Tag Archives: education

How deeply do culture and community impact schools?

Over the past two weeks I have had the pleasure of hearing from two well-known people from Hollywood that don’t really have an education background and yet their statements regarding education have given me much to think about.

My background has been split between studying early education and human services. In addition to studying I have also enjoyed volunteering my time with the Christina School District as needed. Then there is the fact that I am a parent of three children which I feel makes me a person who should be able to talk about education from that perspective as well, because I feel that I am an engaged parent who cares about how my kids are doing in school. Truly, I want all kids to do well, excel and thrive in school so they can then go into life as young adults with their best foot forward.

Becoming_MariaNow let me circle back to the speakers I have had the pleasure of hearing from recently. On September 15 I listened to Sonia Manzano discuss a variety of things, as her talk was regarding her book “Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx.” The book takes place from her childhood up until the first audition she had on Sesame Street.

In the book she speaks about what it was like growing up as a young Latina woman who felt the world didn’t realize she existed based on the fact that the majority of things portrayed in the media was about white people and white families. She talked about how she grew up in a home of abuse and alcoholism and her parents spent a lot of time complaining and fighting. Her escape was in shows like “Leave It To Beaver” where families showed love and support for each other. However, she realized while watching that there weren’t any people like her in the show.

sonia-manzanoAs an elementary student in the South Bronx, Sonia did well. She was at the top of her class. Her teachers always called on her and anything she said was lauded, even if she was painting her nails at the same time at her desk. The teachers weren’t expecting anything of her or the other kids in the school. They weren’t really learning much, they were just spending time off the streets. Then her 4th grade teacher “broke free from the curriculum” for a class and took them all to see West Wide Story. This was a pivotal moment in her childhood because there she saw the people of her culture singing and dancing and it was magical for her and she wanted to be part of that.

Sonia Manzano eventually went on to play Maria on Sesame Street. A show geared towards urban, inner-city kids, to give them a safe place where they could flourish and learn. Sonia said she eventually also became a writer for the show and many of the stories she wrote for characters paralleled her own life. She was able to write about things that might be a little sad, but then turn them into something where the characters rose above a challenge and became better for it.

She spoke about the issue of teachers not being afforded the time to break away from curriculum now. I know in Delaware especially the curriculum is incredibly timed and rigid. Between teachers being so stressed and overwhelmed, there is a high demand of finishing lessons on time, even if students aren’t grasping the content. This is actually the topic of a position paper I am writing for one of my classes right now. I’ll share that final paper when I’m done. I believe it is important to evaluate students, but not to the extent that the system is failing them because of how rigid it is. In my opinion, children should be treated more as individuals, portfolio based rather than a list of numbers and percentages.

igotschooled-bookNow let me move into talking about the speaker I heard from last night, M. Night Shyamalan. He was in Delaware talking about his book, “I Got Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America’s Education Gap.” The event was hosted by DelaCORE Leaders, Senator Bryan Townsend and Teacher of the Year Megan Szabo.

I think it’s important to stress that M. Night Shyamalan made it very clear that all five of the keys have to be used together in order to see the achievement gap close. It can’t be one or some, it has to be all of them. He also made it very clear that he was only talking about the 17% of schools in the US who are currently failing. These keys might benefit other schools, but he was only talking about inner-city schools, not other areas.

The title of Shyamalan’s book obviously explains right off the bat what I was wondering when I found out he would be talking about education. He’s a writer, sure, but he writes movies, thrillers, what could he possibly know about education. He explained this before diving into the book, along with Delaware’s most recent teacher of the year, Megan Szabo. He told her, and us as part of the audience, about how he and his wife wanted to give scholarships to inner-city students so they could go to college. They invited five students to a dinner to celebrate their scholarships and he got excited at the thought of being able to meet these future doctors and presidents. He was sure that his money for their education was going to make a huge difference in their life. He couldn’t wait for the moment, and then he met them and he realized, they were scared and they weren’t ready for college. Through no fault of their own mind you, but because the schools they attended their whole life has set them back and left them unprepared. He said it felt like he had set his GPS to locate a place where he could make a difference for these kids and then he got them all together to give them money and his GPS said “You’re 3,000 miles away from your destination.”

Night+ShyamalanThis was the beginning of an hour long talk in which M. Night Shyamalan talks about the five years of research he put into finding 5 keys which, when used together, could save the inner city schools across the US and close the achievement gap. Between equating many things to basketball, a sport he says he loves to play, he at one point tells the story of being in Philadelphia, scouting for a location for a movie, going into a school where the students were miserable and the atmosphere was prison-like, and feeling like he had been elbowed. He said he is a good basketball player, but when you elbow him, he is a GREAT basketball player. He said in that moment in that school, he felt elbowed and he knew he had to devote his time into figuring out why a school four miles away from the city, full of white students, could be so much better than a school in the city full of black students.

The issue of race did come up and I am glad it did, because as so many people want to say it’s an excuse and it’s a cop out, I disagree. I see that black students living in the city do have many more obstacles than my kids going to suburban schools as young white boys. I am aware of this and it breaks my heart. My kids come from an environment in which they are told they are doing great, they need to apply themselves and they’ll be doctors or archaeologists some day. They are told this in my home, in their school and in the media. So I think about what young black students are seeing and hearing and it’s not the same. Whether I want to believe it is or not, it’s simply not. And this reminded me of what Sonia Monzano said about being Latina.

So then when M. Night Shyamalan spoke about one important key for closing the achievement gap in these schools, he said “the culture.” Much of what is keeping these students held back is happening OUTSIDE of the school in their neighborhoods, communities and in the news around them. So when they go into school they shouldn’t be yelled at by the guards to empty their pockets and then ushers into classrooms with dim lighting and bars on the doors. And that made sense, no, it MAKES sense. It’s true. Culture is a huge thing. He explained the culture of a school should be consistent from teacher to teacher, classroom to classroom and from one grade to another. You should walk into the school and immediately see well lit halls with brightly colored college banners.

Another key to closing the achievement gap is more time in school, whether through longer school days or longer school years. Because again, in these 17% of schools the thing holding them back is OUTSIDE the schools. They need to be able to be in school longer, pending the school environment is desirable. This makes sense to me. This is why organizations like the Boys and Girls Club can become such amazing places for inner-city students to go, because it’s a safe place outside of school. No students want to hear they will be in school longer, but he explained the need and how important it really is by describing the summer slide.

What is the summer slide? Well, it’s when students are not involved in any sort of educational activity during the summer months. Kids in the inner-city actually fall back three months during the summer. So if two students leaving 2nd grade are on the same level. But one of them is in the inner city and the other is not, it is likely that the student in the city will fall three months behind whereas the other student in the suburban area will likely gain a month. Even for me, I’m terrible at math, I can see how after a few years you now have two students who are no longer on the same level.

There were teachers in the room who seemed to really get it and accept what he was saying, but there were others who did not. This didn’t surprise me. Why? Because one of the things M. Night Shyamalan said was that throwing more money at teachers is not the answer. He said teachers are the most selfless workers out in the world. I wish he were correct and in many, many, many ways he is, but I have met teachers who would not be better educators with more money and they aren’t good now. Maybe it’s the school they are in, maybe it’s the stress they are under, but I feel like if you choose to be a teacher and you realize that you are harming the children in your class because you are putting everything else above their success, well then it’s time to leave and let a new teacher take over. Don’t get into teaching if you’re looking to become a millionaire. Get into teaching if you’re looking to make a difference in the life of children. Period. Please do not misunderstand this to think that I mean teachers don’t deserve to get paid more. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I DO think teachers should be paid more for all they do and the importance of their job. However, I also believe that paying teachers more is not he fix for closing the achievement gap.

So when M. Night Shyamalan boldly told teachers in the room that increases in salary were not one of the five keys in closing the achievement gap I think some of them rolled their eyes and tuned him out from that point forward. Skeptical of everything he said because he’s a very well paid screenwriter and what would he know. Well, turns out, he knows a lot, he knows a lot about inner-city schools and it’s because he listened and he researched and he spent years studying this topic for the sheer fact that he WANTS to see all schools, all students, succeed.

So what are the 5 magic keys for closing the gap with the 17%?

  • Longer Hours (in the school day or the school year);
  • Small Schools (500 students or less allowing for a more consistent culture);
  • Using evidence-tested teaching methods via Data-Driven Instruction (this did not mean 80 assessments across districts and states although he didn’t articulate that very well in his talk);
  • Leaders who spend their time on instruction instead of administration (a school should have a leader who evaluates and teaches the teachers and they should also have a manager who does administration or operational work);
  • Identifying and retaining the Best Teachers, including a fresh approach to the tenure system. (Some teachers are NOT helping students, some teachers should simply not be teaching in the 17% of schools, he said they might do very well in another school, but not in those schools).

In short, haha, I know this hasn’t been short by any means. I see parallels in what Sonia Monzano and M. Night Shyamalan said about education in the US. I see that race and culture are huge issues, bigger than what most people are comfortable talking about these days. I see the need for somehow having a way to oust the teachers who are letting down our kids. Sorry for any teachers reading this, maybe I’m not even talking about you specifically, but I have seen great teachers and terrible teachers. I know who I want to teach my kids.

I’m sure I could continue writing for hours about other things I took away from these talks, but perhaps that can wait for another day. If you read this far, pat yourself on the back, and please know I thank you.

Happy Saturday!

Faith, trust, pixie dust and rented piano notes dancing through the air

pixiepianoThe sound of piano keys being pressed down singularly always reminds me of Tinker bell. Tiny pixie feet dancing around and children laughing, that is what piano music reminds me of and so I’ve always loved it.

Someday when my family is in a forever home where we intend to stay I’m going to want to have a piano. Could be a Los Angeles Piano Rentals or A grand piano. A fancy one which will prompt me to want to play. When I was little I could pick up songs by ear and play the melody, but I never learned chords and it’s something that has always interested me.

I remember my Grandmom playing songs for me om the organ they have in her home. It’s something that will stay with me forever, even knowing she is no longer able to play. Musical memories are my favorite, apparently that part of my brain is super sensitive :)

Are there any sounds or moments which bring you a feeling of serenity like the sound of a piano does for me? Something which brings back memories from your childhood?

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Berthold Auerbach

“Music expresses feeling and thought, without language; it was below and before speech, and it is above and beyond all words.” – Robert G. Ingersoll

This is a sponsored post.

3B Brae’s Brown Bags Receives Grant

Of course since 3B: Brae’s Brown Bags is an important cause to me I absolutely have to share with you this amazing news.

Braeden Mannering, 10-year-old, has received a $500 grant from DoSomething.org to go towards his Brae’s Brown Bags project.

This is very exciting news and you can read more about it on his blog.

Everyone should learn about the sequestration cuts; they impact us all

There are so many music and entertainment tidbits I want to share with you. I was thinking about all of them this morning. But there is something far more pressing I need to get off my chest. It may or may not mean anything to the readers on scrink.com but it has to be said and I very much hope you read it, understand it and share it.

If I had an opportunity to be in Washington, DC this week while higher ups discuss the sequestration I would love to be able to walk in a crowded room of legislators and give them a piece of my mind. Put a face on one of the people they are hurting with their slowness to act and narrow minds.I may not be eloquent, I may literally shake when I speak in front of groups, but I’m real and I’m passionate and the robots in DC need to see more people like me, they need to hear what we have to say.

Do you know what the word sequester means?

Verb: Isolate or hide away (someone or something).

That’s an ugly word and the sequestration will have devastating effects on our country. Is it true what the Washington Post reported just this morning? “Just one in four Americans are following the debate over the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts set to kick in on Friday very closely.” Really? Only one in four? Are we that caught up in our own lives that we are so oblivious to the bomb about to drop on our country?

One manWho am I and why does it matter? Not only am I a full-time employee at a University but I am also a student. Working full-time to help the University, going to class in the middle of it all and then going home to be with my family (husband and three children). I represent a growing population of working parents who are trying to make things better for their family. I understand my associate’s degree just isn’t going to cut it if I want a higher paying job. I decided last year to go back to school and complete my four-year degree. Educating myself will help me to become a better employee, a better parent and a strong member of my community.

Are we not cognizant of the fact that more people need a higher education in order to get a better paying job and therefore become someone who can help to repair the economy? Truly, the need to increase the federal investment in education has never been greater. To me this is an obvious fact and I do not understand how that can be debatable.

I know, specifically the College I work for does an amazing amount of research, we work across the State of Delaware and are considered a Land Grant University. Sequestration will cut our funding immensely and we have already faced tough cuts leading up to this point. Consider the effects of those who rely on federal grants from programs like the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy for example, to do groundbreaking research. Sequestration would mean a cut of $2.4 billion in National Institute of Health-funded research alone (according to ReseachAmerica.) The University of Delaware stands to lose at least $5.5M in sponsored research expenditures.

And just how are students and their families supposed to afford higher education with sequestration dealing such a blow to federal aid? Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants will be cut 8.2%, I read on educationvotes.nea.org just how the cut to Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants might impact our country. “In New York alone, that would mean 6,500 students could lose work-study assistance and 7,000 could lose their opportunity grants.”

TRIO and GEAR UP, two programs that prepare low-income students for college, saying that the programs could lose $90 million if sequestration goes into effect, eliminating services to more than 100,000 students.

A report from the National Education Association estimates the total cuts to pre-kindergarten, K-12, and postsecondary education budgets next year will range from $4.5-$4.8 billion. Close to 15,000 special education teachers could lose their jobs under sequestration. These are just some of the cuts to our education system in America. I don’t have the time or space to explain all of them.

Everyone needs to be aware and needs to understand these are not fake numbers, they are not scare tactics and they very much need to be taken seriously.

Sequestration cuts are going to impact far more than just higher education, but I am firm in my belief that continuing to cut funding for Universities and Colleges will branch out into the lives of future students, their families; all they offer now and all they will continue to offer after graduating. Please keep this in mind and speak up. I cannot begin to explain to you just how important it is to tell your Senator and Representative that they need to step up and take action.

Please also note that this is NOT the time to point fingers, cast blame or trash talk… any action should should a positive one. Offer suggestions not criticisms. If we want to stop sequestration we all need to put our minds together and come up with better solutions, we cannot do that if people close their minds and choose to bicker instead.

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

― Edward Everett Hale

Please check out this link for videos of researchers in higher education who can tell you what they are working on and why the federal funding is so very valuable:


URGENT: Join forces to stop this video game

Let me preface this post by stating I do not believe video games promote violence. I do believe children who spend all day and night playing violent video games will have issues and violent tendencies, but that is because they need to have parents who are more involved and they need to have other hobbies. There is nothing wrong with a child wanting to play video games, I like to play games myself, but game time should be limited. Kids need time to run around and be outside. They need time to read and draw and, to laugh and be silly people in real society. I hope those statements make sense.

With that being said there is a video game which has been created that I am 110% against coming to light. I would picket any store who sold it and I will write letters to every representative of every state should it need to be done. The game is titled, “School Shooter: North American Tour 2012.” The game is independently published by a creator which goes by the name of Pawnstick.

I’m not going to talk about it too much, because I don’t want it to get publicity it doesn’t deserve. But what you get from the title is exactly what it is all about. The game is a first person shooter game in which a person goes into a school and shoots people. There is an option for the shooter to commit suicide in the end. The idea that this game was created is disturbing enough, but the idea that it even made it to a marketer and was released to people to play for testing turns my stomach.

Yes, I know the creators will preach free speech and the right to be creative. And normally I’m right there with you, but in this instance it’s disgraceful. This is a smack in the face to all the families who have lost someone in such a horrific tragedy.

If you are concerned about this, consider writing to your state representative:

Senator Patricia M. Blevins
Legislative Hall Office
P.O. Box 1401
Dover, DE 19903

Senator Harris B. McDowell III
Legislative Hall Office
P.O. Box 1401
Dover, DE 19903

Stewart J. Greenleaf
Senate Box 203012
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3012

Andrew E. Dinniman
Senate Box 203019
183 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3019

BillShrink, PC Gaming Rules; and OnLive

Personal savings site BillShrink has a new feature: a gasoline pricing database that directs you to gas stations based on the route you take on your daily commute, not just how close you are to the stations.

The Web app isn’t just for finding prices. It actually helps you plan your refueling stops along the way. You start by telling it about your car and its mileage, and your home and work addresses. You get back a results page that shows you a Google Map of all the gas stations along your route. You can zoom in and out to expand or limit the search area.

Beneath the map is a listing of all the gas stations BillShrink was able to find, followed by their location, price, and amenities.


The PC Gaming Alliance has issued its state of the industry report for 2008 and it makes for interesting reading for those who think gaming is all about consoles like Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii.

Here are the highlights:

The PC is the largest single platform for games with annual worldwide revenue of about $11 billion. This is more than any of the console and portable systems from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.

In emerging markets such as Asia and Eastern Europe the PC has become the de facto platform of choice for games as console systems have not had major penetration in most countries.

Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) are the leading products for both revenue and profits. Several Asian MMOGs are generating over $100 million in annual revenue after 5+ years on the market. World of Warcraft is generating over $1 billion in annual revenue.

In 2008, two major new subscription MMOGs (Warhammer Online and Age of Conan) sold over 1 million units at retail.


Epson America has just released its new document camera known as the Epson DC-06 which is able to deliver flexibility, ease-of-use and affordability to today’s K-12 classroom. This $399 device comes with an easy USB connection which enables educators and teachers alike to hook up to one of the new feature-rich Epson PowerLite 85, 825 and 826W projectors or alternatively, to a computer using included software for easy operation. The Epson DC-06 document camera will come with XGA resolution that allows you to show off detailed reproductions within a 10.7″x 14.3″ capture area, making it a snap for educators to share information from text books, journals, models, and even 3D objects to keep students riveted.


A few years back, a company called Infinium Labs introduced a new game console, The Phantom. It was going to change the face of PC and video gaming by offering a downloadable catalog of titles available by subscription. It was an aptly named product: The Phantom never shipped.

Yesterday at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, a similar sounding service was announced: OnLive. The major differences between The Phantom and OnLive seem to be that first, OnLive doesn’t deliver games to your house, it delivers output (more on that in a minute) and second, OnLine doesn’t appear to be vaporware.

Game publishers could also frequently update their games on OnLive by changing the code running on the servers. If one part of a game is too hard, the publishers can simply patch that part and then everyone will play the new version the next time they log in. Publishers can also pull the plug on games that aren’t selling well without taking a big inventory hit.

You’d have no control over these changes, since the game doesn’t exist in your house. So if you liked that challenging part of the game, you’d lose it (rather than opting not to patch, as you would now).


And here is a link to The Ultimate Guide for Everything You Need to Know About Twitter >>

One of the guidelines is as follows:

Twitter will allow you to import e-mail lists, contacts from instant messaging services, and you can find your friends on their search engine. The best way to build a list of interesting people is to go to the Twitter search engine at search.twitter.com and plug in your interests. This will then spit tons of people back out at you that you can choose to follow. Twitter will also give you some suggestions for people to follow.