Friday, May 28, 2010

The Oval Office to The Rose Garden

Carolyn Bridge, from Smart Technology, just sent these pictures of my path from the Oval Office to the Rose Garden. I thought I'd share them!

Kean University recognizes their distinguished interns

There are a whole lot of good things to say about Kean University in Union, New Jersey. For one thing, it has a nice campus. Flowers bloom in well-designed spaces on lawns so green and perfectly groomed that you might as well be in a country club.

Shimmering glass reflects the trees on new structures to house classrooms where students are learning science and the latest technologies.

A brand new Human Rights Center is lined with photographs of those who dare to speak truth to power.

This is a good place so I was more than happy to make a presentation to the distinguished teaching interns that Dr. Martha Mobley and Dr. Susan Polirstok are so proud of. And they should be.

I spoke to this select group of newly formed teachers and I was so impressed with their stories, the dreams in their eyes, their gathered families and the trust that their Kean University professors have placed in their talents and abilities.

One by one, they came forth and we all heard testimony of their magic in the classroom. One transformed an unruly classroom whose teacher had been gone for two long months. In short order, this new teacher brought it all into focus and the children were learning again, safe in her world.

In another class, a student teacher had created so many amazing smart board lessons that she was already presenting to the supervisors who had their notebooks out, ready to learn.

Each intern had made great strides with their students and had won the acclaim of their cooperating teachers and supervisors.

I especially liked looking at the three daughters of one new teacher. As a single mother, she had raised these lively, blond daughters while studying and working. Now, she was standing before us, with tears in her eyes because she was a teacher. She had done it! Everyone was singing her praises. Her daughters saw how mom had succeeded.

On the way out of the auditorium, one of them held the door for me. I took the opportunity to ask how they felt about mom's accomplishments. "Very proud," they gushed, in one voice.

I wish their mom had seen them say that. But then again, that's the sort of world this distinguished intern and mom makes happen.

This is the way a great teacher begins. The world is lucky to have these Kean University teachers. They will spread light and learning wherever they go.

Bergen County Celebrates Teachers

Dr. Aaron Graham, Bergen County Executive Superintendent & Maryann Woods-Murphy.

Take 400 teachers, administrators and educational support professionals and bring them to the Fiesta Catering Rooms in Wood Ridge, NJ for a fabulous luncheon to celebrate teaching and learning and you have the Bergen County Teacher of the Year Recognition Celebration!

Add to that the music of Northern Highlands Regional High School students with their music teacher, Theodora Sotiropoulos, and you have a perfect atmosphere, in an exquisite venue.

Last year, when I was named my school Teacher of the Year, I sat at one of the linen-covered tables and marveled at the way we were being treated as Teachers of the Year. For a classroom teacher, it was so special to go to lunch and eat on china plates, have attentive waiters serving bread and ice water and listen to warm and smart speeches about the good things that teachers do. All those stories made the food taste better.

Plus, there were no bells ringing to transition us from one part of the event to another!

I remember seeing the 2008-2009 Teacher of the Year, Jeanne Muzi, speak and share her love of art and the importance of our jobs. I dreamed of being in her shoes, but who would ever believe that such a thing might be possible? Could I really become the New Jersey State Teacher?

Today, as I addressed that room of proud teachers and their teams, I understood that only when you have a dream do you have any chance at all of achieving it.

Here I am with the Bergen County Sheriff, Leo McGuire and Freeholder Elizabeth Calabrese. Dr. Aaron Graham, is on the left.

In this candid shot, you can see how happy everyone is to be together to celebrate teachers and support professionals.

I talked about my students and how their stories matter, how very much they have helped me grow and learn and become who I am today. I spoke of poignant moments that we have shared and the connection between us. Every teacher has a personal "hall of fame" of students - kids who have helped us become better teachers and learners. We are so lucky to be teachers - to serve as touchstones for the children as they live and grow. In fact, every student has a key to this hall of fame and to our hearts.

My Northern Highlands Regional High School colleague, John Gornell, an outstanding history teacher and the advisor of the National Honor Society, was honored today as the new 2010 Northern Highlands Teacher of the Year. He came to this celebration with John Keenan, our NHRHS Superintendent, Joe Occhino, our Principal and Dept. Chair, Bob Petrosino. Here I am pictured with John Gornell:

The Bergen County Office of Education staff put together an amazing event today! Congratulations to all of them!

We all walked out with our heads a little higher, our hearts a bit fuller. We carried certificates and chocolates and an engraved pen, but the most important gift of all was the public recognition of our good service.

Ah, somebody sees that what we are doing is part of the important work of the world!

(Please note that all photos on today's blog are courtesy of Steven Pasternak, The Bergen County Supervisor of Child Study and photographer of merit!)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Teens Talk About Racism

Well, it's 4:44 p.m. on May 25th. I am soaring right now because "Teens Talk About Racism" was such an amazing experience.

TTAR, as we call it, is a safe forum for teens where they can challenge the pervasive stereotypes that we live. What are our identity groups and what benefits and challenges do they offer us? How can we share music, social justice and love?

Nine years ago, community organizer Rori Kanter and life-long social justice worker, Theadora Lacey approached me about organizing a program for teens. They had already spent a year in the process and had, in fact, hosted their first event at the Central Unitarian Church on a Sunday afternoon. Despite much intense preparation, they had about 15 youth participants.

Here's Theadora Lacey

The next year, Rori approached me and asked if I would like to get involved. "Yes!" I said.

Quickly, I involved my students from my school's newly formed "Multicultural Task Force," who provided music, energy and a whole lot of leg work. We partnered with Fairleigh Dickinson University, who offered us wonderful space. That first year, we had over 100 students from area schools participating!

The conference has built over the years and it relies heavily on teachers and counselors in each school who gather the students and prepare them for youth leadership. Students come prepared to sing songs, dance and share in a joyful community experience.

Today was amazing!

As students were entering the Wilson Auditorium, they were greeted by music from the student band, "The Francs."

Noelle Staudt, from St. Anthony School, sang The Star Spangled banner. Next, Eddie Kim, did a monologue he wrote himself called, "A Word About Tolerance." It blew us away!

Next, we were welcomed by Diana Cvitan, the Director of the Office of Global Learning. Diana really cares about this issue a whole lot and has done everything to be as welcoming as possible to our conference and efforts!

Elissa Bonito sang "It doesn’t hurt" with great feeling and energy!

Next, we heard from a youth panel - students who were either in college or graduate school.

Panelists included: Alfonso Carrion, Maya Gunaseharan,Brenda Rubenstein, Adam Walpert. Joe Murphy, the chair of Ethics at Dwight Englewood, moderated. Here are the bios of the participants:

Alfonso Carrion is a student filmmaker studying his craft at Emerson College. He recently won an EVVY for producing an outstanding promotional commercial for Boston's TD Garden Arena. However, he actively participates in several social justice organizations in and out of campus. His trip to feed the poor in a New York City homeless shelter has always been an unforgettable experience for him. He is very excited to be a part of Teens Talk About Racism and thanks everybody who participates in this life-changing event.

(Here are Alfonso Carrion, Diana Cvitan & Maryann Woods-Murphy)

Adam Walpert. Northern Highlands class of '05, Columbia University Class of '09 BA in economics, currently employed as a research staff assistant in the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia, will be attending medical school this fall. Adam's belief in social equality and cultural awareness have been woven into his life journey. He was one of the founders of the Multicultural Task Force of Northern Highlands Regional High School, which is active to this day.

Brenda Rubenstein is currently a graduate student in New York primarily interested in fighting for socioeconomic equality. As an undergraduate, she was a co-founder of HOPE (Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere), an organization that partnered college students with homeless activists to rally for better treatment of the homeless in Rhode Island. As part of the Talent Quest program at her university, she lobbied for admissions equity. She is currently focused on equity for women in science. She got her start here with Ms. Woods-Murphy!

(Here are Adam Walpert & Brenda Rubenstein)

Maya Gunaseharan is a rising junior at Cornell University, in the School of Industrial Labor Relations. She was active in social justice work during her years at Dwight-Englewood and has continued such work since she's been in college. Throughout high school she participated in TTAR and other similar conferences, in an effort to educate herself and others about the prevalence of diversity issues surrounding the youth of America. She is truly pleased to be here today, and wholeheartedly believes that through heart-to-heart dialogues, like the ones we hear at TTAR, change can and will happen.

Music from the Englewood Idols - "We are the world!" transitioned us beautifully to the next part of our conference. Here are the Idols pictured with their teacher, Judy Aronson!

Here the Idols are involving the audience in the song!

We then moved into break-out groups led by students from our participating schools. The point of the break outs was to talk about identities and how they have helped, challenged or enhanced our lives.

After a couple of hours of discussion/lunch, students came back and shared their reflections. One girl said that she had given her hair clip to a new friend and that she hoped that this new friend would keep a part of her forever. She said, "This was a life-changing day. Now that I have shared my stories, I know someone else is listening besides my journal."

One by one, students stood up and shared their testimonies of the day, their reflections and thoughts. They told what hurts, what uplifts them and how they can really be the change they want to see.

We closed the conference the way we always do at TTAR: We all sing "Lean on me" as we dance and sing together.

Lean on me
When you're not strong
I'll help you carry on!

Congratulations to all student leaders, to the teachers and counselors and administrators who made it possible for the students to participate and to all of the planning committee.

Rev. Carlton Eliott Smith, Central Unitarian Church, Mrs. Theadora Lacey,
Billy Bowie, Joanna Petritsis, Melynda Bowie, Ilene Gilbert, Kay Blair, Luis Merlo, Sally Gellert, Joan Whelan (webmaster, Joe Murphy, Joe Murphy III, Judy Aronson, Marsha Gundy, Lule Seltzer, Carlos Gonzalez, Iris Koonin, Mark Johnson, Shailja Rastogi, Cover Illustration: Rachel Lesser, Dolores Stasion – Global Learning, FDU

Special thanks to the Social Justice Committee of the Central Unitarian Church, in Paramus, who shopped for, donated and served all of the food at today's conference! We appreciate this focus on youth leadership and justice making! Students ate a nice breakfast and lunch due to these continued efforts!

Thank you to all who gave their time and energy to make the 10th year of TTAR a wonderful success!

(All photographs courtesy of the Office of Global Learning!)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's not fair!

Photo from

I'm still thinking about the rally in Trenton yesterday. So many people gathered to speak their stories - stories that matter. Who is going to educate the children when we fire the teachers? Who will be there to clean the schools and make them a fit place for our young when we lay off the custodians? Who will cook the food, serve it and notice when a child isn't eating when we collectively pink slip the cafeteria workers?

Schools aren't just about jobs, they are about relationships. Relationships form over time, with trust - when people feel safe and connected. I'm really worried about what is going to happen all around the state in September. Shouldn't we be preparing our students to continue to be some of the best performing kids in the nation? Wouldn't it make more sense to be professionally developing our teachers to meet the needs of the 21st Century? What are we doing? had a twitter feed of many users reporting on the rally in Trenton on May 22nd. Here's what someone reported about my participation:

1:50 p.m.: Speaker Mary Ann Woods-Murphy of Teaneck had a question for the crowd.

"Do I look like the problem?" The crowd roared back "No!" at the 2009-2010 New Jersey Teacher of the Year.

Woods-Murphy, who teaches Spanish at Northern Highlands replied: "I think that I look pretty innocent."

She said the Teaneck school district is laying off custodial and other staff. "No es justo, no es justo," she chanted in Spanish. "This is not right."

I am sickened by the tone leveled against teachers and public employees.

I am the granddaughter of Irish immigrants. My grandfathers struggled for the rights of wire lathers in New York City at the turn of the last century. My father was the shop steward at the Hotel Commodore in what is now Grand Central Station. My great uncle, Hugh Halligan, was the Deputy Fire Commissioner of New York City, under Mayor LaGuardia. Hughie also invented the "Halligan tool or bar" which is used to break into burning homes.

I come from working people who stood up and were counted. Because of their work, I have a college education and the right to be heard. I stand on the shoulders of previous generations. Every single thing I know is a gift from someone. Even the time I have spent alone reading and thinking is on the backs of someone who has entrusted me to do the best job that I am humanly capable of.

This urge to contribute, to work and share talents with others is the mentality of our public workers. It might be the toll collector who smiles yet one more time as a car drives through or the hospital worker who offers a word of encouragement to a elderly patient. We all contribute in different ways, but together, we make a difference. Together, what we do matters a whole lot.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

35,000 voices unite in Trenton today!

Christy Kanaby & Maryann Woods-Murphy, May 22nd, Trenton, N.J.

Today, it was my honor to speak for educators at a massive rally in Trenton! The NJEA and all unions in our state united to stand firm against the government cuts to all service areas. Stories of jobs slashed, classrooms bulging and programs dissolved were heart wrenching. Barbara Keshishian, the NJEA president, was inspirational!

The voice of justice was lifted! The cuts to education and services in our state are tragic for so many and solutions that would help fix the problems are overlooked!

Today was a much needed day of joy and optimism. New Jersey is the people who make it work. We are the transportation, the teachers, the communication workers, the firemen, the police. We are all the people who serve and do an honest day's work to help others and contribute to our state's greatness.

Our education system is the best in the nation. Our teachers are devoted. Our professionalism is enviable. Today, our state workers united and spoke with one voice.

Together, we will narrate the story of New Jersey. With one voice, we will prevail even in these difficult times! The tide is changing and the people will control New Jersey's destiny!

Friday, May 21, 2010

What's in your cave? Teen Arts Festival at Bergen Community College

Some years ago, My artist/Spanish teacher friend, Lule Seltzer, collaborated with me to create a class about art and its therapeutic powers.

The idea of Cave Painting came to us.

What were ancient people trying to to capture as they took materials from the earth to paint images of large animals on the cave walls? Were they trying to capture the spirit of their foes to control their fear?

Lule and I experimented with colors and music while we took our students on an imaginary journey to their own cave - what would their own cave contain? What fears would they project on this space?

Today, I am here at the Bergen Community College Teen Arts Festival in Paramus, New Jersey, now in its 35th year. It's a massive festival of the arts - dance, song, music and writing - everywhere! Students dance on the lawn, soak up sun and scribble away all day long.

I've taken the idea that Lule and I created and have developed a writing workshop for this day. I enjoyed this morning's session a whole lot. Using projections of cave paintings, I framed a space. Later, students drew their own fears on their own caves (sheets of paper) while music played (a group called "Painful leg injuries," no less). Next, we shared our work in guided pair conversations. Finally, pens flew across the page as students wrote. Later, we shared how fears can change into empowering images and passionate words.

Some students stood up to share their work and others held back. To give everyone a chance, I asked them to choose four words or a sentence from their pieces to speak out loud and we wove these words together in a kind of tapestry of fear, a bold statement of power. In the end, we posted the work on the cave wall of the classroom, the white board.

As usual, the students inspire me! I am the creator of the space, a humble recipient of their energy.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Atlantic County Recognition Luncheon

Douglas Groff, Galloway Township Superintendent, Karen Casselman, Atlantic County, Teacher of the Year, 2009, Maryann Woods-Murphy, NJ TOY 2009-2010, Tina Colombo, Atlantic County, Teacher of the Year, 2010, Thomas J. Dowd, Executive County Superintendent, Atlantic County.

I traveled to Galloway Twsp today to a wonderful celebration of the Atlantic County Teachers and Educational Services Professionals at the Carriage House. The catering hall was a lovely venue which provided us with the space and opportunity to focus on what matters most in education today - the teaching and learning that is making a difference.

Everyone was thrilled to be together to share stories of our favorite teachers and students. Right now, the public is very engaged in a campaign of negativity towards teachers so this morning, which gave us a chance to cherish the success of our educators, was welcome indeed!

At the end of the day, the future of this profession will be narrated by the educators and students most engaged in it.

There are many hot shot educational reformers out there today who boast a high profile degree, a few years in education and a lot of drastic proposals for a quick fix to the most pressing issues of our day. Though these ideas are exciting at times and should be considered, reforms that work will need to come from all stake holders. We will need to respect and cherish the educators who are spending their entire working lives with our children. Doesn't this make sense?

Being with the Atlantic County Teachers of the Year was a shot of optimism in hard times. Looking out from my podium at these dedicated educators was an honor and a privilege.

Marrying Don Quijote

Today, I spent the day at the Dwight Englewood School in Englewood, New Jersey. I had two activities there. The first was a leaders meeting for Teens Talk About Racism next week and the second, was a visit from the pages of fiction by none other than Don Quijote de la Mancha.

Now, I know that Don Quijote is an idealist and some people say that he chases windmills a little too much. They recommend that he pull his head out of the books to face "the real world." They even try to tell Don Quijote that the lovely maiden he is defending is less than maidenly. He won't hear of any such slander for she is, "Dulcinea," his sweet one.

Don Quijote was Cervantes'invention more than four hundred years ago, but the character has taken over.

My husband, Spanish and Ethics teacher, Joe Murphy, brought the real Don Quijote back through the dimensions to visit the fifth grade class of Janet Glass or "La Reina Blanca." Well, Joe Murphy is just the medium because the man I saw in that classroom today was not the man that I have been married to for 31 years. Joe Murphy has magic powers that can pull Don Quijote right off the page to bring him into the hearts and minds of children.

With my own eyes, I saw Don Quijote fighting the monstrous items found in the classroom with a sword. Some may have called those items speakers, statues and light fixtures, but Don Quijote assured the class that he was fighting the terrible dangers of the world - the "cruel monsters," as he put it. He even dubbed a couple of young men as knights, while he was visiting, and he inspired a love of adventure that the students will not forget.

At one key moment, a student asked Don Quijote what music he liked. Don Quijote simply began to sing a romance while he clapped. "I like my music, mi musica, I like it, the romance," he sang in Spanish, while dancing a little jig shuffle. Immediately, all of the children began to sing and clap the spontaneous song with him, swaying in place.

Together, with Don Quijote, we all traveled to a land where justice prevails, where dignity and inner beauty win acclaim and devotion and where fidelity to one's deepest values is more prized than gold.

When Don Quijote and I walked back to my husband, Joe Murphy's office, I asked him if he knew that one day, many years later, there would be a man who would bring him back to life.

Don Quijote looked me square in the eye and sent greetings from the past to this Joe Murphy.

How lucky am I to have married such an emissary. It's as close as any modern woman has ever come to marrying Don Quijote, himself.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Anti-ed rhetoric ...don't go there!

My new Teacher of the Year friends, from every state in our nation, have begun to share our thoughts on what makes an "effective" teacher. The big news is that evaluation methods vary widely in our country - some involving the use of portfolio, self assessment, administrator "walk through" and significant, regular input and conversation.

Clearly, all of the awarded teachers are interested in being part of the conversation about what we think is "great" about teachers who are lifted up as teachers of the year and other such awards, especially during the current anti-teacher public environment.

Just when I needed it most, I read an article in "Education Week" ( which Dianne Ravitch and Mike Rose share significant thoughts about what is happening. Both agree on the following, as stated by Mike Rose:

"You and I are both concerned about the predominance of school-bashing rhetoric in the national discussion of public schools." It seems, says Mike Rose, to "provide the ideological foundation to dismiss public education, to seek free-market solutions or structural or technological miracle cures."

That's what I've been hearing "out there" as well. I hear from folks that good teachers like me shouldn't be "defending the education of yesterday."

Diane Ravitch admits that there have always been critics and reformers of public education, but there was one important difference, "the critics wanted to make public schools better. Now, many critics think that the answer to public education is to get rid of it, to replace it with something that is wholly different and not subject to any democratic participation or control."

Wow, there's the rub. We "improve" public education by eliminating it. Ha!

Now, let's think about the current conversation about "teacher quality."

The be all and end all of a good teacher, according to the policy folks, is how kids perform on tests. I mean, as a "good teacher" we all have to be about student progress. All good teachers I know would agree, but the essential difference is how to judge student progress.

Most teachers don't trust the tests as the sole way of judging student progress. We don't trust the tests as the sole way of judging teachers either.

Diane talks about how we can judge effective teachers, anyway. It seems that we are moving in a direction of “deselect(ing) teachers every year whose students did not get gains. If we fire 5-10% of teachers every year, over time the nation will have an excellent corps of teachers."

Oh my! Credentials don't seem to matter, according to reformers, nor do degrees. So, Diane asks, why not have talented high school students do this test prep we are looking for? It may not be as much of a reductio ad absurdum as it at first seems. I mean...

Do you agree with the following?

Good education = Good test prep and results

Bad education = Bad test prep and results

Now, close your eyes and remember that special teacher. Come on, there must be one out there. Everyone talks about this person in every educational speech.

Your favorite teacher - the one who changed your life = your test results that year of school.

I'd bet money that this is not true, that you remember this person because of the way they motivated you to believe in yourself to become a learner.

Being a learner is forever.

Mike Rose says that real, honest-to-goodness professional development is crucial for teachers. Not the one-size-fits-all, half-day blitz we are familiar with, but the sustained, deep, collaboration with experts that really affect teachers and influence learners.

Oh, but I forgot - a teacher doesn't have to be an intellectual leader or social contributor, we just have to turn around test results.

We are "a knowledge-delivery mechanism preparing students for high-stakes tests."

Sounds like a wonderful career. I'll have to use that when I speak to the dewy eyed teachers to be in an upcoming speech.

Are you kidding?

Educational policy is being created and used to hurt the essence of the best of instruction as we know it. There is good and bad in yesterday. I am a huge supporter of technology, but I see it as a tool to create an infinite number of seats at the table. I cannot sit by silently while my profession is reduced to a Chaplanesque view of teacher as factory foreman pumping kids into a place on the assembly line. We know that this sort of one-size-fits-all approach is doomed.

What makes an effective teacher does need to be measured in important ways, but these ways need to include self reflection, personal growth, collaboration and peer involvement, connection with content-area experts, connection to the students'and strategies to help teachers find "tools" to help students overcome significant life obstacles like poverty, an intellectually unenriched home, disease, learning disabilities.

Personally, I'd prefer to eliminate poverty and social inequity, but that's another story.

Diane Ravitch spoke of our president and his wonderful ability as an orator. She'd like to see the tone shift from our guy up top. "instead of speaking about punishing, firing, failing, and closing, speak instead about improving, supporting, developing, encouraging, and inspiring."

That would be music to my ears.

Think hard about what we want. Do we want public schools that work? Or do we want to demolish our public schools and the teachers who would work in them? Do we want whole-minded professionals to take on teaching jobs or narrowly focused technocrats who are good at getting kids those discrete skills to get the numbers to get them the merit pay to get the acclaim.

In such a reality, Mr. Holland never gets his Opus and Mr. Chips, a life-long teacher who got an important movie goodbye from his school, will never appear on the screens of future movie goers. In the current scenario, The elegantly aging Mr. Chips would have been fired by the time he was 40 and Mr. Holland, that music teacher who actually loves music, will be told to focus more on the "real world."

Not on my watch!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Many teams on the same league - the NJ League

NJEA President, Barbara Keshishian & me at my "Women of Distinction" award

Everywhere I go, I see teachers, administrators, school boards and students with the same worried faces. We are all worried about the future of education in New Jersey. For many years, our state has been able to boast about our excellent progress and success in public education.

But right now, I feel like we are living in a great big disconnect.

On the one hand, we have big dreams for success, for all students, coming to us from Arne Duncan and his team in Washington. There are many parts of ESEA that I do not agree with (merit pay & the turnaround plans' effectiveness, for example), but I see that it sincerely comes from a desire to graduate all students from high school with a full array of skills necessary to build this country.

I mean, we simply cannot have undeserved youth in the USA, whose voices are not heard by the status quo. Everything that happens everywhere in the USA affects the nature of our lives here.

We cannot have bad schools "across the river" and bridges that are not part of us. We cannot have disenfranchised youth who do not belong to us. We cannot allow schools that do not provide up-to-the-minute tools, much less basic literacy, to continue to flounder, anywhere in our nation. We cannot have our last ditch "alternative education" be a massive system of incarceration that confines our failures so that we don't have to see them any more. Our educational system needs to include all children to help them become the intellectual leaders and social contributors they are capable of being.

New Jersey is proud of its education today, but we and the nation have far to go. We cannot take one baby step backwards because each loss in our forward movement represents an untold number of lost youth, lost hope, lost dreams.

As New Jersey residents, we need to look at our public schools and celebrate what works and then we need to fix what doesn't in an atmosphere of absolute transparency and respect, give and take and energy.

We know some things that matter to provide the best experience for our children:

1. Class size
2. Teacher quality
3. Involved parents
4. Supportive communities
5. Positive social & emotional climate
6. 21st Century tools, language, culture, diversity
7. Responsive programs

In the middle of all of these pressing needs to reinvent ourselves, continually, we have the worst budget crisis we can remember. That's the other part of the disconnect. We have mandates for improvement, but the lowest funding ever to make this happen.

We need to pull together and recognize that though we may be on many teams, we are all in the same league - the New Jersey League!

Right now, Governor Christie is saying that he believes in education, yet I am hurt by the hostile comments and measures he is endorsing. The incredible cuts to education have increased class size, cut programs and laid off teachers.

What's more, the negative tone and comments directed at teachers are horrifying to us and disheartening. We're baffled.

My fellow educators say: "When did we become the enemy?" "How did this happen?"

Young teachers in education programs wonder aloud to me if they have made the right choice to study to be teachers.

Veteran teachers, who have spent a lifetime working for the young, for the future, wonder if they should retire right now.

Programs have been cut mercilessly, jobs slashed, classrooms stuffed to the brim.

In a time of economic crisis, we need to support education more than ever. What we do now, will affect the future.

Did you know that jails are built based on the reported third grade reading scores?

We know too much about how much educational failure costs to allow it to happen. The current cuts to education will threaten to put us on a downward spiral. We will lose programs that matter, teachers who care. The price we will pay is literally in human lives.

I'm happy that my New Jersey Education Association has represented teachers all across the state in a tireless and informed way, protecting the rights of teachers and the appropriate flow of funding to our classrooms.

You've seen the talk about "the bosses in Trenton," haven't you?

These so called "bosses" are teacher leaders, all of them. The NJEA folks are educators who have the ability to do advocacy and they have stepped up to the plate to do it. They believe in the children, their colleagues and our shared future. You can take my word for it because I have met them and I can read hearts.

The NJEA leaders are also fighters who will not stop when the going gets rough. They represent us. They are us. We are the NJEA.

We are teachers who want to work with all stakeholders to create a more perfect future for the children of our great state. We are learners who are excited and energized by the new tools and resources we want to learn about and share. We love our job because we get to see the magic of learning happen in our student's faces.

We are a strong, dedicated team.

The people in the Department of Education are also a strong and devoted group.

Our School Boards are composed of tireless volunteers donating hours of professional time to help run schools.

Our school's administrative teams have stepped up to organize and lead efforts to keep our schools great and the best administrators share power well with teachers, parents and students.

Our students - the point of our efforts - are on the front lines, making new knowledge, teaching us, growing into vibrant and important leaders in their own right. Their real world is now - in the classroom - today!

Government officials are the servants of the will of the people. They are in power because this power is bestowed upon them by the voice of the people.

The government is not any individual or group - it is all of us and we have an infinite right and obligation to voice our concerns, expand its possibilities and participate in this great and hard won democracy.

I'll close my entry to you by remembering "The Wizard of Oz."

You'll remember that Dorothy and her friends were going along the yellow brick road to get to the Emerald City.

Oz was a great place, but the best thing about Oz was the Wizard. Great and powerful, was he, and possessed of the unbelievable skill that would help Dorothy go home to Kansas.

Well, we all know how this story ends. Dorothy gets to Oz and pulls aside the curtain and finds a small, elderly man managing the magnificent light show that she sees. It's all a charade and Dorothy finds out that she has had the power, with a click of her red slippers, to go home to Kansas on her own.

Lately, I've been rethinking Oz.

Now, I think that we go along our yellow brick road and we get to Oz, but when we pull aside the curtain, there is a gigantic mirror and we see ourselves. The Wizard is us and has been all along.

During this time of crisis, our individual voices have never been more important. Do not ever believe that teachers are the enemy or that the designated voice of the teachers are bad guys.

Stand up and be counted. Create the future of education, voice by voice. Do not be intimidated by the forces which seek to mute you. Call your representatives. Add your voice. Be the one to make things happen.

You are Oz.

Friday, May 7, 2010

World Language Supervisor's Round Table

Today I gave a presentation on "Technology as 21st Century Culture" to the recipients of model program status for World Language and Bilingual/ESL in the State of New Jersey.

Folks are well trained in tech at this level so I took a more personal approach. I took us on the journey of technology, what it was like for my parents, for me in my life, for our students today. We are all hearing about 21st Century learning and so many buzz words, but frequently have little time to explore.

I also wanted to focus hard on the notion of student engagement and also on our own engagement. There is so much talk about "digital natives" - our students, that we don't think about our own learning curve as teaching learners. I think it's so important to get in touch with that. My presentations are always stories - I don't know another way to be - so there was time for people to connect to our experience of moving into a flat world and their own relationship to technology.

We shared stories about futuristic childhood dreams such as those we imagined from watching the Jetsen's, 2001 a Space Odyssey and we tried to put our heads together to imagine what the new adventure was that we are in right now. Then, we explored some great web 2.0 tools individually on our lap tops.

We reached out by Skype to my resident tech expert, Tom Welch, who pulled over on his way to a friend's party in Michigan. Tom chatted with us about interconnected learning and how it differentiates like an Aspen Grove- each part somehow sensing the needs of the other. Later, I Skyped my husband's class at Dwight Englewood school so that Joe could explain how he Skyped with his classes and how he recovered from surgery at home, while keeping his classes on track, virtually!

I closed by including the words of Dan Brown, a popular internet spokesperson for the digital generation. Dan sends us out a provocative message which I believe we must heed. I wonder what you think?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

NJTOY on the radio! - May 4, 2010

Here I am at the console - first time ever!

I go to Philadelphia today to do a Spanish language "Pride in Public Education" public service announcement for the NJEA. I arrive at WDAS-FM in Bala Cynwyd, PA, where I meet George Liles, an Account Executive for Clear Channel, Radio. George brings me to a studio where I meet Doug. Doug is working on sound for a radio program, doing several things at once - or at least, it seems like that to me! Here - once again - I have stepped into yet another world, so familiar to the people who work in it, but new to me.

Doug hard at work in the studio

George Liles

We do two takes, both fine, but the second a bit better. Doug says to watch the explosivity of the letter "p" which is like a little burst of air into the mike. I step back a bit and press my lips together every time a "p" comes out. In Spanish, the letter "p" is supposed to be like that anyway so it is a good awareness check.

I finish up the piece, share some stories about an attendance project that George is working on with area schools and a musical life-learning program that Doug has created. Good people doing good things for the world.

I leave Clear Channel and realize that I am hungry. I never notice this before I have another big thing to do.

There is a Starbucks around the corner. I know that besides coffee, they have great little cheese and fruit plates.

On the way over, I had listened to a radio program that encouraged people to eat about ten fruits and vegetable servings a day to live longer. Plants, the program said, stay in one place so they need to develop defenses against bad things. When we eat the plants, we eat the defense. I think of this as I eat my quarter apple, five grapes, a triangle of Brie.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Alex Tittle receives "Teaching it Forward Scholarship!"

I'm thrilled to report that Alex Tittle, my nominee for the Teaching it Forward Scholarship is approved to receive it!!! Here's the letter I received from the University of Phoenix!


Thank you again for your dedication to teaching and finding the perfect "Teaching It Forward" recipient.

We are pleased to award Alexander Deane Tittle a full-tuition University of Phoenix scholarship. Thank you for nominating Alexander. We look forward to assisting him as he achieves his goals. We would love to know if Alexander will be awarded during an award event at his school. Also, we would enjoy having copies of any photos of the award ceremony.

Let me know if you have any questions.


Tammie Yong, Director of Scholarships