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.

Troubling Questions for Troubled Times

In what kind of world do we want our children and grandchildren to grow up? What kind of people do we want them to become? What questions would you add?

Do we want our children and grandchildren to believe all people are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, or that some people are entitled to privileges because of who they are?  

Do we want them to treat people with respect and dignity or to think it okay to insult, ridicule, accuse, or attack other people?

Do we want them to be kind to one another or hateful?

Do we want our children to view the colors, shapes, and sizes of our bodies and the languages we speak as varying shades of beauty or do we want our differences to be a basis for judging others as good or bad?

Do we want them to live in a world where all lives matter, or a place where some lives matter more than others, and some seem to matter not at all?

Can we teach them police reform is not advocacy for lawlessness rather a demand, through better training, that law enforcement professionals rise to a higher standard?

How do we teach our children and grandchildren the best way to protect our rights is to protect the rights of others?

How do we teach them rights must be balanced by responsibility?

Do we want our children to learn to respect freedom of religion or learn it is okay to impose their religious beliefs on others?

How do we teach them their rights do not allow them to infringe on the rights of others?

How do we balance the interests of individuals against the good of the community?

When did it become okay to view people who disagree with us on important matters as evil, or unpatriotic, or un-American?

What happened to the days when there were issues about which reasonable men and women could disagree?

When things go wrong, shall we teach our children to find someone to blame or should we teach them to work together to find solutions that work for all?

Will the interests of society be better served when all children have a quality education or should a quality education be reserved for a fortunate few?

Do we want an education process in which all kids learn how to be successful and how to develop their  potential or an education process that functions like a competition in which some kids win, and others lose?

Do we want our children to think of science as an honest attempt to understand how the universe works, or as a strategy to justify a point of view?

Is history an opportunity to learn from the past experiences of human beings and their governments, or is history something we are free to change to justify whatever we may have done or want to do?

Is it okay if the way we teach children does not work for every student?

Do we teach our kids to always tell the truth or that it is okay to lie if it will help them get whatever they want or do whatever they want to do?

When did the truth become whatever we choose it to be?

How will life be for our children if they live in the world where there are no fundamental truths on which we can all agree?

Let us not forget we are all who and what we learned to be.

Why #SchoolChoice is an Unfortunate Distraction rather than a Solution for the Challenges Facing Education in America.

So much of the energy devoted to education reform and improvement, in recent years, has been focused on charter schools and the “school choice” movement. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the concept of a charter school, what was once an intriguing idea has become an unfortunate distraction to our efforts to transform education in America. 

In one respect, charter schools are just like so many of our nation’s public schools in that some are more successful than others and others are not successful at all. The value of charters, if they were utilized as initially conceived, is they provide an opportunity to create a laboratory, if you will, to experiment with new and innovative methodologies, outside the framework of the traditional public school system. The charter concept is now used for a totally different purpose. Advocates have concluded that letting parents choose the best school for their children is the solution for education in America.  

On the surface, the logic seems to resonate and the need for lotteries provides evidence of demand for some charters. The other side of that coin is an inability to meet demand in a local community begs the question of how “school choice” can serve the needs of fifty million American children.  This is one of the fundamental flaws in the argument that “school choice” is the solution for the U.S.  If creating charter schools for every child is impractical, what is the purpose of “school choice?”

Are “school choice” leaders content to offer a way for some families to escape what are perceived to be bad schools, assuming they win the lottery. Are they okay with letting the rest fend for themselves? What are the consequences for public schools who must operate with fewer resources and, possibly, a more challenging student population?

Another flaw is the pervasive belief that low academic achievement is the result of bad schools and bad  teachers.  Parochial schools and charters can also be found on both ends of the performance continuum. That aggregate academic performance has not responded to a bevy of innovative methodologies and initiatives, introduced over a period of decades, ought to give reformers pause.

If the problem is not who teaches and where but a consequence of what they teach and how, we are on a path to inevitable failure. We must be willing to open our minds to the obvious and address the dysfunctionality of the education process at work in schools throughout the U.S.  Ignoring the true cause is comparable to treating Covid 19 with a litany of antibiotics that cannot, now, and will never kill the coronavirus. Incorrect diagnoses rarely produce favorable prognoses.

If we want better outcomes for our students, we must do more than change school buildings and teachers. We must change what we ask teachers and students to do and what we expect them to accomplish. To paraphrase motivational icon, Zig Ziglar, if we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll keep getting the same disappointing outcomes.

It is not that advocates of “school choice” are bad people rather they are misguided. The only future the “school choice” movement can offer America is an education system that will become increasingly more bifurcated. It is a future with many winners, to be sure, but with far more losers because the push toward privatization siphons the lifeblood from public school districts, whatever their track record. We must reduce the number of Americans who could be counted among the “have nots,” not widen the chasm that separates us.

Now, looking back, we can tabulate the opportunity cost from years of disappointing academic achievement because we chose the wrong path to meaningful education reform. The other portion  of that opportunity cost would be benefits forgone; benefits that would have accrued for the millions of our sons and daughters whose academic distress could have been replaced by successful achievement.  

Click on this link to examine The Hawkins Model© and you will learn more about the dysfunctionality of the existing education process and how we can change the future for every girl and boy in America. You are also asked to believe it is not too late to act; in fact, this may be the perfect time to make a change.

Kids Learn from Experience to Acquire Pre-requisite knowledge: A Lesson on Dysfunctionality

Even though we do not think about it, how we learn in the classroom is just a variation of learning from experience. Lesson presentations, practice assignments, review sessions, quizzes, and tests are all experiences gained in the classroom.

In education, we place too much focus on mistakes and failure.  Of course, we learn from mistakes; in fact, that is where much learning begins.  We try something we want to learn but rarely do we accomplish it, to our satisfaction, after the first attempt. We must strive with determination.  With each unsuccessful attempt, we gain more experience which, in turn, allows us to make adjustments that produce better outcomes.  For most of us, it may take multiple attempts before we are fully satisfied with the outcomes we experience, whatever the endeavor.

Often, we refer to our unsuccessful attempts as mistakes, but in the minds of many people, educators included, the word mistake is often mistaken for a form of failure, if you will forgive the pun. We would be better off to use the term “disappointing outcomes.” Whatever we choose to call them, however, what they represent are “learning opportunities.”

 Mistakes/disappointing outcomes do not rise to the level of failure unless we give up and stop trying; until we settle for less than a full understanding of something, or less than subject mastery.  In our classrooms, students do not choose to stop trying or settle for less than their best and, it is not their teachers who make that choice for them. The decision to abandon one lesson and begin another before students are ready to move on, is what the current education process requires of teachers. Giving up is what the education process has been teaching  many children to do from their first day of school. We have not been prompted to think about it that way.

Teachers are unknowing facilitators in this process because it is what the education process demands of them. Every time teachers must record  a C, D, or F in their gradebooks, that grade becomes a specific, documented example of a student who has been required, by the education process,  to give up and stop  trying before they have gained comprehension;  before attaining subject mastery. Once that window closes on a given lesson, rarely do kids get another chance.  

This is only half of what we must come to understand as one of the most dysfunctional components of the education process on which teachers and students must rely. The other half of the dysfunction has an equally devastating impact on our most vulnerable students.

What we learn from our successes is no less important than what we learn from our unsuccessful outcomes. Every time teachers are required to move students on, ready or not, the education process deprives a child of an opportunity to experience success.  If there is no success there can be no opportunity to celebrate success, to relish in it, take pride in it. These students are deprived of  essential  building blocks of confidence and self- esteem; and  it happens to millions of children, hundreds of times, every school year.

Each of our experiences whether good or bad, positive or negative, successful or unsuccessful, acceptable or unacceptable, expected or disappointing, satisfactory or unsatisfactory are learning opportunities.  We learn from experience, not just mistakes, each  one of us, both learners and teachers. Think about what this means to our students and it becomes apparent why this discussion is so important.

Success in learning leads to proficiency. We become proficient when we have acquired the ability to utilize what we have learned in real life situations, whether they be subsequent lessons, state-competency examinations, college-entry applications and exams;  job applications, qualification for military enlistment; and, solving problems on the job and in our everyday lives. We need to think of each lesson  we ask our students to learn as an opportunity for them to acquire the pre-requisite knowledge and skills they will need to achieve success on future endeavors, whatever the venue or level.

Once we grasp the magnitude of the devastation wreaked by the existing  education process we have been utilizing in our schools for generations, we must feel compelled to change the way we think about what we do and why. How can we rely on an education process that deprives millions of children of opportunities to acquire the prerequisite knowledge and skills they will need for the rest of their lives?

Our existing education process is dysfunctional to the point of obsolescence. Is it any wonder there are so many American men and women who seem unable to make informed decisions about the cogent issues of this 21st Century, and who rely on the leadership of demagogs and conspiracy theorists to tell them what is true and what is not?

The good news, as overwhelming as this may seem, is that a solution is relatively easy to implement. Reimagining the education process is what The Hawkins Model© has been designed to do. One of the things it requires is that we utilize time as an independent variable in the education equation, rather than a constant or fixed asset.  You are invited to check it out at www.melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/

A message to my friends on Twitter and LinkedIn and followers of my blog, “Education, Hope and the American Dream,” about a non Covid health issue I’ve been dealing with.

It is my hope that a few of you, at least, have wondered why I have been so silent for so long, with both Tweets and blog posts. There have been no blog posts at all from late July to late October and only a few from the first of April, a couple of which were recycled.

I want to share a little about the “non-Covid-related” health condition I experienced that began early in 2020 and is only beginning to resolve. Because it is a health condition I had never heard of, and one that many people in my age range may be at risk for, I want to tell you about it.

The condition or syndrome is Tardive Dyskinesia, “TD” for short. It is caused by long-term use of medications, individually or in combination, for psychiatric, neurological, and gastrointestinal ailments. For some time, I had been taking medication for ailments in two of those three conditions.

My symptoms included cognitive problems such as memory loss, inability to focus, mood fluctuations balance, as well as some repeating involuntary movements. These symptoms came on so gradually the condition was not diagnosed for nine or ten months. I can tell you it was a frightening time for me and my family. We were fearful it was the onset of some form of dementia. It was diagnosed this past December and, after changing some of my medications, symptoms have begun to abate. A couple of the symptoms persist and I have been advised it may take a few months or more before I feel fully normal, again.

To give you a couple of examples, my short-term memory was awful and not just pulling an occasional word out of my memory banks, something that many people of my age group are prone to experience. So, so often, I would struggle to come up with a word and once I was able to recall it, I might be  unable to spell it.

Writing became problematic as I would sit down to type a sentence and forget what I wanted to say before I finished typing it. Often, when I was able to produce a paragraph or more, I would later discover that what I had written made no sense at all. Often, I would find words missing that were necessary for  a sentence. Occasionally what I had written would be non-sensical.

In addition, at its worst point, I would lose my balance for no obvious reason, was unable to perform simple manual tasks such as deal from a deck of playing cards or peel potatoes, and would experience repeating involuntary movements.

Most all of us know how horrible dementia can be for a family and being faced with the prospect this could be my future was frightening.

So. any of you in your late sixties, or beyond (I am 75), who take medications individually or in combinations for any psychiatric (e.g. depression), neurological, or even gastrointestinal conditions (GERD), be alert to the development of the kind of symptoms I have described and talk to your physician, immediately, if any should surface.

Some of you are aware of the book I have been writing to introduce my education model. I had hoped to complete it last Spring. Needless to say, little progress has been made in almost a year.  I am beginning to get back to work on the book, slowly, and I want to devote most of my available writing time to that purpose. Since I also want to maintain a presence on Twitter, and other social media, I will be recycling a few articles from my blog as far back as 2013; a few on topics that remain cogent.

I hope you have fared well in the Pandemic and wish all of you the best.

Mel Hawkins @melhawk46

How do we extricate ourselves from the mess in which we find ourselves?

I want to share a message my daughter posted on Facebook because she said it better than I could ever hope to. Her message reminds us there are no simple answers to what is happening in our society and that nothing will change until each of us is ready to change:

“Please don’t let your outrage at the fires and looting distract from the reasons why it is happening. Our country is deeply damaged. Anger has festered for decades and it is time for a change. This type of anger is not always expressed quietly and calmly. It is ugly and uncontrolled. As ugly as the racism that has led to it. We must rebuild a better America. An America that is not great AGAIN but great for everyone going forward. White people must realize that people of color are not to be feared – WE are. We have caused this and contributed to it and we must be a part of the change. Do what you can. Donate, volunteer, demonstrate. Speak out when you see something wrong. Find your own way to help. But most importantly, learn empathy and examine yourself. We can all do better.”

                                              -Jeanne Hawkins Beaupre, Facebook, May 31, 2020

We must work to change the fundamental character of America and this can only begin with our system of education, whether public schools, parochial, or private. There is no other way.

Every child must be given the absolute best education we can provide, and this will not happen until we are willing to change how we teach them. We must not allow a single child to fail and we must never forget they can only fail when we choose to allow it. 

We have the power to ensure the academic success of every one of our nation’s children.  

We cannot accomplish this by teaching the same things we have always taught in the same way we have always taught them. We must change the very nature of our education process. While this may seem like an almost impossible task, you will discover it to be easier than most of you can imagine.

We must help every child learn as much as they are able at their own best pace. We must help children establish a foundation of knowledge and skills from which each can begin to create a positive future for him or herself. We must help every boy and girl choose whatever direction suits their interests and abilities.  The education we provide must give them a wide menu of choices of what to do with their lives in order to find joy and meaning; must prepare them to provide for themselves and their families; and, it must enable them to participate in their own governance.  

If you would like to learn how this can be accomplished, please check out The Hawkins Model© at my website at www.melhawkinsandassociates.com

As you read the model, strive to imagine what it would be like to teach and learn in such an environment, not in search of reasons why it will not or cannot work.

If you like what you read, please help me find a superintendent willing to test the model in one of his or her struggling elementary schools.

What do we have to lose? If we continue to do what we have always done, we will continue to get the same disappointing outcomes  we have been getting for as long as any of us can remember.