Passion and Purpose

job-satisfaction

David Coleman has made it perfectly clear there is no “room” in the Common Core for such trivial matters as students’ thoughts, feelings, and personal reflections.

Coleman may claim his emotionless Common Core will improve the career readiness of students but there is ample evidence that what employees think and feel has a direct impact on worker engagement and job satisfaction.

“Best places to work” companies don’t just have ping pong tables and free lunch, they have a “ soul” which makes work exciting and energizing.

They invest in great management and leadership. They train and develop people so they can grow. And they define their business in a way that brings meaning and purpose to the organization…

Now is the time to think holistically about your company’s work environment and consider what you can do to create passion, engagement, and commitment. It may be “the issue” we face in business over the next few years.”

Josh Bersin, “Why Companies Fail To Engage Today’s Workforce: The Overwhelmed Employee” Forbes, 3/15/14

Hard to understand how a passionless set of standards will improve the career readiness of students at a time when record numbers of employees are reporting feeling disengaged and dispassionate about their jobs…

Gallup’s data shows 30% of employees Engaged, 52% Disengaged, 18% Actively Disengaged.  “These latest findings indicate that 70% of American workers are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ and are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive,” states the report.

“Gallup estimates that these actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity.  They are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays, and drive customers away…

Though higher education generally leads to higher earnings, it by no means guarantees higher engagement.  Consider the data: College graduates in the survey were 28% Engaged, 55% Not Engaged, 17% Actively Disengaged.  High school graduates were 32% Engaged, 49% Not Engaged, 19% Actively Disengaged.”

Victor Lipman, “Surprising, Disturbing Facts From The Mother Of All Employee Engagement Surveys” Forbes 9/23/13

K-12 education programs that claim to prepare students for college and careers should be focused more on cultivating a wide array of social and emotional competencies that are transferable workforce skills rather than continually testing a narrow set of measurable Math and ELA skills.

Learning should be a self-directed journey of discovery. Students should be “free to learn” as they explore their interests and pursue their passions rather than simply following a curriculum map and standardized pathway to each Common Core learning standard.

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“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test and don’t ask why
It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time

It’s something unpredictable but in the end is right
I hope you had the time of your life”

Learning should be passion-driven rather than data-driven and focus on the needs of students rather than the needs of the tests. Classroom activities should provide numerous opportunities for students to connect with their dreams, feelings, interests, and other people rather than demand students read closely and stay connected to text.

Data-driven programs focus primarily on testing and measuring student knowledge while passion-driven programs provide numerous learning experiences that interest students and cultivate student wisdom.

The following excerpt from a 2010 valedictory speech reveals the consequences of standardized and test-centric education programs, unfortunately David Coleman is not interested in students thoughts and feelings…

“…While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. 

While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost?

I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning.

And quite frankly, now I’m scared…”

Erica Goldson, “Here I Stand” 6/25/10 Valedictory Speech

Many education reformers do not understand  that being “ready” for college and careers is not just about the subjects learned in school, but did you learn how to live?

In 2014 Jim Carrey gave the commencement speech at Maharishi University of Management that challenged students to overcome their fears and follow their hearts…

“Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear.

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying, I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it — please!…

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love

You are ready and able to do beautiful things in this world and after you walk through those doors today, you will only ever have two choices: love or fear. Choose love, and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.”

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What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge,

and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.

~ George Bernard Shaw

Barriers To Learning

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Inside the classroom, the teacher has the greatest impact on student performance. It is also true that parents are the most influential teacher in a child’s life, and learning that doesn’t occur outside the classroom can have a much greater impact on student achievement, than what transpires inside the classroom…

“Decades of research have shown the staggering societal costs of children in poverty. They grow up with less education and lower earning power. They are more likely to have drug addiction, psychological trauma and disease, or wind up in prison… 

Dasani’s circumstances are largely the outcome of parental dysfunction. While nearly one-third of New York’s homeless children are supported by a working adult, her mother and father are unemployed, have a history of arrests and are battling drug addiction….

For children like Dasani, school is not just a place to cultivate a hungry mind. It is a refuge. The right school can provide routine, nourishment and the guiding hand of responsible adults…

To eat, the children sit on the cracked linoleum floor, which never feels clean no matter how much they mop. Homework is a challenge. The shelter’s one recreation room can hardly accommodate Auburn’s hundreds of children, leaving Dasani and her siblings to study, hunched over, on their mattresses… 

The projects may represent all kinds of inertia. But to live at Auburn is to admit the ultimate failure: the inability of one’s parents to meet that most basic need… 

For all of McKinney’s pluck, its burdens are great. In the last six years, the city has cut the school’s budget by a quarter as its population declined. Fewer teachers share a greater load. After-school resources have thinned, but not the needs of students whose families are torn apart by gun violence and drug use. McKinney’s staff psychologist shuttles between three schools like a firefighter. 

And now, a charter school is angling to move in. If successful, it will eventually claim McKinney’s treasured top floor, home to its theater class, dance studio and art lab. Teachers and parents are bracing for battle, announced by fliers warning against the “apartheid” effects of a charter co-location. 

Dasani knows about charter schools. Her former school, P.S. 67, shared space with one. She never spoke to those children, whose classrooms were stocked with new computers. Dasani’s own school was failing by the time she left… 

Miss Holmes has seen plenty of distressed children, but few have both the depth of Dasani’s troubles and the height of her promise. There is not much Miss Holmes can do about life outside school. She knows this is a child who needs a sponsor, who “needs to see ‘The Nutcracker,’” who needs her own computer. There are many such children.

Here at school, Miss Holmes must work with what she has…”

Andrea Elliott, “Invisible Child – Girl in the Shadows: Dasani’s Homeless Life” NY Times, 12/9/13

Poorer communities and schools would see a much greater academic return on their “investments” if instead of purchasing new computers, software solutions, and standardized tests, they properly funded programs such as; prenatal care, child care, adult ed, parenting classes, job coaching, drug counseling, health services, morning programs, and after school programs that provide meals, tutoring, arts and crafts, physical activity, and a quiet place to study.

It is naive to expect that students who have weaker academic skills, greater social and emotional needs, and attend chronically underfunded schools will start to achieve more in the classroom, simply because their state has adopted the Common Core State Standards, their schools have purchased computers to administer mandated standardized tests, and their teachers have received high quality Common Core professional development.

There is more likely to be an increase in the achievement gap and school drop out rates, rather than an increase in college and career readiness, if we continue to place greater academic demands on students with greater needs, without providing sufficient school funding to support essential wrap around services.

 

Winning the Battle, Losing the War

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“When somebody is doing actions you don’t like, the spiritual solution is to do what you can to stop them, but you do it in such a way that you do not reject the person. You reject the action, but not the person. That is a big one. You reject the action, but not the person…

I can disagree with actions that are not compassionate. But I want to keep my heart open. If I don’t, I am part of the problem, not part of the solution. And that’s just not interesting enough. That’s what the inner work is—to become part of the solution…

You don’t have to act out of anger in order to oppose something. You can act to oppose something because it creates suffering. You can become an instrument of that which relieves suffering, but you don’t have to get angry about it…

You can work with love. You can oppose somebody out of love. You can do social action out of love. And that’s the way you win the whole war, not just the battle.”

~ Ram Dass, “Winning the Battle, Losing the War: A Spiritual Perspective”

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

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“All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm.

Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”

Robert Lee Fulghum , “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Ballantine Books, 2003 (1986, 1988)

More Than A Game

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“One thing I have learned about interviewing people is that an interview often turns out to be about something other than, or greater than, what the producer and I thought it would be about.

This particular interview promised to be about football and heroism but turned out to be about fathers and daughters. As a father of two daughters, both of whom possess talents far beyond my own, I am still delighted to hear Y.A. Tittle, the great New York Giants quarterback of my youth, and his daughter Dianne Tittle de Laet. 

She is a charming aesthete and classicist, a harpist and poet who saw in her father heroics worthy of the ancient epics. The two of them reminded me that (a) children assimilate the gifts of their parents in unusual ways and (b) some people play football for money so that their kids can play the harp for personal fulfillment…

I would say, out of my entire childhood, that is the one thing I remember more than anything, in particular the last 10 minutes or so of the game when my father threw an interception. That game stands out in my mind as sort of perplexing, a riddle as Perseus was for me when I found him in the book. That’s why I chose to make this game the subject of my victory ode in a sense. 

I feel that, at least for me, there was a victory that was shared by my father and maybe me, too, because I think he did show his excellence that day, even though it was the worst day of his career. 

I came away from that game with something that I needed to keep in mind as I continue to grow and explore my own art, and go and run down the field with my own ball, so to speak.”

NPR Interview: “A Football Giant and His Hero-Worshipping Daughter” by ROBERT SIEGEL September 19, 2006

 

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

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“I couldn’t read. I just scraped by. My solution back then was to read classic comic books because I could figure them out from the context of the pictures. Now I listen to books on tape…Many times I can see a solution to something differently and quicker than other people. I see the end zone and say ‘This is where I want to go.’…Passion is the great slayer of adversity. Focus on strengths and what you enjoy.”

~ Charles Schwab

“You don’t have to be the fastest runner in the relay team or the best speaker on the debate panel, as long as you surround yourself with great people and contribute in your own way.

It’s no secret that I wasn’t the most academic student. Dyslexia held me back from focusing on school work and achieving good grades. However, I learned that if I flanked myself with people that complemented my weaknesses and shared my passions, I could work with them towards greater achievement…

Finding the spotlight isn’t about standing in it. There’s so much to be gained from working with a collective of people who support each other to achieve great things…

It’s therefore incredibly important to surround yourself with people who complement you, aid your self-development, and most importantly allow you to shine – even if it’s in their shadow.”

~ Richard Branson

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As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has–or ever will have–something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.

~ Fred Rogers

Learning should be passion-driven and student-centered rather than data-driven and test-centered. Classroom activities should provide numerous opportunities for our students to explore their interests and unleash their special talents.

Learning activities in and out of the classroom should cultivate essential social and emotional skills that students will most surely rely and depend on whether they choose to continue their education in a classroom and/or on the farm…

Considering the diversity of student skills and abilities represented in our classrooms It is foolish and inherently unfair to define and predict student success in life based on a narrow and shallow set of testable math and reading skills.

How proficient 5th grade students become at multiplying or dividing by a power of ten is much less an indicator or predictor of success in life than how many learning opportunities and activities they have in school that help to cultivate student confidence, courage, creativity, and the JOY of feeling “Ten Feet Tall”

I’m clumsy, yeah my head’s a mess Cause you got me growing taller everday…

But you got me feeling like I’m stepping on buildings, cars and boats I swear I could touch the sky…I’m ten feet tall.

You build me up Make me what I never was…

I’ll be careful, so don’t be afraid You’re safe here, no, these arms won’t let you break…

~ Afrojack, “Ten Feet Tall”

Regardless of skill level or ability, all students should feel safe, supported, and valued in school for who they are, and not just for what they can do .

Learning should be a self-directed journey of discovery and students should be “free to learn” how worthy they are, rather than be subjected to repeated testing, sorting, and comparisons only to learn how much they are worth.

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Education programs should cultivate lifelong learners who are passionate and creative risk-takers that follow their dreams rather than proficient and compliant test-takers who can follow directions.

Those students who are resilient and who persevere will succeed in life despite learning or reading disabilities. It is foolish to demand all students independently “dive into” complex informational text before they have learned to “Swim”

You gotta swim And swim when it hurts…

I swim to brighter days Despite the absence of sun…

I’m not giving in I swim…

Yeah you gotta swim Don’t let yourself sink

Just find the horizon I promise you it’s not as far as you think

~ Jack’s Mannequin, “Swim”

While determining the success of schools and effectiveness of teachers based on how many students graduate Common Core “ready” for college and careers may benefit corporate education reformers, history has clearly taught us that society will benefit when every student graduates eager to test their limits and ready to change the world.

Legend of the Starfish

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“A vacationing businessman was walking along a beach when he saw a young boy. Along the shore were many starfish that had been washed up by the tide and were sure to die before the tide returned. The boy was walking slowly along the shore and occasionally reached down and tossed a beached starfish back into the ocean.

The businessman, hoping to teach the boy a little lesson in common sense, walked up to the boy and said, “I have been watching what you are doing, son. You have a good heart, and I know you mean well, but do you realize how many beaches there are around here and how many starfish are dying on every beach every day? Surely, such an industrious and kindhearted boy such as yourself could find something better to do with your time. Do you really think that what you are doing is going to make a difference?” 

The boy looked up at that man, and then he looked down at a starfish by his feet. He picked up the starfish, and as he gently tossed it back into the ocean, he said, “It makes a difference to that one.”

~ Adapted from The Unexpected Universe. Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. pp. 67-92. By Loren Eiseley ©1964