“It’s People, Not Programs…..” by Ebony Hutchinson

Part 1…

I think Debbie Miller had it right…’When we know the theory behind our work, when our practices match our beliefs, and when we clearly articulate what we do and why we do it, people listen.’

Our school has been in quite the quandary as we try to guide teachers back to their ‘why’…all while district mandated programs loom over our heads.  The vision for teaching and learning has always been that we teach kids, and not programs.  Putting in place structures, routines and rituals that promote a love for learning and increased student achievement, have been our foundation of professional learning and practice.  However, since the beginning of the school year, we seem to have lost our way.

We decided to do a school-wide book study on Reading With Meaning, second edition.  Talk about shaking up some mindsets and causing deep reflection!  Each team of teachers were asked to read aloud pages ten and eleven in Debbie Miller’s book.  These ten, simple paragraphs caused many ‘Hmmms’, ‘Amens’, ‘Wows’, among other comments.  She challenges teachers to make certain their teaching path is clear to both them and students, but more importantly to know, and make explicit, their beliefs about teaching and learning.  During our PLCs, we discussed the obligatory ‘philosophy of education’ statement that every teacher was required to write in undergrad…you know, that one no one really remembers writing.  Because, at the time, it was just a paper being turned in to a professor for a grade.  I challenged teams to come up with a set of belief statements about teaching and learning, and aligning them with practices in their classrooms.  (Debbie gives several examples in her chapter!)

We want teachers to see that the practices in their classrooms must match with their beliefs about teaching and learning…if they don’t, we are out of alignment!  Think about what happens when the tires on your car are out of alignment…your tires are pointing in the wrong direction, which will affect your steering, safety, durability of your tires and all the parts that control them.

We’ve already heard reflective teacher conversations about their teaching practices and wanting to align their classroom reality, with their classroom vision.

Let’s see how this teacher homework assignment begins to shift teacher thinking!  We will be spending time ‘defining our beliefs and aligning our practices’.

(Excerpts taken from ‘What Great Teachers Do Differently’ by Todd Whitaker, and ‘Reading With Meaning’ Second Edition by Debbie Miller.)

Ebony Hutchinson is currently the Assistant Principal/Professional Growth and Effectiveness Coach at The Academy for Leadership at Millcreek Elementary in Lexington, Kentucky. Read more from Ebony Hutchinson @ www.coffeeteachwhine.com

When Teachers Care

I am sure when a doctor attempts to hang out with random friends, everyone around them has a personal “on-duty” question or scenario to ask them. Intentionally or unintentionally, I am certain it’s done to all professions; mechanics, beauticians, cooks, etc. However, not all of these professions are entrusted with the consumers most prized possession; their child. With that being the case, I find we (educators) are hit with questions and scenarios time and time again. Some we can answer quickly and others that may leave us slightly stumped. Unfortunately, with over 20 years of education under my belt, here lately I am hearing things that sincerely leave me in awe, and slightly heart-broken.
The most recent one came when I was at a party and a friend asked me to read a response she received from her child’s primary teacher. She showed me an extremely harsh teacher-initiated conversation with mean words underlined and bold print in a hostile manner. Whether we want to admit it or not, in the day of technology, words have taken a non-verbal personality that shows both frustration and adulation. These words and their intent were obviously coarse. I expected the response to mirror that of the teacher, being filled with negative connotations and bold excerpts. However, I was pleasantly surprised! It read:

“I understand that she is growing and must conform to the different levels of expectation at the school. I am not unfamiliar with the frustrations, though my perspective on unacceptable levels of behavior may be coming from the other end of the spectrum.….

Do you have any recommendations for how I can help improve the situation?  I am open to coming in, on your schedule, to discuss in more detail what we can do to address concerns.  I want to be able to support you and make sure that she is meeting both of our expectations in your classroom.

Best Regards,”

As a teacher, I would have been ecstatic to receive a response like this when I am trying to deal with the growth of a student. I would have been encouraging and delighted in my response. Instead, the parent received the following from her child’s teacher (via email):

“Just to be clear, I did not put her on red today. She put herself on red by the choices that she made today.

Yes, I raised my voice to her.  Raising your voice to a child or fussing at them will not damage them. Maybe that is exactly what she needs to hear to get herself together. If she does not get it together, she will not be prepared to go to second grade. It is early in the year, but the lack of concern about her work is alarming.

I would suggest that you discuss with her the importance of listening and following directions and the seriousness of school. This school is very intense with student learning and is fast paced.  It is not for every child as there are high expectations for work, behavior and work/study. Please understand, that we are on the same side and want her to be successful, but she has to start paying attention and do her work instead of playing around.”

So, this is a first grade student in a public school. My son, is a first grader in a public school. When I read this with my educator hat off, I immediately thought how I would have lost all my cereal if she had spoken to me in this manner about the most important thing in my world. I would have went coo coo for Cocoa Puffs, possibly used all my Trix, and made her wish her Lucky Charms she had never met me. She would have used all of her Fruity Pebbles to just be done with me. However, with my educator hat on tight and snug, it disappoints me that over and over again I am hearing the lack of value we put in “caring”.  There is no telling where my life would have drifted to if it was not for the loving and caring nature of MANY teachers in my (public) K-12 schooling.

Nel Nodding is considered one of the premiere educators and researchers in the area of “caring”. She has said over and over that the first job of educators is to “care for our children.” She often spoke of an action called receptive attention. Her approach is to examine how caring is actually experienced (what we might describe as a phenomenological analysis). She asks “what are we like” when we engage in caring encounters? ‘Perhaps the first thing we discover about ourselves’, she continues, ‘is that we are receptive; we are attentive in a special way’ (Noddings 2002: 13). Receptive attention is an essential characteristic of a caring encounter. The carer is open to what the cared-for is saying and might be experiencing and is able to reflect upon it. In today’s world where we often discount the personal, cultural and ethnic experiences of others, society tells us that “they” can either conform or get out of the way. This atrocious thinking is bleeding into every area of society, even the areas that were once the foundational preparatory of interpersonal and intrapersonal ethics and values, such as religious organizations, non-profit groups, and sadly educational institutions of all kinds.


We are that group of people that are not only filled with instructional best practices, culturally responsive teaching strategies, and core social-emotional and leadership strategies, we also care more than others think is wise.
Infed.org discusses the research of Nel Nodding. They go deep into the area of “caring” and the idea of receptive attention.  However, they also speak on the idea of motivational displacement. In other words,

“the carer’s ‘motive energy’ flows towards the ‘cared-for’. The carer thus responds to the cared-for in ways that are, hopefully, helpful. For this to be called ‘caring’ a further step is required – there must also be some recognition on the part of the cared-for that an act of caring has occurred. Caring involves connection between the carer and the cared-for and a degree of reciprocity; that is to say that both gain from the encounter in different ways and both give” (

I find joy in being able to work in the greatest school on the planet. Often times, we are given students that have failed over and over (and over) at other schools. They don’t trust the process. They don’t trust the system. Which means initially, they definitely don’t trust us. But when we stop everything to show them how much they mean to us, their anger and mistrust becomes displaced. When we love on them instead of yell at them; when we positively communicate with parents instead of patronize them; when we assure them that their success is as important to us as our own success, we all agree that “failure” is not an option. We focus on building leaders with the grit to fight through any/all tough situations, knowing you won’t be fighting alone. We work to build a growth mindset and purposeful planning for the future for each and every child. We look at ethnic and cultural differences to address biases, fears, and anxieties and also to promote gifts and talents shared from generation to generation. Why, because we care.
We often hear that we need more minority teachers. We hear we need more bilingual teachers. We need more gender-specific teachers. I am not negating the influence of all the fore-mentioned groups. Each come with a unique strength to provide to the whole. However, we will never have enough minority teachers. We will never have enough bilingual teachers. We will never have enough gender-specific teachers. However, if we all rally together and choose to remember why we got in this profession, we could definitely without question or refute have enough teachers that care.
Let’s change the world, one classroom at a time. Let’s show businessmen, politicians, and the world what happens, WHEN TEACHERS CARE!

Coffee, Teach, Whine

Coffee, Teach, Whine….That’s what we do. All day long. You may say, “Ross, what do you mean?”

Well, coffee is…..  a symbol of connection. A connection that enables the person to appreciate the concept of “you” and “me”, the discovery of “others”. Coffee bridges the gap between two people, or among individuals. Drinking coffee then becomes an event, an opportunity to communicate your thoughts to others. Coffee has created thinkers and brought out the artists and scientists in people by boosting their creativity. Coffee has helped individuals connect with their inner being and discover their true potential. Others have sorted out their personal issues over a cup of coffee, or even made them reflect on their true purpose in life. Coffee represents the connection of what we love, which brings us to that connection of what we truly love…teaching.

Teaching, that’s what I live for. Teaching is literally what I was created to do. I took a class once that asked me to write a “Statement of Teaching”. The process was one that really made me realize why I became a part of such an honorable profession. I live and teach on inspiration.  I look hard for things that might inspire me.  With that said, I also hope to be an inspiration to students, parents, and other educators. I hope every day of my life I make a young person who has been told they will never make it – Believe they can.  I was fortunate to have so many forces work in my behalf.  A lot of them were teachers with vastly different backgrounds from mine.  Mrs. Miles – who made me want to be an artist, Mrs. Jackson – who told me I was the next Langston Hughes, Coach Cox – who made me believe I could run through a brick wall, Mrs. Page – who gave me the desire to hear and play notes that strengthened the fiber of my culture; they all put something in me I desire to give the children daily. I am a teacher simply because I was “taught” to care more by others who didn’t have to. They made me understand it mattered not what my last name was or where I lived.  It only mattered that I was a future success.  Now, I have painted murals for schools and universities.  I have written poetry for numerous people and organizations. I have played sports internationally. My love for music drives me to learn more and more.  All these things are because people who didn’t have to made a choice to care. A close friend gave me a quote that has padded the backbone of my life’s mission statement.
“Care more than others think is wise.
Risk more than others think is safe.
Dream more than others think is practical.
Expect more than others think is possible.”- Cadet Maxim

Teaching is not just a role for me.  It is my life.  Clear and direct, my philosophy is to “Live the Classroom”.  I will not be afraid to fail as long as I try.  I show my humanity.  I will attempt to always be prepared.  I will teach in the classroom, and in the hallway, and the neighborhood, and the street corner.  I will care more than others think is wise, and expect more than others think is possible.

Then comes the whine….or is this misspelled? (Laugh)

The normal definition says that to whine is a whimper or cry. However, there is another form of this word that is viewed as a process of transformation; a result of breaking wholes into parts and integrating parts into wholes. A time of sharing things that are important to you with those that sincerely understand how you feel and what you are passionate about. More than likely, if you are taking the time to read this, I am sure you are passionate about (and whine from time to time about) the same things we do. We love our kids. We love everything about them. We love the parents that let them stay up too late and watch shows they shouldn’t. We love the communities that at times may be filled with crime or violence. We love all they come with and work diligently to assure they are on a trajectory to achieve more than they ever imagined or dreamed.  We love that we are building leaders that will go out and change the world.

So, “Coffee, Teach, Whine” is not only what we do. It is who we are. We hope you share this journey with us.


twitter: @HutchMacRoss

email: coffeeteachwhine@gmail.com

Putting “Love” Back in Lesson Plans

Putting “Love” Back in Lesson Plans

“A nation or a culture cannot endure for long unless it is undergirded by common values such as valor, public spiritedness, respect for others and for the law; it cannot stand unless it is populated by people who will act on the motives superior to their own immediate interest.”
Chuck Colson, Against the Night

I have the greatest job in the world. On a day to day basis, I get to watch phenomenal adults take phenomenal children and do some phenomenal, and at times remarkable things. I believe in accountability. I like the idea of having a rubric to measure where we are and to establish a plan to get to where we need to be. I like using data to drive decisions. I even like learning from exemplars that have proven what can be accomplished. However, as a society, we often times make rubrics, plans, and/or initiatives without measuring the impact of human nature.
In a hope to not bore you, I will not go all the way back to the Coleman Report of 1966, but I will make mention of how my state (Kentucky) took a strong initiative to addressing education reform in 1990. The Kentucky Education Reform Act was a huge movement in challenging the state of education from just teaching lessons, to preparing young people for an innovative world. The six components they used were:
1. Students are able to use basic communication and mathematics skills for purposes and situations they will encounter throughout their lives.
2. Students shall develop their abilities to apply core concepts and principles from mathematics, sciences, arts, humanities, social studies, practical living studies, and vocational studies to what they will encounter throughout their lives.
3. Students shall develop their abilities to become self-sufficient individuals.
4. Students shall develop their abilities to become responsible members of a family, work group, and community, including demonstrating effectiveness in community service.
5. Students shall develop their abilities to think and solve problems in school situations and in a variety of situations they will encounter in life.
6. Students shall develop their abilities to connect and integrate experiences and new knowledge from all subject matter fields with what they have previously learned and build on past learning experiences to acquire new information through various media services.
Obviously, addressing these 6 areas was a MAJOR improvement to our education system. It applied learning to living, and living more productively. In theory, this is one of many great steps to education. There have been many aspects to education that fall under this same categorical change that in a perfect world would cause immediate changes to not only the education system, but the world we live in. Unfortunately, the one thing that research or data does not prepare us for is human nature. In theory, The Civil Rights Act of 1964 should have brought equality to work environments, education, and social justice. If you read it, it addresses everything from education to workforce; disability to sexism. Yet today, all the areas listed bring constant quarrel from local government to popular media. Title IX should have eliminated gender equity issues in all areas of society; education, sports, workforce, etc. Yet, today the struggle for equal pay and the push for fair working environments still exist. We could go on and on, but we would only bring more of a spotlight to the negative. So, why did these areas not work (as well as expected)?
I return to my circle of control, which is my school and my profession. In education, millions and millions of dollars are being spent both by the government and special interest groups in hopes to “fix” the problem; address the constant decline of national/international relevance and the growth of the educational gap between races and socioeconomic differences. We put more money in this pot, which is actually needed, but change is minimal. We put more people in this pot, which is needed, but change is minimal. We run this report. We collect this data. We look at this best practice. ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE NEEDED, BUT THEY ARE BRINGING MINIMAL POSITIVE RESULTS. What is it that we are missing?
Again, I have the greatest job in the world. On a day to day basis, I get to watch phenomenal adults take phenomenal children, and do some phenomenal, and at times remarkable things. Why are they having such an impact? They have chosen to put love back in to their lesson plans. I have heard my mom tell stories about a segregated south filled with poverty and violence. However, when she mentions her education, it is almost like she was talking about her home. She talks about how her mom and dad, hard-working Sharecroppers in northern Mississippi, would invite the teachers and band directors over for homemade biscuits and fresh sausage gravy. I hear the stories of how teachers would walk across the street to have a face to face conversation with a parent about what was happening at school. She would tell me about teachers spending the time, going the extra mile before school and after school when students were struggling. She talked about the custodian at the school being like a father to her. Every aspect of school was filled with love.
Whether we realize it or not, love is the deciding factor for our schools. Teachers are taught to focus on standards, not relationship. Across the country, the mindset that you cannot hug, or “stick to teaching” removes one of the strongest weapons we have to ensuring student growth. Our students are going to do or not do based on how much we show them we truly care about who they are and what they can accomplish. Our parents are going to be a part or not be a part of what we try to do with/for their children based on how much they know we truly care about their most prized possession. If you take a closer look at most of the school transformational models across the country that were sustained over time, school culture is the key component. Another word for school culture is relationship. Schools that build strong relationships with students and families, see amazing results that usually carry over to student achievement. I ask every teacher one question during interviews. “Are you able to look across a desk and have the same goals, aspirations and belief in a student no matter race/ethnicity, religion or gender as you would for your own child?” If the answer is anything but a resounding yes, there is really nothing else to discuss. In developing a school filled with teachers that are able to act on the motives superior to their own immediate interest, we can see children striving on intrinsic motivation, working hard to fulfill a desire to see every child be as successful as they can possibly be.
Every Friday, we draw a name from a bucket filled with students that have had good behavior. The student chosen gets to pick any student in the building and they get to go to lunch with me. A teacher found out that a student she had the year before had never been to a restaurant, not even a fast-food place such as McDonald’s or Wendy’s. She was no longer this child’s teacher, but she has a relationship built on love where she constantly works with this student to be successful, no matter whose class he is in now. With the dedication the school has had for this student, he has progressed amazingly well as an English Language Learner. He and his sibling(s) are confident and secure in their education environment. Because of the care the teachers had for him, they devised a plan to assure his name was drawn to go eat with the principal. Why? Because they love him as their own. The student chosen could have selected anyone in the school. He chose his sister, who also had never been to a restaurant to eat. When they got to the restaurant, they were amazed at the fact that they could choose from so many different foods and that people kept coming to fill their drinks and ask if they needed anything. They were blown away that the plates were left on the table and someone else would come and get them. They were honored that you left the workers a “blessing” (also known as a tip) for choosing to be so helpful. The delight in their eyes and the joy in their voices was a priceless moment I will never forget and a picture will never do justice. Even more amazing is the fact that they know their school loves them. They know their teachers desire them to learn from researched best practices across subject areas. They know their teachers expect them to follow the rules and show positive behavior. Most importantly, they know their teachers and entire school environment loves them and see them as important figures in an ever-changing world, and believe they will make a global impact in that world.
Writing that into a lesson plan takes more than a pen. It takes love. It takes love to look at what students enjoy and build relevant plans based on their interest. It takes love to walk across the street and just hang out in the apartment complex because you know your students will be there. It takes love to create after-school programs based on the social and emotional well-being of your students. It takes love to truly see what will make your students try harder than they would normally, and that will change the overall outcome to education (and the world).

The Power to See a Child for ALL they Are…

The Education Trust (www.edtrust.org), an organization led by Dr. Kati Haycock, provides research and data to strengthen the field of education with the hope of addressing the needs of ALL students. A recent bit of research they have done found this to be true:

WASHINGTON (April 2, 2014) — Many black and Latino students and students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds who enter high school as top academic performers lose important ground as they push toward graduation day. When compared to their high-achieving white or more advantaged peers, these students finish high school, on average, with lower grades, lower AP exam pass rates, and lower SAT/ACT scores, according to a report released by The Education Trust.

The research goes on to discuss many findings. The biggest reason for the drop in performance levels of the student is their performance on college readiness and college attendance measures suggests “they are not always privy to the types of instruction, school culture, and support and guidance from their schools that other high achievers get and that would help them to remain at the top.” This is a huge concern! Basically, their ability to stay at the top is not because they did not continue to produce top level work or strive to achieve the highest standard of learning. They failed to stay at the top because ADULT EDUCATORS failed to provide them with either opportunity or appropriate educational counseling/advising. So the next concern (for me) is, was this act accidental, subconsciously done, or intentional?

From the US Department of Education to many private sector groups, U.S. Public Schools are often compared to other countries. I have the utmost respect for the educational accomplishments of those around the world. I think we all have the ability to learn from one another. Recently in an article from the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/27/best-education-in-the-wor_n_2199795.html), they shared similarities between the countries with the highest scores. They mentioned things like the countries have a high respect for teachers and how these countries educate for the future. However, there is one thing they do not mention at all about these countries. The five countries considered the top in the world for their education systems are China, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Finland. Do you realize what they all have in common? Ethnically, they are all homogenous. In other words, when you walk in to a classroom in these 5 countries, the ethnic/cultural makeup of that classroom will look strikingly similar to other classes throughout the country (not just the town, city, region, or even state). Their teachers will also have similar backgrounds and cultural/ethnic similarities as one another and also to the students. This alone closes a huge divide. Within the United States of America, you have over 15 ethnic groups with at least 1,000,000 individuals represented. This number does not even begin to touch the multiracial groups and their cultural differences. Also, this number doesn’t (fully) take in religion and beliefs. This is strictly ethnic groups. However, according to the 2010 census, over 70% of the United States remains white/Caucasian. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 83% of all teachers are white. So, unlike the top 5 countries, the majority of teachers in the U.S. are dealing with a highly diverse population of students unlike their own ethnic/cultural background.

Whether we admit it or continue to ignore it, understanding ethnic/cultural differences is a powerful thing, especially when it comes to grooming the lives of young people. In a doctoral class I was pushed in a debate by an amazing professor (who happened to be white) I have the utmost respect for. We were discussing the idea of closing the GAP within our educational system. I wanted to show him and discuss every reason why closure of this GAP could be obtained. I had research supported by data that showed how consistent, quality teaching could overcome years of poor instruction. He stated to me, “Do you really think the majority of society is ever going to allow the minority to be equal? The idea of it would make them work that much harder to assure they were seen as superior.” He wasn’t saying this to anger me or belittle me. He was saying this to make me think from a social science perspective. What did anger me though, was the fact that his point was more than valid.

In order to CLOSE the GAP, we have to OPEN minds. We have to do a much better job of intentionally teaching our future teachers to appreciate and celebrate differences. We have to make the understanding of culture and diversity just as much a part of our professional learning as we do technology and content. Our teacher prep programs have to begin analyzing teacher dispositions to assure future educators have the ability to see beyond themselves into the greatness of others. We have to provide our students with an educational setting that not only desires to, but provides opportunities for every child from every background to succeed at the highest level. When we do this, our high-achieving minority students will be in advanced placement courses, be a part of debate teams, and lead science/technology clubs. The opportunities will be recognized and considered for all,……intentionally.

Our teachers, schools and districts cannot possibly work any harder. From Common Core to district and (some) state-wide Common Assessments, rigor is at an all-time high. Districts and states are ramping up the evaluation systems to put teacher and leader effectiveness in overdrive. I am not knocking any of it. As a matter of fact, a lot of it I believe is a step in the right direction. However, what if the difference in a teacher being seen as successful and students scoring high on assessments is merely gaining understanding about the students’ cultural environment? What if the key to students’ understanding is not pushing more information, but understanding how they learn? It is my belief that when we as a country take the time to not only accept the differences of others, but truly appreciate and celebrate those differences, we will excel like never before, and not only in the classroom. Anyone that has sat in an interview with me knows there is one question I ask every person I interview, “Can you sit across the desk of the children in your classroom and have the same high expectations as you would your own child?” I obviously cannot expect them to love them equally as they would a child they created, but I can expect them to believe in the abilities of the child they are chosen to groom for success. When we choose to do that, our high achievers will not just be high achievers in elementary or middle school. They will be high achievers throughout their lives. Even better, we will create so many more high achievers along the way.



Acting on the Motives Superior to our Own Immediate Interest …..

     I live in Frankfort, KY. My residence is a rock’s throw from the Capitol of the state. It is 10:15 on Monday, March 5, 2014. There is literally a march going on less than a block behind me commemorating an important act in history, and the ones that really need to know about it and what it represents will probably never know it ever happened. Which leads me to wonder,….why have an event if only for a symbol of relevance and not to make change?

     We do this every day throughout America. We make token actions as to say “We see you” but we do nothing about it. We do NOTHING about it. Today’s event is to pay tribute to a march that took place in 1964 (see video).  The 1964 march — which included speakers such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier — was called to support a civil-rights act that did not get out of a legislative committee. The key issue then was voting rights and fair housing accommodations in housing and employment. This march will pay tribute to an event that took place 50 years ago. Oh how we forget. We forget that it was roughly within the last fifty years that there were church bombings, voting restrictions, segregation, many hangings, beatings and maltreatment, along with the assassination of Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King. So, we are paying tribute to an event that the US Supreme Court recently overturned?

  • —  Supreme Court invalidated a crucial component of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, ruling that Congress has not taken into account the nation’s racial progress when singling out certain states for federal oversight (June, 2013).
  • Just hours after the ruling, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said his state will move forward with a voter-identification law that had been stopped by a panel of federal judges and will carry out redistricting changes that had been mired in court battles.

You are probably wondering, “Greg, where are you going with this? Don’t you usually discuss educational issues?” The answer is an adamant “Yes”, and this is probably one of the most important educational issues one could learn. Just because we no longer have Asian internment camps, public injustice of Native Americans, hosing and dog chewing of African Americans in the street, does it mean that the interest of ALL individuals are truly recognized and supported? Chuck Colson, author of Against the Night, wrote, “A nation or a culture cannot endure for long unless it is undergirded by common values such as valor, public spiritedness, respect for others and for the law; It cannot stand unless it is populated by people who will act on the motives superior to their own immediate interest.” As a nation, we tend to provide the smoky mirrors of support only to find that often times it is an illusion filled with selfish acts. It is a nice gesture to plan a rally to commemorate a march of a historical event, but it would be even better to put forth ACTION FOR CHANGE to assure the intent of the original event was not in vain. Reality is, a key component of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been invalidated by the Supreme Court, and there are very few that raise this concern, not even during a rally to symbolize such an important event in history.  So, what would our world look like if it was filled with people who were willing to act on the motives superior to their own immediate interest? What if we thought about what was best for all cultures, all nationalities and ethnicities, all socioeconomic groups,……….all human beings. What if?

Along with housing and voting rights, in 1964 segregation was also an area filled with boiling heat and concern. From dismantling Jim Crowe laws to integrating schools, this area was one that all cultures and ethnicities heavily debated and fought for. To assure the government had adequate data to support the integration of public schools and facilities, James Coleman was commissioned to research the possibilities. To provide further insight, I am going to insert previous research. The following 5 paragraphs is an excerpt from a document I published in 2012:

[Begin] On March 4, 1986, the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor subcommittee on elementary, secondary, and vocational education presented H.R. 747; The Effective Schools Development in Education Act of 1985. The committee gave a detailed definition of effective schools stating:

An effective school is orderly and safe. Its principal is not just an administrator. He or she is a leader who takes an interest in the quality of instruction; the mastery of basic and higher order skills is a school’s prime focus. Teachers in effective schools have the expectation that all students will learn. It is a school in which an equal percentage of children from highest and lowest socioeconomic groups achieve at least a minimum level of academic mastery. (p. 1)

Twenty years prior to the Effective Schools Development in Education Act, research was being conducted on the effectiveness of schools within the United States. In 1966 The U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare commissioned James Samuel Coleman to complete The Equality of Educational Opportunity Study, also known as The Coleman Report. This report is widely considered one of the most influential education studies of the 20th century. Its researcher, James S. Coleman, was truly an astute individual. He was the founder of Johns Hopkins Department of Social Relations in 1959. He also co-founded the Center for Social Organization of Schools in 1973 (Clark, 1996). In accordance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Coleman went to work on researching educational equality at a time when society was completely upside down. With data from over 600,000 students and teachers in over 4,000 schools across the United States, his research showed achievement among students was not as much about the quality of the school, but was about the social compositions of the school, the student’s sense of control of his environment and future, the verbal skills of teachers, and the student’s family background (Kiviat, 2000).

The Coleman Report held the nation accountable to its differentiation and asked the question, “Why?” It brought to light the drastic difference in educational latitude between students from different economic backgrounds, races, and/or both. The research from the report showed the impact between both in-school and home/community factors. It considered how each played a great part in the academic growth of students within these communities during a time when people were not emotionally concerned or ethically involved. The Coleman Report presented a thorough outlook of equal educational opportunities to children of different race, color, religion, and national origin. [End]

Basically, Samuel Coleman’s research substantiated the comment made by Chuck Colson. When we really start caring about people and assuring change, we can truly make a difference. So technically, the idea of cultural competence was mentioned in 1964 (see italics above). Now, fifty years later, our voting rights are in question, our schools are still segregated and we still struggle to assure our teachers and education leaders have a true grasp and knowledgeable understanding of the concept of cultural competence. Yes, our schools are still segregated.

Recent research reviewed the 1966 Equality of Educational Opportunity report on the 40th anniversary of its publication and made surprising conclusions (Wisconsin Center for Educational Research, 2007).

This study revealed:

  • —   Similarities between today’s educational gaps and those in 1966. One example was in desegregation.
  • —  Although the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research showed gains in desegregation in the 1980s, these gains were practically reversed in the 1990s. According to some indicators, levels of segregation were nearly as high in 2006 as they were in 1966.
  • —  Although black/white achievement gaps are smaller today than in 1966, they remain substantial (Gamoran & Long, 2006).

Research has also established:

  • —  A large number of school districts in the 1990s experienced re-segregation, diminishing the major gains that were seen from 1954 to the 1980s (Orfield & Eaton, 1997).
  • —  Re-segregation is due in part to growing minority enrollment, but a large part is due to the effects of the court system declaring school districts change from “dual” to “unitary” in status. This means that districts are no longer segregated in any part of the school system.
  • —  With desegregation programs being dismantled, schools have become more segregated within the district (Clotfelter, 2004; Gamoran & An, 2005; Orfield, 2001).
  • —  African-American students make up 17 % of the student population but 34 % are suspended (USDE, 2011c).
  • —  Blacks are three times as likely to be suspended as their White counterparts.
  • —  In reference to students with disabilities, Blacks are also three times as likely to be suspended or four times as likely as Whites to be educated in a correctional facility (USDE, 2011c).

I could go on and on and……….. But there is good news. Cultural Competence builds autonomy within the profession. Autonomy is the one factor that has the power to ameliorate the negative impact of racial mismatch on work attitudes (Renzulli et al., 2011). This makes the claim that despite a teacher’s race or ethnic background, and despite his/her financial differences from the area in which he/she is teaching, if a teacher is given the belief, the freedom, the respect, and the tools to do what he or she is trained to do, the likelihood of him/her being able to create an environment of understanding and compassion and also being happy or “satisfied” at his/her place of employment is heightened tremendously. Cultural Competence focuses on educators putting the interest of the students above anything else. We may have smoking mirrors in society, but we do not have to have smoking mirrors in education. We can train educators to be culturally competent and in turn create future leaders who may just act on the motives superior to their own immediate interest for the betterment of society. We often hear how America is out performed by other countries, specifically Finland, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. However, there are two major things that are never discussed; the creativity allowed within the education system of America and also the cultural make-up of the American classroom. Teachers in the countries listed above primarily deal with a similar culture to their own. In America, the average teacher will deal with many cultures, many ethnicities, many races and languages, along with many socioeconomic backgrounds, all in one classroom. If we REALLY want to close this gap, we have to focus on what James Coleman recognized 50 years ago (see above). We have to create a culture of understanding. We have to show students what is important to them is also important to us. We can’t give students symbols of greatness and never act on them. We have to walk beside them and be willing to ACT on what might be a concern to them. In turn, we will create individuals that will act on the motives superior to their own immediate interest.

I live in Frankfort, KY. My residence is a rock’s throw from the Capitol of the state. It is 12:15 on Monday, March 5, 2014. There is literally a rally going on (post march) less than a block behind me commemorating an important act in history, and the ones that really need to know about it and what it represents will probably never know it ever happened. SO WE MUST TELL THEM! We must make sure our students, whether white, black, Latino, etc; whether straight, gay, lesbian, transgender; whether rich or poor; whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, etc…..We must assure to/in them the importance of their culture and celebrate (not just tolerate) their differences. In doing so, we will help to create a stronger America. For “They Too, Are America (Langston Hughes)”.



I, Too


I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.


I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”



They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.


Because I’m Happy…..

Because I’m Happy…..


What if public education was like a Pharrell song………

It might seem crazy what I’m about to say
Mom school’s here, you can take a break
I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don’t care –excited for today

Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a classroom without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like there is no limit for you


Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down
My level’s too high
Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down
I said (I’m ready to soar)
I said…………………


So,…… what if? What would education look like for our kids if parents, teachers, education leaders and most importantly, students felt this way? Can you imagine the joy we would bring our schools? Our cities? Our states and our nation? I get goose bumps just thinking about it!

Usually, I look at things from a data driven mind-set. This is where in most of my post I contradict the thought(s) you may be having at this moment with data to show all the work needed to be done within education and society. Instead, today I am going to take a moment and reflect back to 1983, Dove Anna McNabb Elementary, in the classroom of Mrs. Jackson. Mrs. Jackson was my 5th grade teacher. If there was a super model teaching in a school, it was her. She appeared to be 5’10” or more (remember I was 10), long and lean with thick blond hair, dressed like a lawyer, and a smile that could light up the heavens. She was beautiful.  The coolest thing of all, she was so much more beautiful internally than her exterior gave her credit for. She was loving and professional all in one. She was teaching at a school that (at the time) serviced 3 housing projects with mainly minority students,…and she made us happy. She started out the day with positive motivational thinking, encouraging us to do amazing things and become amazing human beings. Her dedication to rigorous instruction (especially in reading/writing) was second to none. The thing that truly set her apart was her ability to teach us to celebrate the differences of all and that our failures only taught us to be better people. She was the real deal.

I have a story about this “Inspector Happy” that I have told hundreds of times since my childhood. My family moved into a house on Madison Street in Paducah, KY. It had an attached outhouse that was a mess! Well, being the inquisitive kid I was, I wanted to know what all that stuff was! I had a huge imagination. If you told me you found a treasure, within minutes I would have concocted a story of the island it came from and the pirates who risked their lives for it. So, delving into this “mess” excited my imagination immensely. I was ready to pretend I was looking for a treasure, solving a major case,……SOMETHING! As I get two-feet in to the piles of boxes and bags upon bags of magazines,……I come across a huge stack of magazines only suitable for adult men, if you know what I mean. Well, like most 10-year old boys, I really didn’t think about what the girls inside the magazine looked like. However, I knew the boys in my school would go crazy if they saw these magazines. I just knew tomorrow I would be the coolest boy at McNabb Elementary. So, I took some of the magazines to school. Each morning, my brother Gerald and I would play checkers in the library with a buddy named Mitch. Low and behold, I took a magazine out so Mitch could see what I had. His eyes grew the size of grapefruits! Before breakfast was over, it was all around 5th grade the I had naughty magazines with “Real Women” in them. Before I could get my book bag hung up, the beautiful Mrs. Jackson had me in the hallway. She pulled me aside and began talking to me about the magazines. As a teacher and building principal, I have seen teachers address students bringing inappropriate items to school many times, but never in the way Mrs. Jackson did that day. She  made me look at my actions. She made me aware of how offensive and embarrassing the magazine was to some women. She asked me what I would do if I saw someone I really cared about on those pages. She explained to me that the women in the magazine were someone’s mother, daughter, sister…….. She made the ladies in the magazine “HUMAN” to me. She could have sent me to the office which I had definitely been before. She could have disciplined me physically (back then). She could have done so many things. Instead she made me learn about influential women who had changed the world. She made me learn about the struggles women go through daily within society. She forced me to look at women from different cultures, different backgrounds, different ethnicities and different perspectives of society. She didn’t remind me of my mistake, but she gave me constant reminders of others’ successes. She made me so happy to learn, even while disciplining me.

Having her that year was such an inspiration. We moved a lot growing up. I do not remember much about many of the teachers I had during my elementary years. However, I remember nearly every student in that classroom, how we would change the class around, Mrs. Ragland’s PE class, specific lessons and classroom experiences about that year. Why? Because Mrs. Jackson made us “Happy”.  Pharrell Williams described the students in Mrs. Jackson’s class to a T. As a teacher, a principal, a state education leader, and hopefully one day a future superintendent, I can only pray I can inspire and motivate students the way she did. I can only hope I encourage and prepare teachers to have the confidence and content knowledge she had. I can only believe I will move education to be all that the “Mrs. Jacksons” of the world hoped and dreamed it would one day become.

“Only as high as I reach can I grow
Only as far as I seek can I go
Only as deep as I look can I see
Only as much as I dream can I be”
― Karen Ravn

I propose we make education a “Happy” place for all involved. Whether students are in the height of a lesson or they are dealing with a life lesson, learning should create happiness.

Spread the word.




I live and teach on inspiration. I look hard for things that might inspire me. With that said, I also hope to be an inspiration to students, parents, and other educators (my peers).