Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Teach with FIDELITY? No thank you.

Have you heard the latest buzzwords in the education world? Fidelity. Rigor. Research-based. College-ready. They get thrown around like chicken nuggets in a cafeteria food fight.

The first time someone told me to teach a program with "fidelity" was roughly 10 years ago and I remember doing a double take when I was told that if I JUST teach the math program with FIDELITY my students will learn. If I don't, that's why they don't get it. I even tried it once, for a hot second. And then I knew it was a buzzword that had to go. But it is still swirling in the heads of people that make decisions about teaching...but never actually do it. 

What does it mean to teach with "fidelity?" It means you are loyal to the program. You teach it EXACTLY as it says to teach it. And you never ever waiver. And that is an AMAZING plan! If you want your students to fall behind or to get stuck wherever they may be in their learning. I fought it in the beginning because I felt like I needed to be a voice for my students. I tried to teach a math lesson with "fidelity" to my 5th graders all those years ago. And in the middle of the lesson I could clearly see that some of them were completely and totally lost, while others had already figured it all out and were ready to move on. But my directive was to teach with "fidelity" and apparently that meant that the kids who were lost, and the kids that already mastered the skill, would just have to suck it up. What was important? Teaching the PROGRAM with fidelity. I have never and will never teach a program with fidelity. I refuse to, due to the fact that my job is to teach the KIDS and not PROGRAMS. Thankfully for me, nobody has asked me to teach anything with fidelity in some time. 

I was talking about the amazing resources teachers create with one of my nerdy teacher friends and she said, "I feel like fidelity is the antonym of differentiation." She is so smart. The idea of teaching a program with fidelity is everything that is wrong with our schools. People that don't teach, telling people that do teach, how to do something that they aren't able to do, is what is wrong with education. It's about control. It's about money in some cases (new programs cost a fortune). And it is about blame. It's about blaming teachers for the failures of our students on standardized tests. Educational "leaders" can then sit around and discuss how the teachers have failed to teach with fidelity. The worst test scores I have ever seen are from people that teach to a program. And it's not rocket science to figure out why. 

Real teaching is about figuring out where your kids are, and meeting them right there. Rick Wormelli said, "Fair is not always equal." And he couldn't be more right. If you hear someone tell you to "teach with fidelity" you can be certain they haven't stood in a diverse classroom in quite some time. And if they have, they didn't do a very good job. Students come in all shapes and sizes, at every level, with emotional needs, with learning disabilities, with genius IQs, and with a plethora of experiences that makes each one of them unique. There is NO program that can meet all of their needs. 

Instructional programs can be an excellent framework and starting place, but that's all they can be. Great teachers use them that way, but find innovative strategies, engaging lessons, and differentiated resources to teach each kid, on any given day, based on what THEY need and not what the program says to do next. 

When you tell teachers to teach programs with fidelity, you strip your greatest resource of their ability to create and innovate and help the kids they have right in front of them. So my advice to any teacher that is told to "teach it with fidelity" is to smile and nod. And then do what you know you have to do for your students. Our kids deserve better than a canned program that promises the world. They deserve a teacher. And teachers deserve some credit. 

Recently I was sitting with some administrators that I had just met. We were talking about the work I do in curriculum and assessment, and the ELA materials I create for teachers.  They figured I must have the right answer since I have a doctorate in curriculum and instruction and have taught all subjects and numerous grade levels. They asked me, "How would YOU make sure that teachers teach a new program with fidelity?" 

My answer was simple. I wouldn't. Ever. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

SIX DAYS LEFT: Black History is OUR History

There are still six days left to teach Black History to the nation's children.

Why do we need Black History Month? Personally, I wish we didn't have to have a special month. But without it we may never know that there is more to Black American history than slavery. Morgan Freeman said it perfectly when he stated, "Black history is American history."

All throughout the year we teach the curriculum required of the state and national government. If we never veer away from the required curriculum, students may never learn of some of the most amazing historical figures, or learn of some of the most tragic events in the history of this nation.

I am 45 years old. I have multiple degrees including one in social studies. I only recently learned about the Chicago 50 from a friend preparing to use this event as an anchor in her ELA class.

A few months ago I was talking with another friend about something I was creating and he suggested I include information about Emmett Till. And my response was, "Who is Emmett Till?"

Last year while I was on vacation I was searching for a movie to watch on the plane. I picked Hidden Figures. And my mind was BLOWN. I had never even heard rumblings about the amazing women of NASA, without whom space may not be quite so well traveled.

Just days before I watched it I was in my 7th grade classroom wrapping up a lesson about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I was pretty proud of myself for having taken the time to teach some important Black history to my students that February and I asked them what they thought. I asked them what they learned. And I will NEVER forget what happened next. One of my most brilliant students (I have so many BRILLIANT kids!) raised his hand and said, in the most respectful way, "Dr. Shamey, we don't learn anything new during Black History Month. I didn't really learn anything."

WAIT...WHAT??? But I just spent three weeks teaching about Rosa Parks and MLK, and watching his inspiring "I have a Dream" speech. We made wall posters of the faces of Black History Month that I bought on Teachers Pay Teachers. Certainly I hadn't wasted everyone's time when I showed the movie Ruby Bridges!

Oh but I did. Just like so many teachers do every single year. I had no idea! I asked for him to explain to me what he meant, and this amazing young man that I am quite certain will change the world one day, explained it so eloquently. He said we all do the same stuff. He said we mean well, but we teach kids about the same few people every single year. He started to name some of the movies they've seen a million times. He mentioned the cartoon "My Friend Martin" and I saw the recognition on the faces of every single kid in the room! They had seen that movie so many times. He said, "We watch it every year." And the kids around the room all agreed by nodding or agreeing with his statements.

Was it true? Was I wasting everyone's time every year during Black History Month? I was supposed to be among the enlightened! But this amazing 12-year-old certainly enlightened me last year. And I took what he said very seriously. This year I decided to create something for teachers to use during BHM that would be different. I wanted to teach things the kids didn't already know. I wanted to use clips from speeches they hadn't already seen a million times. I wanted to be different. I wanted to actually TEACH something they didn't know.

Last week one of my kids raised his hand and asked me this question: "Why are you so passionate about Black History Month? I have never had a teacher care so much about it. And I had a Black teacher that didn't care like you do!"

I looked around at the silent agreement on their faces and explained. The student that asked me was a young 11-year-old African American male. I told him quite simply, "YOU are the reason I am so passionate about Black History." And I pointed right at him. And then I pointed at the student next to him, and the one next to her and then the next one and the next one. Because I heard my students the year before. I wasn't going to do the same old thing this year. I was going to make a difference. And it seemed that I had in that moment and I was proud of myself as well as my students for engaging in such amazing discussions about things that really matter.

I had just finished showing a clip from Season 4 of Blackish and I had watched it so many times that I could sing every word and dance right along with the characters. And, of course, I did.

I used that episode as the focus of one of the activities I created for teachers. It was meant to be a one day lesson. It took me three days to get through it because of the dialogue, new learning, questions, and discussion that took place as a result of watching the clip WE BUILT THIS.

That clip changed my world.

It puts to words what I must have known intellectually, but hadn't quite wrapped my brain around. This country was built by Black people. For free. The White House. UVA. Railroads. All of it. Built FOR FREE. That clip changed me. And requires me to ask more questions and teach more truths and be more vigilant about knowing the real history of this country.

When we dissected the clip "FREEDOM" my kids couldn't believe that it was not long ago when it was illegal for a black person to marry a white person. Their faces said it all. They found that to be the most asinine thing they had ever heard! But it was real. And in some ways still is today.

We have a long way to go in our education system to actually teach Black History. It is time to acknowledge and act on the fact that Black History is OUR history. Black History is AMERICAN history. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Until Further Notice: ONLY KIDS VOTE

It's been one heck of a week for kids and teachers. My Facebook feed is flooded with articles, memes, comments and declarations about gun control and how incredibly stupid it is that a teenager can walk into a store and purchase an automatic weapon. My newsfeed tells me that there are so many people that believe what I do. We want gun regulation. We want gun laws. I am not one of those people that would say "I don't want to take your guns! I just want background checks!" If you hear me saying that, you know I have gone crazy. I don't just want laws that say mentally ill people can't purchase semi-automatic weapons. I WANT THE GUNS GONE. I want them destroyed and dismantled and turned into something that has value. Like maybe a table or some furniture. I don't know what they are made of, but I am sure we could melt them all and make pretty things for living rooms and kitchens across the country. Or maybe patio chairs? I don't really care. Just get rid of the guns because the kids and teachers are afraid to go to school. Our SCHOOLS have become a battleground.

I also know, however, that there are plenty of people that check their Facebook Newsfeed and see stories about how guns don't kill people...people do. And deranged people at that. I know that Facebook can tell which of us will appreciate memes or articles that say mean things about the teenagers that are letting their voices be heard. If your Facebook feed includes a lot of criticism of the children and the teachers that are begging for help, you might be a part of the problem.

Last week a teenager armed with an assault rifle walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and open fired. 17 people, children and teachers, lost their lives. This was the 18th school shooting since January 1. It is February. The first 17 seemed to go largely unnoticed. But this one is different. Yes, the number of casualties makes it even more newsworthy. But this one is different because the kids have had enough. And they are taking their message to social media, the legislature and to the streets. And some conservatives just don't care for their opinions.

This young woman, Emma, gives me hope for our future. If you haven't watched her message to the NRA and to POTUS, WATCH IT NOW.

Some of the things being said about the children include:

"Their sorrow is being hijacked by left-wing groups. They are being used to further a liberal political agenda."  (Former Rep. Jack Kingston R-Ga)

"Do we really think 17-year-olds on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally?" (CNN Contributor)

"The kids are not even Parkland students, they are attention-seeking actors." (Aide to Florida Representative, Republican Shawn Harrison)

"The kids are children of FBI agents trying to cover for the mistakes of the FBI."

And my personal favorite:
Yes, Bill. They should. Do you want to know WHY they should? Because these teenagers just experienced the most horrific thing I can ever imagine because you and your friends can't help but pander to the NRA and all of the power and influence they have. And Mr. O'Reilly, we have all seen your meltdowns when someone doesn't have the cameras ready for you. You aren't exactly the pillar of remaining calm and not being overtaken by emotion. And didn't you just lose your job at FOX News because you can't treat women with any decency? Should the media be promoting what YOU think? Particularly since you are facing extreme peer pressure and are likely still very emotional about having lost your pulpit to spread your grossness?

The President's lovely son has taken the time to "like" some of the crazy stupid conspiracy theories..which says a lot about his intellect and ability to analyze information.

Stephen Colbert disagrees with them all. And SO DO I. I have said it before and I will say it again...kids will change the world.

Stephen Colbert Believes in the KIDS

"There is one group that does give me hope that we can do something to protect the children, and sadly, it's the children." - Stephen Colbert.

He is right. The Parkland kids filled up busses and headed to the State's capital to have their voices heard, only to watch the lawmakers vote NO on a ban of assault weapons.

Stephen Colbert said, "Well I hope these kids don't give up. Because this is their lives, and their future. Someone else may be in power, but this country belongs to them. And there is reason for hope."

Colbert said the first thing that made sense to me in so long. Let's FLIP the voting age. Colbert suggests..."I think we need to change the voting age - until we do something about guns, you can't vote if you're over 18."

I will give up my vote. Because I have spent more hours in rooms full of children than you could imagine. I have also spent plenty of time in rooms full of adults. I am not an expert on much. But I know this...the kids are so much wiser. they are kinder and more accepting. They see the craziness around them and want it to stop.

And if anyone thinks for two seconds that KIDS can't change the world? You should try talking to them. They're brilliant. They know more about the world than most adults I know. They are insightful and thoughtful. And they think what we are doing is insane. And they're right. And they aren't going to take it for much longer.

Last week I walked into my classroom to find a sixth grader stuck between a cupboard and a wall, in a little "cubby" in my room. This isn't something out of the ordinary when you teach 11-year-olds, except that when I asked what he was doing, he explained that they were searching for safe places to hide in our classroom. When I asked him what he was doing, I would have preferred one of the standard answers, like "just seeing if I fit." Or "I wanted to see if I could lick the wall all the way in the back." But he wasn't. He was searching for a safe place to hide in case we are faced with an active shooter in our school. It's not right. But there is something that can be done. We can stop and listen to the kids. They're right. And THEIR lives are the ones in danger when they are simply trying to do their social studies.

Get ready America. The KIDS are coming. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Their, They're, There...

I don't know if anyone else has noticed...but A LOT of young people are suffering from lack of guidance and knowledge of all things grammar related. Punctuation. Parts of Speech. Words. Spelling.  At some point over the past decade or two...we have lost our way.

When I was a kid, we diagrammed sentences. I loved it! 

Diagramming Sentences = AWESOME

Yes. I am one of the people that is ALWAYS silently (or not-so-silently) correcting your grammar.
And I KNOW I am not the only one. And because I am not the only one...we HAVE to remember to teach kids about grammar. The pendulum of what/how we teach is always swinging. People in positions of power will say...you can't teach grammar in isolation, it should be done in an integrated way through all subjects and while reading and writing. The only problem with this is that it doesn't work. I went to school in the 70's and 80's. I can recite 20 adjectives on demand. I can come up with 30 prepositions in a short minute. And I know the difference between they're, their and there. I also know how to correctly use to, too and two. And never screw up your and you're. I can identify the subject, object (direct and indirect), and verb of any sentence. 

When did we stop teaching the basics? How does one become a brilliant writer if they can't put together a sentence, or spell basic words? Or know how to use punctuation? I've had entire papers turned into me over the course of the past decade that didn't include a single period, comma or exclamation point. And the use of dialogue in writing? Forget about it. Kids aren't being taught sufficiently about how to use dialogue in writing. I contend that we do a disservice to American children each and every day when we ignore the Language Standards, because the state assessments are more focused on reading comprehension. And our focus on comprehension seems to have us moving n the wrong direction as well. When the third grade rule goes into effect in Michigan, we are going to have grown people in third grade. 

When I first started digging into the Common Core for ELA, (and I had to do that all on my own...) nobody mentioned the Language standards. I found them later on, and decided to make some things that would help teachers to teach LANGUAGE. It is the cornerstone of reading and writing. I compare grammar, punctuation and spelling to kids knowing the basic facts in math. It is SO MUCH HARDER to do algebra or geometry if you are not fluent in numbers. If you don't have multiplication tables memorized, or know how to divide numbers the long way, or know how to add/subtract/borrow and all of the other basic math concepts that give children the confidence to do higher level mathematics. 

4th Grade Language                        5th Grade Language                6th Grade Language


When I discovered the Language Standards, I decided to dissect them and create something that would make it EASY AS PIE (like my simile?) to teach all aspects of the CCSS for your grade level. I even started making the middle school version. But I put my focus back on elementary because, frankly, middle school teachers aren't that nice. I get to say this 'cause I am one of them. But whenever I get mean feedback on a product that I spent 100 hours making, it is usually a middle school teacher that says it. What is that all about??? 

I didn't really know what I was going to make once I started digging into the CCSS for Language. But it ended up being something cool that I loved using with my sixth graders.
Please. Do us all a favor and explicitly teach grammar, punctuation, word origins, parts of speech, and sentence structure. Even if someone tells you that it is all integrated into your reading unit or your writing unit...do it anyways. Your students won't understand different types of pronouns, or parts of speech, or how to use a semicolon, UNLESS YOU TEACH THEM. Kids shouldn't be starting high school with no knowledge of words, commas, sentences, or parts of speech.

We gotta start teaching the basics. We all know that the kids WILL be judged if they can't tell a future employer the difference between to, too and two.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Stop Being Racist

A couple of weeks ago my associate superintendent tweeted the following...and three simple words caused SUCH A STIR. Which words? STOP BEING RACIST.

When his tweet first went out I had no idea. I don't go on Twitter all that much, but after getting some text messages I decided I should. And I am SO glad I did! What Dr. Johnson had to say on this day was something teachers and educators all over this country need to hear.

When I first started getting texts about his tweet, they were all similar, and from the people I am close to in my school district. My friends said things like, "It's about time." and "Yay...Thank you Dr. J!"

And then I started to hear all of the things that people I am not surrounded by all the time thought about his tweet. The comments were more like:

"This isn't leadership."

"I can't believe he said we were racist."

"He should have to take that tweet down, it is offensive and wrong."

I have actually had some really valuable conversations about racism in our schools as a result of his now-infamous tweet.

Teachers I value have asked me things like, "Do you really think we are racist? I am not racist!" We talked through the difference between being overtly racist and being a part of a system that is plagued with institutional racism, as many of our country's schools are...including my own district. I always go back to the data to reason with people and to help them see the impact schools have on kids of different races.

Here is one data point that I have been using to respond to this idea that institutional racism doesn't exist:

You are reading this right. By the end of 5th grade, 89.9% of our African American students are not proficient in mathematics. (Source: mischooldata.com) I can't imagine how kids feel sitting in math class, just starting middle school without basic math skills. And they received the same instruction all the way through. That's how institutional racism works. And we have to start talking about it, in every community, in every state. Here is a glimpse of reading proficiency:

Out of the almost 200 African American students that just started high school, almost 70% of them are not proficient readers. High school is hard enough when you can read anything that is put in front of you. Imagine how difficult it is to keep up in a chemistry class when you can't understand the text.

The anger around his three simple words was startling. Even to me. And for all that think he should have to take it down, or that saying "stop being racist" is in some way a testament to his leadership abilities, I ask you to sit down and really think about that. If you were offended by those words, it's time to look within.

I am here to tell you that THIS is leadership. We have to look institutional racism right in the face and do something about it. Every single one of us. I have no criticism for my leader, I have only one thing to say to Dr. Johnson...Thank you. And I double down on his message to all of us.

Stop being racist.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The starting line...

Watch this. Just watch it. I am going to write about this amazing video...as soon as I stop crying.

I just sat down at Starbucks to create some curriculum and write some assessments...and I checked my Facebook. My former teaching partner, who I have not blogged about yet...because I always cry when I consider where we are today, sent me the above link to the most important video I have seen in a long time. Shawn is the most amazing teacher I know. We shared five years and hundreds of kids during our time together. It was the most amazing experience of my life. We called it KASHAM. (He is KA and I am SHAM) More on KASHAM later...but this reminded me why I believe what we did for five years was magical. The video was sent with a simple message: "What an honest lesson about life."

Shawn and I made it work for five years because we could have conversations like this one. We could discuss with each other the different experiences our kids had, and that they were all coming from different backgrounds. We both believe that every kid deserves the very best education we can give them, but understand that some came to us with hurdles in front of them, while others had a clear path to the finish line. If you watched the video you know that it shows you very clearly that kids have NOT all had the same opportunities. As teachers we MUST acknowledge this...even if society will not.

"We would be foolish to not realize we have been given more opportunity. We don't want to recognize that we have been given a head start. But the reality is...we have. Now...there is no excuse. They still gotta run their race. You still gotta run your race."
Yesterday I blogged about Operation Common Good. And this video reminded me of exactly why I started OCG over a decade ago. I realized that the kids in my classes were not starting on the same line to begin the race. Some were hungry. Others were worried about not fitting in with their more wealthy counterparts. Why would you try out for cheerleading when you know you can't afford all the swag that the coach will require you to purchase? In a world full of UGG boots and North Face coats, it is brutal for a kid that cannot afford either. My colleagues and I, along with thousands of kids, we made sure that we did our part to help the kids that are already starting behind everyone else.

"Because the reality is, if this is a fair race and everyone is back on that line...I guarantee some of these Black dudes would smoke all of you. And it's only because you have this head start that you are possibly going to win this race called life."

Look at the faces of the kids left in the back when the race begins. Not one of the things that allowed others to move closer to the finish line before the race started was a decision that they made, or a choice that they had. This is EVERY DAY in school. When we start a new unit in our classes, we have to remember that some of our kids are far behind their peers. When I worked with Shawn, I saw every day how he helped kids to get closer to that line. He gave up his lunch just about every day for five years. And by choice, our kids would come in and sit with him and practice math. I have never seen anything like it, or ever worked with anyone more committed to leveling the playing field.

"Nothing you have done has put you in the lead right now."

I would have been one of the kids in the front of the line. I am clear about that. Having never known hunger in my life, and having supportive parents and an amazing extended family, I know what I don't know. I know so many people that believe that the world provides the same opportunities to all kids. They think it is up to individuals to decide whether or not they will utilize those opportunities. I wonder if they have ever looked behind them to see who is starting the race from far behind.

"If you didn't learn anything from this activity...you're a fool."

Every teacher, administrator, parent, child, human should watch this video. And we should all work together to build opportunities for kids that haven't ever been up front when the race begins. For some kids, that is every hour of every day they spend in school. This must change.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Operation Common Good

Every once in a while...you get to be a part of something so amazing, so perfectly perfect that there are not words to describe it. Operation Common Good is that thing for me.

This morning I woke up and I wanted to write. Yesterday one of my most favorite people told me to blog this weekend. She knows I have so much to say and she knows I have to do something to help people...especially kids. I see and feel injustice all the time. I can't pretend it isn't there. I can't compartmentalize my need to fight for people that can't fight for themselves. I have to do SOMETHING. And the world seems to have gone mad, and I see it impacting our kids every day. I want to fight and speak out and make a difference. I kept thinking about what I want to write about. Racial injustice? The treatment of children of color? Legislation that hurts schools? The Pledge of Allegiance? The dismantling of public education? The fact that I came across some sixth graders this week that think Mexico is our enemy? My frustration with people making decisions about classrooms that haven't been in one? Ever?


I'll get back to that. Today I want to write about the most amazing thing I have ever been a part of, and encourage anyone that reads this to do something in their own community to help kids that need it. Somebody has to.

Sometimes I feel like I have hit a wall and can't find a way to help kids. And then I remember OCG. And this has to be where I spend my energy. Because what happens when I do??? Hungry kids get fed. Families with chronic lice get the help they desperately need. Seniors living in poverty get to go to prom and 10-year-olds aren't left out of field trips because they can't afford to pay the $15.00 fee. And lots and lots of little kids get snow pants. LITTLE KIDS NEED SNOW PANTS! But when putting food on the table is the only thing parents can focus on, snow pants and boots have to take a back seat. I would love to tell you that our schools are in tune with the needs of children, particularly the most vulnerable of them. But we aren't.

I apologize in advance that I am the star of this video. I prefer to put kids front and center of all things...but in this case, I guess I AM the face of OCG. I am the founder. I am the one that speaks at events and goes out into schools and communities to get support. It works too...but only, I believe, because this is truly an organization created BY kids FOR kids. And often...kids need their teachers to help them save the world. So that is what I do.

Operation Common Good started in 2005 when my 8th grade history class learned about a family I was helping during the holidays. We were learning about the Core Democratic Values, and supporting the "common good" is one of them. I told them about a mother in a nearby community that I was helping. She was dying of cancer and had five young children and no support. Within a couple of weeks, my kids had raised over $3000.00 by carrying a jug around and collecting change. (And some kids asked their parents for checks!) We provided everything on their Christmas wish lists, and then some. And were able to help multiple other families as well.

It was an extraordinary experience. But we soon learned of a family with five children, some our own Warner Vikings, who were living in their car. My partner, Hatty, and I decided we needed to focus our efforts on helping kids in Farmington from that point forward. It seemed that kids living in poverty, but in an affluent community, had greater challenges. They were going to extreme measures to avoid being "caught" being poor, after all, we are Farmington. And most of us have all of our needs being met and then some. We raised money in a jug for years...and got so big that our (AMAZING) principal started nagging us about becoming a legal 501c3. He worried that we may have outgrown our "tin can method." (That was an understatement) Having a principal committed to social justice and supporting kids at all costs allowed us to turn OCG into a big deal (Thank you, Mark, for being our hero and the reason OCG has made such an incredible impact). We are now a legal 501c3 under the umbrella of the Farmington/Farmington Hills Education Foundation.

Over the past 12 years we have raised almost $100,000.00 through school and community fundraisers. The above video clips are from an amazing event at the Faith Covenant Church in Farmington Hills. The amazing women hosting that day raised over $8000.00 in one afternoon. And EVERY SINGLE PENNY helped a kid in their community. When I walked in that day, I had NO IDEA what I was about to see and do. I had spoken at numerous events, but this one was different. This was BIG. I realized that day just why so many community organizations wanted to help us. They love that we have no overhead. They love that kids are included and in charge of the fundraising. And they WANT to help families in our own community. The only thing I could think that day was...WOW...my cup runneth over.

We got to the point at Warner where we were able to raise $10,000.00 in one week...thanks to the energy of elementary teachers and the most amazing 10 and 11-year olds. We had it down to a science. Our 5th and 6th graders were raising ALL of the money for a district of 10,000. And they did it with smiles on their faces and kindness in their hearts. But then...just like that....it came to an end. Our school was no longer our school and our platform for fundraising was gone. I learned a lot about the consequences of doing good things just for the sake of doing good things. In an environment that is wrought with competition and focused on adult comforts first, people like me breed resentment. My OCG partners and I have even been invited to present OCG at the National Homelessness Conference. We didn't get to, but it was so cool to be asked. I want the opportunity to share OCG because it is an amazing way to give kids in your community a chance to feel like they are not watching the rest of us from the other side of a glass wall.

Last year, at my new school, a couple of dedicated teachers, my new administrators, and the PTA president found a way to keep OCG alive. We were running out of money.  I had accepted the fact that I could no longer do what I do. I had essentially been defeated. But my new school community proved to me that there are amazing people everywhere. One incredible human being (another principal) even ate a worm to support OCG. Yes. She ATE a live worm. And if I remember correctly we raised over $700.00 just hoping to watch her consume a slimy, squirmy, dirt-covered worm. Great educators (great people) will do anything when they know the result is the ability to feed and clothe a hungry child.

I am exhausted from fighting for equity and basic decency for children in my community. I am exhausted from trying to keep my own name off of my own non-profit so as not to build more resentment. I am exhausted. But I remembered this morning just how energized I feel when I am depositing thousands of dollars into our account, and imagining all of the kids whose lives will be just a little bit better because we took the time to raise money and awareness.

We are almost out of money again. So I am going to commit myself to spreading the word about Operation Common Good. I hope teachers around my own district see this and ask what they can do in their schools. Schools have become fundraising factories, but when you start to ask outside organizations about the percentage of donations that will be spent on overhead, it is disheartening. Especially when the kids could be raising money for their own friends (unbeknownst to them) and classmates that desperately need help. I hope this spreads to more local businesses and organizations looking for a way to give back to their own communities. I hope I get tons of requests to speak at different events this year. I hope kids that are worried, hungry and scared are a little less worried, a little less hungry and a little less scared.

It is starting to get cold. We are going to need help to keep kids in Farmington and Farmington Hills warm and fed. People still don't believe that poverty exists in such an affluent community. But one out of five children in our community is food challenged. And they do NOT want you to know. They just want to feel and look like any other student.

And that is why I do this.

Want to make a donation? Go to http://www.operationcommongood.org/