The Problem is not Our Schools, Teachers, or Students, it’s What We Ask Them To Do in those Buildings!

There are Millions of children who struggle in our schools, both academically and behaviorally and if it were not for the dedication and commitment of teachers, that number would be even higher. There is no more reason to permit children to struggle in school than there is to put up with a light bulb that flickers. All that is necessary is to replace the education process at work in our classrooms with a new education model that works.

The good news is educators have learned everything they need to know in college to end the academic distress of these kids and to prevent the consequences of these disappointing outcomes. What we learned about human motivation from Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs,”[i] first introduced in 1943, has a direct application to kids in our classrooms, today.

Maslow taught that until lower-level needs are satisfied, there will be little motivation to pursue the satisfaction of higher-level needs.

The lowest level on the hierarchy are “physiological needs” which have been mitigated, at least partially, by the National School Lunch Program. The second and third levels are the need for safety and security followed by love and a sense of belonging. Meeting these needs must be our priority. If we want to assure academic success of all students, we must begin on their first day of kindergarten. There is nothing more important to 5 and 6-year-old kids than having a special relationship with teachers.

Teachers understand the importance of meeting these needs, but the education process impedes their effort. It is not good enough that there are some schools in which students and teachers succeed. All students must learn in all schools. It is a simple choice. We either assure a quality education for all or we bear the burden of their dependency for much of their lives.

When we add what neuroscientists have learned about the brains of children, our reluctance to change how we teach our kids is incomprehensible. We know the brains of children are programmed to learn; to soak up the world around them. We also know the brain can learn to overcome the challenges it faces after deprivation, illness, and injury, with the help of its friends, with teachers among the most important.

These little brains can only learn what they have an opportunity to learn, however. It is up to schools and teachers to provide that opportunity. It has been a lack of opportunity that contributes to the inequality that black and other students of color have had to endure. These are the same factors that have contributed to generations of adults who have always struggled in school, have always been poor, and have been dependent on public assistance for much of their lives.

I believe that almost everything wrong with American society, today, has been influenced by an education process that has been disconnected from its purpose and has not been meeting the needs of our children for longer than most of us have been alive. We must find a way to provide an education of sufficient quality to enable young people to overcome the obstacles that poverty and discrimination presents until the disparities, themselves, begin to disappear.

This is a problem that has a practical solution—one that is within our power to fix. But we cannot just think or talk about it. Action is required to make things happen. Understanding the action needed requires that educators at all levels step outside the boundaries of conventional wisdom because a solution cannot be envisioned from within our classrooms, the process must be examined as an integral whole.

The mission and purpose of education must be to help students learn as much as they are able at their own best pace, and everything teachers do must support that purpose.

A quality education has never been more important than it is today. It is essential that next generations of Americans, including black and other people of color, have a quality education and a powerful self-esteem. Our nation is going to need their leadership to help meet the extraordinary challenges we will face as we strive to rebuild a society that works for all people, not just a chosen few.

We begin by understanding that the heart is a portal to the mind. If we can capture the hearts of young children and cement those relationships, we can open their minds to learning. Kids must experience success and teachers must not only help students achieve it, but they must also share in its celebration.

When we succeed and win, we always want more. We must help students develop the self-esteem of winners.

Let me show you how the existing education process fails to accomplish this.

It will help if you understand that an education process is nothing more than a system of logic designed to produce desired outcomes no different than any production or service-delivery process. The logic of any process must remain true to its purpose, however.

Today, we are not getting the outcomes we need, rather what we are getting are the outcomes the existing education process is structured to produce. Those outcomes will continue to be unacceptable no matter how hard teachers work or how qualified they are until we are willing to change what we do. If we want the outcomes that our children and society need, we must reimagine an education process equipped to produce such outcomes. This must be the mission and purpose of education.

The Existing Education Process

There are identifiable reasons why the existing process allows so many of our students to struggle and these reasons have nothing to do with the ability of students to learn or of teachers to teach, with or without representation; and nothing at all to do with the names of the schools.

Each of these reasons are consequences of a dysfunctional education process that has become disconnected from its purpose. Just as children do not all learn to walk and talk at the same time, children in school will not all learn at the same pace or in the same way.

The first flaw in the process is that when we pack as many as 35 students into a classroom with one teacher with all the responsibilities teachers must manage, there will always be more children with more needs than even the best teachers can address, and no, it is not okay if we succeed with only few. And, when we see students hiding along the edges and in the shadows of our classrooms, or acting out, these are the first signals telling us their needs are not being met.

Although there is an expectation that teachers will develop special relationships with their students, there is no meaningful strategy to stay focused on that priority. When we establish something as our top priority it must be supported by the process in every possible way, and in everything we do.

If we truly believed relationships were our number one priority, for example, why at the end of each school year would we sever the few relationships teachers and students were able to forge? It is a meaningless tradition and is contrary to our purpose.

Another flaw is that, from the beginning, the process is more focused on getting these youngsters started out on the pathway mapped out by academic standards than it is about learning. By keeping to the schedules and timetables embedded in academic standards, the process starts students out as a group and begins moving them from one point to the next on a pathway with no provision to deal with students who are starting from way behind, nor does it allow teachers to adapt to a student’s pace of learning.

It appears as if the education process is more focused on timeliness than it is on learning. Children begin falling by the wayside, beginning in kindergarten, and that number grows each year.

The third flaw is that the instruction process requires teachers to present lessons and provide students with assignments so they can practice the knowledge and skills that are the focus of each lesson. Although educators understand the importance of helping children learn from their mistakes, there are always more mistakes by more students than teachers have the time to address.

Teachers are, then, expected to administer quizzes and tests that are graded based on the number of mistakes students make as measured against the performance of classmates—to see who won. Education is preparation to compete in life, not a competition to see who learns the most or the fastest.

Tests are returned to students, who are given an insufficient time to review and understand the mistakes they made and those grades are recorded in the teacher’s gradebook to maintain a record of who was successful and who was not. 

Students are then moved on to the next lesson in each subject area, ready or not.

Another flaw is that the Cs, Ds, and Fs recorded next to the names of students are not the best they can do, only the best they were able to do in the time allotted. Because these students are being pushed from lesson to lesson without the prerequisite knowledge and skills prior lessons were intended to impart, their probability of success on future lessons diminishes and they fall a little further behind at each stop along the way.

It should be obvious that students unable to meet expectations on a chapter test, administered immediately after a lesson, are even more likely to fall short of expectations during state exams in the spring. Many students in all schools have no opportunity to experience and celebrate success. In this respect they are no different than adults who never get to experience the pride of a job well done.

Why are we surprised by this?

And why do we feel the need to defend ourselves from these tests. What they measure is the inefficacy of the education process, not teachers. They tell us kids are not learning and that we need to rethink how we teach. The way teachers should respond when test results are used to criticize public schools and their teachers, is with indignation and with the presentation of a new idea about how we should teach. It does no good to complain, one must offer a better solution.

Public school educators are encouraged to turn the table on their critics, including the leaders of their state departments of education and demand that, rather than spend money on tuition subsidies and charter schools, they should invest in the reimagination of the education process teachers are required to use so it is designed to produce the outcomes we are all seeking.

The proof, as ironic as it may be, is that the charter schools that are being created as alternatives to community public schools are not performing as well as the public schools they were intended to replace.

The reason is that they are utilizing the same education process, often with less qualified teachers and based on their misguided belief that if businesspeople change the name on the school building and run them like they run their businesses, our children will no longer struggle. Just like success in technology, teaching requires specialized expertise in an environment in which it can be effectively employed.

Despite their lack of success, more and more states are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on tuition subsidy and voucher programs so kids can attend charter schools. For every $100 million some states spend on subsidy programs they could fund my model in over 1,000 classrooms of 45 students each, at a cost of less than $2,200 per student. Keep reading to learn how much of a difference a new education model will make compared to our existing classrooms and to charter schools.

It is only a matter of time before the outcome’s teachers are willing to accept become a child’s expectation of themselves.

As patterns of disappointing outcomes emerge, it is inevitable that some kids will begin to give up and stop trying. Rather than building on one success after another, these students find themselves having to deal with one disappointing outcome after another.

This is not a recipe for constructing the solid academic and emotional foundations they will need throughout life. 

We spend a lot of time, particularly in high school, striving to help students catch up. As excellent as these programs may be, and as commendable as it is that so many advocacy groups are striving to help students who have fallen behind, it begs the question:

 “wouldn’t students be better off if they had never been allowed to fall behind in elementary school?”

Let’s now examine an alternative approach offered by The Hawkins Model©

This new model is constructed on the belief that education is an uncertain science and success depends on the ability of professionals to develop and practice the art and craft of teaching.

The model includes several transformational changes to increase the capability of our teachers and reduce class size by establishing teaching teams of three teachers assigned to a classroom with no more than 45 students. To ensure the primacy of relationships it is envisioned that these classrooms of teachers and students will remain together from kindergarten all the way through what we now think of as fifth grade.

Yes, some teachers will be put off by this idea, but teams have proven to be a powerful tool in which “the sum is greater than the whole of its parts.

Within a team, someone always has our back and it triples the probability that every child will find a teacher with whom they can bond and learn. It also increases the chances that parents will find a teacher whom they are willing to trust. Teams also create many opportunities for collaboration as its members strive to meet the unique needs of students. Also, teams provide stability so that the class is not set back with the insertion of a substitute or even on the rare occasion that a teacher leaves, whatever the reason.

We must, also, convert time from a fixed asset that constrains rather than empowers us, to a variable asset available in whatever quantities teachers and their students require.

(Readers concerned that state departments of education will find this unacceptable are asked to consider that, the struggling schools selected to test this model are already falling short of their state’s expectations. I believe students learning under The Hawkins Model© may well be approaching or even exceeding those expectations by the end of their second semester, or soon thereafter.)

We will set aside the first few weeks and/or months to encourage students to play and have fun in addition to presenting lessons. Play is, after all, nature’s preferred method of learning. Students, also, must become acclimated to the community of their classrooms, and get to know their classmates.

During those initial weeks or months, teachers will use their time to observe and assess the levels of academic preparedness and emotional development of students so they can tailor an academic plan to the unique needs of students. We need to understand what they know and what they have not yet learned. We must also understand how they respond to all the activities, people, and challenges of their environment.

Next, we will change the instruction process so that teachers:

  • Utilize as much time as necessary to present and review lessons, allow students time to practice and receive the help they need to learn from all of their mistakes.
  • Will utilize quizzes, tests, and other assessments, not for the purpose of assigning grades, but rather to signal whether a student is ready to move forward to next lessons in possession of the pre-requisite knowledge and skills success on future lessons will require.
  • When the test results signal that a student is not ready for the next lesson, the expectation will be that teachers take a step back with students, and reteach the lesson, provide more time, help, and practice in learning from their mistakes and,
  • When deemed ready, give students do-over opportunities to demonstrate that they are ready to move forward, well prepared for success on the next lesson in that subject area. Learning is the only thing that counts and that should be counted.

Our objective also includes helping students develop character by viewing behavior problems as an opportunity to do more than admonish and discipline. We must both teach and provide affirmation while asking students to work on their behavior. We must, also, ask what we can do to help? Helping children overcome difficulties helps create strong bonds.

These are opportunities to help students accept responsibility for the construction of solid academic and emotional foundations from which they can pursue whatever goals and aspirations they set for themselves.

Finally, teachers will strive to help children develop the healthy self-esteem they will need to overcome life’s many challenges, including discrimination, and pursue the opportunities life will present. Our purpose is to help students get an education so they will have meaningful choices in life to:

  • find joy and satisfaction,
  • provide for themselves and their families,
  • abide by the rules of law,
  • make positive contributions to their communities, and
  • participate in their own governance as members of what we hope will still be a participatory democracy.

This level of citizenship requires that each of us have a sufficient understanding of the universe in which we live and the people with whom we share it to be able to make thoughtful choices with respect to policies regarding the cogent issues of our time.

If those of you who are reading this blog post want better outcomes for your students/children, you are encouraged to join me in finding struggling elementary schools in which my model can be put to the test in at least their kindergarten classrooms and then follow them all the way through the fifth grade.

My education model, which is offered for free, does not require school districts to make any changes that will require approval from their state agencies, nor does it provide a quick solution. Since it has taken us many decades and even centuries to get us to where we are today, thirteen years does not seem an unreasonable amount of time to begin guiding our children and our nation back on course.

Although the model will be made available to public, charter, and faith-based schools, we believe community public schools should be our priority.

They are, after all, the only schools to which all students can be assured access.

            We must always remember, it’s all about the kids!


[Black and other children of color, Struggle in School, dedication and commitment of teachers, disappointing outcomes, Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs kindergarten, relationship with teachers, education process, children of color. quality education black and other people of color, self-esteem, academic standards, prerequisite knowledge and skills, criticism of public schools, public schools, Public school educators, The Hawkins Model©, the heart is a portal to the mind, healthy self-esteem,]

[i] Maslow, Abraham, A Theory of Human Motivation, 2011 (Kindle Version)

Differentiating Control and Influence with Respect to Student Achievement

Thanks to @StevenSinger3 for his comment that “student achievement and growth are things teachers do not control. His other point is that “lawmakers need to understand this & stop trying to hold us accountable for things out of our control.”

Of course, he is correct. Teachers can no more control the achievements of their students than leaders can control the achievement of their people. What teachers can and must do, however, is influence their students. How we differentiate control and influence has much significance in addressing the challenges facing teachers and public schools.

To be able to adapt to the needs of their students, teachers must possess some level of control over the education process; empowering them to exercise discretion. This brings an important question into focus. “Does the education process exist to serve the needs of teachers and students or do teachers and kids exist to serve the process.” See my earlier post entitled: A Square Peg in the Round Hole of Public Education.”

The existing education process is rigid and un-malleable. It functions to ensure that what students are to be taught conforms to academic standards and timeframes. It is not designed to provide teachers with the flexibility they need to differentiate with respect to student needs.

We have carved out exceptions for children who have been identified as having a recognized disability and this works reasonably well. Little has been done, however, for the children whose deficiency is academic preparedness, whatever its genesis. The fact that children of color and those for whom English is not their mother tongue are disproportionately represented in the population of students with an academic preparedness deficiency has enormous adverse  consequences  for all aspects of American society.

How can we expect our teachers, unsung heroes all, to have a significant positive influence on these disadvantaged children if they cannot differentiate?  

In many schools, disadvantaged kids are the rule not the exception.  It is imperative that teachers be able to deviate from rigid structure of the education process for any student who struggles; and this is especially true during a student’s first few years of school. If we cannot get kids on a positive learning path when they are 5 and 6 years old, they are likely to have given up by the time they are fifteen and sixteen? It is incredibly difficult to remediate the learning patterns of young people who have spent as many as ten years learning that it is pointless to try.

The brains of normal newborn babies are programmed to learn. Babies soak up the world around them through their sensory apparatus. Because of their innate curiosity, kids are motivated to learn but that motivation must be sustained. When they arrive for their first day of school, we can help sustain or, if necessary, re-ignite that motivation with positive reinforcement that is most powerful if it is provided within the context of a nurturing relationship with people who care about them. Positive reinforcement from parents or other caregivers and teachers, who are both able and committed to giving kids time and attention, can be a powerful  force. It works best when the providers of that reinforcement are working in concert, as members of a team, but often, it will be left to teachers. Hence, it is imperative that teachers are given latitude.

Think of that positive reinforcement in terms of affirmation, acknowledgement, and celebration of success. Affirmation is reinforcement of an individual’s inherent value. It is letting kids know that they are important, that we like and care about them. It instills a sense of belonging. Think about how many of the students who have engaged in acts of violence against their classmates and teachers  appeared to exist on the fringes of their in-school communities; who felt no sense of belonging. That sense of being a part of a community, team, or family not only helps develop a healthy self-esteem, it helps nurture and sustain one’s motivation to learn.

Acknowledgement and celebration of success are essential to learning. Success must be experienced before it can be acknowledged and celebrated, however. If the education process neither authorizes nor facilitates the ability of teachers to give students the time and attention they need to learn, not only are students deprived of the opportunity to master subject matter, they are denied the opportunity to celebrate success, which reinforces the learning process and their motivation to learn.

Recall, always, the learning process is, itself, learned behavior.

It is true they do not control student achievement, but teachers have power to influence that achievement, provided they are able to exercise discretion and exert some level of control over the education process.  If the education process does not accommodate that freedom of action, on the part of teachers, it must be replaced.

The Primacy of Relationships and the Challenge of Peer Pressure – Part 2

Part of the focus on relationships that is central to The Hawkins Model©, is to ensure that, not only do  students have close and enduring relationships with their teachers, but also that they develop and sustain healthy bonds with their classmates. Such relationships play an important part of healthy development and can ensure that peer pressure can be a positive influence on kids, of any age, and not just a negative force that distracts and diverts young people from their values and purpose. Positive peer influence can be a powerful force that can strengthen relationships, minimize the incidence of bullying, and provide positive role models for kids.

When my family moved to Indiana during the middle of my junior year in high school, I had an opportunity to witness the positive power of peer influence alter the behavior of many of my classmates. In this case, it was a small thing, but it demonstrated the ability of a popular student to influence the behavior  of his peers as a positive role model.

As a new student who didn’t make friends easily, I was thrilled to be invited to hang out with one of the nicest and most popular juniors in the school. His name was John and he was a trend setter; not only in fashion but also in other ways. He was the first guy to reach out to me with an offer of friendship.

One day, we all arrived at school in a driving downpour and, as was the case in my prior high school, there were no raincoats, boots, or umbrellas to be seen on any of my male classmates. Guys were willing to arrive drenched rather than appear uncool. Then, along came my friend John, using an umbrella. He was the only guy who left a dry path, that day, as he passed through the halls and classrooms.

The very next time it rained, a few days later, there must have been a dozen or more guys, myself included, who arrived at school using an umbrella. By the end of the school year, seeing a guy in the rain without an umbrella was the exception, not the rule.

Our friend John, with his powerful self-esteem demonstrated how much of a difference one person can make just by setting a good example. To his credit, this was not the only way John exerted a positive influence on his peers. He was a genuinely good person who treated all other students–no matter who they were–and teachers with kindness and respect. He would have been a perfect candidate for membership in a 1960s version of @melanie_korach’s #starfishclub.

As I thought back about the other students with whom I shared a classroom over thirteen years of school, I began to recall others boys and girls who contributed, quietly but meaningfully, to help create of a positive peer environment.

It was a sad day, more than twenty years later, when  I searched for and found John’s name etched on the black walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I felt a keen sense of loss and was unembarrassed to shed a tear for a guy who befriended me when I was the new kid in school; a young man who made a difference with his positive values, commitment to his community–whether a high school class or his country–and by being both confident and kind.

How many schools and classrooms, of which you are aware, make it a point to create a positive culture for all students, not just the most popular kids. It is my assertion that we can create a classroom environment that fosters this kind of positive peer influence, intentionally. It is one of the subtle but powerful things The Hawkins Model© can help create just by changing the way we structure the education process. Why not check it out?

The Primacy of Relationships and the Challenge of Peer Pressure – Part 1

Relationships are everything to human beings, as we have discussed in earlier posts. What we do not spend enough time discussing is the power of peer pressure and how it affects relationships, learning, development, and self-esteem of our students.

All human beings are subject to peer pressure and this is especially true of school-aged children. This was true when I was a kid but, today, that pressure is magnified by the ubiquitous nature of social media. Has it ever been more powerful than it is in present times? We will come back to that thought.

One of my all-time favorite teachers was Mrs. Swartz, my seventh-grade social studies teacher at Johns Hill Junior High School, in Decatur, IL. The fact that I remember so much of what Mrs. Swartz said and taught should illustrate how much of an impact she had on my life. She was my favorite teacher and I truly believed that I was her favorite student. I looked forward to 4th period every single day.

One day she began a period by sending one of the class’s best students to the library for a pre-arranged visit to pick up literature of some kind. As soon as our classmate left the room, Mrs. Swartz drew five lines on the black board. Four of the lines were the same length and one was noticeably shorter. She then proceeded to explain to the class what we would do when our classmate returned from the library. No doubt, some of the teachers reading these words have conducted the same exercise.

Mrs. Swartz explained that the purpose of the exercise was to test the power of peer pressure. She asked us to say yes when asked if the lines were the same length. She also asked us to predict what our classmate would do when it was his turn. Would he report what was obvious to see, that one line was shorter than the others or, would he succumb to peer pressure and go along with his peers?

Because he was one of the smartest and most popular students in our grade, my classmates and I were almost unanimous in our belief that he would say that one line was shorter. We all watched with growing anticipation as Mrs. Swartz worked her way around the classroom and we observed as each kid announced, without a moment’s hesitation, that all five lines were of equal length.

When, finally, it was the turn of the subject of our experiment, we were stunned to hear him say, as did we all, that the lines were of equal length. As we sat in disbelief, our teacher finished her trek around the classroom so that every student had an opportunity to respond.

Taking care not to embarrass our classmate, Mrs. Swartz proceeded to explain peer pressure, noting that it has the power to affect everyone, even one of the most intelligent and independent students in our class. She asked our classmate how he felt during the exercise and he said he was confused when, one after another, we all announced the lines were the same length. He said, “it didn’t make any sense, so I just kept staring at the lines, trying to understand why I was seeing something different than everyone else.”

As she questioned him, he described being pulled in opposite directions. Part of him wanted to say “ we were all crazy and that line number five was clearly shorter than the others. Another part of him felt pressured to go along with the crowd.”

He then laughed and we all laughed with him, but his was loudest of all.

Even in such simple situations, kids feel pressure to conform to the ideas and behavior of their peers and it is this writer’s assertion this has never been truer than it is today. All educators and parents are aware of this pressure but how many formal strategies exist to help protect kids from this incredible force that diverts and distracts them from their priorities? The answer is that very little is done to deal with the power of the peer group.

There is an interesting side note to this story from 1959. It  was not until the next year, when my friends and I were talking about how much we missed having Mrs. Swartz as our social studies teacher, that I was stunned to learn that every single one my friends truly believed that he or she was Mrs. Swartz favorite student. It  made us love and miss her even more.

What if we could give every child a Mrs. Swartz and allow him or her to keep her as their teacher for 3 or even as many as 5 years? What kind of an impact would that have on a child’s emotional and learning development? What if we could help more young people develop a powerful self esteem that would enable them to make sensible decisions and stay focused on their priorities, even in the face of negative peer pressure? Providing such an environment is one of the purposes of The Hawkins Model©.

An Open Letter to the Educators of and Advocates for, Children of Color

If you do not stop the failure of disadvantaged students, a disproportionate percentage of whom are children of color, who will?

In the movie Deja Vu, Denzel Washington’s character asks a young woman:

“What if you had to tell someone the most important thing in the world, but you knew they’d never believe you?”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is one of those occasions.

Many public school educators and policy makers have convinced themselves that they are powerless to do anything about the failure of these children until society addresses poverty and segregation.

If you are reading these words, please believe me when I tell you that you are not powerless! These children are capable of learning if we place them in an environment that takes into consideration any academic preparedness disadvantages they bring with them on their first day of school.

If we make the effort to discover what they know and help them begin building on that foundation, one success at a time, it is only a matter of our patient time and attention until a motivation to learn takes root. From that point on, with the help of caring teachers and parents working together, there will be no stopping them.

Imagine a future in which every child who graduates from high school has the knowledge, skills, confidence, and determination to create a positive future for themselves and their families.

It takes thirteen years to help a child progress from Kindergarten to the moment they walk off a stage with a diploma that is more than just a meaningless piece of paper, so we must start now! We cannot afford to squander another day, let alone waste another child.

That millions of disadvantaged students, many of whom are black and other minorities, are failing in school is an indisputable fact of life in America. Because this has been going on for generations, urban and rural communities throughout the U.S. are full of multiple generations of men and women who have always failed in school and have always been poor. Consider the possibility that this is not an inevitable outcome of poverty and segregation.

I suggest an alternate reality in which poverty and segregation exist because so many children have been failing for so long. It is a chicken versus the egg conundrum, I know. The reality is that the failure of so many children and the poverty and segregation within which they live, are like a Gordian knot; intertwined, interdependent, and seemingly impenetrable.

Disadvantaged students fail not because they are incapable of learning and not because our teachers are incompetent rather because these kids arrive for their first day of school with an academic preparedness deficiency. They start from behind and are expected to keep up with more “advantaged” class mates and with academic standards and expectations that make no allowance or accommodation for their disadvantages. As these children are pushed ahead before they are ready, they begin to fall behind.

What do any of us do when we discover that we are unable to compete and begin to lose/fail repeatedly? When we fail, again and again, we get discouraged and if the pattern continues, we give up and stop trying. If we are a child in a classroom, we begin to act out.

Our teachers, who have worked hard to help us, begin to perceive us as slow learners and begin to accept our failure as inevitable. Our classmates begin to perceive us as dumb and this affects the way they interact with and think about us. This reality makes it easy for them to target us, first for teasing, then insults, and then bullying.

Worst of all, we begin to view ourselves as unequal and it damages our self-esteem. When this happens anytime, especially at an early age, the impact on our self-esteem and our view of our place in the world can be altered for the rest or our lives. We begin to think of ourselves as separate and apart.

This is tragic because it is so unnecessary. We can begin altering this reality, immediately, if educators would simply open their eyes to the reality, on the one hand, that this is not our fault, and on the other, that we have the power to change the reality and end the failure.

All these kids need is the time and the patient attention of one or more teachers who care about them. For 5 and 6-year old children warm, nurturing relationships that allow the children to feel loved and safe are as essential to their well-being as the air they breathe. Such relationships are an essential variable in the education equation. This is true for all kids, even those with loving parents. For children who do not feel loved and safe at home, such relationships may be the only deterrent to the schoolhouse to jailhouse track.

This latter group of children pose a significant challenge because many of them have learned not to trust.

For this reason, schools must make forming such relationships their overriding priority. That means not only making the formation of such relationships a primary expectation for teachers but also crafting an environment that fosters and sustains such relationships. Because of the background of these youngsters, great care must be taken to ensure that these relationships, once formed, endure. One of the best ways to ensure that they endure is to give the child more than one teacher with whom they can bond and by keeping them together for an extended period of time.

The next step in the creation of a no-failure zone is to do a comprehensive assessment of each new student’s level of academic preparedness and then tailor an academic plan to give them the unique support they require to be successful. Student’s must be given however much time they need to begin learning and then building on what they know, one success at a time. Each success must be celebrated. Celebrating an individual’s successes and even their nice tries, is a powerful form of affirmation that helps them develop a strong and resilient self-esteem. There is nothing that ignites a motivation to learn in the hearts and minds of children more than learning that they can create their own success.

Interestingly, teachers who have never experienced success in reaching these most challenging students will be on a parallel path in their own career development. They are also learning that they can be successful with even their most challenging students.

Children discover that success is not an event, it is a process that often includes a few stumbles along the way. If we teach them that each stumble is nothing more than a mistake and that we all make mistakes, kids begin to view their stumbles as learning opportunities and as an inherent part of the process of success.

Because of the way the current, obsolete education process has evolved, many teachers have become disconnected from their purpose. They have come to view themselves as scorekeepers and passers of judgment.

What we want all teachers and administrators to understand it that we have only one purpose and that is to help children learn. Starting from their first day of school, and over the next thirteen years or so, our purpose is to help them gain the knowledge, skill, wisdom, and understanding they will need to make a life for themselves and their families. Our job is to ensure that they have a wide menu of choices determined by their unique talents and interests. We want them to be able to participate in their own governance and in the American dream.

For children of color, we must help them develop the powerful self-esteem that will make them impervious to the ravages of discrimination and bigotry. However much we might want to legislate an end to the racism in the hearts of man, it is not within our power to do. The best we can do is to make sure not a single child is left defenseless. Every successful man or woman of color has faced the pain and heartache of discrimination in their lives but because they were not defenseless, they have been able to create incredible achievements for themselves, their families, and for society.

One young child even grew up to be President of the United States. Who knows, there might be a boy or girl in your class who has, within him or her, the makings of a future President. Our challenge as educators is to make sure each boy and girl gets the opportunity to develop their unique potential.

Imagine a future in which every young man or woman of color, or who was once disadvantaged, leaves high school with the skills, knowledge, wisdom, talent, and motivation to become a full-fledged player in the American enterprise; to partake fully in the American dream. This is the dream that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned and for which the heroes of the civil rights movement sacrificed so much.

Please take time to read my White Paper and Education Model at Please read it, not in search of reasons why it will not work, rather in hope that it might. Utilize it as a spark to ignite your own imagination.

How Do We Respond to the Hatred? How Do We Start to Heal?

How do we respond to the increasing level of hatred that so many people have for others? How do we make sense out of Dylann Roof and the others who have opened fire on innocent Americans whether driven by racial hatred, ostracism from one’s peers, religious fanaticism, or the inexplicable lure of terrorist propaganda? How do we divest ourselves of the hatred some Americans have for others because of the color of their skin?

How do we keep law enforcement officers from profiling young blacks as criminals? How do we stop the greedy and unprincipled from wreaking havoc on the weak and the helpless for either material or political gain?

Everywhere we turn we see the growing antagonism that some human beings have for others and it places all of us at risk. Is there anyone, anywhere who can truly feel safe in this troubled world we share?

For generations, the majority of Americans have felt privileged to live under the protection of a constitutional democracy that has provided freedom of opportunity. Most of us spent our entire lives basking in those privileges, blind to the injustices suffered by minorities, some of whom were transported to this country in the shackles of slavery while others immigrated voluntarily in search of opportunities that Americans citizens—the progeny of earlier waves of immigrants—seemed determined not to share.

For the last century non-Hispanic whites have comprised a significant majority of the American Population. In 2014, US Census reports indicate that non-Hispanic whites now represent approximately 62 percent of the American population. By 2060 that percentage is projected to be only 43.6 percent.

The population of Americans over the age of 65 is also spiraling upward and by 2060 the number of people age 65 or older is expected to double from roughly 45 million today to 90 million.

The cost of caring for these people, our parents and grandparents will soar and place enormous pressure on the American economy. The ramifications of these demographics with respect to political control of our nation are staggering as it will no longer be possible for one segment of our population to dictate to another.

Our future as a democratic society will be dependent upon our ability to find ways to work together. If we can pull together within the framework of an “abundance mentality,” for our mutual benefit, there is hope for a bright and golden future. If we continue to pursue “a zero-sum-game mentality in which one person’s gain is perceived as another’s loss then we are doomed to a tragic end to the great American democracy.

Inclusion will become a categorical necessity but that will require that we find a way to set aside our hatred, bitterness, and resentment for one another. Unfortunately, we cannot legislate an end to the hatred in the hearts of human beings.

So, how do we transition from a world in which people who are different from us are perceived as a threat to our safety and prosperity to one in which we view each other as brothers and sisters of creation. How do we gravitate from a society of haves and have-nots to one in which we are guided by the Ziglar principle that “I can get everything I want and need in life if I help other people get what they want and need.”

If we are unable to work together as partners we will find ourselves pitted, one against the others, until there is only tragedy.

Racial discrimination and bigotry are nothing more than a high level form of bullying and the people who lash out in hatred are nothing more than bullies. What motivates a bully? Almost always, bullying is the response of insecure human beings who feel that people whom they judge to be unworthy are a threat to the bully’s social or economic advantage.

We cannot afford to waste one moment on things that we are powerless to change and complaining about our misfortune is one of the least productive of all human ventures.

We must hold abusers accountable, relentlessly, but this will never be sufficient. We must mitigate the disadvantages with which some of us are burdened thereby reducing the vulnerability of all victims of discrimination, bigotry, and persecution.

The best way to reduce the vulnerability of victims is to strengthen their self-esteem and the best way to strengthen someone’s self-esteem is to help them develop the tools they need to take control of their own destiny. Power to control one’s destiny is a function of an effective public education.

Education is key and our public schools are critical to our purpose. We must strengthen our public schools and public school teachers, not weaken them, and we must solidify the relationship between our public schools and the communities they exist to serve. To do otherwise is to widen the gaps that separate us.

How Do We Subtract Failure from the Public Education Equation?

Failure is a debilitating thing for anyone but it is particularly hard on children. Nevertheless, failure is key component of the traditional American educational process and the very fact that kids can fail leads to a reality in which far too many of them do. We need to ask ourselves, why is this necessary? Why should any child have to deal with failure?

Let us examine the definition of the word “fail.” Merriam Webster defines “fail” to mean “to end without success.”

For the purpose of public education, we can define “fail” as “unable to demonstrate mastery over given subject matter.” In our present educational process we have given the lesson; we have given students a fair opportunity to practice; and, finally, we assess their level of mastery by asking the student to demonstrate that mastery on a test. The grade the student earns and that goes into the gradebook is a reflection of their performance on that instrument of measurement. So far, so good.

The problem with the American educational process in an overwhelming number of public school classrooms is not that some kids did well on the test and other kids did poorly. Rather it is that, however the child performs, we declare our job done with respect to that particular lesson, lesson module, chapter, grading period, semester, or school year.

The question that needs to be posed is, “Why would we ever be satisfied with an unacceptable outcome for any of our students?”

These are children, after all. They are unique individuals—children of creation—and they each have equal value in the eyes of both the Creation and the law. Is there any reason in the world to compare them against their classmates and to declare that some are better or worse than others?

Is there any reason to believe that because students did not grasp a given lesson as quickly and easily as some of their classmates that they are incapable of learning? Yet, this is what happens in our classrooms. We finish one lesson and we move onto the next and each child is given a grade to reflect their level of mastery over the material at that point in time.

When we push kids along to a new lesson while they are still struggling to understand the old, they begin to view themselves as less capable than their classmates. This experience influences the way the child thinks of himself or herself and diminishes his or her self-esteem. When this happens over and over again, the effect is devastating. Is it any wonder that some of these kids reach a point at which they stop trying because they no longer believe that success is attainable? Is there ever a time when this could be considered an acceptable outcome?

If our job is to determine which children can learn the most in the fastest measure of time then the educational process in place today is perfectly structured.

If, however, our objective is to help every child learn as much he or she can as quickly as he or she is able then the educational process is working at cross purposes with our objective.

Each child deserves the time they need to experience that special moment when the material clicks in their mind and they understand. Only then should they be asked to move on to new material. Once a pattern of success begins to manifest itself in the child’s mind, everything changes. With each success it becomes easier to succeed on the next lesson.

Think about the difference this would make in the child’s self-perception.

When a child finds themselves at a point where they no longer see the sense in trying it is, indeed, a failure but it is a failure on the part of the educational process and not on the part of the child.

Our current educational process is structured to produce disparate outcomes and we will not be able to alter this reality until we change the way we teach and the context within which we teach. We need to re-invent the educational process until it is structured to produce the outcomes we seek: that all children learn as much as the can as fast as they are able.

My book, Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America offers a blue print for a structure that will produce such outcomes.

Things You as a Positive Leader Can Do, Part 2 – Be a Better Spouse or Lover!

This is the second in our series of things positive leaders can do to make a difference in world around them and in the lives of the people with whom they interact.

If you desire a better marriage or a better relationship with your spouse or lover be a positive leader and commit to becoming a better spouse or lover; be a better partner in life. Whether you are a man or a woman, your job is to give of yourself; to wish happiness for your partner and then to do whatever you can to make it happen. This is your mission in life, to be a giver rather than a taker. If you give of yourself fully, it is inevitable that your partner will give to you as well.

Be your partner’s best friend. Be his or her cheerleader, moral support, and advocate as well as lover and companion. Take joy in his or her success in life because they are your successes as well. Pull for them to be fulfilled in life and to be self-actualized. Do all these things and your partner will return them in full measure. It may not seem so at first, but by giving of yourself you are enriching your partner’s self-esteem. The healthier your spouse or lover’s ego the more he or she is able to give. Remember that “what goes around, comes around.”

Make your partner feel that they are important and that what they do and say is also important. Listen to them and communicate honestly. Let them know that they can count on you for honest feedback and that they need not be embarrassed because of their imperfections. The more you give and the more you share, the more you shall receive in return.

Give fully of yourself sexually and learn what makes your partner happy. Strive to give them pleasure and you will learn the magical secret of sexual fulfillment. The more you give of yourself the more you receive in return. When both partners strive equally to give the other pleasure, both will joyfully experience one of our Creator’s greatest gifts. The secret of life is, once again, giving. The more we give, the more we receive. It is truly a prescription for life.

When barriers are erected between you and your partner, break them down. Talk to one another no matter how difficult it seems. If you are unable to say it out loud, write a letter. If the barriers loom too large, seek help from a trained professional. Remember that the relationship is more important than anything you possess. It is more important than the house, the cars; it is more important than anything but your self-esteem. Your children are an inherent part of the relationship and not something separate and apart.

The relationship must always enhance the self to be healthy. If, at any time, the relationship seems to require that one partner give up his or her identity then the relationship is unhealthy. Healthy relationships demand the absolute commitment to the well-being of one’s partner. Each must be devoted to the other in this respect. Anything short of this is selfishness and selfishness is the destructive force at the root of much of the trouble in not only our relationships but also in our society.

Yes, there will be inevitable conflicts and differences of opinion. Both partners will have strengths and weaknesses and the sharing will, at times, be unequal. Neither has a right to expect perfection but both have the right to expect the best of one another. When problems arise, do not keep score of who did what to whom or who owes what.

Help each other. Share responsibilities. Talk about the personal goals and expectations of each and divvy up responsibilities according to those goals and expectations. Now that more and more women have careers, it is vital that the partners understand that a team effort is required at home. Both partners must share equally with the responsibilities of childcare and home. Remember that the best marriages and the healthiest children come from marriages that are distinguished by full partnership.

Sharing a life together can be the single greatest joy in life. It is greater than anything money can buy and it is worth any sacrifice. It is the source of strength that can sustain each partner through all of the ups and downs of life and that will allow you to delight in your life, no matter what challenges life brings to bear. When we see what is happening throughout our society, with the divorce rate and the breakup of families, it is a sad thing. It is a symptom of our systemic selfishness. Many men and women make poor decisions when selecting their mate, relying on superficial criteria. Then, we fail to give fully of ourselves in the effort to make the relationship work.

We place our value in things that are, at their core, meaningless. We want nice things: a beautiful house in a prestigious neighborhood, expensive furniture, nice cars, flashy toys, and nice vacations. Some of us consider it imperative that they belong to the most exclusive country clubs. We want all we can get, yet none of these things lead to joy and happiness. They are not inherently bad things but it is the quest for their acquisition that can lead to disillusionment and unhappiness. The only joy in life comes through our relationships with our Creator, however we individually may choose to view the Creation, and our relationships with the people whom we love and cherish. Things have no meaning and a life that has been dominated by the desire for material things is destined for heartbreak.

Rethink your values. Examine the focus of your time and energy. If that focus is on materialism rather than on the people in your life then it is time for a radical realignment. If you refocus that attention on your spouse, your children, your family and friends you will rediscover absolute joy in your life.

A Healthy Self-Esteem, the 1st Attribute of Positive Leaders

The first distinguishing characteristic of positive leaders – the first attribute – is a strong and positive self-concept. Positive leaders have a clear sense of who they are and where they are going. They have confidence in themselves and in their talents and abilities. They believe in themselves; they believe themselves to be somehow special. It is this core belief – this strong sense of self – from which the power of positive leadership emanates.
Leadership, as we have already discovered, implies taking risks, forging new concepts, charting new courses, breaking new trails. Leadership means going first – often where no man or woman has gone before. This takes great courage, confidence, and character and these traits, so common to the great leaders of history, are nothing more than manifestations of a strong self-esteem.

Leaders must be outwardly directed. They are concerned about the world and about other people. It is not that their own needs are left unattended – quite the contrary, positive leaders are secure in themselves. They know in the deepest part of their souls that they are okay – that nothing that can happen in the external world can diminish their worth as a living, breathing human being; as a child of Creation. From this foundation of a secure ego they are able to give freely of themselves. They have, in fact, discovered one of the greatest secrets of life: that the best way to serve one’s self, to feed a healthy ego, is to serve others. The more we give the greater the gifts we receive.

For men and women with an underdeveloped ego who find themselves in a leadership role, this is an alien concept. They have not reached the crest of the mountain from which they can see the panorama. They spend the greater part of their time and energy advancing their individual interests rather than attending to the needs of their organization and its people. As a result, as leaders they are ineffectual. Just as importantly, this self-serving behavior is apparent to the people with whom these individuals work and interact.

There are very few individuals for whom a healthy self-concept comes easily and most of us must work relentlessly at maintaining our self-esteem. Much like we must do with purpose, we must periodically step back and assess the health of our self-esteem. Unless we have perfected the process of retaining a healthy ego, the natural ebbs and flows of life can lead to disequilibrium. We are often unaware that our focus has shifted from the external world to the internal.

Effective positive leaders work relentlessly to maintain a healthy self-esteem much in the way individuals exercise their bodies to maintain physical health and well-being. Exposing ourselves to positive and inspirational thoughts and ideas is an important component of this ego-development process. It is also important to take time for introspection. Examine your strengths and weakness as objectively as you are able and then develop action plans to work on your imperfections. It is also suggested that you ask your closest friends or significant others to help you with this process as we are not always able to view ourselves the way others perceive us.

Remember always that we will never be perfect. Humans are, by definition, imperfect beings and there are no exceptions. It is not necessary that we are always right, what is important is that we strive to do what is right. Look around you at positive leaders. Often they are the strong, silent types who are so confident in themselves that it becomes unnecessary to boast of their prowess or accomplishments. The deeds of these men and women speak far more eloquently than anything they might say. You can possess this same confidence, this same sense of self if only you will reach out for it.