Where are we? Where to begin and Where to Go?

101567565_3239281456129863_6279276366876279018_oIt has been so intense, unreal and yet at the same time painfully and brutally real these past few weeks. The 8 minute and 46 second video of George Floyd, a Black American choked to death by a White Police Officer with his knee in Floyd’s neck and several other Officers just watching as Floyd chokes out “I Can’t Breathe”. The Covid-19 Pandemic Continues to rage and perhaps was part of the dry and brittle kindling upon which Protests and Riots broke out all over the world regarding this death and so many others and the systemic racism that they embody. Yesterday I attended a peaceful protest with, among other people, my husband and my 15 year old daughter. Many have not been peaceful, with reports of children, the elderly, or disabled people being tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets and pushed to the pavement. I am so raw, but I remain open to continue to listen and committed to take actions to begin a process that will systemically address this racism and hatred that has festered for 400 years.

One Month into it and still going.

Both of my children completed their course of study online. My son finished his second year of college, my daughter is completing her second year of High School and has completed courses that she was dual enrolled in at a local college. Our family trip to Ireland this summer has been rescheduled to next year, we are hopeful to join my mother and law and father in law there next year. It is clear some people take this Pandemic seriously, follow safety guidelines and protocols. Others are heedless, either out of ignorance or selfishness. I have hope and faith in my family, in many of my neighbors who are following the science and leaders we can trust, NOT people like Donald Trump but people like Dr. Anthony Fauci. We will need to go back out into the world, resume our lives. However those who endanger others by doing so too quickly and without precautions are not only callous but short sited. This will get worse before we are through it. I remain hopeful we will get through it together. #stayhealthy #staysafe

Where to begin ? Seeking the new future.

Four months ago I posted about a horrible atrocity that occurred in the Jewish Community, an attack on people worshiping in their homes. Now we are all confined to our homes. In the midst of a Pandemic, Covid-19. My son is home from College, and he and my daughter who is High School are both completing the school year taking classes online. My husband who is a college professor is teaching his classes online. We are having groceries delivered via online. We even have hosted a Passover Seder online and have done Shabbat dinner online. It’s just so unreal, overwhelming, frustrating and I am filled with rage towards the Donald Trump and his administration for absolutely failing to protect Americans and to do the right thing during this time of crisis and put the needs of people above profit and his own self aggrandizement. Still, there are moments of joy and time spent with family that otherwise would not be spent together, learning some important things about each other and ways to communicate and not communicate. I am so grateful to have my family, food, clothing, medical care, shelter, money.  All the things that we need. Many people are not as fortunate, and the state of emergency has put those people who live right on the margin completely into chaos and the deepest danger. In order for this to be contained, for people to have a chance at life post this pandemic, it will truly take the power of people coming together and following safe guidelines to social distance, wear masks, and remain indoors unless absolutely necessary. The world will not be the same no matter what, the sadness of that hangs heavy. The light in my heart is my family and those who I see doing the right thing, and doing things to help others, many who have stepped up who would not have otherwise. That keeps my mind and heart and hope alive.

“To write something you have to risk making a fool of yourself” —Anne Rice

OK now we are talking!  Please look at the last post that I made and the comment my good friend left. The words I share, when I write, I’m sharing my emotions. That sounds obvious and simplistic. Still, I was recently reminded of how vulnerable we are when we share words as my son began a serious pursuit of writing for college/future career. He took a great writing class over the summer and the professor asked everyone what they wanted most out of the course and what they were most afraid of. Some of them gave lame answers like I want an A and I’m afraid I won’t get an A. My son’s response was that he feared he just “wasn’t any good at it”. Now that is scary ! What if you decide to put it all out there and then you aren’t that good at putting words together or worse your words are ignored? I think that’s where the emotions come and attempting to share all those emotions, that and persistence.

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”

—Octavia E. Butler

“Writing is really a way of thinking — not just feeling but thinking about things that are disparate, unresolved, mysterious, problematic or just sweet.”

—Toni Morrison

 

 

Words, Comments, Feed Me Seymore!

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So it’s almost the New Year and I have been working, I have been reflecting, I have been planning, I have been doing.  I have not been blogging, it’s been nearly three weeks since my last post and I do want this blog to take off and succeed as it were.  The goal for me has not been to get followers of the blog because I am promoting a particular item, person, idea or agenda.  I don’t have anything to sell or grand insight to share.  I crave dialogue, back and forth, words and ideas.  So more posts, more comments, reposts of comments with added feedback.  That will be my metric perhaps, and that the dialogue is meaningful for others. That’s what it’s about. Proud of my family and proud of myself as we did unplug for 5 days to do Christmas and Chanukah at the Cabin.  Loads of dialogue there, games, food, walks, reading. A lot more dialogue going when without cell phones, computers, tv’s and such.  Great way to reset and recharge for the upcoming year. But enough about me, what do you think of me ? 🙂 Comments and Feedback SERIOUSLY WELCOME !

Missing Your College Age Kid and Making That Work !

Do you miss your child who has gone away to College or grown up and moved out?  I still miss mine terribly, even after more than a year.  The message I get from people implies I shouldn’t though, they say “Aren’t you happy for him?” and “You must be so proud that he’s making it on his own.” I am happy for him, I am incredibly proud of him. He has navigated the beginning of his adult life beautifully with the best parts of his innate nature and ability fully intact. The need to completely acknowledge and experience the loss of his physical presence in our daily lives is a process, and one that is critical for forming the basis of a lasting relationship with him for the future.  His sister felt his absence most profoundly at times, and has learned through the use of phone, text and email that she can continue to rely on him for his love and support.  It took time though, and they are still figuring out how to make that work.  So we continue in this process together, without the sharp pain I felt when he first went away, but always a tender spot for the young boy I miss and love. I think that’s ok though, and so does he according to our conversations which continue weekly and have a very different tone than before, but are still filled with love.

Same Blog New Look !

I have not posted in quite some time. Busy on Borough Council, busy supervising a Social Work Intern at a local non-profit community service organization.  Helping out with the local production of the Nutcracker.  My mother had AMAZING sewing skills, my mine totally pale in comparison, however I seem to fit some of the requirements to manage costume alteration.  So excited Sophie did an amazing job this Fall placing 13th in the District and getting a new PR overall this season of 20:54 in the 5K.  Sam did well also on the Hampshire Cross Country Team and ran his first ever 10 mile race in 1:25 minutes.  Sophia made the Honor Roll and Sam has successfully formed an amazing Div II committee with Ira Fey (the professor Sam went to Hampshire to study with) and Will Ryan (an amazing writing professor that Andy worked with).  Sophia will start her second University course in the Spring, she will be taking a US History course with Lou Rodriguez, it should be great.  And I have applied for a job,  it’s been a while and I have my interview on Monday.  I have applied to be a library aide at Kutztown High School and I think this could be my second career.  I’ll see how it goes and get a sense of whether it’s something I could do and love.  Andrew has been doing his thing at the University, he will teach a class in London this winter, and most importantly over the summer he and Sam cleared out the cabin and we had a wood stove installed up there so we are loving the winter cabin life.  Christmas at the Cabin will be epic !!!!!!

I don’t have a lot of pics of my family this summer . . .

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This summer I have been living with my children: walking, cooking with food from our garden, eating, laughing, swimming, and just laying around reading together or watching movies.  We have been doing a lot of things like painting the porch at the cabin, redecorating and reorganizing the rooms in our house, going on day trips to fun places like Museums or Broadway Shows, and some more mundane places like Home Improvement Stores and food shopping.  The one thing I haven’t really been doing much of is “capturing” it in pictures.  At first I was sad, then I realized that’s a good thing.  I’m busy living my life with my family, not documenting it. It’s liberating and I believe we are all richer for it. I won’t get any of those days back, they were glorious and I wouldn’t change anything.  In my mind the images are crystal clear, not so much in the way they look but in the way they feel, the feeling gives me pictures the way a smell reminds you of a place or person that you love. That feeling of simply being together, in that private space that love creates, counteracts the chaos and everything else that exists outside that space.  It’s an incredible gift and I recommend everyone get some of that feeling and share it.

JUST SAY NO TO AP Tests !

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As a parent I want what is best for my children, I want them to have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and reach their greatest potential.  For over 60 years parents and schools have been sold on the notion that AP classes and tests will give children the advantage of college level learning, give them greater access to well ranked schools,  and set them on the path for success in college and beyond.  Research indicates this is simply not true, and meanwhile millions of dollars are siphoned in the educational system to buy AP test materials, develop AP classes and pay to take AP tests.  This is money taken away from the greatest number of students to benefit a small, select group.  Resources in terms of teachers, time and money that are supposed to give students an advantage, but that do not guarantee those advantages.  That instead, among other things, widen the gap between the haves and have nots, put the decision of what will and won’t be taught into the hands of those selling the test, and have the potential to do long term damage by creating a generation of students who falsely believe they have engaged in college level academics, and who base their value and measure their ability  on the extrinsic markers of a test rather than the intrinsic measure gained from advanced levels of intellectual engagement and growth. Some things to be aware of regarding AP Tests and the College Board that administers them. (as well as PSATs and SATs)

  • The College Board claims to be a non-profit organization. However, they make money and a considerable amount of it. With nearly half of their profits from administering AP tests and AP test materials. Over 15 executives at the College Board make more than $300,000 a year, and the CEO David Coleman makes over $1 million a year.  The College board has a monopoly in the test taking market, with a 317% profit margin.  This discredits the college board as a non-profit organization focused on connecting students with colleges and college success.  It’s a self interested corporation first, separate from any benefits students gain from taking AP classes and tests. Many organizations including the AETR (American’s for Educational Testing Reform) have lobbied to have the College Board’s non-profit status revoked.
  • Money and teaching resources that go to AP classes and tests is money taken from already underfunded schools that are often forced to lay off teachers and cut important programs such as Fine Arts and Music. With a focus on AP tests and improving AP test scores  there is a narrowing of resources to a select group, leaving the greatest number of students underserved and even further distanced from the goal of higher education.  Monetary incentives come from many states’ Department of Education to schools whose students’ AP test scores are a 3 or higher, this reinforces the importance of just these tests, and these students, over the well being of students and academic caliber of the school as a whole.
  • AP tests have inherent biases in terms of race and class. Correlations that were drawn initially between high tests scores and high performance in college and beyond have been proven by research to be false.  Since tests and test preparation are most often available in predominantly white, upper/upper middle class schools and communities the greatest markers of success are correlated to these factors.   With a widening gap and access to higher education as schools and students who can’t afford access to these materials and tests get left behind.
  • AP Tests scores may or may not be accepted at many schools, even if a high tests score is reported. For those students who take the test to lessen the number of college courses they would be required to take there is quite possibly a gap in their learning as the complete experience of engaging intellectually with peers in the college environment is lost. So it will not save time or money in their college experience, and it may cost them in terms of the quality of their education.
  • Quite often since test score is the priority, the actual course content of AP classes does not reflect the content of college level courses.  An inordinate amount of factual material is crammed into AP classes and curriculum, only to be regurgitated on an AP test rather than engaged in with college level academic rigor.  AP test curriculum dominates the curriculum of school courses, thus effectively hijacking what will and won’t be taught in High Schools.  Educators from around the country protested vehemently in 2018 when the College Board decided to eliminate all events prior to 1450 from their World History AP Test, thus making the AP World History test completely Eurocentric.  The College Board has since changed it’s decision and put back 250 years into the time frame to accommodate world historical events outside pre-european expansion and development.  Many of those within groups like the Organization of American Historians consider it wrong to call a course a World History course when it leaves out thousands of years of history, particularly non-white, non european history.
  • Finally, the level of pressure and stress increases for students with each AP class and expectations for performance on AP exams. The drive from schools to “load” AP courses is damaging to the overall performance and growth of students both academically, socially and emotionally. With the high cost of testing in terms of pressure to perform and otherwise, outweighing any of the benefits gained from AP courses even if they are taught in an intellectually and academically meaningful way.

Test scores are not a guarantee of success, they are a snapshot, and colleges all over the country have begun to reflect this in their admissions process by going “test optional”. Schools like Columbia, Barnard, Boston University, Bucknell , George Washington, Bryn Mawr, Smith and NYU are focused on the complete picture of applicants, and not a single test score or grade.  Some well established High Schools in places like New York and Washington State have dropped AP classes completely stating ” …because AP tests loom so large, faculty teaching these courses often feel pressed to sacrifice in-depth inquiry in order to cover all the material likely to be included on the test. This runs counter to the fact that college courses demand critical thinking and rigorous analysis. AP courses, by contrast, often stress speed of assimilation and memorization. …we are convinced that focusing on a timed standardized test does not promote inquiry or higher-level discussion among students. Moving away from AP courses will allow us to offer a wider variety of courses that are more rigorous and enriching, provide opportunities for authentic engagement with the world, and demonstrate respect for students’ intellectual curiosity and interests.”  Perhaps my greatest fear as a mother, and a child and family counselor, is the long term effects of the culture of testing and teaching to the test on young people.

With over 20 years of experience as a child and family counselor I can say with certainty that young people are baraged as never before with external forces and motivations, that influence their behavior and their view of themselves.  Those who develop and internalize their self worth or ability based too heavily on external markers like their ability to take a test or make a grade are at risk.  In order to have sustainable academic, social or emotional growth and success students must develop internal motivations and measurements, otherwise they are at the whim of constantly mounting forces outside their control to find their value, self worth, achievement and ability.