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Inspired by Teachers

Wow! There is busy . . . and then there is BUSY! This has been a BUSY few weeks. Wonderful, though. Beginning with the powerful Rally to Save Public Education in Cambridge, MA (see previous post); continuing with a wonderful visit to my former school, Mission Hill School in Roxbury, MA;  then a quick trip to Jamaica for the wedding of a dear friend who happens to be an amazing early childhood educator;  and ending with an inspiring early childhood conference here in my own backyard (well, not literally, but close) . . . this has been an whirlwind of inspiring and powerful moments.

Today, as I head to Providence, RI for the NAEYC Professional Development Institute,  I force myself to take a few minutes to reflect on all that has inspired me in the last few weeks and all that I am thankful for.

First of all, I am inspired by teachers who work hard, on their own time, to reflect deeply on their practice.  Teachers who share their ideas, questions, student work and joy with others. On Saturday, June 4th, a beautiful spring weekend, our Hudson Valley Writing Project conference, Democracy, Literacy and Play: Hearing Children’s Voices was filled with just these kinds of amazing early childhood educators. Dedication doesn’t even begin to describe what I felt and saw on that memorable day.

I am thankful for all the time I was able to spend over the last week or so, with my friend and mentor, Deborah Meier. Debbie came to our conference as the keynote speaker, and joined me in presenting an afternoon session. It was such fun and reminded me of how much I miss talking with her and sharing ideas about education and life. I also saw Deb at the Rally to Save Education and on my visit to Mission Hill School. (Debbie is the founding principal at this K-8 Boston Public School.)  I am somewhat exhausted from all the traveling, presenting, talking and working – and Deb is 80 years old and going strong. Now if that isn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.

 

I am thankful that my sons were able to join me for the rally in Cambridge, MA and the visit to Mission Hill School (and I am thankful that they didn’t join me for the quick trip to Jamaica!). At the rally, the boys joined in on the chants and held their sign proudly. They knew that as Arne Duncan was getting special recognition at Harvard Graduation, we were using our voices to raise awareness about the harmful effects of Race to the Top, high-stakes testing and more. The boys especially liked singing our version of John Lennon’s classic… “All we are saying, is give all kids a chance.”

The next day at Mission Hill School, and the trip to Jamaica with friends and colleagues, helped recapture for me the special spark that Mission Hill has. There aren’t many progressive, playful public schools still in existence, and Mission Hill is one of those places. Authentic learning and authentic assessments in a democratic community where everyone has a voice.  In the midst of harmful, top-down mandates from politicians who were never educators, Mission Hill School is a reminder to all of us about what is possible.

I am inspired by the leaders in education – teachers of teachers – who spoke at the rally and are standing up for what is developmentally and educationally appropriate. Along with Deb Meier, we heard  Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Diane Levin, Eleanor Duckworth and Alfie Kohn (what a list!!!). Click here to read Deb’s remarks from the Rally to Save Public Education -which she has posted on her website. Local parents and teachers also spoke out – I didn’t catch everyone’s name but I heard their messages loud and clear.  I invite you to read more about the rally – including pictures and video – on the Citizens for Public Schools website. And I urge you to consider joining the Save Our Schools Rally and March in Washington, D.C. on July 30th.

For me, many of these moments were playful, even as I see them as part of my work. I am thankful for that. I am also thankful for the purely playful moments throughout those busy days: Discovering a wonderful playground in Cambridge, MA.  Swinging on a hammock in Treasure Beach, Jamaica.  Dancing in the rain.  Enjoying a campfire with family.  Playing Othello with my son.  Watching my husband and sons soak each other mercilessly with water balloons.  And eating delicious strawberries picked from the patch in our own back yard.

Even when things are BUSY, I am determined to keep play central to our lives.

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