And Social Justice for All: A Lesson from 39 Years

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 13 days, I will turn 39.

Wow. How did this happen? I feel like this is almost as big a milestone as 40 (yes, stay tuned til next year!).

I have been in Hong Kong for a week and a half and will be here for another month. As in our move to Australia, being away from ‘home’, wherever that is, always puts life and it’s silliness and seriousness into perspective.

Time and space away from the oppressive culture that is my professional life in Australia has brought an invigorating clarity. Both the mental and physical distance have been soul nourishing and have brought to the forefront for me the reflections of self about what qualities are essential: integrity, the courage to do the right thing and not allowing fear to run my life.

“The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.”~MLK, Jr

That’s not to say I’m not afraid. To the contrary, maintaining healthy fear and being aware and alert are critical. However, letting that fear overrun me, allowing the fear to overshadow my integrity or the ability to do the right thing is unacceptable.

“Normal fear protects us; abnormal fear paralyses us. Normal fear motivates us to improve our individual and collective welfare; abnormal fear constantly poisons and distorts our inner lives. Our problem is not to be rid of fear but, rather to harness and master it.”~MLK, Jr

Some call this stupid; some call me stupid (the latter being unable to distinguish between person and action — I have little time for those people). I call it setting a good example and demonstrating to my son (and the other people in my life who matter) that the bullies don’t always have to win; that the strong and seemingly powerful are not always dominant; that right can win over wrong…it just depends on how ‘win’ is defined.

For me, a ‘win’ could be speaking truth to power, even if nothing happens as a result. Even if those in power aren’t listening, I have been heard. I have used the appropriate channels, followed the chain of command established by the neoliberals who are ‘in charge’ at the present time.

A ‘win’ is about doing the right thing, to say what needs to be said, to write what must be written and to publicize the process and results, even at the expense of…what? What’s the worse that could happen, really? I acknowledge the privilege in those statements, but being a globally connected scholar does have its advantages.

What’s the alternative? Stay in my comfort zone? Not look my son in the eye because I have sold my soul for…a job? Material things? Two bedrooms, a study and a garden?

A ‘win’ is about being able to sleep soundly at night because I have done nothing wrong. Ultimately, the law is on my side and will be used to prove any case I feel I need to pursue.

And while I understand that some must ‘do what they need to do’, that is not my choice.

I stand for social justice for all, not the favored few. I am not a ‘Yes” woman; I am not an object that comes with a price tag, willing, or even able, to be bought by the highest bidder. No one has the ability to buy me. No one can afford it, not even the richest person (in money) in the world, Bill Gates.

I will never be a ‘donna d’onore’.

My purpose is clear: I am passionate about improving students’ life chances through effective education leadership and high quality, optimistic learning environments around the globe.

I follow this purpose in all aspects of my life. Improving students’ life chances doesn’t happen through wheeling and dealing by unethical so called practitioners; it often cannot be counted in citations or articles published or grants received, or whatever nonsensical 20th century yardstick the neoliberals measure us by.

“Success, recognition, and conformity are the bywords of the modern world where everyone seems to crave the anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority.”~MLK, Jr

I’m shocked that far too many scholars are silent about what matters most — improving the lives of students (rather than ourselves). I do understand; I am not blind (yet!) and do understand that money makes the world go ’round. But just because that’s the way it is, does not mean it is the right way.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”~MLK, Jr

I am also aware that publishing this very post is likely to be perceived as giving some people ammunition. Ammunition for what, I am not sure, as I cannot sink myself into the depravity of their minds and souls, but rest assured, they are there (hi).

I am also aware that publishing this very post is likely to give courage to a few, to let their voices, no matter how trembling, be heard; to raise their hand, no matter how quivering, and object to the blatant and not so blatant bullying and gaslighting tactics that are so common in the business world, especially for women; to speak truth to power; to know that when we speak truth to power, we are NOT trying to make life difficult for anyone, we are simply demonstrating integrity; to help simpletons understand that, especially in institutes of purported higher education, debate is healthy and lends itself to organizational improvement and provides a better culture in which to work positively and productively.

During my time studying for my PhD in Education Policy, Planning and Leadership at the College of William & Mary, I had the pleasure of being mentored by some of the most prolific scholars in education leadership, who ‘walked the talk’, who stood up for those being marginalized, who worked to make a difference in the lives of students (university and PK-12…all at the same time), and who still more than managed to have the ‘outputs’ that are the darlings of university administrators and rankings fiends. The mentor/scholars encouraged healthy debate about the issues; it never turned ugly, and most importantly, it never turned personal.  Because it wasn’t personal, it was always about social justice, about doing what is right, about advocating with those who were being marginalized, about providing a structure and resources so that we learned how to advocate for ourselves and others, too.

Some may criticize me for my beliefs. To those people, I say that I am glad that you can open your mouth and criticize me, but know that it is a two way street. However, I will not criticize you as a person, I will critique your behavior and your actions, which are manifestations of your belief system and personal ethics.

Because I have learned in my 39 years, that someone will always be an outspoken critic.

“And as for the critics, tell me I don’t get it
Everybody can tell you how to do it, they never did it.” ~Jay Z in Already Home

And no one can critique me as well or as harshly as myself.

I know life is difficult; I know life is unfair. I have learned these lessons the hard way, very early on. Just because I’ve learned the lessons and know that the path of integrity, ethics, passion and commitment is fraught with danger, doesn’t mean that I should avoid the road. If you want to, that’s your choice.

But I choose love. I choose to work to change the status quo. Because I know as difficult as my early years were, others have it far, far worse. I also know that still others had it far, far better. They did not witness the violence and drug abuse; they did not experience the mental, physical and sexual abuse; they did not experience the hunger and humiliation, over and over.

Just because that’s the way it was for me, does not mean it was right.

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”~MLK, Jr.

At the end of the day, people across the world know what works to help all who are marginalized and hurting. Society as a whole is not courageous enough to do what must be done. That is why it is up to us, as individuals, to do the work that must be done. We must find each other and work together to create global solutions to global problems to create change.

“Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” ~MLK, Jr.

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Let go…

And evolve.

I have begun a new blog, Scholar&Son, to better reflect this transitioning stage in my life.


Thank you for following me! Namaste.


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Being A Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence

The Belle Jar


I am six. My babysitter’s son, who is five but a whole head taller than me, likes to show me his penis. He does it when his mother isn’t looking. One time when I tell him not to, he holds me down and puts penis on my arm. I bite his shoulder, hard. He starts crying, pulls up his pants and runs upstairs to tell his mother that I bit him. I’m too embarrassed to tell anyone about the penis part, so they all just think I bit him for no reason.

I get in trouble first at the babysitter’s house, then later at home.

The next time the babysitter’s son tries to show me his penis, I don’t fight back because I don’t want to get in trouble.

One day I tell the babysitter what her son does, she tells me that he’s just a little boy, he doesn’t know…

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The Real Rationale for Common Core, and Why It is Failing

Leadership is not coercion.

Diane Ravitch's blog

When Arne Duncan was made Secretary of Education, he brought in a group of advisors, largely from the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation, to help him design what eventually became the Race to the Top, which was funded by Congress with $5 billion in discretionary money, to reform American education. Duncan asked Joanne Weiss to take charge of Race to the Top.

At the time, Joanne Weiss was CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, a California-based organization dedicated to spurring for-profit entrepreneurs and investing in charter schools, both start-ups and chains. Her previous experience was in educational technology. I can’t find any evidence that she ever worked in a school. She was an entrepreneur. She and her advisers came to the conclusion that the biggest problem in American education was its extreme decentralization (local control). They decided that if there were a national system of standards and assessments, then the…

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Call Her Out, But Call Her Cait: Caitlyn Jenner and Why I’m Never Here for Transphobia


Source: Call Her Out, But Call Her Cait: Caitlyn Jenner and Why I’m Never Here for Transphobia

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We Can Do It!

First appeared on Thursday 19 March 2015.

As educators, we know what works in classrooms. There have been thousands of studies around effective leadership, school improvement and raising student achievement. In schools that have high academic optimism, there is a concerted belief that “Learning and student success is our priority” (academic press), a palpable teacher attitude that “We believe in our students” (trust in students), and the knowledge of teachers that “We can do it!” (collective efficacy).

Schools are under much pressure to close the achievement gap between students of different races, those who are rich or poor, and those who live in suburban or urban areas. No Child Left Behind (2001) was the federal response in the USA calling for more accountability vis a vis Common Core and standardized testing. Australia pioneered a national curriculum and NAPLAN (National Assessment Program in Literacy and Numeracy) standardized testing.

Understanding the social contexts in classrooms and schools allows education leaders to work with faculty in examining current practice in an effort to improve the educational outcomes for all students, even those who must overcome the obstacles to learning posed by their low socioeconomic status. Academic optimism, a schoolwide confidence that students can succeed academicially, is crucial to nurture. Below are some strategies to nurture the three aspects of AO in schools.

Academic Press. Education leaders must work with teachers in order to establish an environment where academics are the most important aspect, in order to nurture and raise student achievement. Leaders must ‘lead the way’ in ensuring that school is a place for learning, not just a place where extracurriculars (such as sport etc) occur. Teachers may need additional training in order to meet the difficult demands of the classroom to meet the needs of all students. In urban schools particularly, where the teaching and learning environment are pressed by many other challenges, it is crucial that school leaders provide leadership and limit disruptions of instructional time and provide training for teachers on ways to build a serious learning community where students work together to meet high expectations and where academics and successes are celebrated.

Trust in Students. Faculty trust can be built in several informal and formal ways. Education leaders can act with benevolence, trusting that stakeholders will act in ways that are appropriate and respectful. If teachers act professionally and fairly and students work hard to achieve, education leaders can assume that parents are willing to collaborate in order to help students meet and exceed their high expectations. Education leaders can further build trust by being reliable and competent. This can be demonstrated by leaders beginning and ending meetings at their appointed times, following through on requests or promises, and backing up teachers as the need arises. When there is follow through with the expectations of the class and the school, stakeholders feel more confident that the leadership of the school is adept at their job of leading the school. This in turn may encourage others to believe in their abilities of professional competence. Finally, education leaders can lead their schools with honest and open communication and transparent actions. Leaders can be accessible through email and telephone, and can also hold parent meetings at various times to meet the needs of working parents. School newsletters, memos, and websites can all be used as communication tools in order to strengthen the relationships between home and school, which in turn may inspire parents and members of the community to become more engaged with the school. Regardless of the ways in which education leaders seek to foster and build trust, it is a necessary component of improving student achievement.

Collective Efficacy. If teachers believe they can influence positively their students, most likely they will. School leaders can work with teachers to nurture their self efficacy. Teachers who attend relevant, targeted professional development or by visiting classrooms of teachers who have high student achievement have the opportunity to learn instructional strategies through vicarious learning experiences. Once they take these instructional strategies back to the classroom, such as metacognitive strategies for helping their students become better readers or more students centered approaches to math using manipulatives, mastery experiences occur as student achievement in math and reading improve, thereby enhancing their affective states. Social persuasion as a tool to build collective efficacy can be powerful. Teachers can work with coaches and more veteran teachers in an effort to provide support, share successfully implemented instructional strategies, and collaborate on ways in which improved student achievement in reading and math can occur. Collaboration among departments may also provide another way for teachers to work together to provide opportunity for vicarious experiences and social persuasion on teaching tasks or instructional strategies as a way to refine their practice in order to best meet the needs of all of their students.

If policy = money, then the public, particularly elected representatives in the United States and Australia, have not exerted enough of their will to support all students on their journey of education. For a myriad of reasons, public policy fails to support the work needed in schools, especially in schools with high proportions of students who are poor. Taking a macro look at both societies enables one to see that money spent on education now saves millions in the future. Again, we know what works in classrooms and school systems, but there does not seem to be the public will to support schools that are ready for students. Instead, policymakers and some education researchers focus on students being ready for school, an age, rather than stage approach, standardized curriculum, standardized assessments and standardized instruction to produce nations of test takers, who will be unable to highly function in the future (for those jobs have not yet been created) because of lack of creativity, innovation and a personal approach to students in classrooms. It is our duty as the public, and those of us who have the privilege to be educators, to not give up ‘the good fight’ in doing everything we can to advocate for our students in order to improve their life chances. We are truly better together and we can do it!

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My Passion: Improving School Students’ Life Chances

Nearly five months ago, I asked, “What is your passion?”

In that time, much as happened as I searched for my academic/professional identity and examined ways to merge my personal life passions with those professional.  All of this needs to be carefully crafted and help me maintain my job, grow my career, but more importantly, make a difference in the everyday lives of children, especially those who are economically disadvantaged, as I was growing up.

In order to improve ACT students’ life chances, last year, the Government pledged $26 million for the Centre for Quality Teaching and Learning (CQTL), which was established to expand and improve STEM education, as well as CLOSE THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP (which you know has always been my passion!). Unfortunately, this story has gone nowhere. The CQTL is stalled because of politics.

So whilst politicians dawdle and fingerpoint, while the Libs blame Labour, while Tony makes the next outrageous statement, while yet another boat is turned back, still, our students from poor homes in the ACT wait. How much longer will they have to wait?

Let’s all work together to help improve students’ life chances!




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A Transition is Yet Another Part of Life

What is your passion?

This is a question many of us have asked others and ourselves. I find that I ask this of myself often, mostly in regards to work, but then here lately, on a much deeper level.

It’s almost as if I’m searching for a way to merge more aspects of my life into one — a practice I question. Do I want the lines that blurry? Knowing my Type A propensities, is that wise?

I’m taking some much needed space in a month, for about a month, to focus more attention on reflecting on things like this. From a personal and professional standpoint, the past several months (and the next several, I believe) are crucial in my evolution. Being able to take a step back and concentrate on all matters of life outside of my job, will allow me the opportunity to focus on these questions and come up with answers for now.

Thankfully, life is dynamic and the impermanence of life spurs me on to experience things differently. I constantly battle with this perspective change, but am reminded of the importance of living each moment and choosing love.

The work I need to engage in involves letting go of the anger and the ‘stories in my head’ to make room for more gratitude (again, a constant, daily struggle) and focusing on my passions.

Emerson said ‘passion rebuilds the world’. My inner world needs some rebuilding and I feel positive that these raw materials will be put to good use in rebuilding my own world.

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In our neoliberal world of compliance, I wonder, who is monitoring those who monitor us? Had a lovely encounter with the research compliance office here on campus and they’ve made mistake on top of mistake and it landed on me during annual review.

I have now been working for 6 weeks to get them to fix it, but there’s even more red tape and forms to fill in…again. This is maddening!

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And How’s That Going?

I can’t even make a terrible reference with “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

Bike: still in the garage

Book I was reading: abandoned, for the moment

Yoga class: so that great trip we took a few months ago? Yeah, now replenishing fundage, so no class for a little bit longer.

Reconnecting: hit or miss, more hits than misses so….

One out of three ain’t bad!

Brush it off, let it go.

Active: danced my booty off this past Saturday night at a friend’s house — most of them were getting ready to go to a Cyndi Lauper concert next week. Pictures will not be posted to protect the innocent and 80s adorned guests!

“Mummy’s Projects”: finally some movement on one of my projects nearly halfway done — painting a craft table and chairs we picked up for $20 at the Baby & Kids Market

Surviving: it’s been a tough 2 months in the sleep department with little man waking for hours in the middle of the night, not wanting to go to sleep until 10pm, waking for the day at 4am or 5.20am (this morning). So much seems to go out of the window when I function on 3-6 hours of (more often than not) broken sleep. But last night? A blissful 7 hours — it will help if this trend hold for at least a couple more nights:)

Since I obviously can’t ease into anything, my September may be a bit of a shocker. More exercise, more sunshine (thankfully I have nothing to do with that one!!), and gluten free for a month. I need to try it and see the effects. I’ve talked about it for years and I clearly need to do something!

And this is my only post this month so far. I so need some peers to apply some gentle pressure and encouragement to write at least fortnightly. And I need to do some work to get there…like why am I here, really? In a web sense…what’s the purpose? I would say it doesn’t need one, but I’m finding it difficult to write sometimes and am wondering if I should just write in Word docs for myself. Does the venue matter? Being online does temper my words (mostly)…

So maybe some inspiration from some fellow writers — Why did you begin your blog? What keeps you going? How are you encouraged to write? Interested in being part of a small (5-6 member) writing group where we encourage each other in their progress?

So many possibilities in this wide world of ours… 😉

Happy writing!

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