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A hopeful approach for the future of international relations.

Redirect teen rebellion towards idealism and self improvement.

Read excerpts from unpublished book: Science, Religion and the Search for God —Bridging the Gap.

Poems of society, the human condition, and spiritual discovery.

Our student activities and curriculum materials instill an environmental, cultural, and global perspective, and integrate various academic disciplines.

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Archives 2002:
Vol. 1, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Hope for the Future
Six Part Series on Science and Religion
First Three Parts of the Series on Leadership
Archives 2003:
Vol. 2, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Series on Leadership continued
Avoiding Dictatorship in a Free Society

Art and Politics
Living the Good Life
Teaching Teens
World Peace in Less Than a Month?
Archives 2004:
Vol. 3, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Seven Part Series on Global Consciousness
Is "Liberal" a Dirty Word?
Can Idealism Solve Problems?
Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All

Archives 2005:
Vol. 4, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Standing up for Humanity
Unity in Diversity

Thought and Imagination
Imagination and Healing
Lessons of Katrina
Intelligent Design or Evolution

Archives 2006:
Vol. 5, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Human Programming and Conflict
Non-Violent Political Change
Sustainable Development
Legalizing Torture
Living Without an Enemy
"Fast Food" is really "Slow Food"


Featured Articles about Responsibility, the Future and Consciousness:

Hope for the Future
Series on Leadership
Series on Global Consciousness
World Peace in Less Than a Month?
Can Idealism Solve Problems?
Conflict, Harmony and Integrity
Human Programming and Conflict
Non-violent Political Change
Living Without an Enemy
Protecting Children: Words and Deeds

Featured Poems:

Making Friends
The Sounds of an Empty Promise
Mama's Tears
Wake of Distaster
March Madness
Take Heart
Kabul Update



May, 2007
Vol. 6, Number

This Month's Article

"No Child Left Behind" Leaves Many Teachers Behind

What takes place within the four walls of my classroom each day is way beyond the mere subject matter that I teach. I tell my high school students that a classroom is a miniature society, and while we may not be able to change the world, we can create an ideal society within our classroom. We can have a society of respect, support and encouragement for each other, a society that recycles waste, and a society that is trusting and peaceful. It is only after children feel safe and have a sense of self-worth can they begin to learn. Learning theory substantiates that claim: children learn when they are emotionally receptive and do not have their defenses up.

Since I began teaching in 1973, I found that the teachers who lasted within the profession became life-long master teachers. They knew how to motivate students and how to translate the subject matter into building blocks of knowledge using multiple approaches that left a minimum of children behind. Classroom management was a function of mutual respect and engaging lessons. They knew how to nurture the emotional and developmental needs of their students while making them interested in learning.

Currently, under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates, the criteria for qualified teachers and succeeding students leaves out the basic essentials of teaching and learning. If students were simply vessels into which teachers poured knowledge, then maybe NCLB standards would be valid. However, the classroom, where learning is supposed to take place, is often the focal point of personal, family and social traumas mixed with the pressure to meet or exceed what often seem like arbitrary expectations. Under these pressures we expect teachers and students to have the high morale and enthusiasm necessary for success as proved by standardized tests!

What is missing from NCLB is a basic understanding of what it means to teach and to learn. There are three critical truths that NCLB ignores:

First, teaching is an art as well as a science. Teaching is a calling, not just a skill.  What this means is that a “teacher” is a quality of a person’s being, a talent such as we recognize in artists or in people who have the gift of healing. A teacher who becomes a master teacher has to first have the inner qualities and passions that cause perpetual striving for improvement. A true teacher improves not because of what he or she knows, but because of the desire to better serve students — physically, emotionally, mentally and psychologically.

Second, teaching is first and foremost a relationship. Students and teachers spend most of their days together, and much of what teachers do is parenting and mentoring. The classroom is not different from life and therefore the teaching of life skills goes hand in hand with instruction of subject matter. In fact, if one may compare a classroom with theater, the knowledge is the script while the real drama is the social and psychological dimensions of human growth, human motivation, and human interaction directed by the teacher.

Third, the ultimate goals of education are relevancy and personal growth. We, as teachers, are charged to develop the higher level thinking skills and the application of knowledge necessary to help students adapt to real world and unexpected situations. Employers surveyed about the top ten traits they value in prospective employees consistently rank the qualities of teamwork, problem solving, adaptability, interpersonal skills, and communication skills as more essential than basic skills tested by standardized tests. In the classroom, teachers use these key traits to engage students, to create a positive learning environment and to make knowledge relevant.

No Educator Proficiency Assessments (EPA) can indicate if a teacher is “highly qualified” to teach, just as no standardized test can indicate the real progress a student has made in developing the key characteristics essential for a successful human being. These assessments in fact belittle the core values of education.

Teachers and students are partners in the educational adventure. They both benefit and develop from the same dynamic. Education is a process of developing one’s potentials and testing the limits of one’s known world. Education is a process akin to nature, and it is successful when there is a nurturing environment that respects the qualities and needs of students and teachers. It is not a forcing according to an arbitrary timeline. Students become successful adults when they learn to set goals and make choices that promote the welfare of themselves and their community. The most knowledgeable person is a failure if he or she is unable to have successful relationships and cooperate with others. Teachers who are able to create a learning environment that achieves that, themselves grow and develop professionally and as human beings.

In my state, Arizona, a teacher may not be approved in a teaching or subject area based on university transcripts or experience if there is an Arizona Educator Proficiency Test for that area. Basing “highly qualified” status on EPA’s rather than on coursework is a vote of no confidence in our universities’ academic and teacher training standards. I have taken the AEPA for French (which I have been teaching for thirty-four years) and was astounded to find that there was nothing that evaluated my ability as a teacher, but only tested my proficiency in French and knowledge of a few terms of language teaching jargon. 

Many teachers express extreme frustration with these assessments. They feel that the tests are geared to exclude people from teaching who don’t have book knowledge at a high university level. My overall impression about the “highly qualified” requirement of NCLB is that it is a means of discouraging many teachers. The tests for teachers favor a certain type of learning while excluding the most important measures of a successful and dedicated teacher. Our society should make teaching an inclusive, welcoming profession, but the emphasis on tests is shutting many potentially great teachers out.

Even the most highly trained and naturally creative teacher will learn “on the job.” Every day and every year there are new demands for improvement and adaptation. A teacher does not teach in a vacuum, but develops by interaction with students and with other teachers. Administrators are trained to evaluate their staff in ways that reflect teaching ability and interpersonal skills. An administrator who is an instructional leader will mentor and guide his or her staff to an ever-progressive level of effectiveness. It goes against the spirit of education to discourage students who want to learn and teachers who want to teach by making them submit to the authority of arbitrary tests. All the requirements of NCLB are eroding morale and confidence in our teachers and in our schools while not improving teaching or learning.


© 2007 Richard V. Sidy


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Archives 2005
Volumn 4
January: "Standing up for Humanity"
February: "The Wake of Disaster" – a poem
March: "Unity in Diversity
April: "Life is Calling"
May: "Entertainment" – a poem
June: "Thought and Imagination" part 1
July: "Thought and Imagination" part 2
August: "Imagination and Healing"
September: "Malice or Neglect? – Lessons of Katrina"
October: "Protecting Children"
November: "Intelligent Design or Evolution?"
December: "Building with one hand, destroying with the other"
Archives 2006
Volumn 5

January: "Conflict, Harmony, and Integrity"
February: "Satyagraha or Soul-force and Political Change"
March: "I Know I'm Not Alone - Wisdom of Michael Franti"
April: "Human Programming and Conflict Part I"
May: "Human Programming and Conflict Part II"
June: "Soccer Diplomacy"
July: "Sustainable Development is Nature's Way
August: "Parallel Universes"
September: "The News is not New"
October: "Legalizing Torture"
November: "Living Without an Enemy"
December: "Fast Food is really Slow Food"

Archives 2007
Volumn 6

January: "State of Fear"
February: Criminal Justice - "The Powerful Over the Weak"
March: "Culture Shock: The Good Life and Survival"
April: "March Madness"
May: "No Child Left Behind" Leaves Many Teachers Behind
June: "Personal Ecology"
July: Criminal Justice - "The Ethic of Custodianship"
August: "Exploring the Mind - part 1"
September: "Exploring the Mind - part 2: The Poetic Mind
October: "How Much Pain Can We Stand?"
November: "When Languages Disappear"
December: "Is it Enough to be Tolerant?"

Archives 2008
Volumn 7

January: "Beyond Ideology: Politics of the Future "
February: "Beyond the Bush Years"
March: "The Imaginary Economy - Part I
April: "The Imaginary Economy - Part II
May: Questions from Prison
June: "iGods and Connectivity"
July: "Energy Independence"
August: "Tribalism and the 2008 Elections
September: "Guilt, Shame and U.S. Justice"
October: "Have We Been Willing Slaves?"
November: "Are We Ready for the Future?"
December: "Are we done learning from pain?"

Archives 2009
Volumn 8

January: "Awakening"
February: "When Sacrifice is no Sacrifice"
March: "The Good New Days"
April: "The Power of Metaphor"
May: "The Conflict of Mythologies"
June: "The Time is Right"
July: "The New Anarchy"
August: "The Art of Living"
September: "Outrage"
October: "Are Women Becoming More Unhappy?

November: "Effect of the manufacturing culture on the American Psyche"
December: Who are the Real Game Changers?

Archives 2010
Volumn 9

January: The Music of Place
February: Earthquakes and Other Awakenings
March: Sense of Place, Sense of Self, Sense of Humanity
April: Why Do People Serve?
May: Decentralizing Food and Energy
June: Beyond Reading and Writing — Ecological literacy
July: Organization or Organism?
August: Fear and Cynicism = “Inter-fear-ance”
September: Are we afraid of our "Better Angels?"
October: Choosing Our Battles
November: Meeting the Need
December: A Living Canvas

Diplomacy Help for Teens Science and Religion Poetry Archives
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