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Welcome to the walkout, from okeducationmom

April 2, 2018 Comments off

A couple of years ago, I turned the blog over to my mom, who proceeded to get more page views than I usually do when I post something. As we reminisce about HB 1017 and prepare to meet at the Capitol, I thought this would be a great time to give her the keys to the blog again.


Hello, Friends,

This week is nostalgic for me. As children, educators, support personnel, state employees and all who believe in public education and love Oklahoma, we are saying our farewells to David Boren who will soon be leaving the University of Oklahoma. We will also be sending our very best wishes to the Oklahoma legislature; we desperately want our leaders to succeed in passing legislation that will properly fund the core services of our great state.

When I marched for the passage of HB 1017 in 1990, I was hopeful and then grateful that Governor Henry Bellmon and a bipartisan group of legislators found a way to move public education forward. The future looked very hopeful. We had so much pride in our state. While our funding mechanism was getting back on track in Oklahoma, Senator Boren was making us proud in Washington D.C. There was a great deal of trust ​and hope for our future.

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Governor Bellmon signing HB 1017 into law in 1990

My son, Rick Cobb, was a student at OU, and he was paying attention. He was working on his degree in English, writing columns for the OU Daily, and supporting my efforts to be a part of the change that Oklahoma desperately needed. He also interned the summer after his junior year for Senator Boren.

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This 1991 photo hasn’t aged well.

Are you beginning to see why I am feeling nostalgic? As I watch President Boren prepare to depart my beloved university, I am looking for the next phase of progress for Oklahoma. The legislature has finally broken the 75% threshold that can produce new revenue streams for our core services. It took decades for this progress to be achieved. Sadly, it only took a little over one hour to reduce this same progress the next day.

I believe that most of us are looking for assurance that more commitment is coming from the legislature and governor next week. Most of us know that not every piece of the puzzle will emerge, but more needs to happen. Trust​ is an essential part of the solution! We need to know that solutions will not be taken away in the blink of an eye. Any funding removed needs to be replaced in an equitable way.

I have been so impressed with some members in both parties for their efforts to find compromise and equity in searching for revenue streams. It is no easy task, but it has to happen. As someone who has always felt the responsibility to do my part, I want to say, “good luck” to one and all. Good luck, Governor Fallin, members of the legislature, and citizens of Oklahoma, as you deliberate the fate of our state. Our children need us to be wise and brave. Our children need a bright future.

And thank you, Governor/Senator/President Boren for your service to our state and country. You have lived your life in service to others. We must all endeavor to do the same.

 

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A Short Note from Okeducationmom

August 24, 2016 Comments off

Those of you who know me well understand that there has been one person who has been there for me my whole life – my mom. She was a teacher, for 29 years, in Chickasha and Norman. I can’t think of anyone who has influenced me more. She’s probably the biggest reason I chose to be an educator. Tonight, she has authored a guest post that I hope you’ll enjoy.


 

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Mother’s Day 2012

Hi, Friends,

My name is Ellen Kanak.  I’d like to offer my two cents about public education.  I am a product of public common and higher education.  I am a mom and a grandmother of children who have been well-served by public education.  I am a retired teacher who is old enough to have seen education policy change in many ways.  I am closely following legislation, legislators, and policy decisions that have the potential to help or harm public education.   I am an unapologetic, fierce advocate for public education.  I know that other retired educators are as well.  The time is now to act to elect Oklahoma legislators who will advance legislation that supports all of our children, their parents, teachers, and staff.

I began teaching in the dark ages.  In 1971, there was no free and appropriate education for all.  Students with special needs and their families had to really scramble to find ways to have a quality education.  This was when I was first introduced to advocacy.  Later, I became a building representative for my school district’s teachers’ organization before I even knew what a building rep does.  I learned pretty quickly though, and in time I learned just how important that advocacy is.  I helped storm the Capitol in 1990 and the result was HB 1017.  This bill helped public education in really significant ways.  It was a bipartisan effort that helped better fund our schools and put in place appropriate policies that addressed class size and other issues that impact our students in positive ways.  I’ve also seen setbacks—many have occurred over the last ten years or so.  Some occurred soon after HB 1017 was enacted, because we didn’t stay focused on maintaining the progress and work to further advance education policy.  It was thrilling to see a new Superintendent of Public Instruction elected a couple of years ago, but again we quit paying attention and ended up with some legislators who are not friendly to our purpose.

The primaries are settled.  As we prepare for the November general election, candidates have been clearly identified as pro-public education—or not!  We have choices in both parties; we have independent candidates as well.  Individuals and groups have worked tirelessly to give us good choices.  Two of my favorite sources are Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education and Okeducationtruths.  For the purpose of full disclosure, I am Rick Cobb’s mother, so he is my “most favorite.”  Other favorite advocates are Claudia Swisher, Rob Miller, Dallas Koehn, and Angela Clark Little.  It is especially gratifying to me to see parents, students, teachers, support staff, school boards, superintendents, and many other community members working together for the common good.

Will you join me in a willingness to cross party lines to elect the best candidate for each legislative position?  Those of us who are retired have seen political parties evolve and sometimes devolve.  Social issues are mostly sorted out at the federal level while issues of public education and other core services are developed more at the state level.  We have great candidates in both parties and in no party, and we need to support them with financial contributions as well as giving time to get them elected.  They have been clearly identified–as have the candidates who will work against the greater good in order to divert public money to private schools (vouchers, ESAs and such).

Our children need and deserve our support.  Their futures depend on quality public education.  Many of our children also desperately need other core services that have been drastically cut.  Let’s send a message to our leaders and candidates.  We don’t want excuses.  We want you to care about all of our citizens.  We expect you to do your job for all of us.

Let’s do this, friends!  Let’s reboot and move forward for a great outcome this November.  Be sure to register to vote if you haven’t already.  Know where your precinct is.  Mark your calendar.  Show up November 8 and help send the right people to the legislature!

Why Trauma-Informed?

September 9, 2018 2 comments

In 2008, after my grandmother passed away, I was putting the contents of her dresser into a plastic bucket so that the movers could pack and move everything out of her room at her retirement community. I didn’t have much time, but I stopped and looked at many of the things she had kept. Old pictures of my mom and her brother. A birth certificate from one of her siblings who died in childhood. Veterans benefits notices. Booklets of Green Stamps.

And for some reason, my first grade report card.

At the end of the school year, my teacher commented that I had become angry and disagreeable during the fourth quarter. That makes sense to me. That’s about when my parents split up.

Please understand, I’m not looking for sympathy. Or empathy. What was hard for me at age six has turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened in my life. I was probably in my 20s before I really got that, but objectively, it couldn’t have worked out better. In short, I got to experience a step father who loved and appreciated my brother and me probably more than he really had to. And I loved him dearly up to his death five years ago.

And okeducationmom has never let me down.

My parents divorced in 1977. We lived in a small town. Certainly everyone knew about it, but that doesn’t mean they could relate to it. With 40 years of hindsight, it’s easy to see that I would have benefited from having a teacher who got it. I don’t mean that I needed a teacher who understood what I was going through; rather I could have used a teacher who at least understood that I was going through something. Clearly I was lashing out irrationally.

I probably didn’t do that again until about 2012, when I started blogging.

I wouldn’t have really framed it this way then, of course, but I was suffering, as a six-year-old, from trauma. This was the defining event of my childhood. Parents divorcing is that event for many of our students in Oklahoma. For others, it’s abject poverty. Or living in a home with someone suffering from addiction. Or losing a parent or sibling. Or a parent being incarcerated. Or a debilitating illness – whether you can see it from the outside or not.

We must accept this reality, and understand that we, as educators, are incapable of understanding all of the different traumas that our students experience. Fortunately, the Oklahoma State Department of Education and many school districts in Oklahoma (including Mid-Del) have started focusing on this.

In May, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister announced that this would be a point of emphasis for her and her staff:

It Starts Here: Trauma-Informed Instruction will be held at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, Oct. 2, and feature experts in childhood trauma and healing. In partnership with state agencies, tribal nations and nonprofits that serve children and families, the OSDE’s in-depth event will target educators who are often the first to encounter trauma in individual children.

“A recent National Survey of Children’s Health revealed that Oklahoma’s youngest, most vulnerable children suffer more trauma than those in any other state in the nation, and additional trauma rankings among our children of all ages are alarmingly high,” Hofmeister said.

“We must come together to understand the complex issues surrounding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in order to serve the hundreds of thousands of affected children in our classrooms and provide a path forward that is infused with resilience and hope. When we think of the importance of giving all Oklahoma children access to a high-quality education, there may be no more critical work than to ensure a foundation of safety and caring. We cannot allow these frightening statistics to remain unchecked.”

In our district, we’ve given a ten-question ACE quiz to our administrators and the teachers at many of our schools. It’s a good activity because participants can (if they choose to) share their score without discussing any specific trauma if they choose not to.

My score was a six. I’ve shared with you one reason why, and that’s all you get. It’s my story. It’s my childhood. And that’s the one part of it that I’m comfortable sharing.

Someone else’s score of a six might be different than mine. Another person’s three might have given them more trauma in childhood. Or maybe someone’s score of one. The point isn’t the number. The point is the child.

As educators, most of us can’t relate to the experience of a child who has an incarcerated parent. What we can do, however, is get to know that child and learn what that child needs from us. It’s not enough for us to teach reading, math, science, history, music, or anything else. Recognizing that we have students who need more than curriculum is the point of developing trauma-informed schools.

It’s not to stereotype different traumas and generalize their results on kids. It’s not so that we can manage our expectations.

Trauma doesn’t change the fact that a student’s starting point is not the sole determinant in who he or she becomes as an adult.

Here’s more from the OSDE press release:

Research indicates that the impact of childhood trauma can be mitigated through trauma-informed educational instruction practices that focus on relationship-building, resilience, hope and positive interactions. Addressing students experiencing trauma is part of Oklahoma Edge, the OSDE’s 8-year strategic plan for strengthening public education in the state.

In Oklahoma, nearly half of school-aged children have an ACE score of 3 or higher, which is strongly associated with negative long-term health outcomes including disproportionate rates of divorce, depression and violence.

“Hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma children are academically at risk and on a path to shorter, more difficult lives as a result of childhood trauma,” said Hofmeister. “Seeing our teachers stand up for kids is not news, but at the It Starts Here summit, we will equip them with the tools specific to childhood trauma that will enable them to be even fiercer champions of their students.”

Maybe this means having more counseling supports in place for children. Maybe it indicates a need for mentors or better mental health services. For years, we’ve known that there are students in our schools who lack positive adult interactions outside of our buildings.

We also have known for years that there are some amazing single parents, foster parents, and grandparents out there raising children.

That doesn’t mean that the trauma ceases to exist, though.

As with any good movement in education, I fear that this will turn into a collection of buzzwords and generalizations. I hope to God it doesn’t, though. We need to understand our kids, even the ones with experiences that we can’t relate to.

I’m thankful that the OSDE and Superintendent Hofmeister are taking a visible lead in this important work. I’m thankful for those in our district adding to the effort.

I will continue to learn everything I can about childhood trauma. More importantly, I will continue to learn how I can help the students I serve.

 

 

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