Friday, April 23, 2010
Julie shouldn't have worried about that. Her many many friends, family and co-workers never had a doubt.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I was invited to hop aboard a Peoria Charter Coach and join the Peoria Federation of Teachers as they participtated in the general expressions of discontent with the state of Illinois Government. Since I basically agree that there is plenty to complain about, and, anyone who is willing to take my kids off my hands for nine months out of the year, well, let's just say you had me at Hello. So I was happy to oblige and support our teachers! Road Trip!
Myself, the Elliott-Gardners and the Adkins- Dutro's all brought our kids. We took up the back half of one bus. Funny but the other bus without the kids was for some reason more crowded than ours. ;-)
greeting from Superintendent Norm Durflinger. Truth be told I think he may have been a little sad he wasn't going along. He had other plans however. Hopefully he had a full box of No-doz in his pocket.
As we entered the protest area, I noticed the wide variety of issues and signs. It struck me how similar it was to the tea parties. In fact, there are many many areas of common agreement between these two groups. The proposed solution to the problems is where they may part ways. For instance, one speaker who sounded like she had just swallowed a bag of unmixed asphalt chanted "Raise our taxes!" I squirmed a little bit, but then realized a little improvisation was in order. "Vote them out!" fit nicely in between the chants and added a poetic quality.
Here is my top ten list of similarities between the Tea parties and yesterday's Springfield rally:
1. They both have valid points
2. They both have the right and in fact the obligation to express themselves
3. They both are committed to their cause
4. They have all been victims of a corrupt and wasteful government.
5. They should both have the blessings of Bill and Hillary!
6. They both have demonstrated in a lawful peaceful manner.
7. They both are advocating for the issues that are important to them.
8. They both want to reduce government corruption and waste
9. They will all VOTE in November
10. They don't want to be labeled, marginalized or demeaned.
So there you go! I am qualified to make these judgements since I was at both events. I hope this puts the hostilities between the parties to rest. Everyone needs to be registered to vote. Everyone needs to know their legislators and cast the appropriate vote in November. Do not expect the same people that got us into this mess to get us out of it. That would just be stupid. Face the fact that Spingfield's and Washington's (and our) addiction to wasteful, reckless spending must end! Personally, I am heartened to see that the long apathetic slumber of the average citizen is over. We needed a wake-up call. The alarm is ringing!
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
UPDATED - Karen McDonald wrote a story as well complete with interviews with the students. Her excellent coverage is here. Hedy also reported today that since this story broke the PHA phone has been ringing off the hook from citizens wanting to make donations of supplies to the program. She wishes to thank the Peoria Fire Fighters who donated calculators, rulers and pens, and in particular, Firefighter Byron Yang who personally wrote a check for $100! Mr. Yang also asked for and received a gift card from Kroger's Foods for future supply needs.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Lao Tzu.
With the persistent bad news regarding the state of public education, it is my pleasure to write about something positive. No, it has nothing to do with shiny new buildings. Nope, it's not about new IPAD's or smart boards. Sorry, but nothing to do with the snappy new Charter School... and no, there is no latest bestest learning program to unveil. This news is about one person who wants to teach and students who want to learn.
The teacher I refer to is our own Hedy Elliott-Gardner, daughter of comedian Royce Elliott, a familiar voice at the District 150 School Board podium, and Vice President of the Peoria Federation of Teachers. Her students are residents and children of Peoria's Housing Authority, Taft and Harrison homes.
Last week I shadowed Hedy, a woman I have long admired, as she prepared for her first day of classes at Taft. Through her employment as a District 150 teacher, Hedy sought and received permission from the Regional Office of Education to create and teach an adult GED program and supplemental grade school classes on the premises of Taft and Harrison Homes. She said she had been mulling the idea for awhile, and finally approached Regional Superintendent of schools, Dr. Gerald Brookhart. From the onset he was enthusiastic about the idea, and encouraged Hedy to follow her dream. He helped her lay out a road map, and from that point forward the pieces fell in to place.
"While this was in the planning stages, many doors were opened. I had help from so many sources. ELITE founder Carl Cannon, Assistant Regional Superintendent of Schools Jeff Nelson, PHA Executive Director Brenda Coates, Interim Superintendent of Peoria Public Schools Norm Durflinger, and Human Resources Director of Peoria Public Schools Debra Dimke, all played a significant role in this project coming to fruition."
Hedy is thrilled with her spacious classroom, which is located above the Administration Building within the complex. There is nothing fancy about it - all white walls, a suspended ceiling, and old linoleum floors. She has big plans to bring it to life, however, with bold colors and inspiring wall murals. She enlisted the assistance of accomplished local artist Larry Hendricks, (pictured above) who will paint at least one wall with a large educationally themed mural. He is also helping her with color choices and room design. "When my new students first walk into the classroom," Hedy said "I want them to feel like this is the first day of the rest of their life". In the top photo, Hedy is shown perusing her new workspace.
Many of her students have experienced an unrelenting sense of hopelessness - a condition described as "generational poverty" that is handed down from parents to children. Just as a middle class parents will have children that are likely to become middle class themselves, those born poor are likely to remain in poverty. According to Hedy education can break that cycle. "Education is the ticket to a better life for themselves and their children."
Last Friday was her very first day of classes at Harrison, located on the South side of Peoria near Manual High School.
"I hoped and prayed that I would have 1 - 3 people walk into my classroom today. I was shocked when people kept coming in, and I ended up with 11! They were prepared, rested and pen in hand. It was a wonderful experience. They were all so engaged and wanting to learn. It was no different from any of my other classrooms. One of my students was a Great-Gram-ma. She had 7 children, 20 grand children and 27 great grandchildren. She told me that she felt she needed to have a diploma in order to personally demonstrate to her children and grandchildren the importance of education.
So what makes Hedy tick? I just had to ask. Wouldn't life be a whole lot easier if she just worked in a classroom and punched the clock every day?
"I know I can inspire and reach these folks, and when I see a need that I know can be satisfied I can't ignore it. It tortures me. The way we currently treat this population just feels wrong to me. You know many people are willing to step up and help children. They are small and cuddly and cute. But the adults are largely overlooked. We can do so much more than just satisfy their basic needs. The key is education. We can give them the tools they need for a better life. The children cannot succeed if we don't simultaneously address the needs of the the parents."
Hedy's style is self described as "old school".
"I get back to the basics. We don't need fancy buildings and technologies and the latest in newfangled research. We need to implement the tried and true recipe of structure, expectations, rules and hard work. For children we need smaller classrooms, more individualized instruction and fewer interventions and disruptions in the school day."
I couldn't resist asking her opinion of the new Charter School. She cautioned that it is not the "magic bullet" that everyone wants it to be. "The Charter School will serve several hundred, but I am concerned about the needs of over 13,000 students in this district".
That is why I admire her so much. She doesn't bow to political pressure but instead marches to the beat of an inner moral compass - a characteristic that is becoming increasingly elusive among our leaders. With her position in the PFT, her tenured status, and the widespread respect she commands among her peers, she could most likely snag a cushy job in her choice of schools. But teaching is her passion. She wants to teach - anyone who wants to learn. What a novel concept.