Sunday, April 19, 2015

Read A Framework For Understanding Poverty By Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D.

About three weeks ago I was in a meeting with my assistant superintendents and the deputy superintendent of my school district and we were discussing the school of which I serve as principal. I was explaining to them the various challenges we face as the school is seated in what is probably the lowest economic area of the city. As we were chatting, one of the assistant superintendents asked me if I had ever read the book A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Dr. Ruby K. Payne?, in fact, because she knows that I am a voracious reader, she erroneously assumed that I had read it. I told her I had not. She then went on to tell me that she highly recommended that I read the book particularly in light of the school that I serve. I thanked her for the recommendation and when I left the meeting, I immediately downloaded the book on my iPad via the Kindle App. As I began reading the book, I clearly understood why it was recommended to me. Dr. Payne was indeed describing my children and all I had to do was change the names to protect the guilty. Her case studies were reflective of my students and there is no doubt in my mind that for many of them, what she described is their reality.

Each case study became more and more heart wrenching for me as I pictured in my mind some of the faces I look into each day as I move about my school and as they are sent to the main office. The book moved me so much, that it will be one of the first books that I order for the entire teaching staff of my school for the 2015-2016 school year (the only reason I am not ordering it now, is because our budget is closed). Nevertheless, there are some exercises outlined in the book that I will be taking our staff through to help them get a better appreciation for the students they are serving. It is only through getting a better understanding of the reality of the students we serve, will we be able to develop the compassion and the relationships necessary to reach them academically. I am not looking for us to excuse the students' behavior because they are impoverished; however, I am looking for us to better understand what may be driving the behavior we experience from our students on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps with a better understanding and appreciation for the plight of our children, we will rethink how we speak to them; rethink what we say to them; and be more conscious of our body language and sarcasm. Students will not learn from people who they feel do not care about them.

I am not finished reading A Framework for Understanding Poverty and some of the parts that I have read have choked me up and in some instances brought me to tears as I thought about my students who are homeless; who have been sexually abused; who are raising their little brothers and sisters; who are home by themselves at night, and on and on and on. You name the ill and I am willing to bet that I have a student or students who are or have experienced it.

So like my assistant superintendent who recommended the book A Framework for Understanding Poverty  to me, I likewise recommend the book to anyone who is reading this post. It is a great book for self-reflection regardless of what economic class you may be in. It is particularly important for educators but it is not just for educators. If we all acted upon or thought about what we learned from this book, we would treat people better. We would not snub our nose down on anyone because while we don't know their story, we would have a better appreciation for what they may have gone through or are going through. So as The Critical Thinker, The Principal and the host of The Reading Circle, I recommend that everyone reading these words get a copy of A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D. Something to critically think about. I invite you to listen to me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET as the host of The Reading Circle on gobrave.org and locally on WP88.7 FM. I also invite you to follow on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Critical Thinker Can Now Be Found On Alltop - The Online Magazine Rack Of The Web


The Critical Thinker is now a part of the Alltop umbrella. According to Alltop, it's purpose is to help you answer the question, “What’s happening?” in “all the topics” that interest you. You may wonder how Alltop is different from a search engine. A search engine is good to answer a question like, “How many people live in China?” However, it has a much harder time answering the question, “What’s happening in China?” That’s the kind of question that we answer.

We do this by collecting the headlines of the latest stories from the best sites and blogs such as The Critical Thinker that cover a topic. We group these collections — “aggregations” — into individual web pages. Then we display the five most recent headlines of the information sources as well as their first paragraph. Our topics run from adoption to zoology with photography, food, science, religion, celebrities, fashion, gaming, sports, politics, automobiles, Macintosh, and hundreds of other subjects along the way.

You can think of Alltop as the “online magazine rack” of the web. We’ve subscribed to thousands of sources to provide “aggregation without aggravation.” To be clear, Alltop pages are starting points—they are not destinations per se. Ultimately, our goal is to enhance your online reading by displaying stories from sources such as The Critical Thinker that you’re already visiting plus helping you discover sources that you didn’t know existed.

The Critical Thinker is proud to be listed under the Alltop umbrella. Hear me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET on gobrave.org as the host of The Reading Circle and you are invited to follow on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and readingcircle01.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Chores? What's That? - Parents? What's That?

My wife and I were talking at breakfast this morning and she said to our youngest daughter to finish breakfast and to get ready to do her chores before she had to leave the house for a scheduled appointment. I said to my wife, the word "chores" sounds strange in 2015 and most children today probably do not even know what "chores" are. Certainly those of us born fifty or more years ago or who grew up in the south, or maybe even southern or mid western children today may know what chores are; but I am willing to bet that the average urban or suburban child for that matter, does not know what a "chore" is in 2015. I am saying that because too many parents are no longer willing to assign chores to their children and as a result of this our children are growing up with no work ethic or discipline, both of which they will need to cope in society. 

As an educator I work with children and parents every day and it would blow your mind if you were to hear some of the things coming out of the mouths of parents about how they cannot do anything with their own offspring. The blowing of your mind would only be surpassed by the level of disrespect shown to adults whether it is to their parents or teachers by these same children. To my horror and to some degree, I experience the same thing with my own children. My children have gotten away with murder in comparison to what me and my sister would have gotten away with had we tried those tricks with our parents. When I say that, I am not talking about the normal teenage pranks and rebellion experienced by most teens as they process through life; I am talking about the blatant disrespect both verbally and in actions that just would not have been tolerated thirty, forty or fifty years ago. I have had twelve year old students tell me as the principal of a school that he/she does not have to do anything that me or any teacher in the school asks him/her to do. I've had my own children tell me that "Somebody needs to tell me about myself." I've had my own children flat out refuse to do what they have been told, such as make up his/her bed, keep his/her room presentable or wash the dishes. So I am not just writing about "they" or "them," I am writing about my own experiences as well, with the only difference being, I have not experienced the magnitude of disrespect that I have seen others experience. Personally, I would not let it get to that level as it is bad enough that it is at the level that it is with me. 

So I decided to do a tiny bit of research on this thing called "Parent." I wanted to know how is "Parent" defined. I wanted to know if the definition included a job description? I wanted to know if the definition included a list of things a parent is to do and not do. So I looked up the word in the Merriam Webster online dictionary and it defined it as below:

 
What I learned after reading the definitions was that most of the parents that I come into contact with clearly fulfilled the "A" part of the definition but are struggling terribly with the "B" part. So I looked up the phraseology in the "B" part where it read "Brings Up" and learned the following:




It then became very clear to me where our problems lie with our children. Too many of us as parents are NOT educating, rearing, teaching, cultivating, developing, disciplining, forming, nourishing, nurturing, schooling, fostering and training our children. Far too many of us are looking for someone else to do these things for us, i.e. government, schools, churches, programs, childcare centers, day camps, recreation centers, babysitters, etc. etc. etc. I have seen far too many of us who truly exhibit behaviors that would have one believe that their responsibility stopped at the begetting and the bringing forth of the offspring, or in other words, in the delivery room.  Yes, this is a scathing commentary on our society today and why I hold the position that if we as parents do not start educating, rearing, teaching, cultivating, developing, disciplining, forming, nourishing, nurturing, schooling, fostering and training our children, society as we know it is going to fall just as the Roman Empire did. It cannot help but to fall because we will have a generation who will not know how to do anything other than to destroy, rant, rave, and throw temper tantrums when they don't get their way or what they want.

We are raising children who are in a fantasy land, who honestly believe that they are supposed to have and are entitled to having it their way and on their terms. They believe that if they kick, curse, scream and rebel enough, that they are supposed to get what they want. They believe that if they name-call and bully enough, that they are supposed to get their way. This is a fantasy land because society does not work like that. Rules, regulations and order are still in place despite what we see and for those who choose not to follow the rules, there are consequences awaiting them. Too many of our children today are not being taught to follow the rules and have made breaking them their norm and what's even sadder is that many parents condone the breaking of rules. No respect for authority or authority figures whatsoever. 

We are living in some sad days. I see it at home; I see it at work; I see it on the news around the world. As Malcolm X once said, "the chickens are going to come home to roost," and when they do, we are going to wish that we had educated, reared, taught, cultivated, developed, disciplined, formed, nourished, nurtured, schooled, fostered and trained the offspring we beget, better than what we have been doing. Unfortunately by then, it will be too late. Something to critically think about. 

I invite you to join me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET on gobrave.org and WP88.7 FM as I host The Reading Circle, a show developed with the hopes of increasing the audiences interest in reading. You are also invited to follow on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.  

Friday, March 13, 2015

You Go Girl!

An Indian bride has walked out of her wedding ceremony after her groom-to-be failed to solve a simple math problem, police said Friday.
The bride tested the groom on his math skills and when he got the sum wrong, she walked out.
The question she asked: How much is 15 plus 6?
His reply: 17.
The incident took place late Wednesday in Rasoolabad village near the industrial town of Kanpur in northern Uttar Pradesh state, local police officer Rakesh Kumar said Friday.
The groom’s family tried persuading the bride to return, but she refused. She said the groom had misled them about his education.
“The groom’s family kept us in the dark about his poor education,” said Mohar Singh, the bride’s father. “Even a first-grader can answer this.”
  Associated Press
I've often told my female students to ask to see the report cards of the males who seek to obtain their telephone numbers or who ask them out on a date. Along with the recommendation I have also shared with the young ladies that they have to be up to par or on point as well when they make that request. I've shared with the girls that they ought to have some standards set for the person they select to date and not for them to just select any old body just because they are "cute,"  have nice muscles or are the "bad boy." 

After hearing about and reading the story above about the young lady from India, all I could say was "You Go Girl! Something to critically think about.  Hear The Critical Thinker live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET as the host of The Reading Circle on gobrave.org. You are invited to follow along on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Why Is It Always Somebody Else's Fault?

I was watching Judge Judy the other day and as she was hearing one of her cases, she questioned herself aloud in her usually sarcastic manner, "Why is it always somebody else's fault?" When I heard her ask what was probably meant to be a rhetorical question, I thought to myself that her question will be my next blog post title. I was already pondering the concept for the post and when I heard her launch that thought into the atmosphere, I had my "Eureka" title moment. 

This is not the first time that I have addressed the issue of no one taking responsibility or accountability for his/her actions or behavior in The Critical Thinker. As a school administrator, I deal with students every day who at some point during the school day willfully and intentionally defy the school rules and policies. When the students are asked what happened or why did they do whatever it is that they did? the response nearly one hundred percent of the time starts with the words "He," "She" or "They." When a student is caught hitting, the first response is "He/She hit me first" as if that is a free pass or the metaphorical Monopoly Get Out of Jail Free card for him/her to hit.  When asked "Why were you running in the cafeteria?" inevitably the answer is because he/she/they were chasing me. Our children are learning at an early age not to be responsible or accountable for anything that they do. Nothing is ever their fault. The reason for their behavior is always predicated on what someone else has done or said. Sadly, our children are not the only ones using this defense. Far too many of us as adults do the same thing. In fact, that's where our children are learning and have learned the tactic from. No one takes responsibility or accountability for anything.

As I stated, I have addressed this accountability/responsibility issue before in The Critical Thinker, so I thought I would put a different twist or spin on this post. I challenge you over the next few days to listen to as many people as you can who are giving their reasons for doing something inappropriate or wrong. It may have been an honest mistake, but see how they respond. It can be on a newscast; a response in a newspaper/magazine article; or overheard in a conversation on the street, bus, office, school, etc. etc. Carefully listen to the reasoning and explanations following some sort of inappropriate behavior or mistake by our children and adults and keep a tally of how many times you hear the explanation start with "he," "she," or "they." Compare what you find with the number of times you hear the explanation start with "I," or "It was my fault." If you decide to take me up on my challenge, I ask that you please share your findings with our readers by writing them in the comment section of this blog. I would love to read about your results and I am interested to see what you learn.  I agree with Judge Judy on this one, "Why is it always somebody else's fault?"  Something to critically think about. I invite you to join me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET on gobrave.org and WP88.7 FM. You can also follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Is It Children First or Money First?

The article below appeared on breitbart.com and when I read it as an educator I struggled with whether or not I would write this post. The more I thought about Governor Christie's commentary about his adopting the Common Core because New Jersey needed the federal funds that would come in exchange for adopting the unpopular education reform, the more I could not rest. Many school districts around the country tout slogans such as "Children First," but statements such as those made by Governor Christie in the article below really makes one wonder is it "Children First" or "Money First?" Where does the best interest of the children enter the picture when you read statements such as these? As an educator and critical thinker, I find this article and these statements something to critically think about.

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CHRIS CHRISTIE ADMITS ‘REGRETS’ ADOPTING COMMON CORE, SAYS NJ NEEDED THE MONEY

In an interview at CPAC with conservative show host Laura Ingraham, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) acknowledged why many governors likely adopted the unproven Common Core standards were dangled before them by the Obama administration: He signed onto them because his state needed the federal funds that would come in exchange for adopting the unpopular education reform.
Ingraham asked Christie about his prior support for the nationalized standards, and observed that he did sign his state’s Race to the Top application for the federal funds.
“I know you’ve had some hesitations, but why did you sign it?” she asked the governor.
“In New Jersey we’ve always been for the standards, for high standards, and we had standards beforehand,” Christie replied. “My concern now as we travel toward implementation is not only the heavy foot of the federal government coming in, but it is not doing all that we need to have done in New Jersey.”
“So it was all teed up when I came in by Governor Corzine,” he said. “We signed on and tried to get funds during a really difficult fiscal time.”
“Regrets, do you have regrets?” Ingraham asked.
“Sure, or course,” Christie responded.
“Political regrets?” she pressed.
“Implementation regrets,” he said. “Unlike other people who just get to talk about this stuff, we actually have to do it. Once you start to do it, what I’ve seen — the concerns that I have are significant — and I set a commission up that is now coming back to me with some recommendations, but my charge to them is that we have to keep government at the local level.”
“With education it is most important to have parents involved, there have to be teachers involved as a part of this process and it needs to be part of this process and will be I think as we move forward in New Jersey,” Christie added.
As Breitbart News reported Monday, the New Jersey Assembly voted 63-7 to delay the use of the tests aligned with the Common Core standards to evaluate teachers or students.
During a recent trip to Iowa, Christie, who has a Democrat-led state legislature, said he has “grave concerns” about the Common Core standards. The only action he has taken in his state, however, has been to order a commission to study student testing. At the end of January, the commission announced New Jersey schools could be testing students too often, and recommended that a research study be conducted to determine the extent of testing in the state.
New Jersey was one of 46 states whose state boards of education adopted the Common Core standards, a federally promoted education initiative introduced in the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus bill through a competitive grant program called Race to the Top (RttT). States could apply and compete for federal grant money as long as they adopted a set of uniform, “common” standards and aligned testing and teacher evaluation programs, as well as massive student data collection systems.