Sunday, May 25, 2014


So, things have been pretty busy around here.  Being a teacher, I have entered that time of year that I always think of as THE RUNAWAY TRAIN--where you just hold on for dear life and hope that you don't crash or anything. Also, I've been working on three projects extensively.  Two of them I've already told  you about (picture books that come out next year) and one I have not told you about yet, but hopefully will be able to, soon. And then there's the whole other part of my life. The family part. In the past few weeks we've welcomed a new puppy and one week later, we welcomed a visit from my parents for Isabelle's college graduation.

Let me just tell it like it is--I've been living in a house full of craziness!  (And then remember what I said about going to work where things are RUNAWAY TRAIN CRAZY!)

*Deep breath*


I was particularly moved at the college graduation last Tuesday.  There is something about ceremonies that just choke me up.  Baptisms, weddings, funerals, graduations.  Sigh.  Graduations get to me in a real positive-isn't-the-world-an-amazing-place kind of way.

And, being a writer, I often ponder what I would say if I was ever to give a commencement address (especially if my mind begins to wander during Pomp and Circumstance.)

I think I would include this quote because it is beautiful and speaks to my heart:

 If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

And I think I would tell graduates not to be afraid of hard work.  We might wish upon stars for our dreams to be granted to us, but we can make our own dreams come true if we are willing to work hard enough.  

And that is maybe about all I would say, because I would remember that sitting for a long time is really hard, particularly in those white chairs they always use....


Thursday, May 1, 2014

You Are Not a Number

I cannot yet wrap my head around the changes this year in the world of standardized testing.  There are many things I want to say as an educator to other educators, to parents, to school officials, etc., but have yet to find the right way to say them. Ironic, I know.  I am a writer, yet the words I need to describe my thoughts and feelings on this subject fail me.

So this post is not for educators, parents, school officials, etc.

This post is for students, because I know exactly what I want to say to you:

You are not a number.

Don't let the world define you in terms of a number.  People are not numbers.  True, sometimes we use numbers to describe certain aspects of ourselves, ie: age, weight, IQ, address..... but I am not these things.  I am not my weight.  I am not my age.  I am not my IQ.  I am not the numbers on my address. I am not the amount of money I make.  These numbers do not define me. They describe certain separate parts of my life, but they do not define me.

And the numbers in your life don't define you either.

You are not a 4, a 3, a 2, or a 1.  You are so much more than that.

So much more.

As grown ups, we know this (at least we should know it.) And yet, we keep finding ways to describe you, our students, our children, our society's most important resource, as a number. We should know that it can't be done.  We should know.

I am going to tell you a secret here.  Sometimes, the grade you get in a class does not reflect the actual learning that took place for you.  I'll give an example from my own life.  Throughout my education, I  received A's in some classes that I really didn't learn that much in. I can't even remember some of the stuff I got an A for.  And I got some grades much lower than A's in which I learned A LOT--some things that I still remember and use in my life as a writer Every Day. The grades I got did not always reflect the learning that occurred for me--no grade can ever take actual learning away from you.

You are not a number.  You are not a grade.  You are not even an SAT score.

You are you and that is such a wonderful thing to be. I wish with all my heart, we would stop trying to lump you into categories and quartiles and quintiles for the sake of data collection.  I wish we would look at our educational system  and stop for a moment and think.

Just think.

The truth is, you learn a lot when you struggle, when things are a little hard at first to grasp. It is such an awesome feeling to master something that is "hard".  Classrooms need to be places where you can struggle, learn, make mistakes, try out theories, have your theory stink, try out another theory, make more mistakes, learn from them etc., without the "high-stakes" of a single number (4, 3, 2, 1) being used to determine the worth of your learning for the entire year.

You are not a number.