To The Best of our Knowledge

thThe standard for teaching to the “best of our knowledge” in the education of science, is science itself.  We have the vast majority of scientists who have shown us in a variety of objective, measurable ways the overwhelming evidence that humans have accelerated climate change.

The responsibility of teachers is to teach the best of our knowledge, which has been articulated in “standards”.  It is the standard to teach climate change.   New Mexico, under political/ideological but not scientific influence, almost abandon the standards in 2017 [1], but reason won the day, and science by scientists remains the standard to this day.

Our school districts should encourage activities like climate rallies, which show a depth of scientific awareness and civic engagement; the responsibility of the individual not only to our society, but also to the world.  Our future, to the best of our knowledge, entirely depends upon it.  Thank you to the students, teachers, administrators, and other people (including our mayor!) who rise to this responsibility.

[1] https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/09/proposed-new-mexico-science-standards-edit-out-basic-facts/

 

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For Sandra

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Long may you ride.

At Sandra’s memorial, there were people who came up to me and said they had run across the article I wrote upon Sandra’s retirement, and they appreciated it.  It’s 1:30 in the morning, and I am thinking of Sandra, so I thought I would write, in the case it might be useful to someone again.  It will be useful to me, to set it down.  There are more goodbyes to say now.

The memorial on the front steps of Monte Vista was a bit of heaven.  Many of the great people of the Monte Vista community showed up, people whom I consider my mentors, my friends.  Elena and Heather did well to think of that, and Leith and Don at Southwest Research did right to make it happen.  Thank you.

Bob Thomson, our counselor at the time had on his wall when I first came to Monte Vista a poster with a quote from Lee Iacoca, “In a completely rational society, the best of us would aspire to be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor and the highest responsibility anyone could have.  ”

Sandra was not just a generalist, she had several areas of expertise, she was a renaissance person.  When I came to Monte Vista, teachers were experts, and Sandra commanded the respect of that.  Both Superintendent Winston Brooks and the- then Secretary of  Education, Hannah Skandera, came in with the press, to Sandra’s classroom, during which she asked them a question, and after their answer, she told them they both were wrong.   Time proved out that statement in every way.

Knowledge is power,  the act of teaching is subversive; it is the re-distrbution of power to those who are not (yet) powerful.  Sandra celebrated that, and that was the culture of Monte Vista, a culture I hope will forever remain.

This is a combination of information from an award nomination that Kathy Jones and I wrote last year, for Sandra, and an article I wrote upon her retirement for our newsletter, The Caring Connection.  It is to recount her great achievement, which she turned into service to her community, to us:

• 40 Years of teaching in Acoma Pueblo and APS
• Taught in the teacher learning programs UNM
and The College of Santa Fe (20 years)
• Formed and directed “Network New Mexico”, in partnership with site community and business partners to install computer networks in 104 schools around New Mexico

• 1972 Founding member and currently on the board Southwest Research and Information Center, focusing of effects on health impacts on indigenous communities of the nuclear cycle.
• 1974 spearheaded development of cultural materials and operated printing/publishing books, including “Voices of our Elders, Books for Our Children”, and extended reading experience for Acoma and other pueblos in New Mexico.
• 1982 Author, Compiler, and Researcher, “The Growing Path”, and advocate for Pueblo traditional infant education
• 1991 Founder of Network New Mexico, with grassroots efforts, advocacy, and installation and design of computer networks in schools, 1991- ongoing,
• 1999 Awarded by the State Department of Education in recognition of her leadership in networking schools “contributions to the children of NM from the Educational Technology unit
• 1992 Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development for focus on excellence award- innovation in computer technology in classrooms.
• 1994 NM computing teacher of the year from NM computer users in ed
• 1995 Ph.d in Educational Linguistics
• Featured by the Southwest Development Lab out of Austin TX
“Weaving Technology in the Classrooms”
• 2000 Awarded by the APS School Board in recognition of her commitment to technology in the classroom
• ES7 Telecommunications Contractor’s License in order to support Network New Mexico’s installation of school networks around the state

Sandra was an incredibly dynamic and knowledgeable professional. In her 40 years of teaching she taught preschool through college age students (for the College of Santa Fe and UNM), who carry her positive influence into their own lives to this day. She is fondly remembered and considered a legend at Monte Vista Elementary school, where she came  to volunteer as a classroom tutor and consultant with APS network services, through last year.

In her early career she ran a printing press for Acoma pueblo, and continued publishing, literacy, and numeracy advocacy even into retirement.

As the printing press evolved, she did too, and in 1991, recognizing the potential of technology and the internet, and the potential to bridge the “Digital Divide”, she pioneered NetDays with her group Network New Mexico. The work of NNM was installing state of the art computer networks in 104 public, private and charter schools around the state using parent and community volunteer labor. Sandra led New Mexico’s NetDay effort from 1996 to 2001, donating her services as a licensed telecom contractor to design and plan the installation, and working with school groups to coordinate the volunteer effort. At the time Network New Mexico was in high gear, there were about 800 public, charter, and private schools. The quantity she and her organization touched would therefore be 12% of the total population of the state. Hundreds of hours of her time, her professional expertise, thousands of miles to all corners of the state in her truck, this effort at bottom-up school improvement and reform was recognized with plaques from the APS Board and State Public Education Department.

It started at Monte Vista, and I was one of the volunteers who helped go through attics and basements and drill through block to pull cable throughout this old building and to the other buildings on campus in 1991 for our LocalTalk network with a black and white Macintosh in each classroom.  Monte Vista became the flagship for the district, being the first school, public or private, to have a campus-wide network in the state.  Sandra became the de facto expert in networking, on top of her classroom duties, and the people whose job it was to network buildings welcomed Sandra’s expertise. Working under Sandra’s leadership, Monte Vista upgraded our network with the first campus-wide Ethernet network in APS in 1994, and then, in 2001, we replaced that cable with fiber direct to the classroom, ensuring upgradability of our school’s network performance for years to come by only changing out devices, not cabling.  Interestingly, it was 17 years after our first network in 1991 before APS invested in our school’s network by upgrading our fiber backbone and building a telecom server room in the lab.  By then bond funds had installed networks at all the other district schools and upgraded the 25 networks Sandra had installed with volunteers in APS schools.

Her leadership wasn’t limited to building the network infrastructure.  Sandra inspired teachers like myself to teach children to be authors in the digital world rather than consumers, still and forever a value here at Monte Vista.  She exported this vision across the 13 schools of the Albuquerque High cluster by writing professional development grants that brought in more than $3 million dollars over eight years to train teachers, and buy hardware and software. Her influence has reached across the state, and for the people who know, Sandra has been a force molding technology access and use for students, teachers, the district, and the state.

Sandra kicked off school networking across the state at a time when many school administrators felt that networking would only prove useful to their district’s business offices. All this while she rebuilt a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, raised two girls of her own, and remained a remarkable classroom teacher.

During her years as a teacher and during her retirement she has also served on the board of Southwest Research and Information Center, which advocates to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations.

—–(these things we wrote with her approval, and this is how we finished her nomination last year:)

Sandra farms garlic, continues to spin, dye, and weave her own yarn (a skill she passed to her students), works on construction and remodeling projects, consults on electrical installations, and nurtures her granddaughter to be an intelligent, strong and powerful woman such as she is.


Teachers, by the nature of the profession, hold a candle for the human race.  Sandra was a flame.

Thank you Heather and Elena, and all of Sandra’s family, for sharing her with us.

 

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This may be connected…

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Bugs on the door.  Shouldn’t knock ’em off.

My mind went for a stroll this morning, as it does.  First to the Stark reality, or non-reality, of that last scene in “Endgame”, of a father (or any parent) trying to the end to protect their world.

Last night mom gave Kristin an orchid, with some ornamental bugs around it, which reminded me of when we went to see Gaudi’s “La Sagrada Familia”.  Such a beautiful altar to life itself, with sculptures all around, but at the door, a jungle of vines and bugs of all kinds.

I was wondering who decided to cast Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark.  There was no small amount of risk built into casting a person known for addiction and dysfunction to be the anchorman of a series of multi-million dollar movies.  And what a tremendous payout.  But for him, personally, really,- the story of his life.  The writer or writers of the arc of his character must have had some inkling that “Iron Man” was really his spirit animal, or perhaps was writing him a map back into life.

We all have our bugs.   Family members who are are estranged, banished, addicted, dysfunctional, or just out of favor.  I thought about that this Mother’s Day, as with most holidays.

Then I thought about Gaudi’s message on the door to the cathedral.  Thinking about Robert Downey “Iron Man-Stark”, Mother’s Day, the broken family, I once again walked into that cathedral space.  Bugs are welcome.  They are part of the Sagrada Familia.  The altar to it all includes it all, and in fact, the bugs may just be the hero that saves the family.  They are part of the door; they may just be the key.

I understand that I am the bug somebody, and probably take a turn being a bug for everybody I spend enough time with.  Hopefully I will be forgiven, and will forgive.   We all take a turn being a bug.   If you are the focal point of your family, or the blacksheep, or somewhere in between, let me channel my Gaudi, to say that you are part of La Sagrada Familia, and you belong.  Happy Mother’s Day.  I hope it was beautiful.

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Living Curricula

opendooricoEducation is the answer to the question, “what kind of people should the children become?”, and “what kind of country shall we live in?”, and really, “what is to become of the world?”.   Family and friends are much the mix in education, as is the classroom.  People learn to evaluate and prioritize the truths they are presented that is the most consistent with their experience.

Students who are raised in a compassionless, unresponsive, meat grinding system are more likely to attempt some sabotage of that “brick in the wall”, than support it as taxpayers. Student performance outcomes have recently been valued over all else.  The reductionistic illusion of objective measurement and data collection in education is most easily maintained if confined to the things we can measure; reading and math outputs.  Music, art, science, and social studies have been long-suffering in this era because we know they are great for the growth and development of people, and necessary for the future of civilization, we just don’t know how to measure and explain that growth in the short term, so at times we have done away with those subjects altogether.

Teachers are starting again to be heard.  We know that pushing a young person who is suffering from malnutrition, abuse, or neglect to perform can diminish the nurturing they need and cause damage to the teacher-student relationship, and to other aspects of their development as a person. Responsiveness to culture, opportunity, and the student as individuals comes from teachers who are people first, and who draw out the people who are also students.  We know that there are better ways to educate.

For too long we have confused  “high standards” with “standardization”.  Just as biological diversity is a mechanism for survival, so too are rich sets of divergent, linear, contrary, lateral, imaginative, and cross disciplinary thinking -sources of survival.   Uniqueness and culture should be fostered by education.  A system that is responsive to people depends upon the people in it, but could be encouraged by a different framework.

Standards curated, community built curricula and resources could be specific to locations, communities, and grade level.  This type of curricula would grow cultural awareness, social justice, and be the mechanism for the type of true cultural and civil rights pass-down that mass produced curricula cannot provide.

Opportunism, on which survival depends, can be understood by example, and would grow from this same model.  Schools that are close to zoos have opportunities different than those that are close to universities, or museums.  The ability to take advantage of beneficial surroundings reinforce culture, build identity, and partnerships.

Responsiveness to environment which is vital to life, should be a characteristic of curricula.   Much of the content of what we teach is not responsive to the needs of our society or world.  This “House Project” is a bit of curriculum I created which includes modern building ideas with project learning about 3rd grade math concepts.  Integrated learning, which this is also an example of, is more possible when developed by this method.

All people need a starting point, but strictly structured materials that bind teachers to “fidelity” do not propagate professionalism.   Building paths toward authorship simultaneously builds expertise.  We can pay teachers for the work many already do in adapting curricula to the specific needs of their students, and create a repository for the many original works and practices which otherwise may be lost.  We can create a lineage of authorship, peer reviews, and creative commons resources that are accessible by theme, grade level, topic, or any other categorized reference, and even create suggested units like the revolutionary music genome project provided for music.

Scripted homilies baked in oaths of fidelity from dynastic publishing monopolies such as Pearson do not foster a “free marketplace of ideas”, or teachers or students who learn to think on their feet, or for themselves.  Instead can come choirs of familiar melodies, out-of-sync with the times, unable to respond to the urgency of the now.

We have provided the example of OpenSourceEd.org.  Perhaps with a professional allowance, a state curated/organized/reviewed “teacherspayteachers” could divert funding back into the state, into the hands of teacher authors, and could re-assert and develop teachers as the creators of curricula, and tests, and reinstate the teaching profession to its full stature.  Open source means open access and continuous improvement, and curricula that is responsive to the times and culture it is responsible to educate, rather than tests and material which teachers (currently) vow by signature not to divulge or discuss.  The time is right for a change.  We have been loading up lesson plans into (what has been the vacuum of) cyberspace for years for our evaluation, we could be building an ever-improving, living curricula at the same time.

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a thing I keep

she was witness to the atrocity
her father slit her mother’s throat
in the months before

and when the counselor told me
I fell in the hall, until the wall caught me.
I would have gone to the ground, and the counselor
said, “perhaps I should have warned you, somehow”

in the collection of the things that happened that year
I must have given her the impression that I was holding her hand
or maybe I even did at times

that is a little thing I keep
when I wonder if I have done some good

that picture she drew of me holding her hand, and she is smiling

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Wind’s in the East

iu.jpegHere comes Mary Poppins, and none too soon, in an era where people are, as Bert said in the original, “hemmed in by mounds of cold, heartless money. I don’t like to see any living thing caged up…They makes cages in all sizes and shapes, you know. Bank-shaped some of ’em, carpets and all.”

I enjoyed the new movie, and I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.  Please don’t read this if you intend to see the movie.

There is a point of contention I have with the new movie, however glad I am to bring Mary Poppins back into our popular culture.  My contention is only important if you are a terribly impractical person, like myself.  To me, Mary Poppins is perfectly impractical in every way.

Near the end of the movie, when Dick van Dyke’s character comes out to save the day, he says that Michael Banks’ original tuppence did actually get invested, and that worked out well for him to purchase back his house that he grew up in.  I’m not terribly interested in the verity of the math on this, (although here it is, if you are), it’s more that the solution for this movie is the prison of the previous.

That, to me, is a terribly practical turn, and works against the magic of the film. The wonderful, fateful, Supercalifragilistic- expialidocious tuppence, were better spent, (or thought to be spent) on feeding the birds,- when the saints and apostles smile on someone each time that they show that they care.  My kid-self, and my current self have not drifted apart in opinion on this; that it was a far better thing to have spent the money on the fleeting things of the bird woman and her birds; to get the nod of the statuary in St. Paul’s was a far higher honor than “that sense of stature as your influence expands to the high financial strata that established credit now commands”.

As Mr. Banks concludes in the original, “it turns out, with due respect, when all is said and done, that there’s no such thing as you,” or me, of course.  The loss of humans is inevitable, but loss of humanity is oblivion.  Because if the birds matter, and the lady, and all of it matters, and if we care, then maybe we can matter, too.  The old movie remains more impressive to me still.  It was a better truth that Mary Poppins once sang to me, that I’ll leave you with now:

Though her words are simple and few

Listen, listen she’s calling to you

Feed the birds tuppence a bag

Tuppence, tuppence tuppence a bag

 

 

 

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My Dad’s Gift

kjMy parents would argue, and when I asked my dad once why he and mom wouldn’t just  split up and get it over with, his answer was that when he was young, his father left him.   That was so awful for him, he made himself a promise to never do that to his own kids, if he had children some day.  So he was going to keep that promise, the vow,- that was one thing he was going to be sure to keep.

It’s the time of year again,  gatherings with family and friends come in successive weeks.   My dad would sit quietly for many of our gatherings in his later years, and observe like someone going to an art gallery and admiring the greatest works of all time.  The noise of being all together was a great symphony, and he would take it in until his conclusion to each gathering, his solo in the performance, when he would issue his ritual decree,  “family is where it’s at”.

We have played our part to keep the gatherings going, to live out the sacred text passed to us.  Our coming together again allows for the chance that the wobble in each of us can be corrected by the gathering of all of us.   However much we may agree or disagree, at each marker to have the people you love continue with you on your voyage is affirmation of your love, and a microcosm of assurance that peace and joy are possible, and in those moments, tangible.  Thanks Dad.  Thanks, noisy, busy, beautiful friends and family, and Kristin, my partner in these many gatherings, and all that is between.

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