"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Answers hiding in plain sight


Today's editorial on the News Sentinel page of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette about Governor Holcomb's Teacher Pay commission is generally favorable for an increase in salary for the state's teachers. They argue that Indiana's teacher salaries are generally lower than neighboring states and that there is a big variance in the pay of different Indiana districts.

State teacher compensation commission needs to come up with plan to increase pay scale
Indiana’s average pay is $50,218 a year, which is between $2,000-$10,000 less than teachers in neighboring states. Starting pay for teachers at some school districts in Indiana is less than $35,000. It is believed low pay is one reason there is a shortage of qualified teachers at many schools.
and
The highest average pay in the state was Hamilton Southeastern Schools at $64,983, while the lowest was Medora Schools at $37,221.
The chair of the commission is a retired Anthem Insurance executive, Michael Smith. The commission is filled with business executives, school administrators...oh, and one teacher. Hooray.
Indiana teacher pay was comparable to surrounding states until 2009, [Smith] said, and the commission is trying to discern what has changed since then.
What's changed since then? Let me think...

This reminds me of the statements in 2015 of Bob Behning and Dennis Kruse, at that time chairs of the House and Senate Education committees, respectively, questioning why there was a teacher shortage in Indiana.

Indiana legislative committee to study teacher shortage (August 16, 2015)
The Republican chairmen of the House and Senate education committees had asked General Assembly leaders to approve having the legislative education study committee review what is causing the drop and how the state could respond.
Why is there a teacher shortage? Teachers know why.

Why have Indiana teacher salaries failed to keep pace since 2009 (actually much longer than that, but who's counting)? Again, teachers likely know why.


CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION, BUT...

What has changed since 2009?

I admit that correlation does not imply causation but just consider Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, and the 2008-2012 Daniels administration...

As Governor, Mitch Daniels, with the help of then State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, a Daniels-heavy State Board of Education (run by Bennett), and a Republican supermajority in the Indiana House and Senate, declared war on public schools and public school teachers.

During the Daniels administration (and since) Indiana has seen bills and policies which,
  • required teachers to be evaluated in large part based on the achievement test scores of their students
  • restrict teacher collective bargaining to money only. No more bargaining for class size, teacher prep time, or hours of work.
  • weakened teacher job security. No longer did a teacher have due process if a district wanted to fire him/her. No longer would an impartial arbitrator listen to both sides and make a judgment.
  • allow anyone with a college degree to teach their subject in high school with no previous pedagogical training. Apparently, the State Board of Education believes that child development and classroom management skills taught in education schools aren't necessary to begin the year teaching a group of teenagers.
  • restrict teacher contracts to a maximum of two years thereby imposing repeated bargaining on school districts at least every other year. 
  • changed the funding of public schools through the passage of a Daniels supported property tax cap which shifted school funding responsibilities to the General Assembly. Equitable funding of public schools was now up to the whims of the legislature.
  • reduce the importance of experience and education level as a factor in teacher salaries. 
  • expanded the 2001 charter school law making the increase of charter schools easier.
  • opened the door to, and regularly increased economic support for, vouchers...public tax dollars diverted to private schools.
Indiana Choice Scholarships
In 2011 the initial school voucher program in Indiana passed while Mitch Daniels was governor. In 2013 the Indiana General Assembly passed HB 1003, which amended the school voucher program by creating tax credits for those already enrolled in private school and expanding voucher eligibility.Mike Pence was governor and supported the changes. [1]
Indiana has seen a burst of new charter schools since 2011 law
The number of charter schools in Indiana has grown rapidly since a 2011 state law passed expanding authority to approve and oversee them to new sponsors, and the acceleration looks likely to continue over the next two years.


THE ANSWERS ARE IN PLAIN SIGHT

What has changed since 2009? The Teacher Pay Commission can find the answer in plain sight...though perhaps they could use a few more actual teachers at the table.

Why haven't teacher salaries kept pace with our neighboring states?
  • When you have one pot of money for education, and you try to support three separate, and often competing school systems, something is going to be underfunded. In Indiana, it's public schools and teacher salaries.
Why is there a teacher shortage?
  • When you underfund a profession, take away job security, and ignore the voices of actual practitioners, young people will choose other careers.
Now, what should we do with a nearly half-billion-dollar budget surplus?


πŸšŒπŸ’°πŸšŒ

Sunday, July 7, 2019

2019 Medley #11 - Vouchers and the Wall Between Church and State

Vouchers; Government shouldn't interfere with religious institutions, and church wallets shouldn't be filled with government dollars.

There's a reason that I've been quiet on this blog for the last month...posting only a Father's Day remake of an annual call to fathers to read to their children, and a quick Medley in the middle of June.

Since mid-May, I have been somewhat self-absorbed dealing with a cancer diagnosis. This was followed by successful surgery, and now, recuperation. I have been assured that the offending cells have been totally removed and no new ones apparently remain. This is, of course, good news (though no guarantee of future events). Until the final pathology report, however, I was unsure of the future. Instead of commenting on public education issues, I was contemplating the very real possibility that cancer had spread into lymph nodes in my neck which would mean further treatment...chemotherapy and radiation.

As luck, and modern medicine, would have it, I was spared any additional treatment (for the time being, at least) and right now I can focus on recovering from the effects of surgery, a much more positive - if slightly uncomfortable - activity than worrying about putting my digital life in order.

I didn't ignore the news about public schools entirely. There has been news about privatization through vouchers. People like Bill Gates and the Koch Brothers are still devising ways to monetize the education of our children (because wealth implies expertise in education, right?), but some main-stream publications are writing about the conflicts caused by mixing tax dollars with religious education. Also, in some places, public schools were supported and privatization wasn't promoted...thank you Texas (I never thought I would say that!). But it's not all flowers and chocolates...


VOUCHERS

The Supreme Court

First, two articles about the Supreme Court which will hear an appeal from Montana, whose state Supreme Court denied an end-run around giving tax money to religious schools. The case involves "tax-credit scholarships" which are essentially a way to launder money so that tax dollars can go to unregulated, unaccountable religious schools.

Until we repeal the First Amendment prohibiting the establishment of religion, the state shouldn't be allowed to favor religious institutions with tax dollars.

There's a difference between public and private. We don't subsidize folks who want to use a country club instead of public parks. We don't award vouchers so people can shop for books at Barnes and Noble instead of the public library. We don't give tax credits to people who drive their own vehicles instead of using public transportation. We shouldn't give any sort of tax credit/rebate/voucher for those who choose not to use public schools.

The Supreme Court Has Accepted A Case That Could Undermine Church-State Separation And Public Schools
AU President and CEO Rachel Laser said, “Montana taxpayers should never be forced to fund religious education – that’s a fundamental violation of religious freedom. The Montana Supreme Court’s decision protects both church-state separation and public education. It’s a double win.”

This Case Could Break The Wall Between Church And School
The case matters because it could open the door wide to the use of public tax dollars for private religious schools. The court could also drive a stake through the heart of voucher programs aimed at shuttling public funds to private religious schools, no matter how clever and convoluted the voucher scheme may be. That last possibility seems less likely, because, as with many issues beloved by the right, this is an issue that may be facing the friendliest court in many decades. This is definitely one case to watch for this summer.


Keep Tax Dollars and Religious Institutions Separate

Why does voucher money go to schools banning gay students? | Editorial

Private schools ought to be able to decide who sits in their classrooms (as students or teachers). Governments should not interfere with religious institutions' ability to freely exercise their beliefs.

On the other hand, the government shouldn't pay to support those beliefs.

In other words, we ought to keep government money out of the hands of religious institutions. Otherwise, religion might use government dollars to further their beliefs, thereby establishing state-supported religious institutions. Otherwise, government strings attached to government dollars might stifle the free exercise of religion.

That was Jefferson's point in calling for a "wall of separation between Church and State." Keeping the government's hands off religion, and religion's fingers out of the public treasury are better for both the church and the state.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican legislators promote spending millions in tax dollars on tuition vouchers at unregulated private schools as providing opportunities for more choices for students. What they don’t mention is some of those private schools have policies that say they will not accept gay students and will expel any they discover who are enrolled. Florida should not be effectively sanctioning such discrimination, and companies that have been supporting the existing voucher program should think twice about it.

School vouchers threaten religious autonomy

An article from 2015 confirms this concept...
In states’ attempts to honor the separation of church and state, most private religious schools have fewer regulations to meet than their public school counterparts, which is an appropriate balance between the state interest in educating our children and respecting citizens’ First Amendment rights as long as parents or private foundations are paying the tuition and other education costs.

However, when the state subsidizes these educational costs, then this balance must shift to give the state mechanisms to oversee how the public tax dollars are being spent. Increasing government regulation over private religious schools threatens both their autonomy and their religious mission.

Indiana's Catholic schools get millions in public money. Some lawmakers want that to stop.

And here we are in Indiana facing just such a problem. Do we prohibit private schools from choosing who their teachers should be, or do we refuse to allow public money to be used at a religious institution which discriminates?
When Cathedral High School fired a gay teacher last week over his same-sex marriage, it renewed a long-simmering debate about public money that goes to private schools in the form of taxpayer-funded scholarships.

The school, which has said it was forced by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to terminate the teacher or lose its status as a Catholic institution, has received more than $6 million from the state over the last six years through Indiana’s “choice scholarship” program.

Indiana began offering “choice scholarships” in 2011 to help low-income families afford a private education. It’s now the country’s largest such voucher program, directing more than $134 million to private schools last year.

Vouchers have been controversial since their inception, with critics saying they undermine the state’s public school system by siphoning students and money. In 2013, the state Supreme Court upheld the program as constitutional but that hasn’t stopped calls for reform.

“Again, we see a public institution engaged in an obvious act of discrimination because of sexual identity,” said Democratic Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, Indiana’s House minority leader, “but we do not have to sit by and watch this happen.


BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

When The Wall Of Separation Comes Down
Here's what's going to happen. If you win the right to spend tax dollars on religious institutions (like, say, private schools), sooner or later you are going to be shocked to discover that your own tax dollars are supporting Sharia Law High School or Satan's Own Academy. And that's not going to be the end of it. Where resources are limited (there can only be, for instance, as many meeting opening prayers as there are meetings), some agency will have to pick winners and losers. Worst case scenario-- you get a government agency empowered to screen churches and religions. You can paper over it, as Kenai Peninsula apparently did, by turning it into a lottery (but what does it mean that God apparently let Satan's crew win that drawing).

πŸ«πŸ—½⛪️

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

2019 Medley #10

Lead Poisoning, Segregation,
Charters are a Waste of Money,
Fearing Small Children, Testing,
Telling ADHD Kids to Try Harder,
Is it Achievement or Ability?


IT COSTS A LOT TO POISON OUR CHILDREN

American children are regularly exposed to lead at higher than safe levels, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control is ZERO [emphasis added]!
...There are approximately half a million U.S. children ages 1-5 with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter (Β΅g/dL), the reference level at which CDC recommends public health actions be initiated. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.
In some places, the exposure is long term due to governmental neglect.

7 years later, new study shows East Chicago kids exposed to more lead because of flawed government report
Kids living in two of the contaminated neighborhoods actually were nearly three times more likely to suffer lead poisoning during the past decade than if they lived in other parts of the heavily industrialized northwest Indiana city, according to a report unveiled last week by an arm of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Written in dry, bureaucratic language, the mea culpa is the latest acknowledgement that federal and state officials repeatedly failed to protect residents in the low-income, predominantly Hispanic and African-American city, despite more than three decades of warnings about toxic pollution left by the USS Lead smelter and other abandoned factories.
New evidence that lead exposure increases crime

The point of all this? By not spending the time and money to clean up lead contamination in our cities and neighborhoods we're losing money. We're losing money in increased crime and decreased academic productivity. What are we waiting for?
Three recent papers consider the effects of lead exposure on juvenile delinquency and crime rates, using three very different empirical approaches and social contexts. All have plausible (but very different) control groups, and all point to the same conclusion: lead exposure leads to big increases in criminal behavior.


STILL SEGREGATED AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Trump judicial nominees decline to endorse Brown v. Board under Senate questioning

Candidates nominated by the current administration for Federal Judicial posts -- and this administration is nominating judges at a fast pace -- don't seem to endorse the 1954 school desegregation decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.

Schools are more segregated today then they have been at any time since the 1960s. We have yet to fulfill the promise of Brown v. Board of Education. Segregated schools mean segregated opportunities. There is a $23 billion racial funding gap between schools serving students of color and school districts serving predominantly white students.

But the Federal judges now being appointed by the current administration decline to endorse Brown v. Board of Education. In fact, most of the entire country apparently disagrees with Brown...given the segregation present in our public schools.



The matter was especially pronounced in the nomination of Wendy Vitter, who was confirmed Thursday as a federal district judge in Louisiana without the vote of a single Democratic senator. “I don’t mean to be coy, but I think I get into a difficult, difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions — which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with,” Vitter said during her confirmation hearing. “If I start commenting on, ‘I agree with this case,’ or ‘don’t agree with this case,’ I think we get into a slippery slope.” “I was stunned by her answer,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who posed the question, said this week on the Senate floor. “Brown is woven into the fabric of our nation. How could anyone suggest disagreeing with Brown, as she did?”

Rucker C. Johnson is a professor of Public Policy at UC-Berkeley. His new book, Children of the Dream, explains how the school integration efforts of the 1970s and 1980s were not a "social experiment doomed from the start". Instead, the integration of public schools in the 70s and 80s was overwhelmingly successful...until the advent of Reagan Conservatism which reversed the process.

A scholar revives the argument for racial integration in schools
The main argument of Johnson’s book is much bigger than racial integration. He says three things are essential for schools to give poor kids a chance to break out of poverty: money, preschool and desegregation. Johnson finds that black children make much larger academic gains when integration is accompanied by more funding for low-income schools. Similarly, the benefits of early child education endure when they’re followed by well-resourced schools. All three — money, preschool and desegregation — are a powerful combination in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. “Synergy has the power to take two policies that in isolation seem flat and transform them into one package of policies with profound promise,” Johnson wrote in his book.

Children Of The Dream: Why School Integration Works
An acclaimed economist reveals that school integration efforts in the 1970s and 1980s were overwhelmingly successful — and argues that we must renew our commitment to integration for the sake of all Americans

We are frequently told that school integration was a social experiment doomed from the start. But as Rucker C. Johnson demonstrates in Children of the Dream, it was, in fact, a spectacular achievement. Drawing on longitudinal studies going back to the 1960s, he shows that students who attended integrated and well-funded schools were more successful in life than those who did not — and this held true for children of all races.

Yet as a society we have given up on integration. Since the high point of integration in 1988, we have regressed and segregation again prevails. Contending that integrated, well-funded schools are the primary engine of social mobility, Children of the Dream offers a radical new take on social policy. It is essential reading in our divided times.


CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE A WASTE OF MONEY

Charter Schools Will Always Waste Money Because They Duplicate Services

We live in a throw-away civilization. When something doesn't work, we throw it away and get a new one. That throw-away attitude has found its way to the issue of the public schools. When public schools aren't working, we abandon them and get new schools in the form of charters and vouchers. Instead of spending money to improve the schools we have, our money goes to privatized schools which don't do any better than public schools.

Steven Singer also reminds us that most charter schools aren't really needed...they're not opened because public schools can't handle the number of students in a district. They're not opened because schools are overcrowded. They're opened because someone decided to use public education as a money-making venture.

When a district's public schools aren't performing well, instead of abandoning them and opening charter schools, we need to spend the time and effort it would take to improve.
You can’t save money buying more of what you already have.

Constructing two fire departments serving the same community will never be as cheap as having one.

Empowering two police departments to patrol the same neighborhoods will never be as economical as one.

Building two roads parallel to each other that go to exactly the same places will never be as cost effective as one.

This isn’t exactly rocket science. In fact, it’s an axiom of efficiency and sound financial planning. It’s more practical and productive to create one robust service instead of two redundant ones.

However, when it comes to education, a lot of so-called fiscal conservatives will try to convince us that we should erect two separate school systems – a public one and a privatized one.

The duplicate may be a voucher system where we use public tax dollars to fund private and parochial schools. It may be charter schools where public money is used to finance systems run by private organizations. Or it may be some combination of the two.

But no matter what they’re suggesting, it’s a duplication of services.

And it’s a huge waste of money.

THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR...ARE SMALL CHILDREN?

Feds: No more education, legal services for immigrant kids

We have become a nation of cowardly, selfish, small-minded, ignorant, fools.
“By eliminating English classes and legal aid that are critical to ensuring children successfully navigate the asylum process, the Trump Administration is essentially condemning children to prison and throwing away the key until their imminent deportation,” Grijalva, who represents a district on the border, said in a statement.


TESTING: DOING IT WRONG SINCE 2001

Why The Big Standardized Test Is Useless For Teachers

I began teaching long enough ago to remember when the Big Standardized Test wasn't so big. In the school system I worked in, we tested students in grades 3, 6, 8, and 10 instead of all of them. Back in 1976, I taught third grade. Our students' scores were compared with other students around the country. Not only that, as the classroom teacher, I received a complete analysis of how each student did...and I got it a week or two after the test was taken. Yet, like tests today, the ones I gave didn't really tell me anything that I didn't already know. John couldn't read but could add and subtract. Annie had to count on her fingers but was reading at a 9th-grade level. Michelle was an excellent all-around student. Paul and Stan probably needed special education services. The important information was not how each individual student scored. It was my understanding that the tests were used to help us determine if our curriculum was adequate. Were we teaching our kids things they needed to know? How did we compare to other schools around the country?

One big difference...we were told, specifically, not to teach to the test. In fact, as I recall, "teaching to the test" was a serious breach of testing etiquette. Our school district had developed a well-rounded curriculum and we wanted to see if teaching our curriculum yielded good scores. My classrooms of middle-class white kids generally did average to above average...just like today's middle-class white kids.

It was interesting to see my students' scores each year. But it was interesting because it reinforced what I already knew. Rarely did I see anything that surprised me. You could have ranked the report cards I made out for my class...and their standardized tests...and the rankings would have had a nearly perfect correlation.

One important difference compared to today's tests; The tests didn't determine student grade placement, school "grades," teacher cash bonuses, or teacher evaluations. Standardized achievement tests -- then and now -- weren't made to do those things. The tests were designed to test certain aspects of student achievement and nothing more. Misusing tests by using them to measure things they weren't designed to measure invalidates the test. You wouldn't use a teaspoon to measure the temperature. You shouldn't use a student achievement test to measure teacher competence.
Imagine that you are a basketball coach, tasked with training your team for great things. Imagine that when game day comes, you are not allowed to be in the gym with your team to see them play, and that they are forbidden to tell you anything about how the game went. You aren’t even allowed to know about the opposing team. All you are allowed to know is how many points your team scored. And yet, somehow, you are to make efficient use of practice time to strengthen their weaknesses. You can practice the kinds of skills that you imagine probably factor in a game, but you have no way of knowing how they use those skills in a game situation, or what specifically you should try to fix.

That’s the situation with the standardized test. (Well, actually, it's worse. To really get the analogy right, we'd also have to imagine that as soon as the ball left the players' hands, a blindfold slammed down over their eyes, so they don't really know how they're doing, either.)

TRY DIFFERENT

10 Things People Need to Stop Saying About Children with ADHD

I grew up hearing this. No matter how hard I tried my efforts were rarely recognized. I was always "lazy" and "unmotivated."

After struggling through four years of high school my senior English teacher told me "You have so much potential if only you'd put forth some effort." She obviously cared about my success, but couldn't see the effort that I was already putting forth.

One of my professors in college suggested that I stick to retail, at which I was very successful, by the way. After I graduated (before I went back for my teaching credentials), I made a mark in the retail business I worked at. Each month, it seemed I was given more and more responsibility. The difference was that the work was hands-on, and didn't take the same kind of mental concentration that school work (K-12 or college) took. By the time I left my first job after two years, I had been given the responsibility of an entire sales department.

If you have a child or student who you suspect of having ADHD, saying, "just try harder" doesn't help. Instead, help them "try different."
3) “He just needs to try harder.” If you’ve ever worked one-on-one with a child who suffers from ADHD and who is trying to complete a homework task that they find challenging or tedious, you will see just how hard these kids try. It is a heartbreaking thing to witness.


ACHIEVEMENT OR ABILITY?

Why Streaming Kids According to Ability Is a Terrible Idea (Oscar Hedstrom) 

Streaming is what we used to call tracking...grouping kids by their class achievement. Years and years of research has shown that, while it's more convenient for teachers, it doesn't really help students achieve higher...and the author acknowledges that in the second paragraph below.

In the first paragraph, the author quoted British PM David Cameron who said, "Parents know it works. Teachers know it works." I'm not sure about parents, but teachers know it's easier. What teacher wouldn't like a fourth-grade class, for example, where the range of reading levels is grade 4 through 6, instead of a class with reading levels from first-grade through ninth-grade. Planning would be easier, teaching would be easier. But, as already mentioned, the evidence doesn't support doing that.

My main focus for this article is the tendency of education writers and teachers to conflate ability with achievement. Once in a while, the difference is understood, such as this explanation from the NWEA Map Test,
MAP Growth tests measure a student's academic achievement, not his or her ability.
But in the article below, and in so many more discussions among educators, the difference is either not understood or just plain ignored and the words are used interchangeably. In the first paragraph below the author refers to mixed-ability classes, while in the third paragraph he refers to the meta-analysis of student achievement.

Here is what we need to remember. Ability refers to one's potential, whereas achievement reflects what one actually does.
Mixed-ability classes bore students, frustrate parents, and burn out teachers. The brightest will never summit Everest, and the laggers won’t enjoy the lovely stroll in the park they are perhaps more suited to. Individuals suffer at the demands of the collective, mediocrity prevails. In 2014, the UK Education Secretary called for streaming to be made compulsory. And as the former British prime minister David Cameron said in 2006: ‘I want to see it in every single school. Parents know it works. Teachers know it works.’ According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 98 percent of Australian schools use some form of streaming.

Despite all this, there is limited empirical evidence to suggest that streaming results in better outcomes for students. Professor John Hattie, director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute, notes that ‘tracking has minimal effects on learning outcomes and profound negative equity effects’. Streaming significantly – and negatively – affects those students placed in the bottom sets. These students tend to have much higher representation of low socioeconomic backgrounds. Less significant is the small benefit for those lucky clever students in the higher sets. The overall result is relative inequality. The smart stay smart, and the dumb get dumber, further entrenching social disadvantage.

In the latest update of Hattie’s influential meta-analysis of factors influencing student achievement, one of the most significant factors – far more than reducing class size (effect: 0.21) or even providing feedback on student work (0.7) – is the teachers’ estimate of achievement (1.57). Streaming students by diagnosed achievement automatically restricts teacher expectations. Meanwhile, in a mixed environment, teacher expectations have to be more diverse and flexible.

πŸšŒπŸ“–⛪️

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Father's Day 2019: A Reminder to Read Aloud to Your Children

An annual Father's Day post...with updates and additions.

READING ALOUD

I read aloud to my students from the very first day I taught at an elementary school beginning in January 1976. I had caught the read-aloud bug from the late Lowell Madden, one of my Education School Professors. I had it reinforced by Jim Trelease, whose Read Aloud Handbook is a treasure of information for anyone who is interested in reading aloud to children. [I've referenced Jim Trelease quite a few times on this blog.]


I read aloud to all my classes because reading aloud is simply one of the best tools we have to help children learn to read. Reading is, arguably, the single most important skill a child learns in school.

Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us [emphasis added]
In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom: “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”
In its wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than worksheets, homework, assessments, book reports, and flashcards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better teaching tool than anything else in the home or classroom. What exactly is so powerful about something so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma in order to do it and how exactly does a person get better at reading? It boils down to a simple, two-part formula:

  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.
Reading aloud to children is an activity that entertains...it strengthens personal bonds, it informs and explains...and, according to Trelease, when you read aloud to a child you also:
  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • Create background knowledge
  • Build vocabulary
  • Provide a reading role model
Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their students become better readers.

My collection of Read-Aloud Handbook editions,
several of which have been signed by the author, Jim Trelease.

FATHERS AND READ-ALOUD

In the latest edition of his book (2013), Trelease devotes an entire chapter to fathers and reading aloud. He focuses on fathers reading aloud to sons because fewer fathers than mothers read aloud to their children, and sons are the ones, according to statistics, whose academic achievement could use the read-aloud boost. Obviously, this does not mean that fathers should not read aloud to their daughters. The point is to get fathers to read aloud to their children.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease: CHAPTER 9: Dad—What's the score?
In case you’ve been off the planet for the past several decades, let me bring you up-to-date on our boys and their school woes.
  • In a 2008 study of reading tests in forty-five states, the girls exceeded the boys at every grade level.
  • Unlike four decades ago, it is now common for girls to dominate a high school’s highest academic positions (valedictorian), class leadership positions, advanced placement spaces, and school activities. While the girls are assuming responsibilities, the boys are playing sports or video games.
  • For the first time in history, women exceed their male counterparts in most collegiate achievements, from enrollment and graduation to earning advanced degrees, and the gap is widening annually. About the only significant area in which males dominate in college is “dropout,” where they lead by a 3:2 ratio.
(And an excellent pamphlet with important information specifically for dads....Fathers, Sons and Reading)

Boys, Trelease says, need their fathers to read to them. The relationship between fathers and sons has changed over the years, and not necessarily in a good way. Over the last few decades America's "male" culture has been dominated by politics, sports and television, and boys watch their role models carefully. Among those men in important cultural and political positions in America are abusers, racists, and misogynists. It's more important than ever that fathers exert positive role-model influence over their sons.
The landscape of the American male’s attention span was being dramatically altered and boys were soaking up the changes.
"Is there a connection," Trelease asks, between the "decline in boys’ interest and achievement in school and the behavior of the male culture?"
Can a father play catch in the backyard after dinner and still read to the child that same evening? Can they go to a game one day and to the library the next? You betcha.
The question is...do they? Do fathers take part in their children's, and specifically their sons', intellectual development? Reading aloud to your child is an easy, fun way for fathers to have a positive academic influence on their children.
Dad—what have you done for your son’s head lately?

Make a Father's Day resolution. Read to all your kids every day.

Need more convincing? Check out the following online resources...




πŸ“•πŸ“™πŸ“˜

Sunday, June 2, 2019

MemeWise - Thinking About Science

I don't understand how people who drive cars, fly in airplanes, cook meals, use clocks, talk on telephones, trust that their tap water is clean, smell flowers, watch TV, and take their medicines can deny science when it doesn't suit their biases.
As a voter, as a citizen, scientific issues will come before you...Isn't it worth it to say, "Let me at least become scientifically literate so that I can think about these issues and act intelligently upon them"?

So...


THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD

In case you've forgotten, here's a quick reminder...



THOSE ARROGANT SCIENTISTS

The same people who trust a plumber with their pipes and gas lines, a mechanic with their cars, and a doctor with their health, choose to believe politicians over 97% of the world's climate scientists when it comes to the fate of life on Earth.




DON'T CONFUSE YOUR GOOGLE SEARCH WITH MY PROFESSIONAL DEGREES

This is how I feel when the Indiana General Assembly starts passing laws about education.



CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION

Just because there's a correlation between the divorce rate in Maine and the per capita consumption of margarine doesn't mean that they necessarily relate to each other.



A VACCINE AGAINST CHARLATANS

Scientific literacy is a vaccine against the charlatans of the world who would exploit our ignorance. Without it, we are unprotected...

"When you have an established, scientific, emergent truth, it is true whether or not you believe in it, and the sooner you understand that, the faster we can get on with the political conversations about how to solve the problems that face us."


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Monday, May 27, 2019

One Size Does Not Fit All

More than four dozen literacy experts have signed on to a letter expressing concern over the lack of balance in PBS Newshour's segment about dyslexia.

Among the signers of the letter are Reading Hall of Fame members, Richard Allington, Pat Cunningham, Ken and Yetta Goodman, Michael Graves, Stephen Krashen, P. David Pearson, Gay Su Pinnell, David Reinking, and Barbara M. Taylor.

The entire letter can be found at Concern_letter_to_PBS.pdf and is listed with all signers.


One objection the signers have with the PBS episode is the assumption that there is only one way to teach reading that works for every child, and that other variables and individual characteristics of students are unimportant. The show also implies that America's teachers don't know how to teach reading, once again, misdirecting blame onto teachers for a lack of achievement among students.

There are a wide variety of out of school factors which could result in reading difficulties such as vision problems, lack of literacy experiences in the home, exposure to environmental toxins such as lead, and family trauma.

Dyslexia is defined differently in different places and by different people, so one single method of teaching reading is insufficient to cover all differences. Because of the confusion and differences in defining dyslexia, the American Psychiatric Association has removed dyslexia from it's Diagnostic Statistical Manual.

The letter goes into detail on these and other issues.
Paula Kerger, PBS, President and CEO
pakerger@pbs.org

Sara Just, Executive Producer, PBS NewsHour
viewermail@newshour.org

Dear Ms. Kerger and Ms. Just,

We, the undersigned, write to express concern about the PBS NewsHour segment on dyslexia, broadcast on April 30. As experienced senior scholars in the field of reading and literacy education, we found this segment to be inconsistent with the NewsHour’s stated aim of balanced and trusted reporting.

Our professional work is devoted to studying literacy and how it can be developed in schools to enrich the lives of all students. So, we well understand and share parents’ and others’ anguish and frustration when children are identified as experiencing reading difficulties. Competent reading and writing are fundamentally important in and out of school, and difficulties can shape children’s concepts of themselves as learners, while affecting virtually every aspect of their everyday experience.

Our concern is that the NewsHour received inadequate and incomplete scientific advice when producing the segment on dyslexia. The result perpetuates inaccuracies, misconceptions, and distortions related to reading, how it is taught, and the complexity of reading difficulties. It suggests erroneously that there is scientific certainty about dyslexia and how it should be addressed instructionally. In fact, the research evidence is equivocal and there is much room for debate about whether dyslexia is an identifiable condition, whether it can be reliably diagnosed, and whether there are instructional approaches that are uniquely effective in ameliorating it...

...We are particularly concerned about the dyslexia segment’s suggestion that a narrowly conceptualized instructional approach is unequivocally effective, not only for individuals categorized as dyslexic, but for all individuals learning to read. Such a suggestion perpetuates a view that there is a single approach guaranteed to transcend the incredible diversity of factors and individual characteristics that might explain why learning to read is easy for many but incredibly difficult for some. It is widely accepted that learning to read English texts entails instructional attention to sound-symbol correspondence and other phonemic aspects of reading. But, the amount and form of that attention, how it is balanced with other aspects of reading and learning to read such as motivation, and how it might deal with the orthographic irregularities of English spelling, cannot be reduced to a single, narrow, unquestioned approach. In particular, we worry that such a narrow view might divert teachers from attending to other scientifically based facets of good literacy pedagogy, such as attention to oral language, knowledge acquisition, motivation and self-efficacy, and sheer exposure to print. Again, such issues, in one form or another, have periodically blossomed into public controversies across decades and are often nurtured among the general public by shallow or misleading media reports such as the NewsHour’s segment.

We are also dismayed that the NewsHour segment implicitly questioned, even if unintentionally, the professionalism of teachers and American schools in regard to teaching reading. It was suggested that teachers were ignorant of or resistant to the scientific certainty of dyslexia and how reading can be effectively taught, not only to those children diagnosed with dyslexia, but to all children. Beyond the absence of such certainty, as we have explained above, the segment unfairly provided no opportunity for a rebuttal from qualified representatives of those groups. They could have pointed to a complementary body of scientific research that supports alternative explanations of reading difficulties and instructional approaches that have been shown to be effective for a wide range of students with reading difficulties. That lack of balance was exacerbated when the segment included emotional comments about how children’s needs were not being met...

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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday Music Interlude - Bach

From the website of Helene Schulthess


Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 for Organ by J. S. Bach.

Composition date unknown. There are some suggestions that the piece wasn't written for organ...and that it wasn't written by Bach at all. No original manuscripts have been found.

See Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565

🎡🎢🎡

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

It's All About Growth

LOSING

One of my favorite bloggers, Peter Greene, is on his second set of children...his older children are in their thirties and he is the father of twin babies. It's normal, I think, that we look back at our lives with a certain amount of nostalgia and Greene does this in a beautiful and thoughtful way in his post, Parenting Is All About Losing.
My wife asked me the other day, "Is it always like this?" We had turned around and had one of those moments when you realize that your baby looks like a small child, an undersized person, but not an infant any more. It's a truly mixed moment emotionally, one part pride and joy at how big your child has grown, and one part sadness and loss because there was an infant just here a moment ago and now that tiniest person is gone forever.
There are conflicting emotions accompanying our children's growth...
Not that it's all loss and sadness. Every stage of my older children's lives was the best so far, the best until the next new stage revealed itself to be even better. They get stronger and wiser and more terribly beautiful each time. It would never be enough to try to hold them back, to trade the unnatural prolonging of one stage for an unrealized better stage to come. Not that some parents don't panic and try some emotional equivalent of binding their children's legs so they won't learn to walk or run. It never works. Children were born to grow, and grow they will, with or without our help.
So, he acknowledges that the emotions are conflicted and there are some good aspects to those changes, yet he titles his piece Parenting Is All About Losing, perhaps unconsciously emphasizing the negative.

I'd like to, respectfully, turn that around, and focus on the positive. Parenting is all about growing...for the parent and the child.

GROWING AND THE CIRCLE

My first thoughts on reading his post brought me to Joni Mitchell's The Circle Game.
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
We can't go back, but we can watch our children grow. One stage is over and the next one appears without fanfare until we realize we're seeing a new version of our child (and, I would add, ourselves). We never noticed the change until it was upon us.

There's some comfort that we're repeating the growth that our own parents experienced as we watch our children grow from childhood to adulthood. Greene recognizes this when he thinks about his own adult children.
...it is an unspeakably great big warm ball of blasting sunshine to experience your children as grown humans, fully themselves and making their way in the world.
At this point, however, he returns to "the losing."

I wouldn't. As I have seen my own children become "grown humans, fully themselves and making their way in the world" I would prefer to reflect on the ways we have grown together. They have, without doubt, taught me as much as I have taught them. I have grown as much as they have. There's nostalgia in the past, but as Joni Mitchell put it,
There'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through
The positive side is that things can get better and there are plenty of new dreams, no matter how old I get. Some of those new dreams are trivial, like seeing the latest season of Star Trek, and hoping that the Cubs will win another World Series in less than 108 years. Other dreams, though, are profound...and remarkable, like hearing my great-grandchild learn to talk, and seeing my children and grandchildren work to make a better world.

GROWING AS TEACHERS

As educators, we see the same pattern. Greene writes,
Teachers go through the cycle of loss, too...
I always experienced a sense of sadness at the end of the school year and I had to say goodbye to my students -- even the difficult-to-teach ones. When teachers look back at a year filled with 20 - 30 human children we see the growth they made and feel that same sort of nostalgic joy and sorrow. We see a different version in June of the child who entered our class the previous fall.

Spending six-plus hours a day together, for five days a week, and thirty-six weeks is an intense experience that non-teachers might not be aware of. The relationship between a teacher and her students is more than just an adult exchanging information with a child. It's more than just teach and test. There's a relationship which develops that goes both ways...a deep understanding of who the person is on the other end of the pencil. (If you don't understand this relationship or have never experienced it, read through Beverly Cleary's classic Ramona the Pest. The relationship between Ramona and her teacher, Miss Binney, should be explanation enough.)

Our growth as teachers, though, should be positive, too. Yes, it's sometimes sad and hard to watch students move on with their lives...and often we never know how their lives progressed. Still, we have to trust that the growth is positive...for us and for them.

A few years ago I wrote a post about meeting a former student. We talked about the experiences we shared when she was eight and nine years old. I wrote,
She didn't thank me for helping her learn to read. She didn't thank me for helping her pass the achievement test. She didn't thank me for helping her learn her math facts. She thanked me for being a kind and caring adult who helped her during a difficult time.

There is so much more to education than tests and standards. Children learn much more than can ever be put on a standardized test. Teachers – living, breathing, actual human beings – make the learning process part of life. One of the most important aspects of the education of our children is the relationship between teacher and child.

No test can ever measure that.
Teachers don't always know how they affect a student's life. I have been lucky to meet a few former students and learn that I had a positive impact on their lives, but that doesn't always happen. We have to do our best and hope that we provide more positive than negative. Building good relationships helps ensure that the balance will lean more toward the positive. In the process of building those relationships, the positive impact will land upon the teacher as well. Teachers and their students, both, are part of each other's circle game...


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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Ten Thoughts on Teacher Appreciation

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Monday, April 29, 2019

2019 Medley #9

Pre-School, Vouchers and Low Test Scores,
Billionaires Aren't Helping,
DeVos Funds Charters,
Teacher Career Penalty, Praying in Safety


INVESTING IN THE FUTURE

Two reports endorse investment in early childhood education

Truthfully, neither of these reports tells us anything new (see also Untangling the Evidence on Preschool Effectiveness: Insights for Policymakers). What they do tell us, however, is that states aren't investing in early childhood education the way they should...too many tax breaks for the wealthy and for corporations ("Corporations are people, my friend.") to be able to afford any investment in something so lacking in a quick return on investment as early childhood education.

The supermajority in Indiana still hasn't been able to figure out how to help their friends profit from the state's pilot program in pre-school...a "pilot" now in its sixth year.
A pair of reports released this week offered supporting arguments for one of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top priorities: increasing investment in early childhood education.

Both reports, one by a group of law enforcement officials and another by leading business executives, use data from the Illinois State Department of Education that shows roughly three-fourths of all students entering kindergarten in Illinois lack necessary school readiness skills in at least one of three critical areas – social-emotional development, literacy or math. Only about a quarter of all new kindergarteners demonstrate school readiness in all three categories.

What Preschool Isn’t: Waterford UPSTART and Any Other Online Program!

Yes...we're trying this in Indiana, too. Indiana is nothing if not consistent. We'll try anything which will spend public dollars on privately run "schools," especially high-tech corporate run virtual schools. Even virtual schools for pre-schoolers.

Does it even matter to them that the research on screen time shows that too much is detrimental to children?

Ask any early childhood expert about the purpose of pre-school and she will tell you that learning letters, sitting at a computer, and getting a leg up on academics are only a small part of what makes a good pre-school. Physical, social, and emotional development should be part of the curriculum. There should also be room for the child's creativity to develop...for the child to play, freely, without adult interference. The emphasis should be on PRE-, not school (see Six Principles to Guide Policy).

Any tax money that goes to "virtual pre-schools" is worse than a waste of money.
I wonder if these individuals don’t understand early childhood education. Have they read the research?

Sitting young children in front of screens to learn will likely have bad long-term repercussions. We already know that more screen time doesn’t help older children in school. We also understand that teens are too glued to screens and with social media have become increasingly depressed and anxious.

So there’s little doubt that pushing preschoolers to do their learning on computers is a huge mistake.


VOUCHERS -- STILL FAILING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Do voucher students’ scores bounce back after initial declines? New research says no

Another favorite of the privatization crowd is vouchers...a simple plan to divert public tax dollars into private religious schools.

First, they said that vouchers were necessary to help poor children of color "escape" "failing" public schools. Once they learned that vouchers wouldn't solve the deeper societal problems of poverty they changed the purpose of vouchers to "choice." Now, Indiana's voucher system is a private school entitlement for white middle-class families.

Schools that accept vouchers are no better than public schools and they drain tax dollars from the public treasury for the support of religious organizations.

Your tax dollars are going...
...instead of going to support your underfunded neighborhood public school.
New research on a closely watched school voucher program finds that it hurts students’ math test scores — and that those scores don’t bounce back, even years later.

That’s the grim conclusion of the latest study, released Tuesday, looking at Louisiana students who used a voucher to attend a private school. It echoes research out of IndianaOhio, and Washington, D.C. showing that vouchers reduce students’ math test scores and keep them down for two years or more.

Together, they rebut some initial research suggesting that the declines in test scores would be short-lived, diminishing a common talking point for voucher proponents.


BILLIONAIRE INTERFERENCE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION: UNDEMOCRATIC

Who Should Pay for Public Education?

The Gates Familly Foundation dumps millions of dollars into public education trying experiment after experiment using public school students as the guinea pigs. Is this based on Bill Gates's vast experience as an educator? Is it based on research done by a university's education department under the leadership of Melinda Gates? No. It's because they have money. Money, according to the Gates Foundation, gives them the knowledge and the right to turn public education into philanthropist-based education.

Do Bill and Melinda Gates have ulterior motives for spending their dollars on public schools? I can't answer that. Perhaps their motives are sincere and they really do want to improve public schools. No matter what their motives, however, that's not how public education should function in a democracy. Our elected representatives on local school boards should determine the curriculum for our schools. If Bill and Melinda Gates and their billionaire peers want to help improve public education they should pay their taxes.
So yes, we should propose raising taxes to more adequately fund public schools, so they don’t have to apply for grants from foundations that will want control over aspects of their core work. Underfunding public education (and the rise of the Billionaire Social Entrepreneur Class) have pushed many public schools into a corner: they need more money to accomplish the things they want to be doing. The things they know will help their students flourish.

Schools can become dependent on grants. Teachers these days are often forced to Donors-Choose even basic supplies. We have abandoned truly adequate public education funding in favor of piecemeal begging and co-opting our principles for much-needed money. Public institutions, from roads, fire-fighting, hospitals and libraries to the military, need public funding. Because we all depend on them.

DEAR CHARTERS, HERE'S MONEY. LOVE BETSY

Charter networks KIPP and IDEA win big federal grants to fund ambitious growth plans

Betsy DeVos, who purchased her cabinet position from American politicians, has directed her U.S. Education Department to spend millions on charter schools. A charter school advocate said of the gift...

“In many states and cities, it’s potentially the only source of start-up dollars that schools receive...”

Maybe that's because the local community doesn't need, want, or isn't willing to pay for another school.
“The U.S. Department of Education has not, in our opinion, been a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars in regard to its management of the Charter Schools Program,” wrote Carol Burris and Jeff Bryant, the Network for Public Education report’s authors.

“If there are any instances of waste, fraud or abuse, the Department will certainly address them, but this so-called study was funded and promoted by those who have a political agenda against charters and its ‘results’ need to be taken with a grain of salt,” Liz Hill, a Department of Education spokesperson, said in an email.

Nina Rees, the president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said federal grants are a crucial source of funding for start-up schools and that closures of ineffective schools are signs that the charter model is working.

“In many states and cities it’s potentially the only source of start-up dollars that schools receive,” she said. “When you first open a school, unless you come into the work with your own money, you don’t have any way of paying for certain things.”


THE PENALTY FOR CHOOSING TO TEACH

The teacher weekly wage penalty hit 21.4 percent in 2018, a record high

Let's admit it. Many of America's teachers make enough money to live on. The average teacher's salary in Indiana is more than $50,000. When adjusted for local cost of living it's even higher. Any minimum wage worker in the U.S. would love to have a job at even half that rate, so what are teachers complaining about?

First, that's just an average, and the average is dropping. One reason it's dropping is that Indiana no longer allows salary schedules for teachers. If you start your school teaching career at about $38,000 you'll stay at that salary until your school system can find money to give you a raise. In Indiana, the cost of living has increased faster than the increases in funding by the General Assembly. Since 1999 Indiana adjusted teacher salaries have dropped more than 15%.

Second, while teachers don't go into education expecting to become rich, they also expect to earn more than minimum wage. How much do teachers make compared to other workers with the same training? According to this article, it's about 20% less nationwide, even higher in Indiana. Where will we find people to teach in our public school classrooms if we don't pay them a competitive wage?
A shortage of teachers harms students, teachers, and the public education system as a whole. Lack of sufficient, qualified teachers and staff instability threaten students’ ability to learn and reduce teachers’ effectiveness, and high teacher turnover consumes economic resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. The teacher shortage makes it more difficult to build a solid reputation for teaching and to professionalize it, which further contributes to perpetuating the shortage. In addition, the fact that the shortage is distributed so unevenly among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds challenges the U.S. education system’s goal of providing a sound education equitably to all children.


(((DISINTEGRATING BEFORE OUR EYES)))

Once We Were Free: Mourning the era of American Jewish freedom
I...want you to understand how it felt to find a safe harbor after thousands of years and build lives and generations there—and then watch it begin to disintegrate before our eyes.
This isn't about public education. It's about the increase in religious and racial violence in the United States.

Jewish baby boomers have grown up in a nation (nearly) free from religious persecution. Many of our grandparents and parents had to leave their homes in Europe to escape pogroms and mass murder. Many faced discrimination when they came to the U.S. in housing and jobs, but over the years, and generations, things improved for us.

Growing up in liberal Jewish America I learned about centuries of discrimination and persecution, yet I was assured that the Jewish people had now found a safe haven in America.

The last six months have brought an abrupt end to the image of America as being a safe-haven for its Jewish citizens. What follows are the thoughts of one mother who mourns the loss of Jewish safety in America.
I know some readers never experienced freedom in America. I know there are people who grew up in an America that enslaved their ancestors, an America that brought their community smallpox and genocide, an America that put their grandmothers in internment camps, that deported their parents. An America that stole from them, hurt them, killed them. They ask me: How can you complain? Why should we care that you once knew freedom and lost it, when we have never been free. To those readers: I stand with you unequivocally. I know you never had the America I once did. I will fight beside you to build an America where all of us had the freedom I once had. None of our children should pray behind armed guards. All of us, all of our kids should be safe, prosperous, and free. I want to hear all of your stories, all the ways America hurt you and took freedom from you. But I also want you to understand how it felt to find a safe harbor after thousands of years and build lives and generations there—and then watch it begin to disintegrate before our eyes. All of our voices should be heard. All of us deserve a new era of freedom, prosperity, and safety. I hope what we build in the coming years makes us freer than all of our grandmothers’ wildest dreams. I believe we must come together and fight for the America that seemed so close we could taste it just a few years ago. We must fight for all of us, for every American to have lives so free we can’t even begin to imagine them yet. Hope still lives here, somewhere, even if it feels far away today.


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