Monday, November 21, 2016

Why did I have to "tell you so?"

This blog was first posted at on 11/19/2016.  My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.

"All indications are that labor has been caught unprepared for a President Trump and a GOP-controlled Congress and Supreme Court. With such broad control over every branch of government, Trump may be able to not only roll back many of Obama’s accomplishments, but also change the face of labor law for decades to come." - read more at Think It’s Tough for Labor Now? Just Wait Until Trump Takes Office in January

Remember that seat at the table? The frenemies? The support for #teachstrong? The #ESSA opportunity? The union endorsement of Hillary? And then the Bernie endorsement of Hillary? Remember? Some of you may even remember the most bizarre turn of events where it became clear that the new ed. activist mantra was compromise, and those of us who refused to negotiate with children's lives were suddenly labeled "purists." Remember?

Remember how Racist Relay "Graduate" School glided through in Colorado practically on ice skates (as it did in other states), and Teach Like a Champion Racist (hear plate hitting wall) had some "good things" in it? Remember how we've been screaming about the absolute racist practices in the public schools for years - specifically in our urban public schools populated by children of color - and we were met with silence? Remember how many children suffered and were abused? How many teachers left or were fired or their positions were eliminated - because ultimately the union did NOT have our backs? While certain individuals continued to sit around and "talk" about how we could "get a little" for our kids - and those of us who demanded MORE were labeled angry and just downright difficult to work with? Remember how we were ignored while arrogant condescending so-called power players kept hanging on to that seat at the table? Boy, I remember.

Well, this is where it got us. This is what it got for our kids and our teachers. Yeah, it was tough before, but now? Between ESSA, Trump, and the already absolute racist practices in our urban public schools via Obama and previous presidents and ed. policy, I would hope somebody out there is ready for a revolution. And if you think it's going to happen via our national unions or the democratic party think again - they are CORPORATE OWNED AND CONTROLLED.

And yes, I'm truly happy to see people protesting now, people who previously ignored all of this while protecting their own and staying absolutely fucking comfortable as hell - so sad it had to get to this point to wake people up. But clearly it was necessary. So thank you for waking up. But, moving forward, let's not forget for one second how we got here - be sure to thank the unions and the dems and the liberals for helping get us right to this absolute spot we sit in now. How does it feel? Pretty shitty? Well, think back on the kids in Aurora, Denver, Chicago, Detroit, Philly, New Orleans and more - who've been dealing with this shit FOREVER - think about that. Think about that urgency that was ignored - and get this - is STILL IGNORED - think about 500 years of this shit happening. And think about the opportunity we have to do something right - for all people - for all humanity - for the common good - for children.

The urgency is not new - it's old as hell. Let's do this. #greenparty

Last Day at Standing Rock

This blog was first posted at on 11/10/2016.  My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.

This is the final blog in a series of pieces from Standing Rock.  See these links for previous posts.

I'm a Colonizer but I feel the Sacred

I'm a Colonizer but I feel the Sacred Part II

The Front Line

Stories from Standing Rock

Peaceful Protest and Breathing

The Protectors of Humanity #NoDAPL

November 8th, 2016

This morning I receive a sage blessing from Dawn Neptune Adams of the Penobscot Nation and I drag Sam out of the tent to make sure he receives a blessing too. The steam is rising up off the river and the frost is thick.

Today is really my last day at Standing Rock. We leave tomorrow morning. It's a slow day. Mainly a day of taking stock of our supplies and deciding how to disperse them.  We take some time to head back up to the bridge one more time along with some friends who hadn't seen the ruthless aftermath of the corporate oligarchy.

One thing I've learned from my trip to Standing Rock:  You are where you need to be when you need to be there. And many thanks to Dawn for reminding my son and myself of that.

Sam and I also head over to donations to find thermal underwear for the Front Line. They've requested it. We haul off every adult piece we can find and bag it up to take it to them later.

We are kind of at that point of thinking things through..... and how all this impacts our direction in life when we leave - it's a privilege to do this. We think how we can help Standing Rock in the future. We want to come back - but if we come back - meaning it's still here - does that mean no progress has been made?

Or, perhaps if it is still here, it simply means that the various goals, one being a collective of people who wish to create a community that is based on the common good, is indeed achieving success.

Does that mean that the pipeline will be shut down? Not necessarily.  And where does that leave the courageous men and women on the front line? I don't know. The construction people were digging the pipeline on election day. We can see it from our camp.

There is a plan to push forward by the front line, but as we discussed at our campfire, these fights are cyclical. One push might make the next push achieve success. It's hard to know what will happen.

I have a few thoughts on Standing Rock and some things to consider if you plan to come and help.

First - remember - you are here to help - not to direct .  If you're white, check that white privilege at the door and learn how to listen.

Regarding where to camp.  This will most likely offend some folks.  It's my opinion - take it or leave it. We stayed at the Oceti Sakowin camp.  Sacred Stone (the most "publicly" known camp) - is across the Cannon Ball River.  Sacred Stone is referred to by many as Sacred Woodstock. It is largely populated by white people.  And Sacred Stone has received many many donations. Donate to Oceti Sakowin here.

That being said, should white people come to Standing Rock to help?? OF COURSE. But help, and listen.

Other thoughts - my only moments of cringing, or feeling ashamed or embarrassed while at Standing Rock this week were due to the actions of some of the white people.

Let me give an example. At the bridge, where the burned trucks and barbed wire separate the law enforcement from the entrance to Oceti Sakowin camp I witnessed a white female rushing forward towards the trucks and yelling to those of us standing behind the flags on the hill (standing behind flags as directed by tribal camp leaders). She yelled to us that nothing would get done by standing back and we all needed to rush forward with her. There were approximately hundred people at that point watching as we stood behind the flags. Luckily no one listened to her. The tribal leaders have a plan, and the white people are there to help and listen. Not takeover. Not create wreckless disasters that could harm the peaceful plan of the tribal leaders. Not spend their days trying to party and attempt to recreate a Woodstock scenario. Please represent us well.  Don't make this about "you"  - this is a chance to give back and to face history, and our ancestors role in colonizing - genocide - of indigenous people and land.

Other thoughts re: coming to Standing Rock:

It's cold. Be sure you have enough blankets to be warm. Assume you don't have enough - truly.

Hand warmers (the packets) are a must.

Tent? Make sure it can handle freezing temperatures and be sure to take notice of your tent's pathetic construction compared to the teepees that stand strong and warm in the fiercest of winds and subzero temperatures.

Head lamp a must.

If you are blogging expect to have to leave camp to get anything uploaded.

The additional chargers for phones, etc. are pretty essential (I didn't have one). The signal at Media Hill is weak and the solar panel charging works, but it is slow.

Boots. Period.

Camp near a portapotty - at three a.m. you will thank me.

The wind is fierce - be sure to have the proper winter items to cover your face.

If you wear contacts - good luck - bring extras.

Food? Depends on how you plan to contribute. There is plenty of food, but we brought our own as we didn't want to take food from the community. I suppose if you plan to work in the kitchen then perhaps eating there for free might work for some. You'll have to make those decisions. Water? Also available at camp. Perhaps bring your own jugs and refill as needed? A "dolphin" to put on top of a jug is a luxury but a good investment.

If you plan to get arrested, be sure to have a plan in place for bail and don't expect to be out within the hour. You may end up in Fargo, and in a dog cage. And be prepared to be strip searched.

Wood for a fire. You will forever need wood. There of course is wood at the camp, but again think through how you plan to contribute before taking - just my opinion.

Leaving camp - if you plan to leave to do anything, such as run a simple errand, anticipate a three to four hour trip. The detours make it impossible to do anything fast.

The casino -about the only place you can go and be back to camp quickly - it's a good place to recharge your phone, laptop, etc., if you get lucky enough to find one of the plugs. There are a few in the lobby and near the restaurant. They might let you stay, they might not.

I am told you can shower at the marina.

Finally, recognize that these are all problems of the privileged and keep it in check.


Much gratitude and love to the indigenous people of Standing Rock and the protectors at the Front Line.

Mni Wiconi.

Nov. 9th, 2016 - The day after the election.

I woke up in my tent not knowing if Clinton or Trump had won. I made my way up to Media Hill in the dark to check the news on my phone after hearing from a friend at camp that Trump was indeed the winner.  I videotaped Oceti Sakowin as the sun came up - listen for the singing. It gave me some peace of mind and reminded me that the fight for humanity must move faster than ever before. No time to cry. No time to mourn. The revolution must be now. Much love to you all. Let's get this done.

The Protectors of Humanity #NoDAPL

This blog was first posted at on 11/8/2016.  My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.

Day 6

Nov. 7th, 2016

It's the day before the election.  I'm at Standing Rock - where life is real - people are real, and work is pure - and at the end of the day you feel that you did something good. Even when we look at the humvees planted in the hills, or hear the airplane that circles regularly during the day, or listen to the constant chopping of air as the helicopter circles us at night - at the end of the day, I feel grateful for every human contact I made, and I sleep well after using my time to give back, whether it be writing, physical labor, or simply meeting others at Standing Rock who have come here with similar goals in mind.

Today we cooked breakfast, cleaned up, and watched one of our newest members of the camp, a city dog, find her way around Ocete Sakowin.  Sam and I then made our way to the school, which was still in the process of being relocated, so we decided to head back to the Front Line to see how we could help. I think everyone has to find their place once they come to Standing Rock, and Sam and I have discovered that we can move between two locations - the school, and the Front Line. We are of the most use in those two locations.

We now know the way to the Front Line well. We cross over the bridge, past Rosebud camp, past Sacred Stone camp, and head left into the field passing by horses, dogs, people all the while watching the humvees in the hills across the river.  When we get to the Front Line a lot has changed. Of course the law enforcement is always watching so sharing the "changes" is in no way divulging a secret. There are more tents, more food, more supplies, and today, two brand new tents that are massive and need to be erected. One will be the kitchen and the other a meeting space. Sam already helped relocate the school so he knows how to put up these tents for the most part. There are members of many tribes here, some from here in North Dakota, others from far away. We spend the entire day putting up these tents. Our third visit to the Front Line and they once again, welcome us right away, and are thankful for our help. As the only female helping put up the tent, I feel a bit self conscious, as a city girl, who honestly has about 20 minutes experience with tents. But I'm learning, and they  have no problem including me. I watch what happens, and I simply duplicate the action.

We put up the first tent and then realize we haven't put up the center frame pole yet. So, down come all the poles and up goes the center. We work together reading directions, learning from our mistakes, laughing, joking, and simply talking about the task at hand. Life is good. These are good people. The longer I am here, the harder it is to try to separate the reality with the humanity that greets me daily here with handshakes, hugs, and kindness. And of course the question always goes back to, What is next? I ask. There is a plan.

Of course there is. And I thank them for that and I don't ask anymore.

The wind is absolutely fierce today. Those who have bandanas or scarves or whatever it may be have covered their faces.  It's cold and it's so loud with the rippling of the tent canvas that at times it's hard to hear. I look around at the Front Line and I can't imagine how amazing they will feel tonight as they eat and meet inside the warm and tightly constructed tents.

We ask what else they need. They need wood, meat, chairs, tables, and thermal underwear. They are preparing for the winter.  I purposely don't take pictures of anyone, nor will I mention any names, even though at the end of this afternoon I considered these men to be friends, even if for a brief moment. They knew Sam by name and thanked him for his help.

We will head back in the morning with whatever supplies we are able to gather. I'm going to see what we can donate from our own camp supplies before we leave.

I spent some time talking to one of the men about the camp, about how long he'd been there and then I finally asked, How long will you stay?

Till the end, he said.

I think about the election. I think about Standing Rock. And I think about how far removed the two are from one another, and then how incredibly close they really are, hiding in the hills, watching with the floodlights, the helicopters, the airplanes and the armed men with binoculars. They are so close that I want to scream at them. I want to scream words of hate. But I won't. I won't. I'm in a place of peace and forgiveness. And let me tell you, as a white woman, walking onto the Front Line, and being treated with kindness, and respect, where men from many tribes allow me to help - without any knowledge of who I might truly be, well that's forgiveness. There is something much deeper going on here than simply a tent being raised.

The protectors of water are the protectors of humanity.

That much I know.

And this election - this election be damned.

I'm thankful to be spending the night at Standing Rock on Tuesday night, election night. Thankful to have one more night falling asleep to the drums and the cry of Mni Wiconi. Mni Wiconi.

Peaceful Protest and Breathing

This blog was first posted at on 11/6/2016.  My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.

Nov. 6th, 2016

Last night we went to the casino in order to make a mad dash to upload all blogs, pictures, social media, etc., that each of us has promised to various organizations and groups.  When we returned it was after eleven p.m. Sam and I crawled into our tent exhausted. We had been going nonstop all day long.  As I crawled in I heard the drum circle and the singing once again. I thought to myself about how ridiculously beautiful this is. Now that I am accustomed to the temperature at night, and I am comfortable in my tent, it's almost like mother earth is singing me to sleep. The singing was then followed by the cry Water is Life (in English) -  which then bounced like a raindrop twenty tents over where some cried out Mni Wiconi, bouncing again 30 tents in a different direction.....Mni Wiconi, and so it goes, over and over, and I drifted off to sleep, very grateful.

I woke this morning to a packed camp. I noticed yesterday that people were piling in for the weekend. But this morning, it's clearly full. I am told that 3,000 people are here during the week and that it rises to approximately ten thousand on the weekends, which explains why my attempts to charge my phone and computer at Media Hill were absolutely futile on Saturday. As I sat and drank coffee by the fire this morning we heard music over at camp security. Our camp is right next to the camp exit where security stands 24/7. A man, soon to be known as Peter, had stopped there in his car and turned on his radio and started dancing. I went over and joined and then filmed a small clip. It will make you smile. And it was a great way to start my morning.

After finishing breakfast by the campfire my son yells for me to hurry. There is a group headed into the Morton County Memorial Courthouse for a peaceful protest. We decide to go.  I hadn't gone into town for any protests and I was interested to see what might transpire.  We drove what seemed to be a good hour, finally arriving at the courthouse and linking hands all the way around the building. I was at a corner of the building, and oddly enough, found myself linking hands with people from Colorado on both hands. My understanding of the protest was that we were there to make it clear that we must all forgive, we must all come in peace together, in order to regain our humanity and to protect the water. It was a beautiful protest, followed by some beautiful thoughts from Lilah Johnson.  Lilah discusses how she came to organize this peaceful protest today. She looked to her sisters in Ferguson, Missouri.

In some ways this protest was hard for me, hard to slow down, hard to simply be still and meditate with peaceful thoughts....I wanted to get back to camp - there were things we needed to do. I'm a city girl, I move fast, I get things done real fast, and that's not necessarily always the right or most helpful way to be. Sometimes it's important to just be present. I was reminded of that today where I was forced to stop, breathe, and simply hold hands in silence.

As we headed back to camp we stopped by a horrific sight - it truly makes me choke up viewing it. It was a portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. It was like someone had taken an ax to the earth - yet they didn't stop with one chop. They were merciless. They hacked again and again and again. They hacked over the hills, in a murderous way, leaving the earth exposed and wood planks had been pounded into the ground to demand compliance. They then had taken that now all too familiar barbed wire that I see at Standing Rock - it flows in circle after circle to bind off an area from anyone who might feel the need to stop their cold and calculated progress. We took pictures. Dawn, a member of the Penobscot tribe, and a Green Party member, gave me some tobacco (asemaa) and told me to toss it to the earth and say a prayer. Again, forcing me to slow down, forcing me to go within, and think deeply about what I do, and why I do it.

So I did. I stopped and thought. I stopped moving so fast. And I breathed.

I watched my son climb down into the Dakota Access Pipeline and I tried to imagine what he might feel and think, as his generation will see and know the consequences of this more than I ever will.

I took pictures, listened to car horns of support as they drove by, and then  I climbed back into the van to head back to camp.

I've been here four days and there has been no wind. None. In all the videos previous to coming here it was blustery. Today - there is wind. Immense wind. The flags are all flying high, including the United States flag positioned in the sign of distress. We are now back and I've climbed into our van to type before I forget all the things that have transpired. It's impossible to type outside.  It's 2 pm.  Sam sits next to me in the van doing homework so that he doesn't get behind. We have people that stop by our camp to tell us they are voting for Jill Stein. They love our Green Party Banner.  We love being here.

Mni Wiconi.

Stories from Standing Rock

This blog was first posted at on 11/5/2016.  My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.

November 5th, 2016

Today we ate breakfast and headed back to the Front Line to deliver the shields. As we cross over the bridge into the Rosebud camp we are immediately told there is a direct action today. Not sure what it is, but hoping we will hear more. We head on to the Front Line. We've got the shields that Sam made, and the few hardback books that were waterlogged from the school. We know the layout of the camps quite well now. We trek past Rosebud, Sacred Stone, and simply make our way along Cannonball River with the teepees as our end point in the distance.

When we arrive there I'm immediately directed to a drop-off point for the shields - there are piles of them already. When we made the shields yesterday the idea for creating them came from someone at the camp - word of mouth travels fast. Everyone took their storage bin lids and quickly devised handles and sent them on to the Front Line. When we visited the Front Line yesterday I'm pretty sure there were only two teepees. Now there are four. There is also milk of magnesia (for tear gas) and various other piles of supplies that have appeared in the last 24 hours.

We see a friend there who we know and we ask about the direct action - he states that he has no idea. As he should. Who are we anyway? We could be infiltrators who are dropping off shields in the hopes of gaining information. We thank them for all that they are doing and leave.

Across Canonball River the police/military presence has increased.  Yesterday there were approximately 5 vehicles (Humvees). Today just along this area of the Front Line I spot easily twenty or more.  Today the law enforcement officers are standing outside of the vehicles staring at everyone with binoculars. They have two police boats riding up and down the river.

Last night we of course had helicopters circling all night. Hard sleeping conditions. Today, for the first time since I arrived, we have helicopters circling all day too. They circle low and loud as always.

We make our way back through the Sacred Stone camp, Rosebud, and across the bridge back to Oceti Sakowin Camp. As we make our way back we are told that the direct action today is at the bridge. We fill our water bottles and head there. It's crazy hot by now. The nights are freezing, the days are burning up typically.

Sam and I view this at the bridge.

The bridge is where the cars and tires were burned in an effort to stop the digging.  Many others are already heading to the bridge today. We make our way there  and across from it the road is lined with law enforcement.  Throughout our time there the law enforcement rotates  in and out, easily 40 to 50 vehicles at a time. The word of mouth "direct action" clearly made traction fast in the camp. The law enforcement had maneuvered into the fields on either side of the road.  When we left the bridge finally there were easily 200 or so people waiting and standing in the road.  Tribal leaders came out on horseback and directed everyone to stay back, and eventually asked us to head back to camp. I have no idea what the direct action was, or if it occurred, or if perhaps it is occurring tonight. But it was clear to me that many are ready for action; action I am told must remain peaceful. It is strange to be standing in a country where we proclaim to be a "democracy", and where various law enforcement officials bear down, ready to take brutal action on peaceful people.  Watching 200 people on one side of the bridge, watching over 50 law enforcement vehicles on the other side of the bridge, separated by burned vehicles - is something - well it's something I think I'm still trying to wrap my head around.  As I write this blog at the casino tonight I talk to a young man from Los Angeles. He says we are at a crossroads - we want to protect the water - we are protectors - but we are at a point where we protect or we head down the wrong path (more or less, not remaining peaceful) - it is hard to know what will happen.  He says he is tired and he is ready to go home.  He has been here two months.  I am told many at the camp plan never to leave - they will see this through to the end.

When we left the bridge today and headed back to camp we see the Oglala Sioux Tribe from Pine Ridge coming into the camp. It had to be hundreds of people and easily twenty to thirty vehicles plus horses.  Tribes show up continually. If you zoom in on the picture you can see them walking in.

Also, listen to the video as you hear the crowd welcoming them into the camp.

We followed behind them and headed back to camp, back to the school which was recently relocated near our own camp by the river. Sam, my son, was designated the new coordinator for organizing materials yesterday so he headed there to work and I eventually made my way there as well. As a teacher, I, of course enter the school tent with ideas for organizing, planning classroom activities, and more. But it's not my classroom. I will be here only until Wednesday. I help them organize crayons, paper, craft materials, books, games and more. It's a nice large tent. I, of course, wish they had more.

The classroom has two teachers. Students are all ages. They have a large field to play in and a river close by.  As I'm organizing children trail in and out asking where the teachers are - they are ready to get back to class - they clearly miss their teachers. Monday class will resume. I'm excited to stop by and offer my help. And Sam, well Sam, he has worked hard every day he has been here - I wish he would blog, so you could view this through his eyes, because he loves these people, he loves this place, and he wants to learn. He so desperately wants to learn - and give back however it might help.

Signing off on this Saturday evening. We're pretty tired today.  It's incredibly hard to get any word out about what is going on. There is almost no internet connection at the camp. Sometimes I stand on FB Hill holding my phone up high because I'm told it will get a better signal.  It rarely works. Tonight we drove up the road to the casino and ate here in hopes of finding a plug to charge our phones, computers, and hopefully write some posts for our various blogs. I've been booted out of the one room we found that had a plug behind a fridge. Now we're seated on the floor next to a soda machine and I yanked the duct tape off the extra plug to use it. All plugs have been covered with plastic covers - no plugs can be used. Yet campers are parked in various locations on the floor around the casino trying to type furiously and send out the word. And all the time wondering where this will all end and if ultimately, if our small contribution even makes a difference.


The Front Line

This blog was first posted at on 11/5/2016.  My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.

November 4, 2016

Today we went to the front line - this is the camp that is closest to the digging of the pipeline -  but the front line has been pushed back - and they are trying to inch their way back to the digging. We visited with women and men that have been there a week and they are waiting for reinforcements who should be arriving soon. Now that I know where the front line is, I can easily see their teepees from Media Hill. We asked them how we could help. They need shin guards (made from hardback books - they promise to return them) and shields ( made from the tops of storage bins). My son is making the shields now. He was given gas mask hoses that he can use to create handles on the shields. We went to the school to pull any hard back books that might not  be in good shape (water logged). The front line has two canoes (or maybe a kayak I can't remember).  The shields are necessary to deflect the rubber bullets and the bean bags. As I write I'm talking to a young man who was on the front line and he shows us a large bruise on his chest from one of the bean bags. He says they were shooting rubber bullets and bean bags from a boat as  they tried to make a bridge in order to get across Cannonball River and pray. He says that one day, when 140 got arrested, the police shredded his tent, and everyone else's.

We worked in the school today as well.  We organized books, getting ready for the move to a more spacious spot for the kids - typically 25 or so a day. I'm hoping I can help teach on Monday (once it's moved) if they need me.

Tomorrow morning there is suppose to be a Sun Dance very early at the bridge. I'm going to get up and head there to see it.  This camp, Oceti Sakowin,  is a place full of kindness, constant music, and friendship. Sam is digging a fire pit for us right now. We haven't had a shovel and one suddenly appeared allowing Sam to dig the hole. It's freezing at night. I can't feel my toes. Today an extra blanket is suddenly inside my tent.

If I need food, there is food. If I need medical assistance, there are medics. Everywhere I turn there is someone to help. I think about the children I taught last year in the Aurora Public Schools and the lack of resources available to them.  Yet, here, we have a group of people who have come together, and you do not want for anything. Therefore, you can focus your attention on the task at hand - the task being, how to save the water - as water is life.  I wonder how my students could have focused, if they had all the resources, plus the beautiful land, river and sky that surrounds me now?

front line camp 
At the front line today we can see the "police cars" - but I am told they are not police - it's hard to discern who is in those cars - military - private security - mercenaries?  There are flood lights facing the front line. When I point to the lights I am asked not to point. The front line says they turn on the lights to watch them.

Our neighbors at the camp site have invited us to dinner, have given us insights into how to help, what to send back to the front line, and simply how to "be" at this camp.  Sam is busy trying to use rebar  to melt holes in the bin covers to create shields. Not sure we can get it done tonight and back to the front line this evening, but for sure tomorrow morning.  They need more people at the front line. And they need the media. I have not seen CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS - you name it, I've seen no one that will push it out to mainstream media.  It's disgusting - and it makes it clear that once again, in this country, there will be no taking back our humanity unless the people push to do so.

We talk a lot about humanity, the greed of capitalism and how our lives have been bombarded with pictures, phrases, stories, and symbols all meant to keep us passive and rabid consumers. Here, we don't consume - here we are focused on how to give back - how to support one another.  Access to social media is found briefly on Media Hill via solar panels. I trek up there twice a day to check in with my family and send out pictures and writing. Other than that, we're busy working and making face to face connections - we are talking and trying to find inspiration in the words and stories of others. There is empathy here, and a determined sense of hope. More tomorrow.

Sam has been asked to be the coordinator for the school move. He's immersed in the work here.

Much love to you from Standing Rock.

I'm a Colonizer but I feel the Sacred Part II

This blog was first posted at on 11/5/2016.  My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.
Day One continued at Oceti Sakowin Camp #NoDAPL

I continue to hear stories.

Another tribe is the Crow tribe.  They came walking four miles to the camp  - coming in "healing" and wearing  full tribal dress.  The Crows were previously hated because they gave up the Native Americans to the army years  ago, but now the goal is unity, unity to save the water.  I wish I could have been here to see them arrive. I am told that new tribes arrive every day. There is much hope in that.

There is much talk of the front line. The front line is where they stand to keep them from digging the pipeline. The most recent action includes the police taking away their tents which they had managed to get across the river in order to set up camp. There are stories of people swimming across in bullet proof vests, barely making it back because the vest became so weighted down from the water. Stories of exhaustion.  This is what I hear.

There are the barricades, the stop points with police/military in order to get into the camp. There are the kitchens, the piles of supplies (tents, sleeping bags, etc) that the military took when tearing down the encampments of the front lines. There is the Media Hill, previously dubbed FB Hill, where I go to briefly text my husband and upload this blog via phone screen shots (which dear friends retype) and any quick comments to Facebook.

There is much to do, or there is nothing to do. The question is how to be of use? Tomorrow I will work at the school, helping to move the boxes and boxes of materials to a new location so that the children have more space to run and play. Currently the school is in the middle of the camp. I spend time talking to my son, as we both have questions, similar life experiences and words, images, and simply much that we have to discuss, and think through.

Tonight we went inside a beautiful new dome that was recently erected. We listened to the drum circle, and we danced, and I felt my throat come up and out through my eyes, with no explanation or words to describe something that is not my experience, but one that I was welcomed into tonight.

As we leave the dome, we find that we have been dancing in circles for at least five rounds. We walk out completely disoriented and we are laughing as we fling our head lamp around trying to discern where is the river? Media Hill? Where is the highway? Where is the school? My son runs ahead with the headlamp and yells to me that he sees our camp, with a strong fire in tow, right by the river. As we walk towards our camp he says to me, Can you imagine belonging to a community like that? Where you knew all those songs, and those dances, and where you belonged with a group of so many people and they were your family? Can you imagine what that would feel like?  To be a part of a tribe? - says the white child to the white mother.

I will leave you with that. I cannot explain my emotions.

I'm shutting my computer, listening to the helicopters, and the drums still drumming, in the center of the camp.

I'm a Colonizer but I feel the Sacred Part I


This blog was first posted at on 11/4/2016.  My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.
I’ve been at Oceti Sakowin for 24 hours. We arrived in the middle of the night, almost early morning, and found our campsite by the Cannonball River. We face the river and across the river is the Rosebud tribe. After putting up our tent in the dark, and hunkering down for the night, I heard the helicopters, loud, low – never leaving, always loud and low. As I fell asleep around 5:30 a.m. I heard someone at Rosebud camp chopping wood, and then the singing began—that sound intermingled with wolves howling, and I tried to keep those sounds ever present in my mind, hoping to drown out the helicopters – who were still circling at 9 a.m.

We’ve talked to a lot of people in just 24 hours. We are making connections, and it reminds me very much of Occupy in that sense. Other than that, it is an experience that I am ultimately sure I cannot possibly really comprehend in terms of the depth of what is happening here. But I feel the spirituality, the absolute depths of collective and communal “being” and this utter, absolute sense of hope.

Water is life, and the tribes have joined together again, forgiven wrong-doings, and hope to regain – regain – everything – I have no words for how to describe this.

Writing these blogs is a struggle for me because I am at a lack of words. I feel in my soul powerful feelings – if you are hearing what I hear as I go to bed on my second night here – singing and drums, and the cold and calculated never-ending sound of helicopters, well, simply put, you will cry. And you may not be able to explain why. And as a white person who stands on sacred indigenous land, being decimated – once again – by colonizers, you will find yourself in a place you might desperately love but feel such horrendous guilt that you cry no matter what the feeling might be.

There are so many stories here that the words jumble out into the air and I cannot grasp them in my heart fast enough to relay them to you. The tribes are many. One tribe is the Red Warrior tribe. They are described as militant. They do not allow you into their campground. They have seen what has happened to the rest of the encampment as outsiders, such as myself, have come in and helped, but perhaps also hindered. The rules are clear on the site – and I respect and follow them.

The Rosebud tribe prefers to be alone. They live across the river from me. I wake up in the morning to their singing and am forever in awe of watching them ride their horses all over the camp. My son lingers by them as they walk alongside the river unaccompanied. We are in awe of the beauty, the freedom, and the absolute brutal genocide that makes all of this something we see – the hope – but then the devastation makes it hard to grasp that hope. Hope for humanity and people who are being destroyed by the colonizers.

Why So Emotional?

This blog was first posted at on 9/20/2016.  My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.

Emotions are running high these days due to ESSA opportunity. If the powers that be get their way, they will steer these emotions right where they want them, into the hands of the .01%.

Don't believe me?  Let's do our best to get up to speed. But I have to tell you, two pots of coffee later I'm not even close.  First, take a look at ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act). ESSA demands an additional indicator of student school or success - more or less, an indicator tied to emotion.

In ESSA Title I Section 1005 it states:

“(v) (I) For all public schools in the State, not less than one indicator of school quality or student success that—

“(aa) allows for meaningful differentiation in school performance;

“(bb) is valid, reliable, comparable, and statewide (with the same indicator or indicators used for each grade span, as such term is determined by the State); and

“(cc) may include one or more of the measures described in subclause (II).

“(II) For purposes of subclause (I), the State may include measures of—

“(III) student engagement;

“(IV) educator engagement;

“(V) student access to and completion of advanced coursework;

“(VI) postsecondary readiness;

“(VII) school climate and safety; and

“(VIII) any other indicator the State chooses that meets the requirements of this clause.

Over the weekend I watched the NOVA special on the Future of Our Schools. If you haven't seen it, you simply must. There's a lot embedded in this two hour show that I'm still trying to pull apart - but I'm only going to focus on one aspect today.


The little blurb for the show states, "How can the science of learning help us rethink the future of education for all children?"  Nothing alluding to emotion at this point.  Of course there's a big focus on ALL children - and science, my friends, will get us there.

It begins with the usual suspects, Linda Darling-Hammond busts out first with a statement about inequality being our Achilles heel. She's followed by Kahn who wants us to have an "equal shot regardless where we are born."

It all sounds great.  Really feel good stuff. And then it gets moving. The narrator wants us to discover how science can give all children this so-called equal shot - not food, not shelter, not equal access to books, democratic classrooms, libraries, fine arts - nope, science will get us there.

The next message goes like this - don't ask kids to beat the odds, use science to change the odds.

They follow up with a pretty strong statement. They state: Our brains aren't wired to learn to read.

Stephen Krashen states, "There is a lot of evidence that shows that reading is natural.  We learn to read the same way we acquire language, by understanding messages.  Also, in print-rich societies, everybody with access to print learns how to read, unless there are serious neurological or psychological problems."

So, based on what Dr. Krashen is saying, equal access to books, librarians and libraries might solve this problem, huh?

Yet, nope. No need for that. Because we have SCIENCE. And........there are ways to change the brains of children in order to level the playing field.

Really???!!!! Who knew that scientists could-should-and-would manipulate the brains of children - but okay - BRING it NOVA.  Oh they do. Just wait.

They soften us up by talking about the perils of poverty. They do seem very concerned and compassionate. So concerned that they want to figure out a way to help children not be distracted by the stresses and distractions which come with poverty, such as violence, hunger, lack of shelter, fatigue - all those distractions that make it difficult to learn.  They decide that science, and specifically looking at and altering the way the brain works, will solve this problem.

So - in a nut shell, they have no plans to protect children from poverty, they intend to keep making money off children in poverty, and they will alter their behaviors and emotions to make sure they can make even more money - all the while, keeping these kids in check, under control and compliant - AND they are going to make them LIKE IT...or at least appear as though they do. Got that?

Just in case you don't, they have examples of how they plan to do it.

For starters, they show a little boy wearing headphones listening to a story during which they interject a second story on another speaker, making it difficult to focus on the first story. Next, they emit random noises from an additional third source.  Meanwhile, the child's head is all wired up as they watch his brainwaves.  They want to see if the child can focus on the first story with all these distractions! You know, kind of like gun shots outside your window might be a distraction from doing your homework, while you stand in eye's view of the window, cooking dinner for your younger siblings? No worries - these kids are going to learn how to deal.

They have another young child in a Head Start preschool where she is asked to play "Dr. Distraction" - where she walks along a strand of yarn while not dropping a plastic frog held on a spoon, all the time children on either side banging sticks to distract her. Sounds like a relaxing day in preschool doesn't it? The goal is to strengthen the "architecture of the brain." Everyone applauds her when she is done.

They throw in a small segment about giving children stickers at home as a reward for doing tasks - the child gets a sticker for waking up - hey, gotta start the day out right.  No thinking needed, just do as told and you will be rewarded as those in charge see fit - let's make sure that behavior modification exists in all shapes and forms in all areas of life.  Good parents. Good child. Pat on head. Get use to complying.

NOVA shares that children's brains are malleable - and if we just focus on the neuro-plasticity of the brain, we can make this work! The goal being - better learning while ignoring poverty.

ESSA helps. Emotion is important in better learning - especially if you can control it and use it to create specific learning behaviors. With daily online curriculum, daily online testing, which targets a child's emotions and behaviors, well folks, it's the ESSA opportunity that just keeps giving. Data point after data point - now moving from academic skills to the child's feelings and consequential behaviors - all allowing the corporations to get more information on each child in order to shape, form, and direct the child's future.  When a child's emotional response and/or behavior does not match the needs of the market and/or the system, they can use science to alter a child's brain, consequentially shifting the emotional response and behavior - always being sure to reward the child for complying.

They are even discussing adding "blue" light to high school classrooms because it appears blue light reduces the fatigue that most high school students feel due to crazy early morning schedules. My own son has to leave at 6:45 for high school. Apparently if he had blue lighting in his classroom he would wake up more quickly and come home and sleep earlier - therefore, requiring the student's natural sleeping rhythm, hormonal changes, to shift and accommodate the needs of the school and corporate profit. I wonder what the long term impact for my son's health might be in a situation like this?

In regard to the push for online learning, they use an emotional appeal to target the audience. It appears that contact with humans is frightening - it's scary to have to learn in front of people! Children feel like failures!  The child in the show is trying to work on math with the father and freezes up. When the father leaves and the child gets on Kahn Academy the child relaxes and figures out the math problem. I'm sure every parent watching NOVA was tapping into a memory of that one teacher who humiliated them in class.  Learning online is easier than actual face to face contact with human beings because it reduces pressure.  And the child feels better working online because they get points for success!!! Always reward them - compliance is key.

Everywhere children go they will get points it seems. At home. At school. Oh yes - and when they enter the workforce they can transition to badges - welcome to serfdom, worker bees! You will be successful at following directions and complying to the demands of the .01% - even if you're tired, hungry, or sick.

I was sharing all this with a dear friend, Morna McDermott, who then sent me this link - Boosting Kids' Brain Power with electric currents. It is indeed a brave new world.

In addition to watching NOVA, I've also been researching GEF, the Global Education Future. Emily Talmage has an excellent summary of them here, in which she states who they are: a group of wealthy elites from around the world who, in addition to giving presentations to one another about ways to make money off of our schools, quite literally get together to map out the future for our children.

gef-caAfter looking at the map from GEF, I'd say that we are right on track, with ESSA's help of course, to hit their 2035 goal.  Opt out in its current form is as dead as a doornail - time to regroup and shift our approach to encompass a larger understanding of where we are headed - parents need to know and begin to plan to refuse all online curriculum and testing.

As GEF states in the "mapping future of learning" diagram, the input necessary to shift the paradigm, is indeed a focus on assessment models that cannot measure desirable skills of 21st century citizens (see pink boxes). Desirable skills of 21st century citizens, which clearly include compliance with a smile, demand much more data than PARCC or SBAC can ever bring forth. The formation of compliant worker bees demand access to a child's social and emotional data, which ESSA is happy to provide and NOVA is happy to promote.



This blog was first posted at on 9/15/2016.  My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.

In its current form.

Did I get your attention? Good. Because right now I feel like I back peddled five years ago to the time when several of us started an FB page to create opt out guides/resources for each state. At that time, we/opt outers were mocked, ignored, and ostracized. Lots of big wig activists and educational groups treated us like the plague.  Opt out was not cool.

We have entered a new phase of activism - and it feels a bit like starting over. It's now September of 2016 where everyone and their mother loves opt out - even New York Regent Roger Tilles!!!  Opt out has gone mainstream!!!!

When opt out started going mainstream, it felt okay at first, but then, suddenly - it didn't. Why was everybody sharing the opt out love??? Did humanity suddenly return? Um, no. I don't trust easily and something felt amiss. And I always listen to my gut feelings and research to confirm these feelings.

Backtrack to March of 2015.

We at UOO discovered the ECS "opt out" guide and I pointed to  it on my blog.  ECS is partially funded by Pearson, among other folks.  Of course  we asked ourselves, why was ECS creating a state by state opt out guide? Since when did Pearson and the other corporate cronies want to help citizens figure out how to opt out?

Many of us started fishing. We discovered more. Opt out was a big fish in a little pond. We'd been had. Hook. Line. Sinker.

In October 2015 I wrote this - it was clear that opt out was on the way out as competency-based education (daily online curriculum and testing) entered.

Opting out of the end of year test now served the needs of the .01%. The opt out movement had been co-opted. The end goal - all along - was daily online testing - via online modules that break down learning into discrete skills that must be mastered - all under the guise of personalizing learning to better meet the needs of individual learners. Not only did they plan to personalize the academic skills per child, they also planned to tap into a child's emotions and behaviors to further tailor the learning to the child's needs (look up SEL/social-emotional learning) - all with the end goal to create more profit for the .01%.

Opt Out, in its current form, was dead.

But - let me make something very clear.  We needed the opt out movement to generate a pool of aware citizens - we needed it to build relationships. We, the people, helped fuel a movement of questioning, civil disobedience, and strategic problem solving - all absolutely necessary for this next phase of strategic actions . Opt out was necessary to save not only our public schools, but this planet. The opt out movement is and was important. But, we must also recognize that in its current shape and form it is not enough - and could actually harm us if we do not sound the alarm and regroup. Right now I worry about how opt out is being portrayed by many groups and organizations. For example, at NYSAPE, they  state that the opt out movement wants a variety of things, including the use of standards, lexile benchmarks, state-wide evidence-based digital learning platforms, and state-wide assessments with time limits.

What crazy planet did I land on? I don't want any of that. And I didn't know that the opt out movement wanted that either. Shoot, I've worked the last six years to stop all this - lost my job over it - and now the New York opt out leaders are saying opt out WANTS these things that ultimately destroy authentic learning and teaching? Sounds like a brief from Clinton or AFT.  Just my take. And it's important to question things, even when it pisses people off.

And yeah, I'm a little cranky, and sadly just getting started here.....

Revolution comes in steps. This singular focus on opting out of the end of year test has seen its day.

Back in April 2016 I wrote The Opt Out Irony - it received little fanfare.  Not a surprise because pointing out the irony - that opt out in its current form is helping the corporate regime privatize public schools - really bites and frustrates a lot of people who were riding the wave of "end of year test opt out" to advance their careers, ego, and cash flow. Supporting end of year opt out became comfortable - so comfortable that some state and federal legislative statutes were included to make note of it in some shape or form. It was comfortable because it was a GREAT distraction from the bigger plan to institute online daily learning via online gaming, online curriculum, digital badging, social-emotional data gathering, etc. that was really needed to Take. It. All.

Imagine a world where your child's future is planned and directed by the desires of the corporations - the demands of the market - that will be the new reality - if they get their way.

So of COURSE the corporate regime wants us to dump the clunky big end of year test!!!!  Meanwhile the reformers - via politicians, foundations, think tanks, nonprofits are moving forward with competency based education, online curriculum with daily online testing, and online gaming that drives and ultimately manipulates and controls student behavior and emotion. They are building data banks on every student as we speak. Imagine serfs working for the .01%.

desk-pedalsSeriously - just add a sewing machine on top of that desk with bike pedals. You can't make this shit up. And it has been in the works for a long time.

Funny how this information was and IS so quietly floating under the radar. Might really mess things up right before the election huh? If this cat indeed got out of the bag? Like, perhaps, certain folks might lose union job opportunities, secretary of ed. opportunities? Man would that suck for some people. There's a reason the unions keep spouting "ESSA opportunity."

As Orwell stated, "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those that speak it."

There are a lot of haters out there right now. Damn glad I have my chickens to keep me company.

Meanwhile, the reformers continue to "sympathize" with our plight over the end of year test. Don't believe me? Here it is straight from Jobs for the Future. They are drooling all over this ESSA opportunity.  Don't know what ESSA is? See here , here, and here.  ESSA is rolling out the red carpet for the corporations to privatize our public schools and destroy the teaching profession.

The corporate regime does have some concerns though.

At JFF they state, "In the short term, though, the 'opt-out' movement could pose a serious obstacle. The problem isn't that opt-out advocates are wrong, necessarily - in fact, many participants at Turning the Corner voiced sympathy for their criticisms of high-stakes standardized testing.  The problem, rather, is that so much energy and attention continues to be directed toward undoing the old system, rather than to what a new system could look like. Moreover, if the opt-out movement morphs into a crusade against testing in any form, it could seriously damage efforts to create the sorts of high-quality performance-based assessments needed to support deeper teaching and learning."

Gosh, how sweet of you JFF. You understand. Just like the unions and everyone else. Thanks bunches. I feel better.  I feel just about as good as I did when our state union let Relay gracefully glide right into Colorado.  And this is the deal - we must halt the harm first - children are being harmed under this abusive testing regime - they are required to work as slaves to corporations and a government that refuses to protect our neediest children from poverty.

But JFF says they are a little worried? Just a little? About that idea of morphing into a crusade against testing in any form? Yeah, that would be a harsh reality for you, huh?

I read all of ESSA - and after perusing the 1,061 pages I did ponder these thoughts.

ESSA supports destroying the teaching profession (think Relay Fake Graduate School, TFA , and more) by intentionally giving MONEY to implement one stop shop teacher academies (no "real" teachers, no pensions, no union, hell - no buildings needed).

ESSA supports and funds "innovative" assessment which is actually referred to in ESSA as "competency based" education.

ESSA supports and funds charters - and specifically discusses replicating "high quality charter school models" - think KIPP, Uncommon Schools - you know, those racist charters where they implement control and compliance techniques for teachers and children. Often these teachers are trained by Relay Fake Graduate School. And I know all about Relay because I got to be a part of a Relay Leadership School - good times - see here.

Anyways, so I got to thinking, if ESSA plans to destroy the teaching profession and get abusive behavior-mod teachers who are good at data punching. And...if ESSA supports innovative daily online assessments - meaning massive data gathering via set-in-stone data tags via common core standards. And...if ESSA is saying that one more factor of data needs to be included - an additional indicator of student or school success - such as student engagement, social-emotional learning (Do you want Google to know how your child feels about things? How fast your child works? How slow? What your child likes? Dislikes? Do you want companies to gather information on your child's good behavior? Bad behavior? So that they can use what they know to PUSH your child where they need your child to be? In order to meet the demands of the market?)

And.......yeah this is long winded I know......finally.......if ESSA supports and funds charters galore - specifically the charters who push forward online learning via gritty behavior compliance methods that reek of racism and fake Relay teachers - well then.....

If all of that is true. Then, where does that leave us?

It's a triple ESSA whammy - and I only covered a quick snapshot of three components of ESSA. There is much more to be concerned about.

But again, where does that leave us?

Well, it leaves us back where I started. Opt Out is DEAD, as it currently stands.

Yet - you might say - but everyone LOVES it? So what gives? Why the adoring love for end of year opt out?

Hmmm...again.....with elections looming, it might not be good to shake the ESSA applecart.  Might be better to be quiet and let the privileged keep their privilege so that they can hopefully gain more privilege after the elections. Might be better to quietly appease the masses with end of year opt out - it will keep them distracted - maybe even throw them a bone from time to time by chatting with them about their concerns (lots of opportunity for this - THINK ESSA regulations and ESSA committees). Heck, with everyone hush hush about CBE and ESSA it might just help a lot of people in high places advance to even higher places. I mean - the ESSA opportunities abound for those who are willing to sellout our children, our teaching profession and our public schools. Lily and Randi are happy to help.

Meanwhile,  these so-called nonprofits and .01% folks are ever so patient. Just as Michael Kirst, prez of CA State Board of Ed states at the end of this particular JFF brief that this will "take a long time" and "We need to have a lot of staying power to bring this about."

Yes, they will nod, they will sympathize, and they will continue to twist the knife in just a little bit further.  And they will do everything to keep revolution at bay. Compromise will be the name of the game, as it is now.

Let me tell you one thing I know. Teamcompromise (aka Hillary/AFT/NEA and others) will be running right alongside the corporate regime - all of them selling out our children every step of the way.

And you might think - we are so F%$&ed!!!!!!!! What do we do???

I have one idea, and more to come soon, but for now, this simple one that I shared last spring on my blog and at the UOO conference........

Parents and citizens must ask for curriculum reviews at their school districts. Find out what your board policy looks like regarding curriculum reviews - but don't feel the need to abide by the policy - do what you need to do to get the reviews. Try to get parents to do these reviews in mass. Educate parents. The key is refusing the online testing and curriculum IN MASS. One person trying to do this alone has a hard road and a slim chance of succeeding - ultimately this online curriculum will be tied to grades (and already is in many cities), therefore making it more challenging to refuse.  Parents and citizens, in mass, who speak to the school board, who publicize their desire to refuse this online curriculum, can win. Expose it. Gather support. And REFUSE IT. Demand authentic learning by authentic teachers in democratic classroom settings.

I also recommend reading Alison McDowell's latest blog on this subject - she has additional actions to take.

And of course continue to refuse the end of year test. That's a given.

Meanwhile I'll keep blogging. And I'll have more to share soon - but honestly, until this election is over and all the cards are played, it's difficult to determine exactly the best strategies needed to take down components of ESSA such as CBE, charters, and teacher one stop shops. Timing can be everything.

The good (and bad) news is that I no longer work for Aurora Public Schools. I no longer volunteer for United Opt Out National.  I can say pretty much whatever I want.   Not that that held me back before ;)


TLAC - There are some "good" things??? Really????????

This blog was first posted at on 9/4/2016.  My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.

It never fails - when I share my TLAC blog I am always presented with the Teach Like a Champion argument that "some good things can be found in there."  For the love of god this argument makes me insane. Yeah, so maybe someone found one little good thing in there - but at what cost to the lives of children? And can't a teacher find some of these techniques in books by actual educators?  Doug Lemov is NOT an educator. And - guess what? There is also a helluva lot of bad shit in there too. It is racist as hell. Watch the CD that comes with the book. And actually read the book  before putting it in the hands of teachers and/or praising it - which is how it rolls in my former district - people passing out TLAC left and right and they didn't even bother to read it.

Here is my blog on it: 

I need to do a follow up on it but seriously it makes my stomach churn to write about it so I haven't gone there yet.

Oh  - and one more thing - when you watch the CD - where are all the white children? Huh.

And why do the children look so damn unhappy? Huh.

Plate. Wall.

Breakfast on the Floor. Poof. Gone.

This blog was first posted at on 8/25/2016.  My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.

On August 10th I posted a blog detailing the breakfast situation at my former school, Jewell Elementary. Feel free to read to catch up.

Within less than 24 hours of posting the blog the breakfast policy was changed. Poof. Gone.  Social media is very useful in exposing bad policies, which then require people to acknowledge the policy, and make a shift - quickly.  As you recall, the options for breakfast were for teachers to give up planning time to allow students to come in early to eat in the classroom or NOT give up planning time and allow them to eat on the hallway floor outside the classroom.

The next morning, August 11th, a  "stand up" meeting was called for the staff. A "stand up" meeting is an impromptu meeting that is called unexpectedly and typically creates quite a few nervous jitters because there is no knowledge of the purpose of the meeting.  This particular meeting was called to announce a change in the breakfast policy. No longer would there be any option of children eating on the hallway floor. The teachers were tasked with discussing how to go about organizing eating in the classroom in the mornings. The teachers were told that the monthly average of planning time being taken from them, for other purposes than planning (data meetings, prof. dev.), was indeed, within the allowable minutes.  Therefore, it was okay and supposedly "contractually legal" to require teachers to give up fifteen minutes of planning every morning for breakfast.

I have a lot of questions about this idea of a monthly average of minutes that are "allowable."  Why are we averaging allowable minutes over a month? What happened to consistent and daily planning? Does this mean that if teachers were to lose almost all their planning for one week (which does happen), and then get buckets of minutes the next week for planning, that this is okay? What happens to the week with no planning? Do teachers just wing it that week? Or do they stay up until midnight on their own time, while being required to ignore their family and their own personal needs?

Considering that these teachers are already losing planning time for required data meetings, loss of one day of specials, and more, I find this monthly averaging to be bogus.  How can this be contractually legal? But teachers are expected to just nod, smile, and say, okay. Then they go home and work their asses off planning in the evenings and on the weekends. Workhorses. And eventually, more Lucys.

Teaching requires a continual cycle of gathering information about our children and then using this information to determine next steps. Teachers need time - DAILY - to plan the next steps. Preachin' to the choir I know.

So without consistent daily planning, what will happen to the learning and teaching at Jewell? What does this mean for teacher observation and evaluation? In addition, the lesson plans required at Jewell this year are incredibly cumbersome and unrealistic - requiring immense amounts of time to prepare. And of course, the required lesson plan components, once again, rob teachers of their ability to make professional decisions.  My best plans were on post-its :)

Back to the breakfast issue. The problem still hanging in the air - that no one wants to address - is that I have been told multiple times that there are OTHER schools in Aurora having children eat on the floor.  I've spoken to three government agencies and each say it's not their jurisdiction. What gives? I wonder if this would be ignored in Cherry Creek? Littleton? Jeffco? Boulder, anyone?

Just a question. And I'll keep asking them.

F%#K the Standards!

This blog was first posted at on 8/24/2016.  My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.

I really don't think I can express how tired I am of hearing teachers tell me how they are required to use the standards, go back to the standards, write down the standards, test the standards, and state the standards. Seriously FUCK the standards. There is NO research to demonstrate that standards improve student achievement. I am so over this and so angry that teachers I adore still have to put up with this shit. Two quarters in cuss jar. And btw, for my chicken friends, Lucy is doing better tonight :)


This blog was first posted at on 8/21/2016.  My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.

I am a white privileged girl living in the suburbs. That being said, I have my own experiences with power structures, and many that have occurred via my activist work, in my personal life, and via my teaching in the public schools. I want to share a few today in the hopes that thinking through these ideas might help others consider how to move forward as activists and teachers as public intellectuals. Right now, we are losing in our efforts to save public schools and the teaching profession.  If anyone tells you otherwise they have not done the research or they are intentionally using their power to keep you in the dark - it's all out there - in writing - for anyone interested to peruse.

One would hope that power is used for the good of humanity, for the good of our world and each human, plant, and animal walking this earth. That's what it should be. Seems like a silly thing to even point out, doesn't it? But in this country - that idea - doing things for the common good - has vanished for the most part.

My chickens have taught me a lot about power. I have eight. We got six about three years ago and added two to the flock two years ago. The youngest two, named Lucy and Phoebe, are thick as thieves. Lucy is a stark white and black beautiful Brahma and Phoebe is a deep black and rich brown red laced Wyandotte. The two girls stick together - it gives them power to ward off potential bossiness or meanness from the older girls. As a young hen Lucy was as fierce as the wind. She would jump and fly up into the face of one of the strongest and biggest leaders in our flock. She would take the older girls off guard and they weren't quite sure how to put her in her place - they typically backed off. I kept waiting for a coup - as Lucy tried to take the lead in the flock. Early on we noticed that Lucy had a crooked claw on her foot. I worried about that for fear that it might someday cause her to lose some of her assertiveness and power within the flock. Phoebe could fly up high and jump on perches quickly whereas it took Lucy a bit longer to learn to grip the perch. Eventually she did.  However, never, did she reach the heights Phoebe could reach. And oddly enough, Phoebe still allowed Lucy to take the lead in everything. At night on the perch she would try to bury her head under Lucy's body to go safely to sleep. Lucy's potential for being the lead in the flock was strong.

Several weeks ago I noticed a change with Lucy. She looked thinner. She was always one of the biggest girls in the flock. I went to pick Lucy up and Phoebe charged at me and pecked me and then pecked Lucy hard on the neck. Lucy cowered. I had never seen her cower. Phoebe charged at me again and in shock I pushed her away hard. She then flew at me and attempted to bite me again. Lucy continued to cower. I was blindsided by these behaviors. Lucy had always protected Phoebe! As I watched throughout the day I noticed that Lucy had become a target. The girls were letting her have it left and right - pecking her neck - pushing her off the perch - refusing to let her eat - and she simply cowered and tried to run away. Suddenly it hit me.  Lucy was sick. She had to be sick. For her dear Phoebe, who had walked side by side with her for two years, to begin to peck at her - HARD - Phoebe sensed something.  She sensed a weakness. And chickens will attack and kill a chicken that is weak.

This reminded me of what an activist told me many years ago - never contemplate what those in power are thinking or feeling - pay attention to their actions.  Their actions will tell you everything you need to know.

But the hard part about being human is that when people are nice to you and then turn on you,  it becomes very difficult to separate feelings from the objective "actions" that you see.  My chickens remind me of where to keep my focus - on actions. Paying attention to these actions might allow me to save Lucy's life. We'll see. This is still a story in play.

Power in the public schools right now is so overwhelmingly at the top,  specifically in our urban diverse schools, that it becomes almost impossible to breathe. Our schools are very sick. There are many people who are thriving off of our dying profession and starving schools.  And then there are the Lucys - cowering and running - simply trying to survive one more day. The question is, how do we support  and nurture the development of power by those who wish to create and do good within the public schools? How do we return to supporting the common good?  How can we make our schools healthy again? How can we help those who are sick, regain their strength? It has been difficult to watch, and understand, how human beings can turn on other human beings - much like Phoebe turned on Lucy. And we cannot allow that behavior to become naturalized and accepted within the public schools.

As our school turned into a Relay Leadership School last year I watched the transition at our school with horror. The manner in which  teachers were treated, and the demands placed on children, were all necessary for those at the top to maintain their power.  If teachers didn't agree with an "order," they were targeted and often treated to relentless detailed emails outlining demands and observations that requested absolutely unrealistic expectations - these expectations were meant to enforce 100% compliance or simply drive the teachers out.  People you thought you could trust, you suddenly realized you no longer could - like Phoebe. It pit teachers against teachers.  And these unrealistic expectations pushed on teachers and students became normalized - creating a very sick environment within the school. Teachers simply could not keep up. One of my colleagues left in December.  It was too much.

As the abuse of power becomes normalized, teachers, in most cases, do not expect or even consider demanding the autonomy that a teacher with a professional conscience needs in order to create problem solving citizens.  They comply, shut their door, and do what they can to do right by children.  It's like we are sick - the energy to fight back is minimal.  And typically, knowing you will be fighting alone, makes it difficult to keep mustering up this energy. Teachers are treated as though we are not human. We are slaves to the corporate machine. Fighting this seems futile in many cases. When I can't be home to care for Lucy I shut the hen door so they can't get in to peck at her. I'm hoping she'll regain her strength. There are other cases where I see hope, specifically in Chicago where the union is strong. Without a strong union - who has your back?

In the world of activism I've watched power destroy and build simultaneously. The key is getting  enough momentum to allow the power of goodness to work together in a rush  - an unexpected flood that allows the power of revolution to overtake those who use power to do harm. The problem is, power, status, and ego are just as prevalent in activism as they are elsewhere.  It's very difficult to succeed - it's very difficult to help goodness prevail. It requires a lot of things to simultaneously occur - some are intentional strategies that are thought out in short term and long terms goals, some might be luck, and others fall into the category of the hundredth monkey  effect. Just my take. Just what I've seen and observed.

While all this is happening - this attempt to regain humanity -  gas lighting is used to disrupt, shock, control and manage the population, allowing corrupt power to stay intact and grow.  I've watched it in my former district - the disruption, the slow removal of elements of teacher autonomy. This year the teachers  at my school were (for the first time ever) told their detailed daily schedule. They were told their literacy schedule. There is no longer a leadership team made of teachers. There are multiple pages of information about "disruptive behaviors"  which they must follow as steps when "disciplining" children. The level of behaviors are categorized from A to F. Level D includes defiant behaviors. The word defiant is completely  in line with Teach Like a Champion tactics - an absolutely racist behavior system used to keep power in place - it's the bible of Relay Fake Graduate School.  Everything is very much about absolute compliance - perfectly in line with the school to prison pipeline. Planning time has been decreased for teachers at my school this year.  Colored printers have been placed on lockdown - the list goes on.  All of this is a pattern occurring all over the country - most prevalent in urban diverse schools. It's like the 100th monkey effect gone bad - gone so bad that I begin to wonder when and how we will ever be able to regain footing to do what is best for children in our public schools?

There are also the visual surroundings - the compliant environment -  at school that becomes the norm, slowly conditioning parents, children and teachers to accept what we see - this new and brave "reality" -  as absolutely okay.  Bulletin boards of data, disciplinary charts, the visual display of lined up desks, and students in regimented lines in the hallway (acronym HALL - hands at your side, all eyes forward, lips zipped, low speed).  Orange cones scattered in the hallways are the norm for months on end to remind children to be quiet during testing. This past year paper chains were added to literally block off testing areas. I always thought about the children behind those closed doors testing away as akin to a prison sentence in a cell. The testing at my former school starts next week. It's August.

All of these power moves via action and visuals completely mess with the mental ability for people to think, act and vocalize concerns. It's gas lighting at its finest. It's Lucy cowering in the hen house. The teachers are presented with these visuals, these compliance models, as perfectly rational.  I once lived in an environment where light deprivation was used as a tactic to control. Low watt bulbs were the name of the game.  It made it very difficult to think lucid thoughts. It made it difficult to create change and/or get out. Our schools present that same concern for teachers today in a variety of shapes and forms.  The language is harsh and rigid, rigor is the name of the game. Teachers become beaten down, behaving as work horses, confused, exhausted, simply doing the bidding of those in power who are pushing forward an agenda and system that profits the .01%.  They get pecked again. And again. And again. There is absolute lack of trust - even among colleagues at times.

As I've watched  public education and the education activist populace grow and change over the last five years, one thing has been very clear to me - as with my chicken flock, always analyze actions - not emotions, or feelings. If you begin to feel  sympathetic towards a corporate reformer, or any district personnel that is making poor decisions that impact the lives of children in a way that is harmful, refocus on the direct actions. Examine the power structure, and determine your strategies based on how you might crack it, tear it down, and rebuild for the common good. Look for patterns and eventually you will discover that some of their actions are predictable - allowing you opportunities to derail and stop them from harming others. Do not allow cruelty to be naturalized.  We are human. Don't let them take your humanity. As we move into this next phase of ESSA, the federal bill which is primed to destroy the teaching profession and further privatize public schools via charters and online daily testing,  we must find new ways to harness our power - because with this new phase, will come great cruelty.  Remember Lucy.

Children, eat your breakfast on the hallway floor at school

This blog was first posted at on 8/10/2016.  My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.

As you all know by now, I am no longer working at Jewell Elementary in the Aurora Public School District. However, I was recently alerted to a new  policy regarding breakfast at the school. The school day starts at 9:25 a.m. This year, if children want to eat breakfast they must get there at 9:15 a.m. If they ride the bus I guess they'll be rushing in the door to eat in five minutes or so as breakfast time now ends at 9:30.

And there's more. There are two options: the children will be eating on the FLOOR in the carpeted HALLWAY outside the classroom OR the teachers can graciously give up some of their morning planning time and invite the children to come in and eat at their desks.

Let that sink in for a minute. I know your mind is racing, as mine did, as I tried to think through the implications here - and there are many.

The first thought I had was - what would ever cause anyone to even consider - fathom - such a policy, as children eating breakfast on the dirty carpeted floor like dogs?  I am horrified that this policy was thought of and considered "rational."

Then of course, I tried to imagine what that policy might look like in action. Hallways lined with children with backpacks, coats, lunchboxes and juggling milk, juice, cereal and more. I tried to imagine how I would feel as a child if I was asked to eat my breakfast on the floor, without a place to properly set my things in order to manage it all. I thought about how that policy might impact my own personal beliefs about my self worth, if I were a child at Jewell. I thought about the racism that is inherent within the behavior policies via Relay Graduate School. I thought about the way the children at my school are expected to demonstrate 100% compliance, and how this breakfast policy smacks of that compliance. Sit. Eat. Comply. On the floor. Where is the respect for the child? Where is it? How can one create a policy so unkind and so disrespectful of a child?

I thought - are the white children in the burbs sitting on dirty carpeted floor eating breakfast each morning? You know the answer to that.

Other thoughts raced through my head. Now the teachers must give up planning time OR choose to inflict such a horrible thing on these children. However, the one caveat to having them eat in the hallway is that it might get the policy exposed. Parents might see and object. It should be exposed rather than hidden away quietly as teachers give up their planning and once more do whatever they can to protect children.

How can this even pass health code policies in the schools?

What if one child from a family gets to eat in the classroom and another child from the same family in a different class must sit on the dirty carpeted floor? How does this play out?

And mind you there are no plates or trays.

Of course if I were at Jewell today I would have said something. I would not have tolerated it.

But I am not at Jewell. My position was eliminated. They keep taking things away from Jewell's children. They took away their reading interventionist (my position which was eliminated) and now they are taking away their right to eat while seated respectfully at a table. I care deeply for these children and these teachers at Jewell - teachers who are once again placed in a position of making another decision that  has such moral and ethical implications - not to mention HEALTH implications. The weight of these decisions is exhausting, truly exhausting. And teachers should NOT be required to give up planning time. Period.

To truly understand the vast implications of such policies as this racist, classist breakfast policy, I recommend reading The Power of Pedagogy: Why We Shouldn't Teach Like Champions as well as my blog where I dissect a portion of the Teach Like a Champion book and more. Layla Treuhaft-Ali in The Power of Pedagogy writes, "Teach Like A Champion promotes working-class behavioral norms through a pedagogy of order, uniformity, and obedience; similar pedagogy has been used in the past to maintain strict class and racial hierarchies and prevent the poor from challenging the powerful." I also recommend sifting through my blog and my work at BustEDPencils to get a good sense of Relay Fake Graduate School and the consequences of  non-educators leading the way in the public school system.

I'm exposing this policy today  in the hopes that this exposure makes this policy go away. I can assure you this would never fly in Douglas County or at Sidwell where President Obama's children attend. This policy flies under the radar only in urban diverse schools where children and teachers are being pounded by mandates in ways that my own son will never experience in the Littleton Public Schools.