Laura K Spencer, Ed.D.

I Do Not Think that Tweet Means What You Think It Means…

If you’ve been on Facebook for any decent amount of time lately, you’ve probably seen this post:

Costco $75 coupon post from Facebook

It seems like every so often, this coupon, or other fake ones from Southwest, Disney, etc., make the rounds online. The scam encourages people to click on a link and follow a few simple steps to claim their $75. Those few simple steps usually include giving out some personal information, such as name, email, phone number, etc. which can then be sold for data mining.

If you’re like me, you dutifully respond to your great-Aunt or long lost friend from 3rd grade to let them know the ad is fake. And yet, it keeps on circulating.

Say No to the Hoax

When we teach digital citizenship, or any digital literacy course, scams like this are often included. In fact, even to get my university email account activated, I had to take a cybersecurity course that include a section on how to detect hoaxes like that Costco coupon.

So why then, on Twitter, do I see so many educators fall prey to similar scams? Not sure what I’m talking about? Have you seen any tweets like these lately?

Last I looked it had 209 responses. Over 200 people freely giving their personal information via Twitter. 120 people retweeted it to encourage others to share their personal info.

To what end? Let’s examine this tweet more closely…

We have a person asking others to help show how far a tweet will go. And yet, it doesn’t disclose the original location. Hmm… how will the 200+ people know how far it’s gone? Guess only the originator gets to know.

But wait, the tweet says it’s for a geography class. Who teaches this class? Again, we don’t know. And if the teacher isn’t included, how is the class following the progress of this tweet? Are they manually reading every response and retweet to create a map?

What if a teacher is looking to connect with another geography class for a Mystery Skype or other collaborative event… can they connect? Nope. Because this tweet has no identifying information.

Just a generic tweet.

The Quest for Tweet Impressions

But don’t be fooled – there is a reason for it. Every time someone responds, or retweets, the author gets elevated in the twitter algorithm. Why is that important? Because the author gets more exposure, and more exposure means more followers… and more followers has potential for more gigs and more income.

Here’s an example of a tweet I made in September, and the analytics from Twitter.

You can see that Twitter is calculating total impressions. Impressions measures the total number of views of a conversation. So even though I only have 6k followers, this one tweet has been seen over 81k times. How? Because every like exposed my tweet to other people in that person’s timeline, and even more exposure for retweets and for replies. From that one tweet, 100 people clicked on my profile – that’s 100 potential new followers for me. Yay me!

Next time you see a tweet, or a post, that asks you to share it with the world, or provide personal data, before you click that “post” button, ask yourself:
Is it truly about contributing to or supporting someone, or is it a promotional scam from the sender?
When’s the last time you saw the tweet author engaging in conversations with followers?
How many tweets are built on personal exposure pushes? Share my tweet. Read my book. Attend my session.
What professional growth or meaning do you get from participating in the request?

And then go look at some cute puppy photos instead.

Postscript (12/10/19)

The author of the tweet I shared here reached out privately to explain that the request was from his wife, and said that I had made a fun project turn nasty. This post wasn’t about him, and wasn’t about being “nasty” (which is an interesting term to use these days for someone questioning a practice, but 🤷🏼‍♀️), but these types of algorithm-playing data requests in general. Although I do find it interesting that the post request has been repeated multiple times (but now with explanation of wife included) … So again, I just ask people to think before replying or sharing or divulging info on all social media platforms.

When I say the term “information literacy” what comes to mind? For most, they think of research … perhaps for an academic paper or maybe to double check the facts during a presidential debate.

But information literacy is sooo much more than that. The United States National Forum on Information Literacy defines information literacy as “… the hyper ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.” Wikipedia

“To know when there is a need for information” is an interesting phrase. In school, students are usually told what information is needed because it’s part of an assignment. But how does that connect to life?

Offer Up

My boyfriend loves to search for deals on Offer Up. Even if it’s nothing we need, he’ll consider purchasing it if the price is right.

So he got pretty excited when he saw this beauty posted for sale.

In class, students are learned to check out the webpage to test validity. When was it posted? Is there an author listed? Is the website a credible source?

Using this criteria, John would have determined that the trailer was credible. The post was new. Contact information and trailer details were included, and Offer Up is a well-known site.

But it wasn’t credible. It was a scam.

How did John know? He decided to do a lateral search. He looked at other items for sale by the seller. Lo and behold, the exact same posting was listed in many major cities. His ability to realize when there is a need for information saved us from being scammed out of a thousand dollars.

Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Street

Children are taught to look both ways before crossing the street. Left, right, left again.. then cross. When checking information and data validity, the same rule applies. Students should be able to recognize when there is a need for information and act accordingly.

It’s not enough to scroll up and down a site, like often taught. There is also a need to look left and right by opening new tabs and seeing what else is being said about the data… or what else is being sold on Offer Up!

I attended a student panel on eSports. Six high schoolers had given up their time to come talk to educators about gaming and eSports leagues.

Within five minutes, the questions had shifted away from students and were directed at the adults. Questions like:

What about the violence? What about the hardware needs? What protocols need to be established?

* Sigh *

It’s fascinating how I read daily on Twitter about the importance of relationships over everything else, and yet these students were so quickly set aside in favor of adult needs. They were there to share their passion, and pretty much got a “yea, but” in response.

I raised my hand to comment.

“There’s a lot of adult talk happening right now, so I want to bring this back to the students. Why game? What compels you to that world?” A few of the people in the room turned and smiled at me, as if to say, “I see what you did there.”

Student responses were powerful. One shared about a rough upbringing, in which money was tight and life wasn’t kind. “Games,” he said, “comforted me when life could not.” A couple others talked about meaningful friendships being developed, and the time they spend enjoying each other’s company.

When finished, the next person called upon started his question with, “I have one for the students but also one for the adults…”

And so it went.


We can’t just talk about student voice, and empowerment, and relationships mattering if we don’t mean it. That panel of students deserve to be heard. They deserve respect. They deserve awe and maybe even a bow for being willing to talk to their fiercest critics, adults, about their passions.

Don’t silence them with your adulting.

“Educators have long complained that end-of-year, “summative” assessments are not useful because the results are not available until fall when their students have moved on to the next grade.”

(Is this the end of end-of-year testing? Education Dive)

Okay… I’m not a high stakes (I mean “end-of-year”) testing fan either, but …

Summative assessments are like a postmortem. It gives you feedback after the fact. And although it can be disaggregated by student, the data isn’t really about each child. It’s about the system. Did the system educate this group, and these sub-groups, of students to the predetermined appropriate level dictated by some guy in a suit in an office building somewhere? If not, then the system needs to evaluate its methods and make adjustments. If it did, then other systems ask for the silver bullet solution to apply to their own system.

It was never set up to be anything different or better than that. It’s not about Martin. It’s about 356 Martins in grade 6, 70 of which are “low-socioeconomic” Martins, 95 of which are “two or more races” Martins, and 64 of which are “English Learner” Martins.

If you’re waiting for a postmortem to decide if you need to cut back on the greasy foods, you’re doing it wrong.

Get Your Check-Ups

If you want useful data to make instructional adjustments, you have to go to the doc for routine check-ups, aka formative assessments. You need blood work, your heart listened to, and maybe a good ol’ knock on the knees to check those reflexes!

Relying on state accountability test data to make modifications is too late – you’re already in the morgue.

In successful learning environments, whether they be a formal classroom or a behind-the-wheel driving lesson, learning is assessed multiple times a day, and adjustments made as needed by the teacher. Madeline Hunter included Checking for Understanding, Guided Practice, and Individual Practice as critical elements of good teaching because they inform the teacher as to appropriate next steps. Formative assessment is not about a multiple choice test given on Tuesdays, but rather an ongoing practice to determine if the instruction is having its intended outcome.

(Hey, doctors say they “practice” medicine… coincidence?)

State tests will never replace this teacher function. Nor should they try.

Now, if only we could reduce the testing window and give teachers more TIME to analyze and discuss their formative and summative assessment data with peers throughout the year.

Now THAT would make a difference!

I spent a year digging deeply into the concept of student agency with teacher teams. We tried to define what agency looked like for a particular grade level, and then how to use that definition to create a classroom culture that provided opportunities for students to develop and exhibit agency.

Lately, as I work on creating learning experiences for virtual learners, I’ve been thinking a lot about the agency work. How do students who aren’t in a classroom develop and exhibit agency? Do they have to already have agency in order to be a successful virtual learner? Is this a chicken or the egg debate?

Executive Function

The other day I stumbled upon a webinar by Sucheta Kamath, founder and CEO of EXQ, called The Back-to-school Brain: Developing Executive Function Skills to Shape a Successful School Year. Kamath dove into the importance of Executive Function skills for students. According to Kamath, executive function is the ability
to serve the self (goals),
done by oneself,
by managing self
…and if one can’t, it’s the ability ask for help, by oneself.

In other words, if an idea is originated by a parent or teacher, than it is the parent or teacher’s executive functioning skills getting worked, and not the student.

This isn’t far off from the definition of student agency. One definition I like states that “Agency refers to the power to make choices. Students with agency are those who feel a high level of responsibility and ownership for their own learning (source).” In order to have that high level of responsibility and ownership, students would need to have executive functioning.

So then…if a teacher is setting up a classroom to provide opportunities for students to develop and exhibit agency, then how much of that opportunity is based on the teacher’s executive functioning skills and agency and how much of it is building the child’s skills? In other words, if the teacher says, “I’m creating this writer’s workshop to build agency” then has the responsibility and ownership been placed on the teacher instead of the student?

Slide with female adult helping young female student.
States: If it's the parent's idea, parents EF skills were used. If it's the teacher's idea, teacher's EF skills were used. If it is the child's idea, child's EF skills are being used.
Slide from Kamath’s presentation. EF = Executive Function

This becomes an important question when considering two important executive functioning skills – to adapt and to shift flexibly. Throughout a school day, students are expected to transition multiple times through a variety of different transition types:

  • leisure to leisure – from lunch to free play, or during station rotation with fun experiences
  • work to leisure – finishing up an assignment before recess or the end of the school day
  • leisure to work – coming back to class after recess, or lunch, or an assembly
  • work to work – shifting from math instruction to science instruction

Disengaging from one experience and then reengaging with a different experience is exhausting, especially when it is a work to work adjustment. Before students can take ownership of learning, they must successfully navigate these transitions.

Kamath recommended that teachers ensure the expectations match the level of skill readiness. It may be unrealistic for a kindergartner to know how to put away math and pull out writing without direction, but it is not unrealistic for a middle school student. So before judging a child for failure to exhibit agency, it may be necessary to provide help in executive functioning,

A tip from Kamath: Use timers to warn about upcoming transitions (not just when time is up!), as well as provide visual reminders. Have different timer sounds for different transition types.

Function Before Agency

So if executive functioning skills must stem from the student’s self management, and self-management is required in order to exhibit responsibility and ownership, which are demonstrations of agency, then it stands to reason that students need to have age-appropriate executive functioning in order to demonstrate agency in learning.

Our Role as Educators

Helping students discover their sense of purpose, and then assisting them in using their executive functioning skills to set them on a course to achieve that purpose, will create a personal drive to learn, and thus lead them to take agency, or ownership and responsibility, of that learning.

My daughter Alex gets a quirky partial smile on her face when she’s highly anxious or nervous. I worried that this would work against her when she was in Navy Boot Camp.

Today’s blog explains why…

When Mike Lawrence invited me to his next #HookEd virtual book club talk, I jumped at the opportunity. The book selected was Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell.

Usually, I would read the book so that my post-it tabs could be put to good use, but I’m glad I chose the audiobook this time. Gladwell, when quoting others throughout the book, included the original audio, so in many ways, the audiobook felt like a really long podcast, in which multiple people were invited to speak. It helped make sense of the dense topic he was wading through.

About the Book

But I have to admit, I didn’t love this book. I’m not even sure I really liked it. I did, however, enjoy the book talk, especially when we discussed the “allusion of asymmetric insight.” As the book explains, asymmetrical insight is:

The conviction that we know others better than they know us—and that we may have insights about them they lack (but not vice versa)—leads us to talk when we would do well to listen and to be less patient than we ought to be when others express the conviction that they are the ones who are being misunderstood or judged unfairly.

To illustrate this point, the book shares a simple experiment in which people are given words in which some letters are replaced with a blank. Participants fill in the blanks to form words. When people analyze the word bank of others, they tend to draw conclusions. For example, if most of the words are glum, they might assume the person is depressed, or negative. And yet, when looking at their own set of words, people often state that there is no correlation to their personality, and that the words are just random.

Mike asked each of the book club participants to also complete the word list. A couple participants even asked a few others to complete it as well. And just like in the book, we all ascribed no meaning to our own list, but could easily find connections in others.

Mike had a good insight into this – he said that, as humans, our brain is constantly looking to solve patterns and find meaning where maybe meaning doesn’t exist. I wonder if it’s a remnant of our cave days… staying alive by judging situations and people quickly.

Human Transparency

Which may explain another problem Gladwell brought up – that of human transparency. Gladwell says that we tend to have a “default to [an assumption of] truth,” meaning we think we know or can read other people’s intentions, good or bad. We base much of this on facial expressions. After all, how hard can it be to recognize anger or fear on someone else’s face?

Turns out it is pretty dang hard. Mismatches between expressions and intentions are common. And if you think all anger looks the same, then the Trobiander tribe in Papau New Guinea will convince you otherwise. To them, a gasping face is a face of anger and threats, and not fear.

And when the perceived facial expression doesn’t align with the emotion we expect to be present, it creates a mismatch. And mismatches can lead to incorrect assumptions about the person in front of us. This can be something as simple as, “That person is always in a bad mood” to a life altering guilty verdict because the defendant doesn’t appear remorseful.

I have been a victim of facial mismatching. RBF, anyone?

A photo of a woman with a perceived scowl, with the headline "What is Resting Bitch Face"

So why am I bothering to write about this?

I was talking to a colleague the other day who said that she had been perceived as a less dedicated teacher

How many times do we, as educators, make assumptions about our students, or their families, (or each other?) that are either based on an allusion of asymmetric insight or a facial-emotional mismatch?

Ever think a parent must not be invested in a child’s education since that parent never shows up to school events, award assemblies, or sign homework logs?

I’ve missed many of my daughters’ events because, as an educator, I had to be at events at the same time as they had theirs.

Ever suspect that a child (or spouse…lol) is lying since s/he is avoiding eye contact when questioned about a situation?

I get anxiety when confronted and look away so I can focus on controlling my own emotions before responding.

Ever assume the class understood your lecture because they are all nodding their heads as you speak?

So many times I’ve been off-task or bored and will nod so as to avoid being discovered.

Ever think a student doesn’t care about the failing grade because they smirk when you bring up the topic?

I circle back to the opening, and my daughter Alex with her quirky smirk…

Know Better, Do Better

Here’s the thing – so much of what we know, or presume to know, is based on assumption. I’ve made a lot of (probably incorrect) assumptions about my students and colleagues and community throughout my career.

Perhaps, then, Gladwell’s book had an impact on me, even though I wasn’t a huge fan.

Gladwell writes: “The thing we want to learn about a stranger is fragile. If we tread carelessly it will crumple under our feet… The right way to talk to strangers is with caution and humility.”

Or as we say in design thinking, empathy. 😌

As some of you know, I took a career break this summer. My first break from working since I was 14 1/2 years old. It was both terrifying and exhilarating. One of the by-products of that break was being able to connect with people I previously felt too busy to connect with, and provide them with any expertise, crazy ideas, or just goofiness they desired.

I spent time in classrooms co-teaching or observing lessons with teacher friends, as well as dispensing tech support and professional trainings for clerical (aka classified in edu world) staff. I also volunteered as a Designer-in-Residence at UCSD, and have been enjoying stretching my brain in the world of academia. In fact, yesterday I sat in a room full of computer science students and listened to Professor Ravi Chugh talk about “Bi-Directional Programming with Direct Manipulation.” I may even be able to fool you into thinking I understood the talk if I throw out acronyms like PL and GUI and terms like output-directed programming 😛.

The Curse of Averageness, or is it?

This opportunity to expand and immerse reinforced a concept I read recently in Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a #@%!: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. Mark writes:

Most of us are pretty average at most things we do. Even if you’re exceptional at one thing, chances are you’re average or below average at most other things.

Mark Manson

Assuming that’s true, then it would make sense to seek out those who may be exceptional in an area in which we are average (or below, gasp!) and improve our own skillset. But the fact of the matter is, we don’t. Instead, we internally judge ourselves for not being up to par because society (aka the media) focuses on the exceptional only, not the average. The best of the best… and the worst of the worst. It sells. Can’t deny it.

It’s crazy. We all have something to offer. Sure, we may not be extraordinary, but we have something dang nabbit! I may never be able to create a PL to GUI bi-directional platform for programmers, but I can certainly help streamline your Gmail madness, or recover a lost password for your (okay my) grandpa’s bank account. And I can certainly ramble on and on about the talks I have listened to, or books I read, in an attempt to provide a nugget of inspiration for someone else. It’s not extraordinary, but it’s me. It’s what I have to offer.

So How May I Be Of Service to You?

So here it is… I started two new ventures to share my averageness with the world, and I hope it brings you some extraordinary value.

YouTube – I have no desire to be a YouTube star, as you’ll see by the low-fidelity quality of my videos. But I am starting to post some tech tips on there. These are tips that illicited “oohs” and “ahhs” when I shared them at a recent professional development. Short, relevant, and (hopefully) applicable.

Podcast – Again, no desire to be a podcast star, but sometimes I have ideas, and I share them with people and then I think, that’s too much energy to try to write in my blog. And then, poof, it’s gone. So after chatting with Paula last night about hackathons and entrepreneurs, I grabbed my phone and recorded my thoughts. And so here’s the first episode. I don’t know how often I’ll post these, but I will. And who knows – maybe you’ll be in the next one. Again, super low fidelity. In fact, episode 1 was recorded in my car sitting in traffic (hands-free of course).

I hope that these ventures in sharing encourage others to share their little bit of above average with others. After all, it’s the community that helps us grow.

And since you’re here, and reading this, do me a favor…leave a comment. Let me know what you’re thinking… what’s your above-averageness that you can share with others? What do you wish I would share with you?

And then, subscribe. Subscribe to this blog, or the YouTube, or the podcast, or all of it. Because those subscriptions show love, and value, and make me feel like maybe being average is a pretty cool feeling to have.

Yesterday I watched as teens came together to use their design thinking and entrepreneurial skills to tackle the subject of human trafficking, which is prevalent in San Diego. They came up with innovative ideas to increase awareness and inspire action.

The day kicked off with a motivational talk by WIT Founder, Sarah Hernholm. She stressed to them how important their voice is to solving big issues in our society. “You’re so much more than your school, your GPA, your AP course load… what matters are your ideas.”

Sarah and Don sharing with teens about the issue of human trafficking.

To provide more context as to how important the issue of human trafficking is to San Diego teens, Don from Saved in America shared with the group how 3,000 teens from San Diego alone were lost within the past year. He shared signs of distress to look for in friends who may be involved in unhealthy relationships, as well. When asked why teens don’t know more about this epidemic, Don responded that it’s a hard conversation for adults to start with teens. One of the teen participants responded, “Just because it’s a hard conversation doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have it.” Another added on, “Teens have to be at the table for issues impacting teens.”

Brainstorming ways to encourage teens to avoid unhealthy relationships.

And at the table they were!

Don’s talk lit a fire in the teens. Split into smaller groups, they brainstormed solutions to:
– Ensure teens know the Human Trafficking Hotline Phone Number
– Provide education to teens on healthy vs unhealthy relationships
– Encourage parents to engage in conversations about human trafficking with their teen
– Use social media to increase awareness of human trafficking amongst teens

Sorting ideas on how to encourage parents to engage in conversations with their teens about human trafficking and unhealthy relationships.

Design Thinking the Challenge Presented

Empathizing. Defining. Ideating. Prototyping. Testing and Refining. Teens spent six hours developing their proposed solution to one of the problems. Unlike past WIT Hackathons, this year the teens did not have an adult coach assigned to them. Instead they were trusted to use the design thinking process on their own, seek out feedback or assistance when needed, and most importantly, have their voices heard.

Students had not met prior to the day, but by the end, they were family.

A Bias Towards Action

It was an honor to coach them, and a thrill to listen to their pitches. Two groups tapped in to the power of Instagram to get their message out to peers. One group connected with local and national businesses to ask that the hotline be printed on their product packaging. We had a group developing curriculum for middle and high school teachers, and another group developing signage for public transportation stops and gas stations.

Hotline Heroes is partnering with local and national companies to add the hotline to product packaging.

Each proposal was unique, and their pitches were on point. Just like Shark Tank, students tackled all the key components of a pitch: Why, How, What, Target Market, Competition, Unique Selling Proposition, and Financials. They were scored on how well they met the challenge; their ability to address all the components; their presentation skills; the feasibility of their solution; and their adherence to the time allocation.

This video uses a snack analogy to discuss healthy vs unhealthy relationships

Change Agents

Although three groups won a monetary award, the reality is that all of the teens were winners. They came together, used empathy to tackle a tough issue, and spread the word about an issue that affects their lives. These kids are world changers!

If you haven’t heard of WIT, check it out. Hackathons and college credit courses are available for all San Diego County high school students. It’s also available in Austin, TX and New York City. And hey, if it’s not in your town (yet), reach out to Sarah and make it happen!

Got Consent? These Kinders Do!

When Sandy invited me into her kindergarten classroom to co-teach an iPad lesson, I thought it’d be a fun opportunity to not only visit a friend, but to engage with some littles.

Let me just start by saying, I could never teach kindergarten. Kinder teachers have such a unique job – they are not only teaching academic standards, but they’re teaching how to do school, how to be a friend, how to eat a meal without adult help, and so many other essential life skills. All while cutting out circles, singing songs to gather student attention, and blowing noses of sick students.

I was exhausted and I only helped out for an hour!

Life Lessons

What stood out to me the most from this morning, though, was how Sandy was teaching students about consent. When we talk about teaching consent, most people equate it to sexual consent and they bristle at the idea of it being taught in school.

But consent is so much more than that. A Harvard University newsletter article by Grace Tatter defined consent as “the notion that we should respect one another’s boundaries, in order to be safe, preserve dignity, and build healthy relationships.”

Teacher taking a photo of a student with an iPad
Sandy modeling how to take a good photo of a friend.

Today, the classroom lesson was focused on taking good photos with the iPad. The life lesson, however, was about consent. Sure, students learned how to get in closer to the subject, and how to take a non-blurry photo. But more importantly, they learned to ask permission before taking the photo.

Sandy: What do we say before we take a photo?
Class: May I please take your photo?

Sandy: And what if the person says no? Is that okay?
Class: Yes, it’s okay to say “No thank you.”

As the students practiced their iPad photo taking skills, I watched them practice using consent language. Not only were they asking for permission to take the photo, but they were asking if the photo was acceptable. These are huge life skills, and they’re starting at age five.

When I said my goodbyes to the class, Sandy once again modeled consent.

Sandy: Miss Laura, is it okay if I hug you goodbye?
Me: Yes it is.

What a powerful lesson these students are learning. Social-emotional learning takes on many forms, and for Sandy’s class, it’s just a natural part of their kindergarten day.

You’re a rock star Sandy!

This post is also posted on my Cagefree Thinking website. Sign up to receive email notifications when I post an entry, or follow me via WordPress!

A young flamingo has to learn how to stand on one leg.

And like the flamingo, our students need to learn executive functioning skills for school success. We take for granted that they should know how:

to study,

to stay organized,

to plan their time efficiently,

to find a learning buddy,

to pick out a good book to read,

to ask for help when needed,

to respect each other.

If a student is not finding success in the classroom, let’s stop blaming them and instead help them develop the skills they may still need.

My boyfriend and I have very different communication styles, especially when it comes to sharing our feelings. He’s just not the kind of guy who will bring me flowers, or leave me notes or proclaim his love for the world to hear.

So when we decided to pull weeds at about 7pm last night, the last thing I expected was this:

Him: “Hey Google, play ‘Tell Laura I Love Her.'”

Me: 😍

…And This Has to Do with Education How?

So why tell you this story when this blog is about education?

Because I know that, if relationship skills were to be assessed in school, my boyfriend probably wouldn’t get top scores. In fact, he may even be labeled as “at risk” or some other label equally obnoxious.

We have this narrow view in education of what success is, and how we measure it, and honestly, our measures seem to lack correlation to what success means in life. Not sure what I mean by that? Check out The Valedictorians Project.

Or read about Basil’s experiences in her piece, “Dear School, Eff Your F.”

Your education factory assembles each student in the same order, first this piece then the next. Units are assessed as they move down the line; the standards are high with little room for deviation. Those who fail inspection are stalled in production, the ones who pass are given certificates and sent out to market.

“Dear School, Eff Your ‘F’” by Anastasia Basil

I’m hopeful that we’ll one day get to the place where people aren’t measured against some arbitrary “norm” but instead are celebrated for their own skills and talents. Because hey, he may not buy me flowers, but my boyfriend brings me joy, and that’s a true measure of success.

P.S. If you don’t know the song, it’s a 1960 (somewhat tragic) love song by Ray Peterson.

Last week, I asked a teacher I admire if she wanted to share some of her passions with my blog readers. Her answer made me sad. She said she didn’t feel like she had done anything worth sharing this year – new grade level, new school, etc. had all left her feeling like she was less than best.

I wasn’t sure how best to respond. I mean, she’s amazing. Why doesn’t she see that? Then, a principal forwarded me an eloquent article about the virtues of being average in school. And this passage struck a nerve:

School is the only place in the world where you’re expected to excel at everything, and all at the same time. In real life, you’ll excel at what you do best and let others excel at what they do best. 

Let’s Hear It For the Average Child by Margaret Renkl

How fortunate that many of our students, once graduated, will become part of this “real life” in which they can feel valued for that in which they excel, and feel like they don’t have to excel in everything else.
(I could start a side rant about how students should feel that way every single day, but that’s a different post for a different day…)

But what happens to the teachers who live the majority of their life, from age four or five to retirement, devoid of this “real life” experience?

What happens to people who feel the pressure every single day to excel at everything?

How can teachers feel valued for what they are doing?

How can site and district leaders support teachers, not only in their professional growth, but also for the skills and passion they possess and share with students already?

How can we build an inclusive culture of camaraderie and joy (and LOVE!) so that teachers aren’t burned out with the constant demand to learn more, do more, excel more?

Because the truth of the situation is that the teacher I asked to blog IS amazing, and she excels at inspiring students to learn and question and grow every day. But if her measurement of worthiness is this unreasonable expectation of excellence in everything, then the system surely has failed her as much as it has failed the ‘average’ student.