What I find disheartening is the gearing up of the Faux War on Christmas, using public schools as staging ground for stirring up unnecessary and phony conflict. Getting all huffy about greetings, menorahs and nativity scenes feels like uncivil, bullying behavior, something we shouldn't be gleefully modeling for students.

Flunked. Held back. Retained. It's failure, no matter what you call it. Imposed by adults, some of whom honestly believe they're instituting a kind of academic tough love--or at least, raising collective achievement data. Suffered by children who struggle with learning, for any one of a galaxy of reasons. And a call that should be made by teachers and parents, not at the statehouse.

Four random things I'm grateful for: My perch at Education Week; the recent groundswell of interest in curriculum, instruction and assessment; regular opportunities to hang out in thriving public schools; and the fact that I seldom encountered the "coddled" students out there needing a dose of grit.

I was relieved when my tenure as National Teacher of the Year ended because I heard a school bell ring and I was able to answer it. I returned to my classroom and to those who most needed me in their dysfunctional lives. I cannot answer the question why I teach without telling the story of my life because my story is written on the pages of the lives of too many children. My story is the story of the students whom I teach and mentor. And that is why I remain a classroom teacher.

Kids do need to own their own boredom, because it's an individualized, internal response to outside stimuli (or lack thereof). What's mind-numbing to one child may be inspiring to another, so teaching children to dissect their own boredom--and, yes, deal with it--is an essential life skill.

We should teach students that boredom, like any problem, can be your friend. Brushing your teeth is boring, too, but that doesn't mean you should stop.

I like a snappy multiplication-facts rap as much as the next guy, but the fact is--it's not easy to integrate rich arts practice or content into science and math instruction. Especially when the assumption is that good curriculum begins with "core subjects," the arts acting as a kind of color commentary.

This is a story about dignity, love, acceptance, and compassion. It is about identity and the small things we can do that go a long way. It presents the importance of what is means to develop compassionate individuals who understand the dignity that exists in every human being, what it looks like to respect and honor that.

First, answer the question yourself: What is the core purpose of publicly funded education in America? Then, ask yourself: Would most Americans agree with you?

There are plenty of students who have coped with failure and adversity from the outset. What's motivating to them is a little honest success. Not more stress.


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