Saturday, September 26, 2009

Moment of Silence

In a faculty meeting the other day, my friend Tameka said that the moment of silence that we all observe was too short.  That the “moment” was just that – a moment.  She asked if maybe we could stretch it out to a minute or so.  I had never thought about it too much.  As it turns out our definition of moment was exactly 15 seconds as timed by our school secretary.  The routine is that a few kids come up and do the announcements and toward the end comes “the moment”. 


In my classroom I just ask that kids stop what they are doing and listen carefully to all of the announcements.  Just to hush up so we can hear.  Some of the announcements are really important to all of us.  Like being sure to wear your school t-shirts to the zoo field trip.  Other teachers talked about what their classes do for the moment.  I never really thought about asking my kids what they do.  I certainly haven't asked them to do anything special.  It's their moment.


So the next morning I asked everyone.  I was careful and politically correct.  “I’m not saying that you need to do what I do.  I’m not telling you to do anything in particular.  I’m just curious.  We observe the moment of silence every day.  Anyone feel like telling what you do for that time?”


Well the responses were quite different.  From, “I pray to GOD every day, asking him to make me a good student,” to “I just let my mind rest and try not to think of anything.  I let it go anywhere.”  As I observe the kids during that brief time, I really don’t see anyone close their eyes or do much of anything different.  They’re just… silent.


For the last week or so our moment has been stretched to half a minute.  It seemed kind of long compared to what we are used to.  Not too long. But it does give me time to do what I usually do.  Sometimes I am thinking of what comes next.  Planning what to do with 22 seven-and-eight year olds is pretty complex.  What I try to do most days is look into the eyes of as many kids who are looking my way, try to make a momentary connection and smile with my eyes.  Most kids smile with their eyes back at me.  It’s sweet.  Sometimes I close my eyes and thank God for this opportunity to work and play with these 22 beautiful young kids.  How blessed am I?  Very.


On the back of my lesson plan clipboard is this little prayer.  It came from a card given to me by a grateful parent many years ago.  If I am holding my clipboard during the moment, I’ll flip it over and reread this.


Oh God!

Educate these children.

These children are the plants

Of Thine orchard, the flowers of Thy

Meadow, the roses of Thy garden.

Let Thy rain fall upon them; let the Sun

Of Reality shine upon them with thy love.

Let Thy breeze refresh them in order that

They may be trained to grow and develop,

And appear in the utmost beauty.

Thou art the Giver.  Thou art

The Compasionate.



You can do a lot in a moment.  Thanks Tameka.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Old Friend;

Much more that steel and wood,

more than an empty box.

You are the beach and a younger man.

You are laughing,

and tears.

You are lovers and lullabies

and fears.

You are the dark deep woods

and sleepy nights,

steel strings and sore fingers

and a tired voice.

You are memories of

old friends

made fresh.

You are campfire nights

and smoke in my eyes,

and starflung skies.

You are protest and prayer,

patriotism and pain.

Sunshine and midnights and rain.

You taught children to sing and

raised voices in praise.

You welcomed

sticky fingers of

young African friends.

You filled quiet nights with tunes.

Your smooth mahogany neck

and scratched cedar top;

every nick, every wound -  a memory

of long ago times and far away friends.

Humid summer nights

and backporch blues.

You are folk songs and praise songs

and homegrown songs.

Some quickly forgotten and

some well worn.

You are forgiving

and kind and

when I am wrong

you are fine.

With you I can be lonesome

but never alone.

Never alone.

You are my

Old Friend.

Friday, September 11, 2009


NYSkylineiStock-1.jpg the twin towers image by Cheese-it_1995

I guess anyone who is old enough will remember where they were when they heard the news of 9/11/01.  I was on the playground with my kids.  Lyn, my principal and good friend, came out with a post-it note with the words,"an airplane crashed into one of the twin towers" written on it.  At first we thought it was an accident.  Then the second plane hit.  We knew we were under attack.  I remember the sadness, the patriotism, the fear. I know you do too.  It is etched in my mind.  I am old enough to remember the JFK assassination (OK I was in first grade – but I DO remember), Martin Luther King’s assassination, the moon landing and other historic events.  9/11 stands out in my mind in a big way.  Our world was changed that morning wasn’t it?  I suppose that every 9/11 for as long as we live we will remember.

See full size image
Every year on this day it comes ringing back.  On my way to work this morning I was listening to NPR.  There is a little segment on Friday mornings called Story Corps.  It is only about 3 minutes long.  Today’s installment was from a New York City firefighter.  He was the father of two young men, one also NYC firefighter, the other an NYPD detective.  Both lost their lives at the Twin Towers on 9/11/01.    

 Probably every American singer/songwriter alive at that time wrote their own song to capture their reflections of 9/11/01.  These are the lyrics to a song I wrote on 9/12/01.  It was originally called "6,000 Souls" because that is how many we thought died that fateful day.  Later that month when the brave crisis workers who sifted through the rubble determined the true number of people who died, the title was changed to "3,000 Souls".  A friend of ours, a principal at a school not far from ground zero, told us a heart-wrenching story of her students watching as folks fell or jumped from the building in flames.  From their vantage point the falling victims looked like birds on fire.

3000 Souls 

Late summer day, They make their way to work

Mid-September morning, It's a beautiful day in New York

Three thousand souls, In their daily grind

Going to the office, Nothing special on their minds

(CHORUS) Kissed their loved ones good-bye

Just like they did the day before

Now we're left to wonder why

What was their dying for?

Brothers and sisters, Not soldiers fighting in a war

Just everyday people, But now forever so much more

Innocent children wonder, Why are the birds all on fire?

Teacher doesn't answer, She cannot make herself a liar

(CHORUS) Kissed their loved ones good-bye

Just like they did the day before

Now we're left to wonder why

What was their dying for?

Al of those dreams never dreamt, All of those habits never shaken

All of those tears never cried, All of those chances never taken

So we've got to have faith, We've got to try to understand

And we've got to believe, They didn't die in vain

(BRIDGE) Just don't call it a holy war

That's not what their dying was for

I don't know what justice is

But I pray - it will prevail

And that our spirit remains strong

And I pray - our love won't fail

Just don't call it a holy war

That's not what their dying was for

It's the home of the brave, And the land of the free

And we've got to believe, That it's still going to be

Late summer day, They make their way to work

Mid-September morning, It's a beautiful day in New York.

I can't help but include in this post a direct quote from Glen Beck about his feelings concerning 9/11 victims.  I will not comment on them.  I cannot.  I don't need to.  His words speak for themselves.

BECK: You know, it took me about a year to start hating the 9/11 victims’ families. It took me about a year. Um, and I had such compassion for them and I really, you know, I wanted to help them, and I was behind — let’s give them money, let’s get them started, and all of this stuff. And I really didn’t — all the 3,000 victims’ families, I don’t hate all of them, I hate about, probably about ten of them. But when I see 9/11 victim family, you know, on television, or whatever, I’m just like, ‘Oh, shut up.’ I’m so sick of them. Because they’re always complaining. And we did our best for them. And again, it’s only about ten.

I'd be interested to read what you think.

The Bully Part III


This is the third and last segment about “The Bully”.  If you would like to read Part I CLICK HERE.  

Part II of The Bully?  Click here.

Hershel Jones was our bus driver.  He seemed like a nice guy.  He too was old.  Of course he may only have been the age I am now but he was old to me at the time.  Older than my parents was old.  His eyes were watery blue and he was very bald.  He had the kind of baldness with side fringe that covered his ears.  Mr. Jones didn’t shave every day.  His stubble was white on his cheeks and throat.  He seemed perpetually tan – even in winter.  He had deep creases on the back of his neck.  Mr. Jones was hearing impaired.  He had large hearing aids that hung around both of his ears, almost covered by his fringe.

One day before we got on the bus I saw Garrison showing off a slingshot to his friends.  It was a powerful weapon, nothing like the slingshots we made with rubber bands and a bent coat hangar.  I think the brand name was WRIST ROCKET.  It had latex surgical tubes for the elastic part that you pull back.  Dangerous, especially in the hands of someone like Garrison.  It was the kind of weapon that could kill someone. 

As the bus pulled up, Garrison stuffed the WRIST ROCKET into this book bag.  I was much too scared to sit in back near Garrison and his gang of hooligans.  They continually picked on the little ones.  I was right behind Mr. Jones.  I had a feeling there would be trouble that day.  I was right.  We had been riding for a while.  There were fifteen or twenty kids left on the bus.  I still remember what kind of day it was, warm and muggy.  The air blowing in the bus windows was moist, not refreshing.  Sweat was dripping down the creases in Mr. Jones tanned neck.  His bald head was shining with sweat.  I was bored.

An ordinary day.  An ordinary bus ride.  Sleepy, hot, sweaty, dozy.  From behind a motion by my head.  A big bug? I wondered briefly.  SMACK! The windshield splintered, a sagging web of broken shards.  It didn’t fall out.  It just hung there, a thousand tiny cracks coming from a round hole right in the middle.  On the floor was a jumbo marble.  Unlike the windshield it had just destroyed, the marble was still intact, rolling lazily across the floor in the front of the bus. 

Most of us knew what happened that day.  Many of us saw Garrison with the WRIST ROCKET before boarding the bus.  Mr. Jones jerkily pulled the bus to the side of the road.  It squeaked to a stop.  His expression was dark. He was as outraged as a man could be. His normally dark ruddy complexion was dark red, purple really.  He got up and faced the children on the bus. On his bus. 

Probably because he was hearing impaired, Hershel was not a clear talker, more of a loud mumbler.  “Whaaa di I do?”  Silence.  “Wha di I eer do to you?” he screamed.  “How coo you do daa?”  I nearly cried for him.  We could have crashed.  Kids could have been killed.  We were in his care.  Someone, we all knew who – even Mr. Jones I suspect, nearly caused a very serious wreck.  “Who” he asked.  I don’t think he really expected an answer.  Of course no one spoke up.  Garrison and his gang of thugs would never admit to what they had done.  No one would squeal on them.  Too much potential pain associated with that.  We sat there.  Quiet.  More than just quiet.  Still as a stone.  Mr. Jones faced us.  Rage was on his face.  His breathing was ragged.  His bony shoulders heaved.  He stared at us for a long time.  Mainly he stared at the back of the bus where the Garrison gang sat. 

Once during this extended period of silence I stole a look at the back.  Garrison sat there with a satisfied look, his arms crossed smugly across his chest.  He had a look that said, “What are you gonna do, old man?”  We sat.  And sat.

Mr. Jones sighed and returned to the driver’s seat.  There were no two-way radios on the busses in those days, no cell phones.  He started the bus and ground it into gear.  As we pulled away from the curb, there was a low murmur from the back.  A couple of the girls, Lori Lazarian and Stacy Ignarski I think their names were, started to cry.  Not sobbing, just quietly leaking tears, holding on to each other.

Then Mr. Jones did something I had never seen a gown-up do.  As I looked at that dark wrinkled face from the side, I saw a tear spill over and run down his brown cheek.  Slowly it ran its silky course down his jaw line and hung there for a few seconds.  Then it dripped off his jaw and landed on his shoulder.  I stared at that tear.  It stayed for a few moments, a perfect hemisphere of human sadness.  Then it was absorbed into the fabric.  Mr. Jones was crying.  It was Garrison who made him cry.

It scared me.  It also made me so mad that I could barely breathe.  Mr. Jones wasn’t a particularly good friend of mine, but he was someone I saw a hundred-and-seventy times a year on that bus.  For years.  I also saw him and the missus at mass. He was a constant in my life.  And Garrison made him cry.  He was never caught for this.  I guess no one could ever prove that it was him.  But we all knew.

Garrison never rode the bus after that.  He had a big brother in high school. The high school kids got out before us and his brother would show up just as we were piling out of school, running for our bus and Mr. Jones.  It was red, that car.  Too fancy for a high school kid.

A lot of kids were jealous of him and that red car.  Not me.  I kept wondering how anyone could be so mean.  Why would anyone do what he did?  Why would a person risk a bus accident just to get his kicks?

The other question that haunted my dreams for a long time was, DID GARRISON MEAN TO HIT Hershel Jones with that marble?  Did he just miss him and hit the windshield by mistake? If it HAD hit Mr. Jones, we almost certainly would have crashed.  Garrison and his group of troublemakers could have been hurt themselves.  If he had hit Mr. Jones in the back of the head, what might have happened?  I mean that WRIST ROCKET could really shoot.  People use those things for hunting I think.  A glass marble in the back of the head at that speed?  Who knows?

When I was in sixth grade, Garrison left Saints Peter and Paul for the public high school. I lost track of him.  No great loss there.  When he left, it was as if an unbelievably heavy weight was lifted from my shoulders.  I was free from the cloud of fear that hung over my head for years.

I did hear once that Garrison was beaten up pretty badly.  Sent to the hospital I think.  He probably pulled a prank of the wrong kid.  I guess he got back a taste of what he had been dishing out.  I wonder if it made a difference?

I have a little different perspective all these years later.  Maybe Garrison’s home life was a wreck.  I know that his older brother lumped him up from time to time.  Maybe he had some terrible insecurity he needed to overcome – and the way he did it was by picking on others.  I wonder if he ever made it to adulthood; if he ever married or had a family of his own, held down a job, bought a house. I hope so. Through all of the misery he dished out, he must have been a miserable kid.  What does he think when he recalls his youth?  Does he remember all of the fright and pain he passed out to all of those kids?  To all of US kids? I hope he does remember.  And I hope, for his sake, that he’s sorry.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Bully Part II

Another day we were playing softball at recess.  Our recess field was asphalt, just like a parking lot.  I guess there wasn’t much maintenance involved.  The only soft ground in sight was off of school property.  My buddy Rick was playing catcher for both sides.  His job was mainly to catch the wild pitches and then throw the ball back to the catcher.  We were just having fun.  I don’t remember all of the kids who were playing, but I remember Rick Kadar.  He was my next-door neighbor, my best friend.  We walked home from school together, shared secrets about girls we had crushes on, played kick the can after dark.  We were about as close as two boys can be. 


During recess some big kid got a hit and was wildly running around the bases.  James McDevitt in the outfield caught the ball on a bounce and heaved it to Rick at the plate.  Rick was a good ball player; better then the rest of us really.  He played little league.  He and his older brothers and dad played catch almost every day in the back yard.  Rick was good.


The kid who got the hit was a couple years older than us.  It probably would have been embarrassing to be thrown out at the plate. 


The ball didn’t quite reach Rick on a fly; it bounced a few feet in front of him.  He was the only one of us who actually owned a catcher’s mitt.  He anticipated the bounce and placed that big old dusty mitt in just the right spot.  The big kid was barreling down the third base line toward the plate.  Rick caught the ball and was reaching out his mitt in the direction of the runner.  The big kid was fast but he was clearly going to be tagged out. 


Just as the big guy was about to connect with Rick’s mitt, Rick went sprawling on the asphalt, elbows and knees scraping roughly on the ground.  Standing behind him was Garrison with a smug look of satisfaction on his face.  Rick was writhing on the ground, clutching a bloody knee, a look of pain in his scrunched up eyes.  Garrison held out his hand and the big kid gave him five as he crossed the plate.  “Yeah!  I guess that makes you safe!”  Garrison said. 


Sister Anastasia rang the brass bell signaling the end of recess.  The kids went to line up (in a silent single file line – you may be sure).  I helped Rick get to his feet.  His pants were torn.  His mom could have put on one of those iron-on patches, but they would never be dress pants again.  “Oh, man!  These pants are brand new.  My mom is gonna kill me!”  Rick and I came from working class families. Both of us had three older brothers. Most of our clothes were hand-me-downs from them.  Ruining a new pair of dress pants was no small deal for either of us.  Rick had to go to the “nurse”- the school secretary.  I knew he was probably in for more pain, as the treatment of the day was iodine.  Ouch.


Later, Rick said to me that he told the secretary that he fell down as the reason for the “accident”.  We would never have told on Garrison.  That would have been suicide.


There were many other times when a dark glance or a threatening gesture made me miserable.  When I think of how many kids Garrison terrorized, it frightens me.  How many children had sleepless nights or scary dreams because of him?  I know I had plenty.  The guy lived to bully, as a predator perpetually looks for prey.  He seemed to live for the obscene pleasure of making children cower in fear.


One of Garrison’s favorite people to taunt was Andy Kirk.  Andy was what we call today, the chief maintenance engineer.  In those days we called him the janitor.  Andy was old. I imagine he was retired from something else and just worked around Saints Peter and Paul for a little extra money.  It couldn’t have been much.


He did all kinds of stuff around the school from mopping up the cafeteria to cleaning up vomit, to monitoring the students on the playground.  It was in this capacity that Andy Kirk had constant contact with Gregory Garrison. 


His favorite trick was standing behind Mr. Kirk and mocking him.  Garrison was merciless.  And while he wasn’t funny at all to me, his cronies thought he was funnier than a clown in a circus. When Mr. Kirk was sweeping, Garrison would copy him from behind with exaggerated movements, crossing his eyes and swinging his head from side to side.  He didn’t look anything like Mr. Kirk, but the fact that a Junior high aged boy would dare to mock a grown-up like that brought forth peals of laughter from Garrison’s pals.  Mr. Kirk would tell him to stop, and report him to Sister Anastasia.  The Sister would call garrison’s mom and dad but his parents seemed powerless to do anything about his rudeness or his pranks. 

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Bully - Part I

Bullies Vs Loser Stock Photos

This is a memoir about being young and vulnerable at the hands of a bully.   Garrison was a real kid, although that is not his real name.  This story is a little long for a single post, so I’ll divide it into several segments.  It was cathartic to write this.  I hadn’t thought of Garrison in a long time, but he made a big impact on me (pardon the pun) when I was a kid.  He probably had this effect on a lot of others too.  There are a lot of bullies out there still.  From playgrounds to governments, from office bullies to dictators, it seems as if bullies are a fact of life for humans.  Someone is always getting pleasure out of making someone else miserable.  This story is dedicated to the bullied among us – may we be strong.



Gregory Garrison gave me the creeps.  He was the bully of Saints Peter and Paul Elementary School in Merrillville, Indiana back in the 1960’s.  He wasn’t the biggest kid on the playground.  He probably wasn’t the strongest.  He was by far the meanest.  He had no fear.  He was brutal.  He was a merciless teaser.  He cussed.  He talked back to teachers.  Even the nuns.  He lied.  He hurt kids.  Even the grown-ups were a little afraid of him.  For a while I was on his radar.  I was one of his victims. 

I wasn’t really a fraidy cat.  I was pretty average in that department.  But when Gregory Garrison was around I was terrified.  “What are you lookin’ at you little creep?” he hissed at me one day.  How do you answer that one?

“Nothin’” I said lamely.

“How in the world do you look at nothin’?  Hey, you guys,” he laughed to his friends.  "I think he’s got nothin’ between those big ears of his!  Haw!  Haw!”  They all laughed cruelly.  I shrunk away, just glad that he didn’t smack me.

Once Garrison snuck up behind me on the playground.  I usually tried to stay on the other side of wherever he was.  Somehow he ended up behind me and gave me a vicious shove.  I fell like a tree in the forest, shocked at being so carelessly caught off guard.  At first I didn’t know what happened.  I came up with my fists balled; ready to clobber whoever had done that to me. 

“What!?  You wanna fight, you little punk?”  I dropped my fighter’s stance.  He could have killed me.  But I was still fuming at what he had done.

“What do you want, Garrison?  I didn’t do anything to you.”

"Oh yes you did.  You exist.  You caught my attention.”

“Whatever,” I mumbled.

“Look, you guys!” he screamed at his friends.  “The little jerk has his shoes on the wrong feet!”  Sure enough, as I looked down my dress shoes were on wrong.  They were my good shoes – leather wing tips with laces.  We were not allowed to wear tennis shoes at Saints Peter and Paul.  We had a very rigid dress code.  Boys had to wear shirts with ties, dark trousers and dress shoes.  Girls had long plaid skirts with white blouses.  The first and second graders (the “babies” and ‘tots”) had to wear plaid beanies too.  Even as Garrison and his friends were tormenting me, they had on white shirts and ties.

Third graders were way to old to make such a stupid mistake.  I felt foolish but I was still angry for the rough shove.  “Leave me alone, Garrison!”

“Whatcha gonna do, O’Punk?”  He pushed me again.  I fell down hard on my butt and bit my tongue.  “Look how easy he fell, guys.  Probably ‘cause his feets are on the wrong legs!”  They screamed laughter as they walked away, clapping each other on the backs like Garrison was the funniest thing on earth.

I spit out blood as I got to my feet. I was humiliated and hurt.  Garrison got away with it.  He always did.  I glowered at the creeps as they went to punish someone else.  

Saturday, September 5, 2009

President Obama's Speech To Schoolchildren


barack obama democrat presidential candidate senator photo gallery Photo

In the past, candidate Obama has spoken to parents and addressed their role in their children’s education.  He has spoken directly to the fathers of children who have so often shirked their responsibilities as prime mentors and behavior examples.  In July of ’08, when Obama was running for president he took fire from some in the Black community for being so open with his criticism of absentee dads.  Even Jesse Jackson, when he believed that his mic was off, spoke of Obama, “talking down to black people,” and wanting to “cut his @#$% off”.  Interesting.

Can anyone disagree with the fact that parents should take an active interest in their children’s upbringing?  How can there be objections to that?

This week, school children from across the country may be asked to watch President Obama address students on, what is traditionally thought of, as the first day of school for most of the US.  In our part of the country the kids have been in class for a couple weeks. 

The speech will be about students taking responsibility for their education. Here is a chunk of the White House blog:

At noon on Tuesday, September 8th the President will be welcoming America’s students back to school – after all, sometimes they need a little extra motivation after a glorious summer. The President has spoken often about the responsibility parents have for their children and their education, but in this message he’ll urge students to take personal responsibility for their own education, to set goals, and to not only stay in school but make the most of it.

For Republicans, Democrats, Independents or Libertarians, it seems like a no-brainer.  Black, White, Latino, Asian, Native Americans… How can you argue against students taking personal responsibility for their own education?  That doesn’t seem very insidious. 


Does it? 


That’s why I was honestly surprised by the backlash about this speech.  In the last two days I have heard the proposed speech labeled “indoctrination,” “brainwashing,” “troubling,” “socialist” and “blatantly political”.  There are school districts refusing to allow teachers to show the address.  Lots of them.

When I was a kid I remember teachers (many Catholic nuns) setting aside lesson plans so we could watch the Saturn and Apollo spacecrafts lifting off into space and the ensuing splashdowns and recoveries.  Those were always special occasions for us.  We’d be there to watch history happening.  The teachers were not reading the newspaper or checking student work.  They were right there with us.

This is a historic moment too.  For one thing, we have the first American president who is not a white man.  Whether you voted for him or not, you have to admit that IS historic.  And he wants to address school kids.  Talk right to them.  He wants to wish them well and to set goals for themselves. 

There are the obligatory conspiracy theorists, those who would love to see Mr. Obama fail at anything.  Everything.    features a lot of them.  I guess if you say something long enough and loud enough and say it with enough conviction and authority then there is a certain percentage of people who assume it’s true.  The DEATH PANEL thing started by Ms. Palin herself, for example.  Here are a couple samples from momsforsarah…

I don't care what president it is and what letter they have behind their name, they have no business addressing the children of our nation in our schools.

Downplaying academic achievement in favor of left-wing radical activism in the public schools is rooted in old neighborhood pal and Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers’ pedagogical philosophy.

Instead of practicing cursive, reviewing multiplication tables, diagramming sentences, or learning something concrete, America’s kids will be lectured about the importance of learning.

It is difficult for me to understand.  Is anyone honestly afraid that Barack Obama’s speech to school children on their first day of school about the importance of learning is some kind of left-wing, socialist plot to prevent children from learning how to diagram sentences or how to multiply?  Honestly? 

I guess if that is true then NASA was in cahoots with these left wing radical activists because every time there was a rocket blasting off into space my school was there.  I’m guessing there were many schools watching.  Were all of those teachers and principals involved in the plot to destroy cursive and knowledge of multiplication facts?  How about our parents?  Why weren’t they forcing us to do our homework instead of allowing us to watch all of that liberal space exploration stuff?  I mean, my folks sat right there with me and watched it. 

Come to think of it, I am probably part of the plot as well, but I didn’t realize it… until just now.  Last year during the presidential campaign I showed campaign speeches by McCain and Obama to my second graders.  Several children asked, in the course of our discussions about the election and the Democratic process, about the differences between Republicans and Democrats.  Rather then give my opinion on the subject, we watched and listened to speeches, campaign videos, read the newspaper and magazines and compiled a list ourselves of what the two parties would have us believe they stand for.  It was a brilliant and insightful list (of course I am biased about my class). 

Our class surveyed other classes in our school.  We created pie graphs, picto-graphs, line graphs and bar graphs to display the data.  We displayed the information in the halls.  The fifth graders must have also been involved in this plot to interfere with real education because they held an election of all of the children in our school and for their learning celebration on the Friday before the election, shared the information they collected with the entire school.

If George W. Bush were to address students on the first day of school and ask them to take school seriously and to take charge of their own future, I’m sure there would be Democrats who would object, thinking that it was opportunistic.  I’m sure the liberal radio talk shows (if there are such things) would go after him and say he was pandering to children.  But honestly, as a teacher of little kids, I would be there to watch right along with the children.  And, at the risk of sounding too patriotic, I would support my president for talking right to students about something as important as their future.  And, at the risk of sounding like an educator who sincerely cares about children, I would agree with him that students should take responsibility for their own learning.  What is more important to them right now?  Seriously, would 45 minutes spent on cursive writing or practicing multiplication tables make more of a difference to students than being told directly by their newly elected president how important school is to their future?


Presidents make speeches.  It is an important part of their job.  Politicians are opportunistic by definition.  It’s how they try to get reelected.  But a president making a speech right to schoolchildren?  Addressing the most important issues in their lives? 

I’m too patriotic and care too much for children to find fault with that.  Count me in.  I’m watching right along with my students.