The HOPE Line is Open and Ready for Business, Honoring One Person’s Experience at a Time

I always tell people I have the best job in the world.   I have autonomy.  I am respected to make sound decisions based on the needs of my students.  I have choice and a voice that I am encouraged to use.   I have time to create lessons, facilitate discussions, envision graduate courses and then execute them with amazing professionals.  I am trusted.  This gives me hope.


I wish every teaching professional could say the same thing.  My work is centered in the idea that we learn by doing and so whatever I am teaching or doing I engage in myself first be that a reading assignment, a writing assignment or something that I will be teaching to students.

Ultimately it all comes down to purpose: the why and the how of the whole thing.  And yet I find myself fighting for sites in which to work.  Moving upstream against a current that has such great momentum that is would seem there is no hope.  Imagine that not many years ago our Learning Through Teaching graduate level course were in over 30 schools in the area from New Hampshire, Massachusetts  and up into Maine.  We had a great many talented  consultants and our outreach was far and wide.

Our model was “in vogue” as it empowered teachers and brought them together within their own schools for professional reading, writing and dialogue.  Slowly over the years, the demand has not lessened but the funding has dried up.  The professional development of our teachers is one of the last things on a long list of budget demands.


But there is always hope.  In fact I saw it in my class just last week.  This group is a unique group of educators who meet monthly to discuss a common professional reading in my home.  They receive graduate credit for their work, but more than that they receive support in a way that they cannot find elsewhere.

One teacher actually commented that she found herself wanting to be careful in talking with other teachers at her school about our course because they did not have the same network of support.  So on the one hand she wants to rave about what is a critical part of her ongoing professional development, but on the other hand she feels she cannot.

Another teacher was literally brought to tears as she expressed how lonely and isolated she was feeling in her own classroom and frustrated with the lack of thinking and keeping students in mind.


A MUST read for all.

But, these teachers, after reading Readicide by Kelly Gallagher, immediately shifted their focus on reading to include the love of reading and celebrating that with students.   And you might think, really?  Isn’t that just a given?  And the answer is not anymore!!  This shift brought them back to themselves and who they know they are as educators.  And their students responded in kind coming into school proclaiming,

“I finished my book last night and it was amazing!!  What should I read next?”  And we, together as a group, celebrated these moments.

And in that one line there is hope!  Can you see it?  Just a glimmer?  Honoring One Person’s Experience. Let’s follow that light.  We are strong.  We know what is best for our students and if we can ignite a sense of readership, writership and thinkership among them then we are slowly creating a new genre of students in the name of those who care, those who want to think, those who want to read, those who want to write and will…


And just like those Bostonians who ran towards the disaster and renewed our faith in human kind, let’s do the same for education kind.  So in this spirit please share your “one liners” of HOPE from your students, administrators, parents whatever.  What is being said to keep the hope alive?   The HOPE Line is open and ready for business, Honoring One Person’s Experience at a time.  What is yours?

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All in Favor of Free Range Children, Say Bok!

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. ~ Dalai Lama

Last year my sister ordered 16 baby chicks in the mail so that she could have her own eggs and know exactly where they came from.  Her goal: to raise happy, healthy free range chickens fed the top of the line organic food.  No antibiotics or cheap genetically modified corn products for these chickens au natural!

She loves her chickens.  When they first graduated from the warmly lit crate in the house to the coop she would go daily for “play time”, sit with them and hold them and even talk to them.  Her thinking… happy, loved chickens will eventually produce happy healthy eggs.  Can you say “crazy chicken lady?”  But truly what she was doing really made so much sense!!  Crazy or not!


Sister Lisa with one of her “Goldies”!

There are more and more people ordering baby chicks to free range them.  There are many movements to eat locally and small farms seem to be sprouting up everywhere you look.  We are urged to get back to our roots and consider where our food comes from.  We know that GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) are taking over all of our food sources.  These modifications involve the mutation, insertion or deletion of genes to produce something more quickly, more efficiently and to be adverse to pests or to improve the shelf life of a particular food.  What is happening is we are creating foods that our bodies do not recognize and that we cannot process.  The results are out there.  Just look around and see more obesity than ever in history.  We are farming with our heads and forgetting our hearts and we are hurting our food sources and ultimately ourselves.  So the movement is to move closer to home, closer to the heart.

Free ranging is defined where animals are ”permitted to graze or forage rather than being confined to a feedlot.”  And if you have not seen those feedlots then it is well worth your while to check them out.  There are various documentaries that show how these poor chickens are raised to mass-produce and it is completely inhumane.  (See King Corn, Farmageddon or Food Fight)


And I would argue here that what we are doing to our kids in schools is equally inhumane.  The idea of kids mass-producing great numbers on sterile tests is so far away from why we are here on this earth and what really matters.  It is education without heart.  It is education without soul.  It is education without wonder, curiosity and surprise.  It is all about the brain.  We are intellectualizing ourselves right out of ourselves. We need heart AND mind!!

While I am a proponent of competition in some areas of life, this notion of competing has become the GMO’s of education. Performance is all that is looked at and yet what do we need for our kids to perform?  They need just what the chickens do!  They need opportunities to be free and think and make decisions and to fail and ultimately they need their own version of “the crazy chicken lady”.  Someone who is so dedicated to their needs and the raise them as well-rounded and happy chickens!!  There are so many crazy chicken ladies (and men) out there dying to do their jobs but are less and less able to do so.  We are hurting our kids and our teachers and everyone else involved with the sole purpose of production.  It is a business model that is being taken to the extreme.


If all we ask of our students is to perform then we are going to crack and break them one precious egg at a time.  And dare I even say, what happens when they don’t perform?  Will we then consider genetically modifying them to fit in?  Call me crazy, but I think this has already begun with the increase of kids who are medicated in our schools for ADD and the likes.  Why?  So that they will conform to the feedlot of corporate education.


Hmmmm…and so I imagine a world of free -range children…where schools are a place where hearts and minds  are permitted to graze and explore instead of being confined to the feedlot of corporate America.  What a beautiful fantasy this is.  Can you even imagine?

It makes me think of my dear friend and colleague, Louise, who tells a great story about teaching preschool in the 70’s in northern New Hampshire.  On any given day she and her co- teachers might decide it was a nice day for a field trip.  So they would load up all the kids in the VW bus, leave a note on the door for parents as to their whereabouts and head off to the local mountain or lakeside or whatever their fancy.  For me this is the epitome of free range education and something that would never happen today.

The corporate takeover in education is daunting.  The more people and parents and friends and anyone  I talk to outside of education don’t even know what is going on.  Even those of us in education are often left helpless with the enormity of the situation and just how enmeshed it all is. I just want to say BOK in favor of free range children and baulk at these takeovers and say enough is enough.   Will you Bok with me?  Just say Bok!!

I love eating the eggs from my sister’s chickens.  There is something so perfect about it…I mean even my son when he had his first taste of these eggs exclaimed, “these are the best eggs in the world!!”  And they are.  They are not like supermarket eggs.  They are all different shapes and sizes and the color of them is glorious.  A deep orange that screams with great energy, love and hope!

I know, I know…all that in just one egg!  But you know…it is all in that one egg.  The love, nurturing, heart, soul and respect for the production of that egg that goes on to nurture those who eat it and so on.  The same can be said of taking care of and nurturing our kids in schools…one egg at a time. Bok Bok!!

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt  “~ Dalai Lama

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