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.

To my friends on Twitter: A request for your assistance!

If you are receiving this Tweet, you and I have followed each other on Twitter for a while and I thank you for the “Likes” and “re-Tweets,” and for reading a few of the posts on my blog, Education, Hope, and the American Dream; including this one. Below I will be asking you for your help.

I know a few of you are familiar with my education model and I hope this note will entice more of you to examine it.  The Hawkins Model© is designed to assure every student’s success. I fervently believe this model has the potential to transform education for every child in America and I consider it the most important work of my life. I hope you share my belief that never have our nation’s children needed a quality education more than they do, today, and never has our society had a greater need for well-educated citizens.

Many of you know I have been working on second book on education with the working title, The Hawkins Model©: Education Reimagined, One Success at a Time. I had anticipated the book would have been finished by the last quarter of 2020. Due to a non-Covid-related health issue, which I wrote about in a blog post of February 19, 2021, I was unable to work on the book for nearly a year. Now, four months later. I am only just beginning to make meaningful progress and I want completion of the book to be my highest priority. This means sacrificing some of my blogging and Twitter activity.

Completing the writing is only part of the challenge, however. I must also reach out to superintendents, seeking public school districts to test my model in one of their struggling elementary schools. I, also, must find a literary agent to represent me in my search for a mainstream publisher.  Each of these achievements will serve the other.

It is now apparent to me, if I am to be successful, I will need the help and advocacy of people like you.

I am seeking educators and advocates of public education who will allow me to add their names to a list of professionals who deem my model either, 1) worthy of implementation in schools or, 2) believe it merits serious examination by the leaders of school districts, whether public or parochial.

As I solicit representation by a literary agent or consideration of a school district, having professionals willing to provide some level of endorsement would be a great advantage.  So, my request to those of you who know me through Twitter and are familiar with my writing, is that you take an hour or more to read the overview of The Hawkins Model© at my website.

If you come away believing the model has the potential to make a positive difference in providing a quality education to all students, I ask that you send me a message authorizing me to use your name and/or Twitter handle as an advocate for the model, to whatever degree you feel comfortable.

Because my visibility on social media will diminish when I am not Tweeting or blogging, I am also asking you to share your decision to support my model with your friends, followers, and colleagues as frequently and in as many ways as you are able.

This is a lot to ask, I know, and I understand not all of you will be motivated to give me that level of support. I respect that, just as I respect each of you. I encourage you to contact me with your doubts and questions.

Those of you willing to help me will be given an opportunity to review my book as I approach a final draft. I will be seeking only feedback, however, not editing. I have someone to help me proof.

Thanks so much for whatever level of advocacy you can provide. As it might be helpful for you to be familiar with what I am communicating to superintendents, I have included a generic copy of my message to them at the bottom of this post.

Thank you for even thinking about offering your support.  I have gained so much knowledge and insight from all of you it is difficult to express how much I appreciate you. I feel blessed and am most grateful.

Mel

Here is my message to superintendents:

Re: A Game Changer

Dear:

After visiting your website and reading about your district, I have no doubt you do an exceptional job for your students. Like most educators, however, I am certain you agonize over kids who struggle no matter what you do or how hard you work. What critics don’t get is, no matter how valiant their efforts, even great teachers and administrators cannot make a dysfunctional education process work for every child. It is only because of their heroic effort that so many kids enjoy success at all, but many is not enough!

This post-Covid era provides an opportunity to transform the way we teach our children but seizing it will require bold leadership. You are among the first superintendents being asked to test The Hawkins Model© in an elementary school, this fall. I assure you implementation of the model will be much easier than you imagine. It will be transformational, and the decision to act is already within you and your board’s purview. The model will be offered to public and parochial schools for free.

Let me tell you how easily the model can be implemented. 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 you organize your teachers and classrooms and how long they remain together. Although a few minor physical modifications of classrooms would be nice, they are not essential and will be at the bottom of your priority list.

Other significant changes are redefinition of purpose, changing expectations for principals and teachers, and simplification of the expectations of students. Students will be expected to learn as much as they can at their own best pace. The model is constructed on the premise all children can learn and failure is not an option. Kids must receive whatever time and attention they need to learn.

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

Until the education process is reimagined to produce the quality outcomes our kids deserve, too many high school grads will continue to leave school with limited choices and many students of color will remain ill-equipped to overcome the ravages of discrimination. We cannot legislate a solution to all of society’s challenges. It is only through education we can ensure meaningful opportunities for all students, render children of color impervious to discrimination, and begin to change the hearts of a nation. Given the importance of education we can leave no stone unturned.

Please ask your most innovative people to help evaluate my model at my website at The Hawkins Model© Given the ease with which it could be implemented and the potential benefit to students, the appropriate question to answer might well be, “why would a school district choose not do this?” The Hawkins Model© is a game changer.

I look forward to talking to you soon.

Learn how easy it can be to implement a new education model

Although all of you who are educators—whether superintendents, principals, or teachers—strive to do an excellent job for your students, you also agonize over kids who struggle, no matter how hard you work or how innovative you may be. What critics seem to have no clue about is, not matter how valiant the effort of our teachers and other educators, even the best of them cannot make a dysfunctional education process work for every child. It is only because of the heroism of educators that so many kids enjoy success at all.

But many is not enough!

This post-Covid era has provided a unique opportunity to transform the way we teach our children but seizing it will require bold leadership. I am asking superintendents and principals to consider testing my education model in one or more elementary schools, this fall.

I assure you, implementation of The Hawkins Model© will be much easier than you imagine. It will be transformational, and you and your school boards already possess the authority needed to act. The model will be available to any public or parochial school for free.

Although instruction will still be guided by academic standards, progress will be a function of a student’s success, not arbitrary timelines. Transformation will be achieved by making a few adjustments to the way you organize your teachers and classrooms and how long they stay together. Although a few minor physical modifications of classrooms would be nice, they are not essential and will be at the bottom of your priority list.

Other significant changes are reclarification of purpose, changing expectations for principals and teachers, and simplification of the objectives for and expectations of students. We must expect students to learn as much as they can at their own pace. The model is constructed on the premise all children can learn and failure is not an option.

How we teach will be altered to focus on both the primacy of relationships with students and converting time from a parameter to an asset/resource available to students in whatever quantity their success requires. Once students have learned, how long it took them to learn becomes inconsequential. Learning is the only thing that matters.

Until the education process is reimagined to produce the quality outcomes our kids deserve, many high school graduates will continue to leave school with limited choices and students of color will remain ill-equipped to overcome the ravages of discrimination. We cannot legislate a solution to the challenges we face as a society. It is only through education we can begin to change the hearts of a nation, ensure meaningful opportunities for all students, and render children of color impervious to discrimination.

The Hawkins Model© is a game changer. Given the ease with which it could be implemented and the potential benefit to students, the appropriate question to ask yourselves might well be, “why would a school district choose not to do this?” Education is challenge for which no stone can be left unturned.

Please help by examining the The Hawkins Model©, at my website at www.melhawkinsandassociates.com and sharing it with every Superintendent, Principal, and teacher you know. We only get so many chances in life to do something special and never has doing so been more necessary.

The Hawkins Model© – the Perfect Solution for the Post-Covid Challenge in Our Schools!

What we hear on the news, night after night, is how concerned educators and parents are that their kids have fallen behind during the almost a year and a half of a pandemic that has placed the entire world in turmoil. It seems only logical we are striving to figure out how to help students catch up. The question is, catch up with what?

Educators and parents are encouraged to step back and rethink their concern about the need for students to catch up and get back to where they would have been had their lives not been so unexpectedly disrupted, for what seemed like forever. Unfortunately, none of us can go back to where we used to be or where we think we should be. Life is forcing us to create a new normal and this presents us with an incredible opportunity to change the course of history.  

Educators are preparing to make decisions that will have long-term consequences for every single one of our children, so let us be sure to make the best decisions possible. The truth is, we cannot help students catch up nor should we.

We must change our perspective so that we can understand our students are not behind—”they are where they are,” to paraphrase a popular idiom.

Our challenge must not be to return to our practice of pushing kids ahead more quickly than they are ready, which has long been one of the most devastating flaws in our existing education process. Most of our students have been pushed ahead before they were ready from one lesson to the next, since Kindergarten.

Educators worry about test results, but what test results have revealed, for decades, is whole populations of students who are behind where someone thought they ought to be. Our interpretation should be something else, altogether. What test results reveal is that what we have been doing has not worked for millions of children. Do we really want to repeat the mistakes of the past?

Let us re-clarify, for ourselves as well as for our students, that our mission is and has always been:

“to help children learn as much as they are able at their own best pace, in route to whatever future they will choose for themselves, some day.”

We must have no illusions our children will all end up in the same place on graduation day, all headed in the same direction, any more than we should cling to the illusion they should all be at the same point today, or any other day, on an arbitrary academic development track.   

Not only is it true “they are where they are!” it is equally true “what they know is what they know, not what we think they ought to know!”

It is from what they know, today, that our schools should restart the marathon, helping students along  a path to get where they will someday want or need to be, at their own best pace; not a pace designated by arbitrary standards and schedules.

A truth we already know but must be reminded of is millions of children start from behind on their first day of school and most of them never catch up; not because they are incapable of catching up rather because the education process is not structured so that helping them catch up is a priority.

The Hawkins Model© is designed to do what we should have been doing all along; determine where kids are on an academic preparedness and emotional development continuum, beginning on the day they become our responsibility, and then tailor an academic plan to help them progress, one success after another, toward whatever future they will choose for themselves, someday.

Our initial goal must be to help all students build a solid academic foundation and a healthy self-esteem on which they can create their own unique futures. It does not matter who gets where, first; what matters is learning enough to give themselves meaningful choices.

What matters, whether we are talking about reading, writing, math, science, social studies, or learning how to ride a bicycle, is not how fast they learn, or how quickly they make up lost ground. The only thing that matters is whether they have learned to ride that bike and utilize everything else they have learned to get to where they need to be or to go.  Our objective must be applied academics—how well can young people apply in real life, all they have learned.

We do our students no favor by pushing them beyond the cusp of their capabilities. Instead, we must remind ourselves, repeatedly, everything our students learn today becomes the pre-requisite knowledge and skill they will need to learn the lessons of tomorrow and all the tomorrows that follow. If they reach a point where their portfolio of pre-requisite knowledge and skills is empty, we have set them up for failure; the kind of failure from which many of them will never recover.

If we began today, by this September of 2021, we could implement the principles and practices of The Hawkins Model©, adapted for the age and grade level of every student. From that point forward, students would begin moving from one success to the next where they will always find themselves well-prepared.  

One of the exciting things about teaching kids to think of success as a process is once they master that process, their pace of learning will accelerate until the next thing we know they have progressed further than they could ever have gone had our minds been focused on catching up.