A Note to my Friends, Colleagues, and acquaintances on Twitter

Recently, a couple of you have asked if I am okay, as I have not been active on Twitter in recent months. Thank you for that. As I announced at the beginning of what proved to be several months of silence, I have been writing a book with a working title The Hawkins Model©: Education Reimagined, One Success at a Time. I am excited to announce I am nearing completion.

I would also like to report that, in just a few weeks, I will be contacting many of you via Twitter’s personal messaging, seeking readers to give me a pre-submission review of the work. Let me clarify, I am not asking any of you to edit the work, although I understand, for many educators, grammatical errors tend to jump out at you.  I have someone to do the editing for me. I will be grateful for any feedback you might choose to provide with respect to content.

My objective is to seek an agent and/or traditional publisher, rather than go the self-publishing route.

I am also hoping to be able to provide prospective agents and publishers with a list of educators who judge the book to be deserving of an audience. Endorsements are, of course, wonderful, but only if you are motivated to provide one. 

So, please, until you hear from me, give my request some thought, as time will be of the essence.

The following is a brief excerpt:

Assertions, Assumptions, and the Questions they Raise

All logical constructs, whether a point of view, an organization, process, or software application are constructed on a logical foundation comprised of assumptions and assertions of which we must be aware. We believe our assertions, assumptions, and the questions they raise are bridges to understanding. There are many on which this book and education model are founded, the most important of which are:

  • Every child can learn. The brain of a child is programmed to soak up the world and to learn as much as it can, at its own best pace within the context of its unique genetic potential and the environment in which it finds itself.
  • It is not that some kids cannot learn rather they have not yet learned.
  • Street smart is the same as any other “smart.”
  • The rules of the American education process, effectively if not formally, limit students to a specific amount of time to learn. For many, it is not enough.
  • Once we learn something, how long it took becomes inconsequential.
  • It is not the job of educators to decide what our students will become; rather it is to help children build a solid foundation from which they will have choices.
  • We do not expect all students to grow up to become doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, teachers, journalists, accountants, etc. because society has many roles to cast.
  • Tradespersons who fix our plumbing; the electrical wiring of our buildings; who pour concrete for our roads and highways; who lay bricks and beams for the structures we build; who grow, prepare, and serve the food we eat; and who help groom us add value to our lives as do those employed in many other jobs.
  • Every job well done adds beauty and value to the world.
  • All students can get the equivalent of “As” and “Bs.”
  • Some will say not all can be “A” students. We choose to believe they can achieve mastery over whatever they need to learn to get where they need to go,
  • We must answer the question “is it better to learn many things badly, or fewer things well?”
  • Whatever and however much our students are learning—and when and wherever—we want their outcomes to be successful, encouraging, and esteem-building.
  • What we are doing as we teach our students, over thirteen years of school, is help them lay a foundation for whatever futures they choose for themselves.
  • That foundation must be academic, emotional, moral, and even spiritual in an ecumenical way. Everything we learn helps reveal the magnificence of the universe that has been created for us and over which we have the responsibility of stewardship.
  • Every citizen must possess a sufficient understanding of the world in which they live to make thoughtful decisions about important issues and understand that everything and everyone of us is interdependent.
  • Success is neither an achievement nor a destination, it is a process. We must each learn how to create success for ourselves and learning how to master the process of success requires students to experience it for themselves.
  • All success is compounding, and student must have the opportunity to celebrate each success.
  • Success is one of the most powerful motivational forces in life. When people experience success, they always want more.
  • Human beings, including children, are blessed with an extraordinary ability to overcome hardship, suffering, and disappointment, provided they have a little help from at least one other human being who cares about and believes in them.
  • Everything of value in life, including life itself, is a function of the quality of our relationships with other human beings. Similarly, a quality education is a function of a student’s relationship with his or her teachers.
  • Blaming teachers for the problems in education is like blaming soldiers for the wars they are asked to fight.
  • For all of us, the quality of work we do is a function of the quality of the tools and resources at our disposal. We all know how difficult it is to do a job without the proper tools. We must understand the education process in our schools is nothing more than a sophisticated tool for teaching and learning.
  • All organizations and processes are structured to produce the outcomes they get.
  • When a process routinely produces unacceptable outcomes no matter how hard people work or how qualified they are, that process is flawed and must be replaced or reimagined. Asking people to work harder is rarely enough.
  • It is only when we accept responsibility for our problems that we begin to acquire the power to solve them.
  • The blame game is a lose/lose scenario. Our time must be devoted to viewing every disappointing or unacceptable outcome as a learning opportunity.
  • The value of all material things in life is a function of their utility to people.
  • Mission and purpose must never be sacrificed for operational efficiency or convenience.
  • Many believe our education system is the cause of poverty when, in fact, the phenomena are interdependent, creating a chicken versus the egg conundrum.
  • All human beings need affirmation. Children and their teachers need it often.
  • There is no such thing as a perfect organization, system, or process. Excellence requires the ability to adapt to the peculiar and the unexpected.
  • It is on education that the future of our children depends, and it is on our children the future of our society will depend.

Throughout The Hawkins Model©: Education Reimagined, One Success at a Time, these and other assertions and assumptions will influence everything you read and every solution I offer.

The Hawkins Model@, education model, education, brains of children, time to learn, job of educators, students, students are learning, create success, success, quality of our relationships, quality education, Blaming teachers, education process, education process in our schools, teaching and learning, Mission and purpose, education system

A Quality Education Doesn’t Just Happen!

A quality education doesn’t just happen because we have established a system of education, have built schools in our communities, everywhere, and have invited all to come. It happens only because teachers–individual men and women–give their hearts and souls to help as many girls and boys as possible, learn as much as they are able in an education process that is neither tasked, structured, nor resourced to meet the needs of every child, no matter who they are or from whence they come.

            Our teachers are heroes and blaming them for the problems in our schools is like blaming soldiers for the wars they are asked to fight. If we want every child to become the best version of themselves, we must give our teachers and students an education model designed to adapt to the unique needs of students rather than seek conformance and compliance. See The Hawkins Model© to learn how this can be done.

Be thankful for the teachers who have made a difference in your life.

A Bases-Loaded Lesson in Leadership

One of the essential characteristics of positive leaders is a non-negotiable commitment to mission and purpose. It is something we all know and yet leaders lose sight of mission and purpose almost as a matter of routine. When we begin to lose sight of our mission, we begin to make decisions that are counter-productive and serve secondary agendas rather than our  primary mission and purpose. Inevitably, outcomes are adversely affected.  What follows is a true story and example of how easy it is to lose focus on purpose.

I am a passionate baseball fan.  I love to watch baseball and coach baseball and, when I was young, I loved to play the game.  Some of my most memorable lessons in positive leadership were learned while coaching Little League Baseball®.

One season, during the all-star tournament, which is the path to Williamsport and the Little League Baseball® World Series, I was honored to manage our league’s all-star team of thirteen 12-year-old ball players. While we did not advance beyond our district tournament, it was a special opportunity and memory.

While scouting  a game that would determine our next opponent,  I observed another league’s manager, a fine gentleman I am sure,  get so wrapped up in the heat of competition that he lost focus on his purpose.  In an elimination game, his team was trailing by a run in the last inning and the tying and winning runs were on base with two outs.  At bat was his team’s best hitter. 

I was standing at the end of the dugout where I could hear every word. The coach called his player over, a strapping twelve-year old, and said, “We need you buddy!  It’s all up to you!  Don’t let us down, the whole team is counting on you!”

I was astonished to hear those words come out of a coach’s mouth in any kind of youth sports’ activity.

The young man walked to the plate full of determination and proceeded to pop up to end the game—an exciting victory for the other team.  The 12-year-old batter walked back to the dugout with his head hanging.  His manager put his arm around the boy and said, “Forget it!  You did your best.”

But, of course, it was too late.  As his coach’s had directed, the boy carried the burden of success or failure for his team, and he had let them down. It was the kind of outcome that may be the only thing that young man will remember from what was a stellar baseball season. In his mind, in the most important at-bat of the year, he was a failure and a loser.  All I could do was shake my head.  Little did I know I would be confronted with a similar opportunity.

My team played the next evening and we went into the bottom of the last inning trailing by two runs.  Our best hitter was due at the plate, there were two outs, and the bases were loaded. 

The words that popped up into my head were, “We need you buddy!  It’s all up to you!  Don’t let us down, the whole team is counting on you.” Fortunately, I realized what I was thinking.  I shook myself by the scruff of my neck and was thankful I had an opportunity to learn from another leader’s mistake. 

When I called my best hitter over for a quick pep talk, my approach was different from what I witnessed  twenty-four hours earlier. I put my hands on his shoulders and smiled at him.

“This is the at-bat you’ve been dreaming about for as long as you can remember. I want you to relax and take a deep breath.” I gave his shoulders a playful shake and continued, “Now, enjoy this moment! Give it your best effort and whatever happens, I’m proud of you.”

My story has a different ending, as well.  The young boy responded with a grand slam home run for a dramatic win—the kind of which dreams are made.

Did my message make a difference?  You may draw your own conclusions, but I believe it did.  It helped the child approach the situation as an opportunity to succeed using his talents and abilities, and all the hours he had devoted to practice.  When we eliminate the fear of failure, even when it is a possible outcome, children and adults are able to give their best effort.

The most important lesson has to do with one’s focus on one’s mission.  My purpose was not to win baseball games rather to provide young boys and girls with an opportunity to learn to play the game of baseball; to experience the thrill of competition and the value of teamwork; and, to develop their athletic potential and self-discipline.  My job was to teach my players to give their best effort without fear of failure.  This particular game was just one of what will be a life time of opportunities for this boy to excel at something he loves to do. I was only an instrument.

Because of his success, I was able to share the celebration of it. Had the outcome been different, my job would have been to encourage him to keep striving, as nobody “bats a thousand.” As an instructor in another sport once said, “if we are not falling down once-in-a-while we are not really skiing.”

My counterpart had been focused on his own needs, his own desire to win a game.  On this one occasion he viewed the child as an instrument of his own objectives. It was not that his desire to win was inappropriate rather that it was not his job. It was one example of the many secondary agendas that so often distracts us from our primary purpose.

In education, where our stated purpose is to help kids learn, a secondary agenda is when, to achieve operational efficiency,  we attach more importance to keeping pace with an arbitrary calendar or schedule than we do to giving students the time they need to learn each lesson.

A Lesson in Positive Leadership Prompted by a Valued Colleague

In a recent Tweet, our colleague, Amy Fast, @fastcrayon wrote:

“I too often take for granted that people who consistently demonstrate excellence need and deserve feedback too. . . . We need to take care of our people.”

This is an important lesson in so many ways. We all need affirmation. It is important that we feel appreciated. We need to believe the work we do and the effort we make is observed and valued. Many managers are so focused on looking for things people do wrong and need to improve upon they rarely give positive feedback, even to the best people in their organization.  

During the early years of my leadership and organizational development consulting career, I had an opportunity to witness an extreme example of a boss whose total focus was on the things his people did badly. I included this anecdote in a book on Positive Leadership I wrote and self-published in 1980. I used the book as resource material in the many Positive Leadership seminars I gave to the employees of my own organizations, of many of my consulting clients, as well as through the Continuing Education Program of Indiana-Purdue University of Fort Wayne (Now Purdue University of Fort Wayne).. The book was updated and republished in 2013 with the title, The Difference Is You: Power through Positive Leadership[i],.

Here is the excerpt about an owner, who started his business out of his garage and turned it into a multi-million-dollar company:

“I spent some time with the owner of a small but profitable company with only seven employees.  The owner was constantly complaining about how difficult it was to get good help.

“No one wants to work anymore!” he cried. “They don’t appreciate what a good thing they have, working here.”

He wore his frustration out where everyone could see, which caused a great deal of consternation among his people.

“I can do every job in the company,” he boasted, “better than my people!”

“I see,” was my reply and then I asked, “How much are you paying these people?”

“Probably close to $200,000 per year,” he responded, in shock as if he had seen that number for the first time. “My God!” he continued, “You would think for that kind of money I could buy some decent help.”

I thought for a moment and then responded, “I think I’ve got a simple solution for you.  In fact, it’s so simple I’m surprised you haven’t thought of it yourself.”

He didn’t say anything right away but just looked at me.  Finally, he asked, “How much is this going to cost me?”

“Well, it’s such a simple solution I am almost embarrassed to charge you anything at all.   But, since I would soon go broke if I gave away free advice, why don’t I bill you for one hour of my time and we will call it even.”

My client was skeptical, but we shook hands on the deal. “Okay!  What is this simple solution?”

“Just get rid of all of your staff,” I announced, “and do all the work yourself!  You do it better anyway and then you can pocket the $200,000 in payroll costs every year.  Heck, in a few years you’ll be able to retire on the money you save.”

Needless to say, my client was not particularly happy with my suggestion and he, “damn sure wasn’t going to pay me for a ridiculous piece of advice like that.”

When he finally calmed down, we discussed his attitudes at some length because it was his attitude that was the problem.  He finally acknowledged that he could not be everywhere at once or do all the jobs at the same time and, in fact, after much gnashing of teeth, he admitted that he needed his people.  He acknowledged that, in spite of all his knowledge and expertise, he was incapable of running his business by himself.

As we talked about his attitudes, he began to see that the message he conveyed, daily, to his people was that they should be grateful for their jobs and to him for giving them jobs.  He routinely conveyed his lack of appreciation for them and his lack of trust and respect for them.  Not once had it occurred to him to thank his people or tell them how important their contributions were to the success of his business.”

 

Sadly, giving formal performance assessments in many businesses and other employment environments has devolved into a grading process that documents success or lack thereof, not unlike the grades we give in our schools and classrooms. When giving performance assessments to adults in the workplace, or to children in school,  the focus should be on the two-sided practice of recognizing and celebrating excellence, on the one hand, and identifying learning and development opportunities, on the other. If our focus is on helping people at work or children in school do the best job of which they are capable, master their jobs or subject matter, and learn how to create success for themselves, it is imperative that we do both.


[i] Hawkins, Mel, The Difference is You: Power Through Positive Leadership, Createspace (an Amazon format), 2013

How do we know we are making a difference?

When I was a supervisor in a juvenile probation department, one of my probation officers sought my advice. She said one of her probationers was due in a few minutes. He was a fourteen-year-old boy. She told me he never talks to her other than an occasional “Yeah”, “hu-huh!” or “nuh-huh!“

“Sometimes, all he does is shrug his shoulders or shake his head. I don’t know what I should do.  I know I’m not getting through to him.”

“Has he been in any trouble? How often does he skip his appointments?” I asked.

“Not once to both questions. I’ve seen him six or seven times, here, not counting court hearings, and twice at his home when I met with his mother. There have been no calls from the school but I don’t know about his grades. He’s not yet received a report card.””

“Well, that’s something,” I responded. “What do you say to him?”

“I ask how things are going at home, how his mom is doing, and how things are going at school or with his friends. Other than encouragement to do his best at school and stay out of trouble, most of the time I just sit there with a dumb smile on my face.”

I didn’t know what to tell her. I suggested she just keep doing what she had been doing and keep smiling. 

“Most of the time, ” I said, “we never know whether what we say or do is making a difference in a kid’s life. Other than his mother, and hopefully a teacher, we may be the only adult who cares what he’s doing. And there’s no such thing as a dumb smile. Not when you’re smiling at a kid.”

She returned to her office, which was right across the hall from mine. A few minutes later the kid arrived and I watched as she greeted him and shut her door. 

After a while, her door opened and the young man left, heading toward the lobby. N____ left just seconds later. As she turned the other way, she looked at me, shook her head and gave me a weak smile.

A moment later, I saw the kid return, peak into her office, and put a Tootsie Roll on the empty seat of her chair. Then he was gone.

When N____ returned, she picked up the piece of candy and turned to look at me with raised eyebrows.

“He snuck back while you were gone,” I said, smiling. “You are making a difference. Keep doing what you’ve been doing!”

A New School Year with Unprecedented Challenges!

Never have we begun a new school year with as much enthusiasm as students are bringing to the first day of this 2021/22 school year. Even man of the children who have traditionally dreaded the return to school look forward to seeing friends, favorite teachers, and a return to some semblance of normalcy. It will not be the same normal, of course, as we cannot yet know how the year will play out and what the new normal will be.

We must not get so caught up in our own enthusiasm we forget there will be other children who will return to school with trepidation. Many of these children have taken refuge in such things as shelter-in-place, quarantine, social distancing, and remote learning.  For them, the return to school will be traumatic and teachers and administrators must be prepared to recognize the signs and help such students make the transition. We have all read about the mental health crisis facing children, post coronavirus. Post-traumatic stress disorders can have a devastating impact on the lives of children as well as adults.

There will be many children from families whose lives have been forever altered by the coronavirus. Many will be grieving for family members whose lives have been lost or have had to deal with the trauma of separation from loved ones during prolonged hospitalizations. The children of these families have had to live and may still be living with the fear they and other members of their family are vulnerable and may face greater risks upon return to school.

There will be classmates, across the aisle, who have witnessed and maybe embraced the anger and frustration of parents over what they call the Covid pandemic hoax perpetrated by conspirators perceived to be “radical leftists in a government out to destroy their democracy.” Some of our students have stood with their parents during anti-vaccine demonstrations and protests over mask mandates.

As teachers strive to form relationships with and address the varied emotional issues with which their students will be dealing, they must begin to assess and address the disparity between what students have or have not learned during long stretches of remote learning. Given the variance of the progress or regress of students, do we choose to remain loyal to a tradition of moving students forward as a class, from one benchmark to the next, per our respective state’s academic standards or, do we try something new that will allow us to focus on building relationships and differentiating based on the unique needs of our students?

Do we encourage students to share their experiences from the last eighteen months using oral, written, and other forms of communication or expression? Would such stories be beneficial in helping children of such divergent points of view gain better insight into classmates who view and interpret the world through different lenses?

Given the crises we have faced, even if from different perspectives, how fervently do we seize the teaching/learning opportunities presented  by the full range of events of the last few years?  How do we factor in the demands of parents concerned what we teach in school will conflict with what they teach at home? Will there ever be a better time to use current events to broaden the perspectives of our young people and find our way out of a contentious political and social environment where the truth has become whatever we choose it to be?

Even if we choose not to incorporate such discussions, formally, it seems inevitable these issues will come up during the normal course of events. How do we prepare our teachers to deal with them?

Has there ever been a better time teach our students the value of education and how the knowledge and skills they acquire will determine the number and kinds of choices and opportunities they will have as they transition from childhood to the responsibilities of citizenship? It will not be many years before today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders, faced with the challenge of seeking resolution of many if not all these issues, or finding common ground. Do we strive to help them prepare for that responsibility or do we shun our own responsibilities?

The experiences during the coronavirus and such controversies as the Covid Pandemic hoax, social distancing, anti-vaccine protests, mask mandates, and other conspiracy theories have changed us and have changed the world. Some changes have frightening implications for the future. The blessing is, the Covid pandemic has provided an incredible opportunity to make a fresh start, to do something new and exciting in many aspects in our lives, not the least of which is education. Has there ever been a better time to reimagine the education process that dictates how we go about educating our children.

The reader is urged to examine The Hawkins Model© created to provide a new way to help our students learn as much as they are able at their own best pace, even in such times as these. An overview of The Hawkins Model© can be found at www.melhawkinsandassociates.com.  Please examine it not seeking reasons why it will not work rather striving to imagine what it would be like to teach and learn in such an innovative environment.

How much proof do we need that what we are doing is not working?

How much proof do we need before we acknowledge what we do in our schools isn’t working and commit to trying something new? A grading period or semester; a year, a decade, or generations? These are our kids we’re talking about, our children and grandchildren.

Not every problem has an easy solution but what is so difficult about giving students a little more time to learn things they will need to know to make a decent life for themselves; things they will need to know to provide for themselves rather than be dependent on the rest of us? Time is an essential variable in the education equation.

Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s that I stay with problems longer.”

Is America better off with a system that impedes the ability of teachers to teach and students to learn?

Is America better off with millions of people who do not understand the science of climate change, infectious diseases, and other natural sciences?

Do we benefit from a population of millions of people who do not understand the way a democracy is supposed to work or what the U.S. Constitution means?

How is it working out to have elected officials at every level of government, who are more focused assigning blame than putting their heads together to solve the problems of a troubled society? Leaders who spend more time claiming people who disagree with us cannot be trusted, are conspiring against us, and are trying to get something for nothing.

Are such leaders and other public figures correct when they tell us the only way to keep and protect what we have is to keep other people from getting what they need? The solutions to the problems we face as a people will be found by looking out into the future, not by looking to return to a past that was never as idyllic as we like to think it was. Look at the world around us.

We have an education system in which more than half of our students do not learn things well enough they can use what they know in the real world.

We have a healthcare system that makes a lot of money for a few people but does not allow all of us to get the medical care needed to treat the illnesses and injuries of our families.

We have a justice system that seems incapable of providing justice for every citizen.

We have a society that does not provide equal opportunities for everyone.

The problems we face as a society will not be solved by us. The future will be determined by the efforts and talents of our children. Maybe we should focus our attention on doing a better job of teaching future generations what they will need to know to create a better future for their children and grandchildren.

The only way to accomplish this is to change how we teach all our nation’s children, not a fortunate few. We have great teachers. We need to give them an environment where they can practice their craft  and teach their students what they will need to know. The solution to education is right here in front of us. All we need to do is act.

Schools, children and grandchildren, students, teachers, America, Is America better off climate change, infectious diseases, natural sciences, democracy, U.S. Constitution, elected officials, assigning blame, education system, education, healthcare system, healthcare, justice system, justice, equal opportunities, future generations, change how we teach, education equation, Albert Einstein

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Neuroplasticity: A Road Map of Neural Pathways for Education


On July 29th, on Twitter, our colleague, @DrTeresaSanders[i], shared information about neuroplacticity, a concept of which every education policy-maker, administrator, teacher, and professor of colleges of education should be aware. The dictionary defines neuroplacticity as:

“The capacity for continuous alteration of the neural pathways and synapses of the living brain and nervous system in response to experience or injury.”[ii]

What neuro-scientists are learning about neuroplasticity is confirmation of our belief that a child’s brain is programmed to learn, even after deprivation or injury. Just because a child grows up in a family-environment with fewer experiential enrichment opportunities than other students does not mean the child will be unable to learn as well as their classmates. That child’s brain learned everything there was to learn in the environment in which its owner resided. With the proper time and support, each child’s brain will allow its owner to learn whatever we are able help it learn and more.  

The brain learns by processing sensory information from the world via an incessant process of creating new connections along the neural networks and synapses of the brain. An article in Psychology Today writes:

“Research has firmly established that the brain is a dynamic organ and can change its design throughout life, responding to experience by reorganizing connections—via so-called ‘wiring’ and ‘rewiring.”[iii]

This is especially exciting for children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, and for their parents and teachers. Dyslexia, for example, does not diminish a child’s intelligence or creativity rather, learning difficulties have to do with the way their brain perceives and processes stimuli from their environment. Research has found the brain can reorganize itself, with a little help from its friends, allowing the child to overcome the obstacles their disability presents. Many accomplished adults, probably people we know, are dyslexic and have had to learn how to process sensory data they perceive differently than others do.

Our granddaughter was nine years of age when her parents learned she was dyslexic. We had believed her to be a good reader not realizing she was not reading at all. Instead, she had been reciting from memory stories we had been reading to her, which demonstrates both intelligence and a remarkable memory. Since the recognition of her dyslexia and the special help she has received, she has made wonderful progress. We can only lament the time and opportunities lost before she received the help she required. The importance of diagnosing and treating such disabilities as early as possible cannot be overstated.

Not beginning an assessment of each child’s capabilities, when they arrive for their first day of school, is one of the flaws of the existing education process; a flaw The Hawkins Model© has been designed to address.  The current education process—the tool teachers and schools have been relying on for generations—was designed to ensure teachers and students conform to schedules embedded in academic standards as well as to the standards, themselves. The process demands teaching whole groups children, thus limiting a teachers’ ability to adapt what they do to the unique needs of individuals.  For all this time, while being asked to shoulder  the blame for the disappointing outcomes of their students, teachers have been doing exactly what they have been taught and expected to do. It is the education process that is failing to meet the needs of our children, not their teachers.

What we require is an education process that exhibits the same plasticity as the brains of the children it exists to serve, and this is exactly the kind of learning environment The Hawkins Model© is intended to provide for both teachers and their students.

The reluctance to exchange the existing education process for a new model would be understandable if everyone was happy with the outcomes students are getting, today. The reality is, hardly anyone is happy with the way things are, but it has proven oh so difficult to change. However much we might admire the effort of education leaders who are introducing a steady stream of innovative initiatives, outcomes for students across the nation have not altered the reality that is education in America.

The question for education policy makers, school administrators, and teachers is: how long will they choose to endure a reality in which the outcomes for students in the aggregate never seem to change no matter how hard they are asked to work or how many new methodologies and technologies they are asked to employ. In the existing education process, new ideas and approaches are exceptions a few schools have been able to carve out of the process, not expectations for all.

Once they overcome inertia and embrace the need to reimagine the education process, what educators and policy makers will discover is how easy implementation of The Hawkins Model© will prove to be and how cost-effective genuine success will be.

Our thanks to Dr. Teresa Sanders for tweeting information about neuroplasticity and for the important work she and Safari Small Schools are doing. The reader is encouraged to learn more about the micro-school concept. In essence, The Hawkins Model© is a way to do for an estimated 53 million American children what Dr. Sanders and her Safari Small Schools are doing for five students in each of its micro-school. Her philosophy is “do what you can” rather than wait for the education system to change.


[i] Dr. Sanders is a leader of Safari Small Schools, in Canton, Texas. Her schools are described as “an innovative micro-school serving students in grades Pre-K through 3rd”. Such schools are designed to serve a maximum of five students. Here is a link to her website if you would like to learn more: Safari Small Schools:Texas – Safari Small Schools

[ii] Merriam Webster Dictionary

[iii] Neuroplasticity | Psychology Today

The Hawkins Model©: Serving the Primary Purpose of Education, Part 1

Everything we do in our schools and classrooms: the way the education process is structured; the way we organize our resources; the expectations placed on principals, teachers, and students; what we do from day-to-day from subject to subject; and how we keep score must serve and support our primary purpose or objective.  Initial and intermediate objectives are just that. They are building blocks, laying a foundation of pre-requisite knowledge on which future learning is constructed. They are essential  and cannot be sacrificed without diminishing  quality.  With respect to the quality of education, it is the future accomplishments of our citizens that are placed at risk.

Consider the tragedy flowing from the collapse of buildings and bridges—not due to age and deterioration, to which even human beings are at risk—rather from architectural and engineering flaws that could have been avoided had protocols been properly observed. There can be no shortcuts without sacrificing quality.

It is like a home run in a baseball or softball game. A run does not count unless all bases are touched. If a batter misses one of the bases, coaches will send he or she racing back to touch the base that was missed before the defense can respond. Fail to touch the base and the baserunner will be called “out” and a run will not be scored. In cases such as this not taking time to correct a mistake has consequences.

One of the five most fundamental and consequential flaws in the existing education process is not providing students with adequate time to correct the mistakes they make, to practice skills, gain mastery and comprehension of the subject matter—not giving them time to learn. The consequence of not having time to learn results in students being pushed ahead before they are ready. Each incidence places a student a little further behind and has a compounding effect, setting children up for failure. Repeated failure causes children and adults to give up and stop trying.

Time must be an asset available to students in whatever quantity their success demands and not a parameter. Arbitrary schedules and calendars were instituted to serve organizational convenience and efficiency and do not serve the purpose for which our schools exist. The purpose of education is to accord students, at graduation, with the highest level of preparation they can attain—of which they are capable. The number of stumbles, struggles, and mistakes made along the way matter not at all; just as it is inconsequential how long it takes a child to learn how to ride a bicycle. Such events are learning opportunities. The only thing that matters is a young man or woman’s ability to apply what they have learned to their best advantage in life, which also creates the best advantage for one’s community.

This is one of the purposes for which The Hawkins Model© is designed!

In upcoming posts we will address each of the fundamental flaws of the existing education process, flaws that diminish the value of the hard work all teachers and students do.

Education is the key to everything!

We are what we have been taught to be and our children will be what we teach them to be. The solution to providing equality in education to every child would be so easy, most people would think it to be “too good to be true!”

If all educators would put their heads together with advocates for children of color, English language learners, and other disadvantaged kids and consider a new idea, they would wonder why we have waited so long and would be asking “why would a school district choose not to implement The Hawkins Model©?”

Surely, we have learned we cannot legislate an end to discrimination and racism. We have been trying for over fifty years, and discrimination still ravages the lives of men and women of color. Only an education of the highest quality can render these young people impervious to discrimination.

No matter how hard our teachers and principals work or how dedicated they may be, they cannot make the existing education process work for all kids, especially the disadvantaged. The problem is not teachers and schools, it is the education process at work within those schools; it is the way we go about teaching our precious sons and daughters. Consider what happens in even the best public and parochial schools, today.

Kids show up for their first day of school, at age 5, and we do not take the time to thoroughly assess their level of academic preparedness, nor do we utilizes that knowledge to create an academic plan tailored to the unique requirements of each child.

These youngsters show up in a classroom in which there are too many students to allow any one teacher to forge the kind of nurturing relationships these kids need to feel safe, secure, and cared about, all of which are essential to learning. The positive relationships that do develop for a fortunate few, will be severed at the end of the school year. These students will return to school in the fall and can only hope to be assigned to a new teacher who will believe in them and make them feel special.

Students are given lessons for which they may or may not be prepared and, after a few days, they will be given a test over that material.  It will not matter whether they understand the lessons they are asked to learn, or whether they get an F, D, C, B, or A. Ready or not, they will be moved on to a new lesson.

Teachers are given only so much time for each lesson. Children who do not yet comprehend their most recent lessons will be moved on with the rest of their class and be expected to learn subsequent lessons without the pre-requisite knowledge their prior lessons were intended to provide. Neither will they enjoy the benefit of the confidence that flows from successful learning.

A student’s scores will be recorded in his or her teacher’s gradebook, to become part of the child’s academic record and will begin to influence their teachers’ assessment of the child’s academic potential and intelligence. Worse, those grades will affect each child’s perception of themselves.

These boys and girls will then be asked to repeat this ritual in every subject area, for each lesson,  semester, and school year for the next thirteen years, without relief or exception. Somewhere along the line students who struggle will begin to think themselves incapable of learning and unable to keep up with classmates. It is only a matter of time until these kids give up and stop trying.

After thirteen years, these—now young men and women—will leave school, with or without a diploma, lacking the knowledge, skills, wisdom, pre-requisite knowledge, confidence, and self-esteem necessary to overcome the ravages of  discrimination. They will lack meaningful choices for what to do to make a life for themselves and their families and to participate in their own governance.

They will, also, begin to produce their own offspring who will replicate the same ritualistic childhood their parents and grandparents have endured for generations. None of this will change until we replace an education process that has been dysfunctional to the point of obsolescence, for as long as any of us can remember.

Do not be deceived by the false promise of “school choice” that suggests a charter school will provide a better opportunity for our sons and daughters. Please understand, there is nothing inherently wrong with the concept of a charter school other than most rely on the same education process at work in the public and parochial schools they were intended to replace; nor do they serve entire communities.

Let me introduce you to a solution.

The Hawkins Model© was designed to provide the education each one of our children deserves and is available for free to any public or parochial school district willing to implement it, beginning in their elementary classrooms. The model has been engineered to eliminate all the issues addressed in the preceding paragraphs. It will be transformational, and the decision to act is already within a school district and its superintendent’s purview. They need only say “yes!”

You will be surprised to learn how easily the model can be implemented. It changes the way the game is played.

Although instruction will still be guided by academic standards, progress will be a function of a student’s success rather than arbitrary timelines. Transformation will require a few adjustments to the way a school organizes its teachers and classrooms, and how long they remain together. Minor physical modifications of classrooms might be nice but are not essential. 

Other significant changes are redefinition of purpose and changing expectations for principals and teachers. Students will be expected to learn as much as they can at their own best pace. The model is constructed on the premise the brains of children are programmed to learn and that failure is a choice the existing education process requires us to make.

We must choose otherwise and give every student whatever time and attention they need to learn.

How we teach will be altered to focus on the primacy of relationships between teachers and students and converting time from a parameter that limits time to learn, to an asset available to kids in whatever quantities their success requires. Once they have learned, how long it took is inconsequential.

Implementation will be so simple the question educators and leaders of advocacy will be asking is “why would a school district choose not to implement The Hawkins Model©?”

This is not a request for financial support. Whatever revenue I generate will come from the royalties of a book I will be finishing, soon. I am asking organizations that serve as advocates for people of color and educators to help convince school superintendents to test The Hawkins Model© in one or more of their underperforming elementary schools. Consider how many schools and school districts are struggling to provide a quality education to children of color, English language learners, and the other disadvantaged students they serve and how many of those kids are giving up and will, soon, stop trying.

There are many wonderful programs available for kids who have fallen behind but if all we do is wait until they fall behind before we help, we have waited too long. Besides, there are many kids these programs never reach. We must choose to prevent students from “falling behind” in the first place. Nation-wide, there are millions of boys and girls at risk, waiting for us to act, and there are millions more waiting to follow. The Hawkins Model© will help all students learn how to create success for themselves.

With your help, children could begin benefitting from my model as early as this fall. Let us not forget, however, it takes thirteen years to educate a child; thus, we dare not drag our feet. I urge you to become advocates, reaching out to school districts with which you have a connection and encouraging them to act.

Please examine The Hawkins Model©. It may prove to be one of the most important things you will ever do.