Buzzword Du Jour


A current but not so new buzzword in the educational arena, recycled for 2016, is GRIT. Angela Duckworth, a recognized “expert” on the subject has published her book detailing successful examples of grit. It’s catching on quickly.

Whenever writers hone in on research studies about the effects of a certain character trait on learning, it piques my interest. I am curious to know the correlation between what the research says and exactly how that looks in a classroom. Often, I am left scratching my head wondering.

Once these “research-based” discoveries take hold in the schooling world, we often see the following:

  1. Publishers produce and advertise the ideas in expensively canned, “research-based” books, articles and curriculum.
  2. Professors, consultants, and various educational entities/organizations produce and advertise the ideas in pricey “must-attend” conferences.
  3. Districts and schools then consume the expensively canned, recycled ideas and pass them on to teachers and staff as mandatory Professional Development.
  4. Teachers and staff sit and listen trying to make sense of the expensively canned, recycled ideas deciding how or if they are useful in their work with children.
  5. Less than one percent of the teachers and staff utilize the expensively canned, recycled, research-based ideas within a few weeks of hearing about it.
  6. Within a month or so, life returns to normal in the classroom until the next big buzz word appears.

How do I know all of this? I speak as one who has not only experienced it as a teacher, but also promulgated it as an administrator. I am not proud of that fact. I have learned from my mistakes. There are great and not so great ideas. Some are not worth the time, energy, and money we give them. Some have been discredited, yet continue to be cited as valid research

I disagree with those who believe that grit can be taught. Grit comes through experiences in life. It may come at various times in unique and highly personal situations. It may come in varying degrees. It may not come at all. Grit cannot be measured, tested, or evaluated. Grit cannot be boxed into a formula for school or future success in life.

Grit comes and goes depending upon our interest. When one is wildly curious and deeply passionate about something, a certain amount of perseverance, determination and even grit may come to play. Where this kind of curiosity and passion is nurtured and validated, there is a greater likelihood that these character traits may surface. Generally, these conditions are not evident in school.

What third grader, for example, willingly displays grit when memorizing the multiplication tables? Those who find numbers and their relationship to one another simply fascinating may be the ones who find the grit to crack the code. Others…not so much.

What Duckworth is saying: “Doing well in school and attaining advanced education are essential to overcoming any obstacles, and the key to succeeding in school is grit, effort and perseverance.”

What Rogers is saying: “Grit, effort and perseverance are only worth the exertion when there is passion, purpose, and personal power behind the learning.”








The Lost Art of Diagramming – Good Riddance!


There are some things in life that have little to no value…things like stopping at a stop sign when you are the only one at the intersection or spending a whole year of your life diagramming sentences.

I spent the greater portion of fifth grade standing at the chalkboard drawing lines and hoping my words landed in the right place. I was embarrassed more than once.

We were told that this would help us to better understand the use and structure of grammar and the English language. I personally believed that it was a devious conspiracy to keep some of us in a perpetual state of perplexed puzzlement.  Beyond the simple sentence, I never did quite figure out how to complete the puzzle. I suppose I learned enough to pass the test, but soon forgot most of it and have never used it again.

While this may have served a student or two in their processing grammar, it was a welcomed relief for me when we no longer had to endure this cruel form of punishment.

Perhaps for some, this visual provided a clear picture of grammar usage and form. For those adept at memorizing, it was easy. For others it was a foreign language. Yet, the entire class was forced to participate in this exercise. We were tested on our ability to diagram correctly. Those test grades were averaged into our overall grade in English.

Something about this seems inherently wrong. It favors those who learn using that method but neglects to address those who learn differently and then punishes them in the form of a low grade.  I can hear some of you saying, “suck it up – it’s just part of the package” we all have to learn things we don’t like.  I respectfully disagree with that notion and here’s why.

Is the goal of learning to understand something better or to replicate a “one-way” process to arrive at an answer? 

For many learners that “one-way” process is a catch you scenario. It is equivalent to forcing a round peg into a square hole. It is painful and unnecessary. There are many ways in which to learn our glorious and confusing English language.

It is easier for a teacher to demonstrate the “one-way” method to a classroom of students rather than design smaller groups and even individual plans. It would take hours of planning and figuring out how to reach 25-30 or more students every day.  This continues to be one of the sad effects of school via economies of scale.

Envision if you will a small team of teachers/coaches (2-3) working with small groups of children (10-15) to discover exactly how they learn. Imagine teachers having a good portion of the day available for this kind of planning and strategizing.  Consider the results of such a design as this.  Sucking it up and dealing with content learning that is sometimes painful, now becomes a meaningful learning opportunity for every child.

I could go on and on about grading, grouping, class size, etc. but you’ll just have to read my book, Learning Unleashed to get the rest of the story.




Everything that is wrong about teaching and learning can be found in this one little clip

Click on the link then click on the picture when you arrive.

Gut reaction: Are you serious?

Upon deeper reflection: Are you serious?

  • Too many kids stuffed in classrooms = misbehavior, boredom, disengagement, etc.
  • Living by the clock = loss of teachable moments
  • Exit tickets = coercive tactics
  • Programmable repeatables = robotic and unauthentic learning
  • Stress = this paradigm of teaching and learning

What this clip got right:

Teaching is hard work when you do it like this.

There is so much to pull apart and dissect in this scenario, but I’ll take the short route and just quote Alfie Kohn below.

“Most things that we and the people around us do constantly… have come to seem so natural and inevitable that merely to pose the question, ‘Why are we doing this?’ can strike us as perplexing – and also, perhaps, a little unsettling. On general principle, it is a good idea to challenge ourselves in this way about anything we have come to take for granted; the more habitual, the more valuable this line of inquiry.”

Think about it.

What does student success look like and how can we support it?

You would think I discovered GOLD!

I am sounding the educational advocate horn for all those who might be listening. To be honest, I have not heard great things about the educational system in Hawai’i over the years, however this website peaked my interest.

Our school systems have been in a virtual lock-down when it comes to meaningful parent and student involvement. They have rarely been equal partners at the table to influence and shape important district and school policies and practices that will help our students learn. This kind of substantive dialogue has been sketchy at best.

I love the idea of channeling the positive energy that comes from this kind of community outreach and would love to see it happening more regularly in all school districts. It is a grand step in the right direction. It is not the silver bullet, but then we all know there is no such thing.

Last note on this blog…I found most of the ten “un-commandments” from my new book Learning Unleashed, written in one form or another in the various posts that were submitted.  It validates the importance of listening to the voices of the children when it comes to what they need and want most.




You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one (John Lennon)


By Evonne Rogers Adapted from John Lennon’s Lyrics

Imagine educational freedom
it’s easy if you try
No forced agendas
or politics gone awry
imagine all the children
learning in their own way 

Imagine there’s no grading
it isn’t hard to do
nothing to score or average
and no SBAC/PARCC too

Imagine all the learners
breaking through the chains…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
so freed learning will come

Imagine no restrictions
I wonder if you can
No need for rigid mandates
Or learning in a can

Imagine all the children
whose eyes are opened wide…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
so freed learning will come


Gaining Momentum in an uphill climb




This opt-out movement is a concrete example of coloring outside the lines and here are a few reasons why we should.

  • Imprecise measure of real learning
  • Waste of precious time
  • Waste of precious resources
  • A socio-economic sorter of the worst kind with no viable remedy
  • Consumerism and profiteering at the expense of children
  • Does not measure improvement over time
  • Biased, flawed, and skewed to weed out different kinds of learners
  • Restricts teaching and learning
  • Inhibits creativity and imagination
  • Parents, teachers, and other bright people…add your reasons here…


Sometimes you have to color outside the lines

The standardization of schooling, the frenzied pursuit of accountability that leads to prescribed curricula, textbooks and relentless testing, was not driven by those most intimately involved in the educational endeavor – teachers, parents, or young people – but corporate CEO’s and powerful foundations and mass media.

Ron Miller – The Self-Organizing Revolution pg. 56

I colored inside the lines for a long time.

I was taught to do so and rarely questioned that directive. Why should I?  Who am I to question those who know best, those who have authority and power in the schooling world?

At an early but unknown moment in life, it occurred to me that I actually had a mind of my own. I discovered that I could ask  questions that most people in authority or power didn’t like – questions that often started with something like this: Why are we doing this?

As one in authority, I fielded those kinds of questions on several occasions. I provided, what I considered, thoughtful responses even when I didn’t always believe them myself. I safely stayed within the lines.

From time to time, I pushed the crayon beyond the normal limits hoping to share with others the exhilarating freedom that comes from reimagining the picture itself. With regard to school practices, I soon discovered that coloring outside the lines is akin to educational heresy. It is just not done, because, “we have always done it this way.”

Pushing the envelope of change is a major undertaking. Gathering consensus on issues as fundamental as the right to learn, is nearly impossible. That is why there are so many different school choices; public, private, charter, homeschooling, unschooling, etc.

I long for a time when learning is not legislated, forced, or wrapped in the same, “must-have” package for all children.

I long for the time when teachers, parents and young people can chart their own course for learning. A course not hindered by corporate CEO’s, powerful foundations with agendas, and mass media that serve up “fast food” school bites on a regular basis.

I no longer color inside the lines. The picture is far more impressive and stunning when I don’t.

crayon pic


This is one of the reasons why I BLOG!

I am not anti-working moms. I was one myself for some time. But at what point do we draw the line between self-interest and the well-being of our offspring?

I may ruffle some feathers on this issue, but I am compelled to tell the truth as I see it.

When we decide to have children, we do so with the knowledge that our lives will be changing in more ways than one. Our time, our interests, and even our sanity will all be impacted by the addition of little people coming to live with us.

During this 18+ years of commitment, we know that some choices will have to be made. Whether or not we fully comprehend, it is extremely challenging to balance full-time work and parenting. While not impossible, something has to give. That something falls squarely on our shoulders. For single parents this challenge can be monumental.

If supporting the one (a parent in this case) is a detriment to the other (their child ), is this a viable and constructive solution? I am not convinced it is and neither is the research.

I find this article not only insulting to teachers, but totally myopic. It is simply propaganda that says, “whatever is best for the adult must be good for the child.” Longer school hours or more school days to address the gender wage gap…seriously? I think not!


Life Lessons

All I Really Needed to Know I Learned from My Mother and Father

(Adapted from Robert Fulghum -All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten)

In Memory of my Parents – Albert and Antoinette

Auntie and Uncle Al at Canal
Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned from my mother and father. For me, learning was not found in formal schooling as much as it was listening to and observing my mother and father and other caring adults every day including the first day my mom walked me to Kindergarten.

These are the things I learned from my mother. Share your things.  Take turns. Don’t hurt people. When you are done using something, put it back where it belongs. Clean up the mess, whether it is yours or not. Wash your hands and face before you eat. Flush the toilet. Change your underwear every day. A little piece of homemade chocolate cake cures just about anything.  Live a balanced life, everything in moderation. Be thoughtful and be thankful.

These are the things I learned from my father. Learn something new every day and use your talents. Work hard and take pride in your work. Always do your very best. Use your mind, think first- then speak, and speak only if needed. Learn from others and share what you know. Life is not always fair – but treat others fairly. Forgive. Humor cures just about anything.

They both taught me that pets are like family members, care for them, love them, have fun with them. At some point you have to let them go. They die. So do we. Letting go is part of loving deeply.

Wouldn’t it be great if we all – the whole world – had our moms and dads and other loving adults teach us everything we needed to know about life.  These first few years are the foundation upon which every subsequent educational experience is built. When the foundation is strong the journey usually is as well. When the foundation is incomplete or unsteady the educational climb is challenging but not impossible.

I have discovered that everything really important in life can be learned without going to a place called “school.”

The problem with homework

Reading this article reminded me of the many times I had to help my own four children with their homework when they were young students. Being a teacher myself, I found it extremely frustrating to see the kind of homework assignments that were given on a daily basis.  Often they made no sense at all.

I didn’t want to rock the boat for my kids, so most of the time I just helped them until they got it and then finished it on their own. Occasionally, I wrote the teacher, with what I considered a helpful but not scathing note, providing them with my insights on the assignment. Most of the time, I never heard back from them. Once in awhile they would send me a note back explaining their rationale.

As a teacher I understood that you can’t please everyone. I also saw how students in my own classroom seemed to do better when I did not pile on tons of homework. I discovered early in my teaching career that homework was not essential to learning. It was a nightmare to check every day and a colossal waste of their time and mine. It also created the “have and have-nots” conundrum. Those who had solid support structures at home followed through. Others had insurmountable odds that would never level the playing field for them.

The few times that I did ask for some work to be done at home, I did the unspeakable in the world of teaching. With parent agreement, I gave my students my home phone number and told them to call me if they were having trouble with homework. I had a few calls here and there, but they never abused the offer and frequently appreciated that I was there to speak with them. I did this for years and I remember my mother laughing at me and saying, “…who else does this?” It never took more than a few minutes, and it was so well worth it in the long run.

Some of my students needed someone to answer the phone and other students never called me. I realized that relationships mean everything and if we as teachers are willing to have them with our students, amazing things can happen.

The problem with most homework stems from the teacher and parent perception that is it important and vital to the learning process. It is not – and this article reiterates that point. Some food for thought!