, out of date materials, run down buildings, and various out-of-school factors like family relations/stress, neighborhood characteristics, environmental pollutants, food insecurity, inadequate medical care and prenatal influences, etc.

Undoubtedly all of these things play a role, but you find fewer articles and blogs discussing the importance of parent involvement. As a teacher in an inner city school for over eighteen years I believe the biggest factor influencing poor achievement is a lack of parent involvement. This includes accountability by parents to support the work of the school, joining the PTA, overseeing homework, and following through with consequences when their children misbehave. Although single parents are often overburdened and trying to “keep it all together” they still should know the importance of spending a few minutes listening to their children and reading stories to them in the younger years. Often this lack of involvement comes from the parents’ own negative school experiences plus not knowing what to do. Most parents love their children and want them to succeed, but sometimes they simply don’t realize the negative impact their non-involvement can have.

Unruly children interfere with the learning of others, but sadly, support for the teacher is not always there. Sometimes a disruptive child is put in the hall or moved from one room to another for part of the day. This may temporarily break the disruptive behavior but can also cause havoc in the other room, with nothing in place to cure the problem. It’s a little like “passing the bad behavior buck”.

A principal friend and I were discussing a former student we both had in elementary school who should have graduated from high school last year. He was extremely bright, good looking, and had great potential. He was also strong willed and a bully. Phone calls home achieved nothing. There was no follow through in discipline. So now we mourn the loss of this young man who has since dropped out of high school, been jailed, and is running the streets.

In a first grade class last week I watched a little girl cheating on her spelling test. She had not studied – probably had no one to work with her at home. Without intervention she also risks becoming a dropout, leaving people to wonder what happened. What happened is that no one outside of school took care of business. My grandchildren are fortunate to be raised by parents who see parenting as a job. More parents need to make that a priority.The absentee father or father figure adds immeasurably to the problem. Little girls look for affirmation with boys who may take advantage. Little boys lose an important role model who should be showing them how to behave as well as to provide economic and emotional stability to the home. The remaining single parent, often discouraged and depressed, has to take on more responsibilities with less time and money. Not a scenario which leads to effective parenting.

Peer groups become the "new family" and the local 7-11 parking lot becomes the "new family room." High schoolers begin to skip classes, fall further behind, get angry at and in trouble with authority figures, and eventually find it easy to drop out. Some of these students take the road towards petty crime and jail like the young man mentioned above, while a few others manage to eventually return to families and family surrogates. These latter students often then use community colleges as the entry to a GED, high school diploma, and even a career. Bless the community colleges! They have to do more with less but still manage to save a lot of young people in the process.

The question now is this: Is this just more diatribe or can we actually do something to make a difference? Obviously we can’t cure these problems overnight and whatever we do is going to cost a lot of money. For the dropouts the answer is for the state legislature to recognize the severe funding impact on community colleges caused by returning dropouts. Another partial answer is for all schools to step up to the plate and provide ways to make a difference. Here are some ideas:

1. Educators should be paid extra to provide assistance to help students and parents after school or on Saturdays.

2. Taking disruptive children out of the classroom and helping them change their behavior must be a priority. This does not mean just sending them to the office or out in the hall for a time-out only to return later, momentarily chastened.

3. Fully fund special education classes including classroom assistants. We must realize that if we do not fund special education in the early years, we will often pay far more later in prison costs.

4 For parents who seem unconnected to school, engage them with "pizza, pop and child care" evenings where they can share their concerns and brainstorm solutions for kid-related problems.

5 If a child is failing or disruptive make it mandatory that the parent/s attend after-school programs to learn academic and social skills that will help their children be more successful.

6. Find a way to fund mandatory life skills classes for all children from middle school on. Classes like Second Step are taught now, but with no consistency. Topics should include dealing with peer presure, unwanted pregnancies and sexual diseases, poor nutrition leading to obesity, drug awareness and financial responsibility. Many of our teenagers are in a downward spiral that costs all of us in the long run. This vicious, destructive cycle must be stopped.

7. Teacher training programs need to add more intensive behavior modification classes.

8. Legislators NEED to find funding to help solve this escalating problem. "But we can't afford it," they say. "We can't afford not to," I say.

9. To help with #8, a massive public relations program on the state and national level needs to be established. The cost for this idea and all of the others is staggering. Why can't we think outside of the box? Perhaps we can take a page out of President Obama's "election book" and make an internet plea. If done correctly at $5.00 a pop or more, millions of people might climb on board.

In the meantime, I opened this article with a quote, and I’ll close with another.

“Teachers are expected to reach unattainable goals with inadequate tools. The miracle is that at times they accomplish this impossible task”. - by Dr. Haim Ginott

Hats off to teachers!!!


The Relationship of Parent Involvement and Student Achievement by Bonnie Jerome deals with a study examining parent involvement strategies and school performance. It would be helpful to all those interested in reforming schools.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Empathy is full presence to what's alive in the other person at this moment. -John Cunningham-

Last week's acrostic poem about NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS FOR EDUCATION started with the letter "E" as follows:

Empathy, civility, and other social skills should be taught uniformly, in consecutive steps, throughout grades K-12. This would include mandatory classes on relationships, parenting and financial responsibility from middle school on. There should be “how to” classes in cooking, nutrition, finances, etc. (See December 24 blog article.)

President Obama recently said this: "You know there's a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit -- the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes; to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us --the child who's hungry, the steelworker who's been laid-off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town. When you think like this--when you choose to broaden your . . . concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers --it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help." (Northwestern's 148th commencement address)

What does this mean for those of us who are educators and parents? Although genetics may play a role, I think empathy is mostly a learned behavior. A newborn baby is egocentric - wanting what it wants in food, warmth, dryness, and well-being. However, this small bundle of humanity quickly learns to mirror what is modeled. After basic needs are met, it may soon learn that louder crying means being held, fed, or cosseted more. Alternatively, by being ignored or abused, it may soon learn to feel unheard, devalued and even angry. Some parents have a natural understanding of rearing children, i.e. empathetic, unconditional love with boundaries. Many of the rest of us, myself included, read Dr. Spock and other baby books, or simply did what our parents did to get through those early years. What we often don't think about is that our actions and reactions are being absorbed in detail by our growing offspring. Those who live in a harmonious, loving home environment will most often be calm, happy and well adjusted. They will often have smiling countenances, share willingly and participate fully. They display the beginning of empathy. Those who come from over-indulged, hostile, abusive or uncaring environments are often non-compliant, self centered, aggressive, needy, withdrawn or overly shy. As a teacher, both in my own classroom, and as a "guest teacher" substituting in others, it takes only a few minutes to determine a child's empathy meter, which often translates to his or her popularity with peers.

What can teachers do? They are human with human reactions even though ideally all children should be treated equally in a teacher's eyes. It takes real effort to treat children who constantly test limits the same as those who are quietly doing their jobs. Because teaching is labor intensive and exhausting, time is an enemy to personal growth. We are forced to take many workshops after school, on weekends and in the summer to keep abreast of the latest educational trends, leaving little time for classes on human understanding and rejuvenation. Yet these kinds of classes are often helpful when dealing with the emotional needs of others. An example might be a class I took at Seattle Pacific University called "Dealing with Difficult People." I will forever remember one of the main ideas. There is no such thing as a difficult person, only a person with unmet needs. Since then every time I am in a situation with someone who might be considered difficult, I think in terms of the "unmet needs." Amazingly, I see the adult or child much differently as, using the opening quote by John Cunninghanm, I try to find out what is alive in the other person in that moment.

Recently I began learning about enneagrams and thought about its implication for people in general and educators in particular. In a book entitled The Enneagram Made Easy by
Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele, we learn that there are basically nine personality types, each with their own traits, both good and bad. I, for example am a "two" with traits that include being loving, adaptable, insightful, generous, tuned in to how people feel, etc. :)AHHHHH. That sounds so good and feels so right. BUT, my negative traits include such things as being indirect, manipulative, martyr like, overly accommodating, etc. :( Could this also be me? But what it really means for me, if I look at all nine complete profiles, is understanding that we are all different, to celebrate the differences and to look at others in this context. As a teacher, it means I need to think about a child's personality profile and explore how to optimize his or her learning with that knowledge. Obviously children walk into the classroom layered with family values and experiences, so, as the old saying goes, "this is easier said than done." But books like the one above on enneagrams provide needed insights and can help to bring about empathy in ourselves and others.

In the meantime, we are faced as a country, with the "empathy deficit" President Obama referred to. To pare down the deficit we need to lean on institutions like schools to take up the slack and help to remediate the problem. Funding for mandatory classes from middle school on regarding relationships, financial responsibility and personal accountability is funding well spent. Helping ineffective parents to learn parenting skills should also be mandatory. If it means less abuse of children and others, if it means a greater understanding of each other, if it means a lower crime rate, and fewer people in prison, then surely it translates to not only reducing the empathy deficit, but maybe even in helping to reduce the federal deficit. It's worth thinking about.


The Enneagram Made Easy by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele

What is your profile? How do you see yourself? How do you see others? How do others see you? This book would be a great addition to your "self help" and "understanding others" resource collection.