Let’s Keep this Short and Sweet!

Every time I discuss my model with educators for the first time, whatever their level or role, the response is always the same. They cannot imagine how they could ever find time to do all the things this new model envisions. Of course they are correct, when looking out through the windows of their classrooms and schools.

When we build something, even knowing what we want it to look like when all the work is done, it is not until we step back and observe from across the street that we see the finished product as an integral whole. It is only then we can see what we were actually able to accomplish. Think about how good it feels when you look at something new you have created.

The only the way the model I propose will work is if we change all the rules about how we do what we do, re-order our priorities, and change the way we keep score. Only then will it all begins to make sense. You will be surprised how easy this can be accomplished.

Here is an overview to explain why the outcomes never seem to improve for so many of our students. In my next post, I will try to do a better job of laying out the logic how of the rules and priorities will be re-organized, and how we will keep score differently.

But first, here is a look at why things have not turned out the way we all have hopeed it will.

  1. Tens of millions of students are not meeting expectations, and not just the poor, minorities, or ESL students. This is indisputable fact. The problem transcends race, ethnicity, language of birth, and relative affluence.
  2. In tens of thousands of K-5 schools less than 20% of students are achieving proficiency.
  3. Despite the hype, the NAEP shows charter schools do not perform as well as the public schools they were created to replace.
  4. This should come as no surprise as they rely on the exact same education process. Just changing the name above the door and hiring different teachers makes no difference if they are expected to do the exact same things that teachers in the public schools do.
  5. Thousands of teachers are leaving the profession, frustrated that what they are asked to do does not work for their students and who are sick and tired of being blamed.
  6. Kids struggle because the education process is neither structured nor designed to allow teachers to forge the quality relationships every child needs to feel special and to learn.
  7. Students do not get the time they need to practice and learn; which forces Teachers to accept less than the best kids can do; record their Cs, Ds, and Fs; and then push them ahead to a new lesson, ready or not.
  8. Kids are deprived of the opportunity to experience and celebrate success and benefit from the powerful motivation success instills and that also helps pull parents in.
  9. Kids, also, are deprived of the pre-requisite knowledge on which success on next lessons depends, reducing the probability of future success.
  10. These flaws, that set students up for failure and teachers up for blame, have practical solutions that are easy to address.
  11. It requires educators to open their minds to a new model designed to teach the way kids learn rather than expecting students to learn the way we teach.
  12. Discretion to act is within the purview of school boards and superintendents, already.
  13. I’ve spent 9 years striving to convince education leaders the existing education process is not immutable and is no different than any other production or service-delivery process.
  14. Few have been willing to look at a model that changes the way teachers and students do what they do, while teaching to the same academic standards, just not the same calendar.
  15. The few willing to imagine what it would be like to teach and learn in such a classroom, believe the model will transform education for students and teachers.
  16. The Hawkins Model© is like any other production or service delivery process designed to better serve customers or constituents and produce outcomes we want.
  17. I urge you to examine the model with your colleagues and then help bring it to life.
  18. Our children are dependent on the help of people like you and me.
  19. The futures of our children depend on a quality education, and the future of our society depends on those same children to lead us through the balance of this 21st Century.

Please read the Synopsis of my book, The Hawkins Model©: Education Reimagined, One Success at a Time, at by clicking on the link at the bottom edge of the black banner at the top of this page or, accept my invitation to preview the manuscript.

                                                            Mel Hawkins, MSEd, MPA

PS: Retweets appreciated                              

The Hawkins Model©: Education Reimagined, One Success at a Time – A Synopsis

A TWO PAGE EXCERPT:

This is the first excerpt of the Synopsis of my book and i encourage you to click on the link at the bottom of the black banner at the top of this page and read the entire document. I am seeking volunteers to preview the manuscript of my book, prior to beginning the process of querying agents in search of a major publisher. This book and model can benefit from the widest possible audience. I am specifically asking for letters of endorsements from respected educators to provide the credibility that only professionals of your stature can lend. I would be grateful for an acceptance of my invitation to read.

You are also asked to help spread this word by Retweeting and/or share the link to this blog post https://bit.ly/3MGMTks

Synopsis Excerpt #1

Frustration with and Blaming Public Education

The frustration with the disappointing academic achievement of students has been building, over the last several decades, and the evidence of the academic struggles of millions of American children is pervasive and compelling. The assumption of many is that the problem exists in public schools but data from each of the states and from the National Assessment of Educational Progress[1] (NAEP) suggest publicly funded charter schools struggle just as much if not more. Even faith-based schools that typically outperform their public-school counterparts, still have far too many children who fall short of expectations.

The temptation is for educators to blame Covid but although the pandemic contributed to a significant drop in test scores, student performance was already unacceptably low, as NAEP data from 2019 will illustrate, below. What Covid has done is blessed us with an opportunity to abandon the obsession of policy makers with keeping students moving at the same pace, from one lesson to the next. Test scores have, effectively, been scattered by the wind and to return to that objective will be futile.

Since the first version of my model was introduced in 2013, I have been encouraging educators to shift the focus to steady progress by individual students, from one success to the next, wherever we find them on the academic success or preparedness continuums. Covid has provided the perfect opportunity to implement The Hawkins Model© nation-wide.

We believe the standard against which students should be measured is “proficient” which was introduced by the NAEP as one of the “achievement levels” in which students fall. They are “Basic.” “Proficient,” and Advanced. Proficient is defined as:

“Having a demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real world situations, and analytical skills appropriate to subject matter.” [2]

Please note, the highlighting is mine. You will see, throughout this work, we will use “subject matter mastery” and “proficiency” interchangeably.

We believe helping students achieve and be able to demonstrate proficiency is the appropriate goal of education. Many states have adopted modified versions of the NAEP’s achievement levels. Some have added “approaching proficient”  or “approaching grade level” to the list of achievement levels. Unfortunately, many students who assess as approaching proficient from one year to the next, never seem to reach a point where they can demonstrate proficiency. This suggests such test results are false positives.

Blame game

Let us post our biases so everyone can see. Teachers are not the problem with education in America; just the opposite is true. All the positive outcomes of students for the last half century or more are because of the help of teachers, despite the inefficacy of the education process. Teachers are an essential variable in the education equation and the glue that holds it all together. My model and yet-to-be-published book will be dedicated to schoolteachers everywhere.

The response of leaders of business and industry, government officials, and education policy makers has been to point fingers and to assign blame, rather than initiate a problem-solving methodology to understand why the outcomes of so many students are not meeting expectations. One of the many fundamental assertions and assumptions on which this work is based is, “it is only when we stop blaming others and accept responsibility for our problems that we begin to acquire the power to fix them.” Blaming serves only to distract us from addressing the challenges facing education in the U.S.

            Our challenge in the development of The Hawkins Model© has come down to the application of the principles of systems thinking[3], organizational design and development, and the principles of positive leadership that I introduced in my book, The Difference Is You, Power Through Positive Leadership[4], published in 2013. Given the axiom that every organization is structured to produce the outcomes it gets, if we want something better, we must determine what it is we genuinely want and then design and structure a process to produce those outcomes. This is the challenge we have undertaken in this work. We offer this model as gift to our nation’s teachers and to their students.


[1] The Nation’s Report Card | NAEP (ed.gov), National Assessment of Educational Progress is part of the National Center for Education Statistics, of the Institute of Education Sciences

[2] https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/tdw/analysis/describing_achiev.aspx

[3] Senge, Peter, The Fifth Discipline . . . . .

[4] Hawkins, Mel, The Difference is You: Power Through Positive Leadership, Amazon CreateSpace, 2013

To Teachers, Everywhere:

This letter is motivated by our assertion that we need to stop blaming teachers for the flaws in the education process. Teachers are heroes who should be credited for all the good things that happen in our classrooms despite the flaws of the process. Teachers are the glue that keeps it all from spiraling out of control.

No one knows what goes on in the classroom better than teachers, so who better to take on the challenge of transforming education in America to ensure the success of both students and teachers. Education leaders and administrators have the same opportunity, and should have the same motivation but, instead, still choose to focus on the preservation of the status quo; but let’s defer that discussion, for the moment.

The disappointing outcomes of students throughout America is not limited  to public schools, as charter school students struggle just as much if not more, according to data from NAEP and virtually every state department of education. Even the disappointing outcomes of a significant percentage of students from faith-based schools are a consequence of an “education process” that has become disconnected from its purpose.

For some time, the focus of public education has been directed toward conformance, compliance, and testing, rather than learning and true student achievement. Therefore, so many of the activities the education process demands of teachers and students impede rather than support learning.  

Each time students are pushed ahead before ready; they fall a little further behind and must strive to makes sense of future lessons without the pre-requisite knowledge those lessons require. When disappointing outcomes  become a pattern, it begins to seep into a child’s confidence and self-esteem. Just as success is a powerful motivating force, the repeated  inability to achieve success is discouraging. When children are discouraged their first instinct is to give up and stop trying. When this happens, teaching becomes problematic.

We have waited long enough for our leaders and policy makers to step outside the boundaries of conventional thinking and address the flaws in the existing education process; deficiencies that set students up for academic distress, and teachers up for blame.

When will the leaders and policy makers of education recognize that when a process continues to produce unacceptable outcomes no matter how hard people work or how qualified they are, the process is broken and must be replaced.

This letter is a request of teachers, teachers’ unions, associations, and other advocacy groups to help promote what, recently, one educator described as the “the next big thing in education.” Another prominent educator wrote, “I enthusiastically support a pioneering school district’s willingness to consider The Hawkins Model© as a means of improving student achievement, reducing maladaptive behavior and preparing students to be successful in school and life.”

The Hawkins Model© has been developed to transform the “education  process” at work in our schools by creating an environment, focused on learning and that allows teachers to develop and practice their craft and adapt to the disparate needs of students.

This model will be offered free to any publicly funded or faith-based school willing to put the model to the test in the K – 2 classrooms of even just one struggling elementary school. The only revenue I expect to generate is from the royalties from my yet-to-be-published book, The Hawkins Model©: Education Reimagined, One Success at a Time, which was written to introduce the model. A synopsis of the book is available at my website at https://bit.ly/3MGMTks. If you are reading these words, you will find the link along the bottom of the black border at the top of this page.

You are encouraged to invite your most innovative colleagues to join you in previewing my book and model, as a group, not in search of reasons why it might not work rather to imagine what it would be like for teachers to teach and students to learn in an environment that is a learning laboratory. The manuscript can be made available to you but please recognize, it is copyrighted material over which I will need to maintain some level of control.  

Let us be clear, the status quo in education is under attack and community public schools are the central target of that offensive. If it has not occurred to you, yet, the futures of teachers, superintendents and their school boards, and other public-school administrators are inextricably linked to the future of local community public schools. More importantly, the future or our nation’s children and our democracy are similarly linked.

This model provides an opportunity for community public schools to set themselves apart and you would be wise not to let “school choice” advocates get the jump on public education. Imagine how much more successful the “school choice” movement will be if their claims they can do a better job are borne out by the data. Public schools must seize this opportunity to reclaim the confidence and loyalty of the communities they serve.

Community publics school leaders can be prompted to act by the ardent advocacy of teachers. The Hawkins Model© provides a perfect solution around which teachers and other educators can rally.

Thank you all for the incredible work you do, and please join me in striving to reestablish public education as the key to the preservation of our democracy. Please share this message with every teacher you know, the broader their platform, the better.

Most Sincerely,

Mel Hawkins, MSEd, MPA

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.

A question for teachers and, also, an opportunity

Notwithstanding the innovations, methodologies, resources, technologies, or other initiatives you have endured over the last 5, 10, or 20 years, has anything of significance really changed in your classrooms with respect to student achievement?

If you teach in what we refer to as one of our nation’s “under-performing” schools, do your students continue to struggle no matter how much of yourself you give or how diligently you strive. There is no reason to think this will change, anytime soon.

It is not your fault and do not believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

Do not give up on your students, your school, or public education. Your students, your schools and your communities need you more than ever. Whatever happens, do not give up on yourselves.

When you return to school things will be different but you will still be unable to give every student the time and attention they need; you will still be asked to try new approaches and methodologies and train for new software applications that will be frustrating, will complicate your professional lives, while engendering few  meaningful outcomes.

You must, still, brace yourselves for another round of standardized tests on which the same students will do just as poorly as they did the years before, and you will still be blamed for their disappointing outcomes.

You will still be denied the pay raises and the respect you know you deserve and this demoralizing pattern will repeat itself year after year, leaving you to fantasize about what it will be like when you can retire.

Think about your return to school. Has there ever been a more opportune time to do something new and different? Not a little different but “life-changing” different?

Whether it is teachers who will drive the changes that are coming or will be driven by them, remains to be see. Have no doubt, however, significant changes are coming whether we like it or not.

The danger for public school educators is that you will squander this opportunity by devoting your time, resources, and energy to get back to what we have always done. If this is the choice you make, you can be sure someone else will seize the opportunity and teachers will be fortunate to be taken along for the ride.

Teachers need to answer a question, for themselves, if for no one else. Do you want to return to the same classrooms and with the same constraints and limitations? Or, do you want something better?

We have all witnessed new ideas, products, or services that have captured the imagination of the American consumer. This is how markets are transformed, by the relentless advocacy of people who are excited by an idea and are determined to share it.

With respect to education, there is an idea afloat that is said to have the potential to transform education in America. Understand, if we transform education, we will transform America because people are who they were educated to be.

This new idea is an education model that exists to serve its teachers and students rather than one in which educators and their students exist to serve the model. It is an education model that is waiting for the relentless advocacy of teachers who want to believe there must be a better way to educate our children.

Why not take an hour or less of your time to examine this new way to educate our children; a new education model designed to support you and your students in doing the things your students need from you and that you need for your soul and sanity. You have little to lose and almost everything to gain.

The Hawkins Model©

As Simple as 1-2-3-4-5-6

Let us make the solution to the challenges facing public education in America as simple as possible.

Providing a quality education to every child who arrives at our door is as simple as 1-2-3-4-5-6.

  1. Children need to feel special and experience what it is like to have one or more favorite teachers on whom they can depend for the long term;
  2. Students must start at whatever point on the academic preparedness continuum where we find them when they arrive at our door;
  3. Boys and girls must be able to depend on us to give them however much time and attention they need to learn from the mistakes they make, every step along the way;
  4. Kids must understand they are being asked to both learn and employ the lessons, principles, and discipline with which each of them can create success for themselves, throughout their whole lives; it is a process of success;
  5. Our children must be taught to celebrate their successes and the successes of the people in their lives, always; as success is an experience best shared; and,
  6. Educators must learn that it is the success of our students, not the promises we make, that will draw parents and guardians in as partners.

We must understand there is no one, perfect solution to the challenges of public education. Technology is but one example. Digital technology is  not the solution to the problems in education rather it is a tool, the value of which is measured by its utility to teachers and students.

We must reimagine how to ensure that everything teachers and schools are asked to do will support our mission.  The mission is to send every young adult out into the world with the knowledge, skills, and wisdom they need to find joy for themselves and their families; in pursuit of whatever meaningful goals they set for themselves.

To carry out this mission superintendents, administrators, teachers and policy makers must be willing to break from the traditions of the past. The Hawkins Model© is one example of how that might be done.

The logic behind these six objectives might be simple, but the work they will require of educators will be hard. These goals require that we embrace the notion that education is an uncertain science. It requires that we all work, relentlessly, to develop our craft.

What does a craftsperson do? They must apply all their knowledge, skills, and collective wisdom to discern the unique needs of individual children and then utilize an eclectic portfolio of tools and methodologies to instill success in the hearts and minds of those children. Not everything they do will work so they must keep striving until they find something that does. They must never stop learning and they must never give up. Teachers must never permit their students to give up and stop learning.

Our teachers must be free and willing to give fully of themselves, without fear of recrimination. Creating a quality education for all will require a level of effort, dedication, courage, and camaraderie comparable to that which our medical professionals, first-responders, and so many other men and women are demonstrating in response to Covid-19.

These men and women are heroes and the work they do saves lives and a nation. Teachers are also heroes and the work they do will save lives and, also a nation.

“Social welfare programs? – A Conundrum”

In a recent gathering, someone remarked that the last things we need are more social welfare programs.

He was correct in implying that such programs do not fix dysfunctional systems. Social welfare programs almost always treat the symptoms of such dysfunctions, not the underlying problems; they are damage control. Unfortunately, until we address the underlying causes of our nation’s problems, we will continue to need damage control.

Social programs help support people who are damaged, in some way, by society’s dysfunctional processes, the most significant of which is the education process within which teachers and students must work.

What we need is a systems’ thinking approach that drills down to the proverbial root causes of our society’s challenges so we can begin to develop strategies to address them. Systems’ thinking not only helps us understand why systems are dysfunctional; it also helps us recognize the forces that influence human processes and organizations. Just as importantly, systems’ thinking helps us understand how we contribute to the problems that concern us; problems that plague our planet and our society.

As we noted above, our single greatest “systems’ failure” is public education. This is despite the heroic effort of America’s several million teachers. It is this observer’s assertion that every other social problem that exists is a product of that dysfunction, to one degree or another.

Because it is structured like a race to see who can learn the most, the fastest, the education process creates populations of winners and losers, along with a huge group of people in the middle. That latter population of people in the middle may not be losers but rarely do they experience satisfactory success. They are left wanting.

Because this population of men and women has not acquired a quality education, they have not learned the science of critical thinking or the art/science of creative problem-solving. This gives them little or no control over most of the outcomes in their lives. Although they cling to hope, they often feel powerless to elevate themselves to point from which they can achieve the level of affluence to which they aspire. Instead, these Americans hover in a netherworld of resentment and disappointment, never quite understanding the forces that play havoc with their lives or how their own behavior and beliefs contribute to their plight.

Such people are likely to resent the affluent, whose lives seem out-of-reach to them; and, even more, they resent when the tax dollars they so begrudgingly pay are expended to support the dependency of the less fortunate. That this population of the less fortunate includes a disproportionate percentage of people of color and those for whom English is a second language, creates another layer of complexity.  It validates, in the minds of many, the prejudices acquired from their families and subcultures. Such prejudices are socially destructive.

What our society requires of its education system, is that all children learn as much as they are able from their unique starting point, at their own best pace. Such an environment transforms the experience of young children, beginning at ages five and six. Because they are progressing along a learning continuum, they experience success not failure; in fact, one success after another.

What happens to any of us, while we are learning a skill, is that one gets better with practice. The better one gets the more confident one becomes. The more confident one becomes, they more often he or she succeeds in what becomes a perpetual growth process; a growth mindset, if you will. It is not long until students begin to expect success. As the success continues, the rate of learning begins to accelerate and the limits that have constrained these youngsters for generation begin evaporate.

Consider how different a teacher’s challenge would be if, rather than a classroom of students who are pushed ahead before they are ready and are experiencing disappointing outcomes, routinely; that teacher found him or herself in the midst of a classroom of students who expect to be successful and are enthusiastic about learning.

Which students are most likely to perform well on dreaded high-stakes, state competency examinations

If such outcomes became the norm in public schools, how quickly would the need for programs that provide public support to the poor, begin to diminish? How long before high-risk testing would be rendered irrelevant? How quickly could our teachers be able to shift the focus of students from learning answers to questions on state competency examinations to critical thinking and creativity?

This is the world we could envision if superintendents of districts with struggling elementary schools chose to utilize The Hawkins Model©.

We would have an education process designed to produce the outcomes the American people and society need if they are to flourish and also compete in the global marketplace?

Making Transformational Change

We all know how hard it is to change things that we’ve been doing  for what seems like forever. If you have ever tried to quit smoking, lose weight, start exercising, or one of a thousand other things, you know inertia can seem almost insurmountable.

Sometimes, however, we cannot get the need for change out of our head. It eats away at us and we might even lose sleep because we can’t stop thinking about it! Deep down we know something is wrong and we also know someone must do something about it. Why not let that someone be you?

Usually, we are only one among many who suffer the consequences of someone else’s inaction.  In the case of public education, everyone suffers because we seem to be stuck in time.

It is even harder when people are bashing us, always telling us we need to do something about this habit or that. No one likes to feel nagged into doing something and we don’t want to be blamed for it.

There is a part of us, however, that just wants to dig in and resist. Often, it is simply a matter of not wanting to admit that the other person might be right, especially when they are right for the wrong reasons; or to suffer what we feel is a blow to our self-esteem; or, just feel the need to defend ourselves from being unfairly blamed.

So, what do we do when there is a crisis and the need for a dramatic transformation is compelling? How do we overcome the monumental power of inertia and, often, self-defense?

Many teachers and administrators are experiencing all these things. They know public education is in crisis and they are sick and tired of taking the blame. They know many of their students are struggling and nothing we do seems to change that fact. Of course, even in struggling schools and classrooms, we do help some of our students but, often, there are just too many of them.

Teachers also know that all the attention they are asked to pay to high-stakes testing  only makes it worse, not better. The seemingly incessant focus on preparation for high-stakes testing just makes it harder to find the time to do the things we know are more important. We also have learned to resent the data from testing and how the numbers have been weaponized to attack teachers and the public schools to which we are so fiercely dedicated.

The truth is, teachers don’t need test scores to understand the problems in public education, because they see them every day in their schools and classrooms. The education system, however, is like a runaway train and all educators feel a sense of powerlessness to slow it down, let alone bring it to a halt.

Even teachers in high-performing schools and classrooms know, deep down, how fortunate they are to be teaching in district, school, or classroom where students want to learn. But for the grace of God—or good fortune–they could be laboring in a classroom where students who want to learn are few.

I challenge all public-school educators to take a step back and acknowledge that something is wrong and that the education process within which we are asked to teach offers no solutions.

I also challenge teachers and administrators to understand that legislators and policy makers cannot fix what is broken because they are too far removed from it to comprehend the full breadth and scope of the challenges facing our public schools.

It is imperative, also, that public school educators understand that education reformers; with their focus on charter schools, teacher- and union-bashing, and voucher programs; cannot fix public education because not only do they not understand how to fix it, they even fail to comprehend how much damage they do with their criticisms and misguided reforms.

The truth is that the only people who can fix what is wrong in so many of our schools and that harms so many of our nation’s precious sons and daughters, are the teachers and administrators who are up to their gills in challenges. What these teachers and educators must be willing to consider is that the answers cannot be found in the trenches.

It is the trenches, however, where professionals learn what is not working and they must feel compelled to utilize what they witness, daily, and what they have learned from those experiences as powerful motivations to embrace transformational change.

We must take back to the laboratories and drawing boards that which we learn in the pits, and then utilize the principles of systems’ thinking, of organizational development, and of positive leadership to create and entirely new way to structure, organize, task, and resource our schools. Only then are we ready to take these new solutions back to our community schools and classrooms.

Have no illusions. The only place we can fix public education in America is in our communities where men, women, and children live, learn, work, and play; and, the only people who can fix it are the teachers, administrators, and the parents of our students.

The key to transformational change is not in complaints, protests, demonstrations, and labor actions—as necessary as they might, sometimes, be.

The key to transformational change will come when professional educators and the communities they serve unite as positive advocates for a new and innovative idea. It must be understood that the sweeping changes that will be required will not be found in incremental changes, new approaches, methodologies, and new technologies, although each of these things will find a home in a new and well-conceived, 21st Century education process.

I respectfully offer an education model  I have developed as a point of embarkation. I call it The Hawkins Model© only to claim the right of authorships. If implemented, someday, my model will be available for free to any public, parochial, or private not-for-profit school that wants to utilize it. The Hawkins Model© was developed from all that I have learned after forty-five years of working with kids, leading organizations, solving problems, working as an independent organizational development and leadership consult, and of walking in the shoes of public school teachers as a substitute teacher in the elementary, middle school, and high school classrooms of a diverse, urban public school corporation.

Please take time to investigate my model. It may prove to be the solution we need. The very worst that can happen is that it will spark a better idea in the minds and imaginations of a few of you who are reading this post. If you are intrigued by what you read, please share it, widely, and open a dialogue.

Time is a Variable in the Education Equation, not a Constant

In our current education process within which teachers and students must do their important work, time is a constant component in what we might think of as the education equation.  Think of the education equation as you would any other algebraic equation used to illustrate the relationships of the components that work to produce desired outcomes. In the case of public education, we identify our desired outcome as student learning.

Time plays a significant role in the existing education process. We structure our classrooms according to age, which is a function of time. Students progress from Kindergarten or first grade through grade twelve on a year-to-year basis. Time, also, is integral to academic standards. Not only do those standards delineate the things children are expected to learn, we have also set time frames that are coordinated with student grade levels. These suggest where students should be in various skill development and subject areas at pre-determined points in time.

These time components are constants in that neither teachers, administrators, nor public school districts have been given the latitude to alter those time frames. They are part of the framework within which all are expected to work and are utilized to establish the basis on which outcomes are measured; specifically, student achievement . This suggests an underlying assumption that has far-reaching, adverse consequences for our nation’s children. It suggests all children learn and develop according to the same time schedules.

This plays out in the classrooms where students of a certain age are assigned to the same grade level and move from one grade to the next at the end of a calendar school year. Grades designed to measure and report student achievement are recorded by school year, semester, and grade period.

Within classrooms, students are expected to move from lesson to lesson and chapter to chapter as a group. Teachers develop lesson plans with time frames to which classes march in cadence, moving students from lesson to lesson. After allowing time for practice assignments, lesson plans have some time allocated for helping students learn from both their successes and mistakes. Within that framework, teachers do the best they can, responding to students with disparate needs and outcomes, but many  teachers would say it is never enough to meet the needs of every student, particularly those who struggle.

The reality is teachers are given little or no latitude to stop the march of time and make certain every child understands. When it is time, students are given chapter or unit tests and then must move on to next lessons and topics, ready or not.

When standardized tests are given, results are reported in relation to grade levels, as established by academic standards. When individual students are unable to pass these assessments in key subject areas, they are considered below grade level. In other words, they are not doing well when their performance is compared to students of the same grade and age.

This practice reveals significant flaws in our thinking about how students learn. We fail to consider that students start from the different points on an academic preparedness continuum. It also assumes that the appropriate way to gage a student’s progress is by comparing their progress to classmates.

Consider two students who arrive for school at the same time and age. One starts at point “zero” on a theoretical  “academic preparedness continuum,” while the other may have begun ten points ahead on that same preparedness scale.  Let’s assume, one year later, the first student has progressed from point zero to point six, while the second student has progressed from point ten to point fifteen. If the expectation is that students, at that age and grade, should have progressed to point fifteen, the second student is at grade level and the first is not.

Had we taken a closer look at the data, we would see that the first student actually made more progress than their classmate. With this data in hand, which student would we say accomplished the most? Is keeping up with a classmate truly more important than making significant individual progress? Most of us would say it is not, yet this is the way we assess performance.

This is an over-simplification, to be sure, but it is representative of what happens in classrooms across the nation for millions of children. The consequences of such things can be staggering in the life of a child. Consider that the first student, working hard to catch up and making progress, is viewed by the system as behind, based on test scores. In these situations, do any of these students begin to acquire the label of being below average or slow? We say this does not happen, but we all know it does.

We also say that the expectations for such students are never lowered but do we believe that? What happens to the child for whom expectations are lowered? How do they ever get back on track? They same is true at the conclusion of each lesson. How do students fare who are pushed ahead before they fully grasp the subject matter?   

The key to resolving these types of inequalities is to make time an independent variable, rather than a constant; giving teachers and administrators the latitude, first, to see that kids who are behind, for whatever reason, are given more time and attention so they might catch up; and, second, to measure each child’s performance against their own progress rather than on the basis of an arbitrary schedule of expectations or the performance of others.

Time can be an extraordinarily powerful tool  to enable teachers to help kids sustain their progress and be recognized as a “striving learner” rather than as one of the slow kids in the class. Presently, time is an extraordinarily negative force, constraining teachers and impeding student progress. This is just one example of how the education process is structured to function contrary to the best interests of both students and teachers.

The education model I have created was designed to mold the education process, including time, around the needs of teachers and students. The Hawkins Model© is engineered to empower teachers to utilize time as a resource to help students experience, celebrate, and be recognized for their progress; for their success. Consider how an environment is transformed when both students and teachers enjoy success. Confidence grows with each successful step taken. Once a child’s confidence and self-esteem begin to soar, who knows how much they may accomplish, someday. If you are a teacher, imagine what such an atmosphere would mean to you.

The Process of Success: another Lesson for Positive Leadership

Another of the key attributes of Positive Leaders is that they possess an understanding of the process of success along with a commitment to the relentless utilization of that process; a commitment to action.

People dream about success and about doing great things, often. Many young people fantasize about winning the lottery or making millions of dollars as a professional athlete or recording star. Few of these young people know how to convert their dreams to plans to action. Many adults think that success is a state of perpetual affluence. These men and women do not realize that affluence is nothing more than a possible consequence and not the essence of success.

Many of you who are reading this page have the ability within you to succeed right where you are, just by doing things differently, by learning the process of success and by rededicating yourselves to positive values. You can improve your performance on the job, enhance your career, have a more satisfying marriage, and get more joy and meaning out of life. These things can happen, now! Success can be personal, interpersonal, or organizational but it is always tied to clearly delineated objectives, a willingness to act, and is always measured through our relationships with other people.

What, then, is this process of success? It includes a mission in life, rooted in positive, life-affirming values; a positive attitude and approach; passion; a vision of how things can be; specific goals and objectives; an implementation plan; and finally, a commitment to action. It is that simple, but it does not stop there.

Action creates change. Change requires that the vision be re-examined, that the progress is measured, that the goals and objectives are adjusted, that the action plan be re-engineered, and that our actions themselves are modified accordingly. The process is repeated until we have converted the dream to reality; until we are satisfied. But satisfaction does not come easily if it comes at all.

The more we accomplish, the more we learn, and the more we learn, the more we imagine. What is vital is that our values, those core principles that sustain us, are not altered but remain rock solid.

It is a positive leader’s propensity for action that distinguishes him or her from men and women who simply manage. Positive Leaders make things happen. These individuals are at the peak of their art or craft. How do they do it? Well, of course, they have talent—but then many people have talent. The world is full of talented people who think back on opportunities in their lives and say, “with a little good luck I might have made it!” But, many talented people do not make it and good fortune may or may not deserve the credit for their outcomes. We all have good luck but not everyone is prepared to capitalize on it when it comes.

It is said that winners make their own breaks and this we have found to be especially true. Those of us who blame everything on bad luck are not accepting responsibility for our outcomes. Remember, it is not until we accept responsibility for the challenges we face that we acquire the power to overcome them.

If we reflect on the opportunities that have come our way, we discover that they came unexpectedly, often catching us off guard and unprepared. We might say it was bad luck that good fortune, in the guise of opportunity, called upon us when we were not ready. Often, bad luck is little more than lack of focus, readiness, and preparation for action.

Understand your purpose and mission and re-examine them routinely. Establish goals and objectives for yourselves. Make a commitment to those goals and objectives and dedicate yourself to doing everything in your power to facilitate them. Work hard to develop your skills and discipline yourself to a regimen that will maximize your talents and energies toward that end.

Be persistent despite the obstacles that present themselves and the setbacks that befall you. Know that all the work and effort you put forth is preparation for the time when opportunity knocks. When opportunities do present themselves, take positive action using all the skills and abilities in your arsenal and all the energy at your command.

Action is the key. Even the ideas of an Einstein or a Jefferson have little value until they are acted upon or communicated.

Positive Leaders rarely complain about things because complaints are powerless and are little more than a form of whining. Positive Leaders offer alternate solutions—what can we do differently to produce more desirable outcomes? If we think back to our fundamental definition of positive leadership, it is acceptance of responsibility for increasingly more desirable outcomes; for relentless improvement. This is what Positive Leaders do.

The process of success is crucial for addressing the challenges facing public education in America. Educators have every right to deflect the blame for the disappointing outcomes of so many students but that does not excuse them from accepting responsibility for seeking better solutions. The outcomes in public education demand action.

Does utilization of this process guarantee success? No! There are no guarantees. It does, however, improve the odds of successful outcomes so dramatically in one’s favor that success moves from possibility to probability. Teach yourself the process and make success a probability in your life!