Tag Archives: teachers

5 “What If” Questions for Engaged Education

January 9th, 2014

What if…. teachers asked students: “What would you like to learn today?”
What if…. administrators asked teachers: “What values are your students learning?’
What if…. parents were asked to express what they want their children to learn?
What if…. overall well-being were the first outcome we assessed?
What if…. schools set out to discover the unique traits of each student and built on them?


We’d like to engage you in this discussion. Please share with us your thoughts and or any comments.



Abby Wills, MA, E-RYT

Shanti Generation, Co-Founder, Program Director

Abby brings her passion for developmental education and deep respect for the tradition of yoga to her work guiding youth and teachers in contemplative arts. Abby’s approach is informed by studies in social justice and democratic education at Pacific Oaks College, as well as two decades of training in yoga.

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Greece: Teachers’ strike, attacks on public education & privatization

September 26th, 2013

Like most of you, I’ve been watching the events in Greece unfolding from the sidelines. We have all been following the economic breakdown of the country and threats by the EU to rescind Greece’s EU member status. As Greece’s economy continues to spin out of control, giving rise to right wing fascist movements proudly expressing their xenophobia by blaming the country’s economic collapse on immigrants, another target and casualty has been the country’s public education. Political unrest and economic instability in Greece has led the government to impose draconian measures that have severely impacted the country’s public education system. The drastic steps taken by the government has led to ongoing strikes by Greek teachers since September 16th protesting attacks on public education.


The situation in Greece is dire. Teachers and education staff as well as students in Greece are facing a situation that has dramatically impacted the quality of education in the country.

According to International Education, the following are some of the highlights of the situation:

• There are 16,000 fewer teachers in secondary education, a 20 per cent reduction since June 2013
• Over 100 Vocational Education Schools are closing down http://www.ei-ie.org/en/news/news_details/2624
• 2,500 Vocational Education Teachers are being suspended, just one step before dismissal
• In 2009, there was 33 per cent reduction of spending on education which is expected to reach 472 per cent in 2016
• There is a compulsory transfer of 5,000 teachers to primary education and administration posts
• The government has passed a new law on education without a dialogue establishing a harsh, examination-centered system in all forms/grades of upper secondary education forcing students to seek private tuition outside school and leading to school dropouts.

Strong words from ETUCE:

The European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) has been observing the developments in Greece and has issued some harsh words to the government. On 19-20 September, 2013, the Director of the EI region, the ETUCE, Martin Rømer, went to Athens to support Greek colleagues. The ETUCE issued a statement on September 18th that the “Greek education system (is) on the brink of collapse”. The ETUCE declared that by 2016, Greece will cut its education spending by 47% and called on the government of Greece to be more inclusive in its dialogue with social partners in the education section and abandon its authoritarian approach by encouraging an open forum for discussion.

There has also been a surge in privatization of vocational education in Greece which is another subject protested by the ETUCE. The absence of free, high qualify public education with equal access is seen by the ETUCE as an obstacle to bettering the lives of the people and promotion of a prosperous society. The government’s sweeping privatization plans is not only affecting the country’s education system but also its public radio and television media. According to a report by EI: “Last June, Greece woke up without public radio or television services. On 11 June, the government announced it was going to shut down the radio and TV services of the state broadcaster ERT, sacking 2,500 employees, and becoming the only member state of the European Union to abolish the public service of broadcasting.” This is similar to waking up one morning here in the U.S. and finding NPR, PRI, and PBS have been shut down.

Interesting to note is that virtually all the top-performing countries on international education measures have strong teacher unions, including Finland, Japan, Canada, and Australia. However, in Greece, the government is working toward dismantling the teachers’ unions threatening teachers and school administrators with imprisonment if they choose to exercise their right to strike. The EI is calling on its members to support and “actively show their solidarity” with the Greek educators. The world is watching.

The Frustrated Evaluator

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Filed under Credentials, Education, Human Interest, Politics


February 16, 2012

Education Calculator on Notebook

Of course we all know that the crumbling Education System in America is but a microcosm, (if you choose to regard education in such a manner), of the general state of daily life for the 99%. The latest mind-numbing statistics on poverty, “One out of every two Americans are currently living either in poverty or near poverty,” just does not jibe with the American Dream. Check out this link: Tavis and Cornel’s Solution to Poverty. We must ask ourselves how we have allowed this level of extreme disparity to grow and blossom, unchecked and what that means for the future of education, and therefore the kind of societies we can expect to find ourselves living in. I often wonder what the ultra-wealthy 1% see when they think of the future of their children and grandchildren, living in a society surrounded by the majority of starving, uneducated desperate people. I imagine a scenario akin to a scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in which Cate Blanchett’s evil, self-righteous character is dangling in mid-air, frantically clasping onto a vine in an effort to avoid being eaten alive by a swarm of ravenous giant fire ants….

The current thinking behind several of the educational/social reform initiatives on the table, such as the “Race to the Top Initiative,” frighteningly follow a “corporate” structure of success, and are engineered to ultimately create a powerless, non-union labor force, basically compliant worker bees. It is a bit sinister really, to think that the “best and the brightest” whom President Obama called in to help draft education reforms, are the very heads of corporations that rake in the money and actually benefit as the rest of the country sinks deeper into despair. The companies need workers and they have conveniently pointed the finger of blame away from themselves for the painful poverty levels across the country and at teachers unions and the teachers themselves for the lack of education, found in seriously impoverished schools. This initiative dangles the carrot of federal funds in the face of school districts, promising that money will be doled out to those districts whose students score well on tests. And those that don’t fare so well, risk a reduction in teacher pay, lost jobs, even school closures. That should really help…shut down overpopulated schools in poor, more often than not non-white neighborhoods. Hmmm, once again, forcing the race card and basically saying that imposing a competitive business model on educators will be the stimulant to bring about a quick turn around in the quality of education. BIG problem with that picture!

When I think back on my own education, I am fully aware of how fortunate I was. I was an extremely shy, math-challenged little girl with a cirque-d-soleil fantasy world going on in my head during most of my classes, and actually during most of my waking hours. I knew that I was a bit different than other kids in my class at a fairly early age, had difficulty making friends, and was pretty content to keep to myself for most of my early educational years. I could have easily fallen through the cracks. I was fortunate in that I went to school in the Beverly Hills public $chool $ystem where we had well-paid teachers, enough desks for everyone–– our classrooms were definitely not over-crowded. Our teachers knew our names, actually had time to engage with each of us on a regular basis, and had the possibility to sense and relate to those of us that thought “outside the box.” The faculty was given the ability and leeway to develop creative lesson plans which they felt would be the most engaging and stimulating in order to meet the educational requirements passed down by the Board of Education. We had a pretty wide ranging, and well-rounded curriculum, even in elementary school, which at the time ranged from 2nd-through 8th grade. It kept things interesting and stimulated different parts of our brains. In High School, we had the luxury of “elective” courses in subjects that were of interest to us: Advanced Art, Drama, Music and Language, etc. Sounds like education Nirvana, right?

But please don’t get me wrong, all of us were not model students, and all teachers were not engaged, creative educators, and not all principals were without their own peculiarities. And my minor bumps along the way are not comparable to the daily problems and pains faced by students and educators living and working in poverty. But I just try and imagine what it would have been like if those same heavy-handed consequences were imposed on my teachers and all of us that did not fare so well on standardized tests. I had an elementary school principal that ran around with a tape measure, measuring from the top of our white Nancy Sinatra-Beetle Boots to the bottom of our hem-lines, who sent me directly home from school when he determined that my skirt was “too short,” forcing me to miss an important test. I also had an angry, mean, frustrated ego-maniac of an art teacher that made me cry in front of the class, telling me that my work was horrible, and ultimately gave me a barely passing grade. In high school I had a math teacher that had anxiety attacks during class, mostly brought on by a particular group of unruly boys bent on tormenting him. This teacher had to stop talking, sit down at his desk located in the front of the class, remove an empty brown-paper lunch bag from his bottom drawer, breathe into it, then pour himself a thermos cup full of milk and eat a banana before resuming our lesson, while we all sat there in silent witness. No wonder I have a math block.

Quaint anecdotes, but can you imagine the circumstances that teachers face today, being held accountable for, and then rewarded or punished based on their classroom test scores? Tests, which occur at such alarmingly rising rates, that they squeeze out any time for creative and retentive teaching and learning, and teachers merit as educators being judged on the slightest variance in test scores. My poor anxiety-ridden math teacher would have been out on the street, trying to find a job at 59.

Teachers working in atmospheres of racial inequality and poverty, where many students come to school and stay hungry, too poor to have breakfast or lunch. Children who bring the emotional issues of their lives at home, forged by the daily struggle to survive: absent parents, violence, food insecurity and no emotional support systems. Classrooms where the teachers compete with clandestine cell phones streaming just about everything, and rampant text messaging. Oh yes, and drugs and alcohol, but those aren’t new. Whew. Despite all that, there are wonderful teachers handicapped by these injustices, who find engaged and creative ways to do their job. Gee, let’s come up with a system that punishes these circumstances rather than funnels funds their way to improve and support the teachers.

Well, sometimes enough is just enough. The cards are all on the table now; the agenda is not hidden. So when I think about the current state of affairs in education reform, I am left with only one conclusion. The best way to change all of this is to organize, and continue to create movements, taking the necessary risks to break the status quo in order to take back our lives and change the future of generations to come. We have to make parents aware that these problems did not happen overnight, they are the result of centuries of economic and racial inequality, and the gap is growing wider by the day. And the only way to affect change in corporate governments is to have the courage to follow the lead of some of those brave enough to unite in an effort to effect political change.

The strong and committed Wisconsin Teachers Unions did just that, by initiating and leading a protest against the “Budget Repair Bill” which asked for major cuts to social programs, and the removal of all collective bargaining rights for public sector workers statewide. Governor Scott Walker, who is currently facing possible impeachment, threatened to send in the National Guard to fill the gaps left by state workers who dared to protest. This grew into a fight for a democratic way of life, and has become a historically ground-breaking movement. For an enlightening look at the power in unity, view this trailer for the upcoming documentary film “We Are Wisconsin“.

Fight On!

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jwndesign@me.com

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