Sunday, March 28, 2010

NWP Spring Meeting in DC: Day 2

Day 2 in DC was our main lobbying day, but as we were walking to the Dirksen Senate offices for our morning rally, we caught the tourist bug and had to take pictures of the beautiful cherry blossoms that were already in bloom. These were at the Japanese American memorial.

Congresswoman Maizie Hirono was nice enough to stop by at the rally to offer up support to all the NWP teachers to encourage us for the work that was ahead today. What was really nice was that she talked about leading with aloha. Many people stopped us to thank us for coming, because if we didn't come, they wouldn't have heard Congresswoman Hirono speak. She did a great job of representing our state and as someone who signed our Dear Colleague letter to support NWP, we say mahalo a nui loa to Ms. Hirono.

The main thing that I learned about the new budget is that the federal government would like to give a lump sum of federal money back to the state for educational programs, and each state would be in charge of doling out money to programs that would have to compete for the federal money. We are not against competition, however, as a national program, we are not able to compete. We are a national network, not a state network. For example, if California's multiple writing projects got funding from California, but Hawaii and Alaska didn't get funding, what would happen to the national writing project? As the Lehua Writing Project, without the infrastructure and support of the NWP, we wouldn't exist.

The Dear Colleague letter supports our need for direct funding. Our job on this day was to meet with Senator Akaka's aide to talk about our program, to talk about the need for our kind of professional development in Hawaii, and to encourage him to sign the Dear Colleague letter. We met with Arun Revera who was coming off of a very long night (Senate was getting ready to vote on the health bill). He was very warm and receptive, and in karmic coincidence, Arun and Jeannine lived very near each other in Texas, and he went to HPA. His mother still lives in Waimea and they both frequent Waimea Coffee. It was destined to be a great meeting. We talked about our program, we shared mana'o from Cathy Riehle, Merle Yoshida and Joanne Yoshida, answered his questions, and he assured us that he would ask Senator Akaka to sign the letter. We will follow up with him this week after their own spring break.

Senator Akaka and his office continued to show us hospitality by arranging a private capitol tour (we were joined by 4 kids and their advisor from 4H Hawaii) and when we got back, Senator Akaka gave us some of his precious time before he went back to the floor for another vote. We also found out that when we see senators giving testimony on C-Span, they're usually talking just to the stenographer and whichever young senator is doing time as the speaker. Everyone else is in committee meetings or doing other work. The staff keeps track on C-Span to what's going on, and when a vote is near, there are buzzers that go on in the senate offices.

It was such a full day with so many cool things going on, but the best thing was our meeting with Hirono and Akaka. We weren't able to meet with Senator Inouye, but Paul LeMahieu met with his education aide on our behalf before we got to DC, and although Senator Inouye is very supportive, because he is the chairman of the appropriations committee, he is not able to sign the Dear Colleague letter. It would be like signing it to himself, and would not be appropriate.

Friday, March 26, 2010

NWP Spring Meeting in DC: Day 1

There's a reason why Hawaii has not been represented at the NWP spring meeting in about 8 years. If you thought driving to NHERC everyday was far, try getting on a plane on Tuesday night, 1 hour to Honolulu, 1 hour layover in Honolulu, 6 hours on the plane to arrive in Phoenix on Wednesday morning, 1 hour layover, then 4 hours on the plane to Washington DC = 13 hours of travel. We had one hour to shower, and get to our first meeting in the evening.

We were going to bow out of the meeting after traveling for so long, but Pat Fox, one of our mentors, told us to "power through" so we did. Thank goodness. At Wednesday night's meeting, they helped us to strategize our meetings with our representatives, they explained the pitfalls of the proposed federal budget for FY 2011 and what it would mean to NWP, and they went over our talking points and addressed ways to answer the hard questions in case our representatives were a little less supportive.

Most importantly, it gave us time to practice scenarios before we trudged off to bed.

Agenda for day 2:
Get ourselves to the Dirksen Senate office building by 8:00
Introduce Congresswoman Maizie Hirono to the NWP contingent as soon as she arrived
Let her speak
Get more questions answered
Head to our first appointment with Akaka's education aide
Private capitol tour
Spring meeting reception in the evening at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why School? Join the conversation

Title: Why School? Reclaiming Education for All of Us

Author: Mike Rose

Publisher: The New Press (2009)

Hardcover: 192 pages

I don't tout a book that I've never read, just as I don't give students a writing assignment that I haven't already written myself, but the National Writing Project book group ning is having an online discussion of this book and the coversations have been quite intriguing. Imagine, adult conversation centered around big questions. It made me feel like a professional again. If you too are yearning for those adult conversations, this is a great group to join.

From the New Press website:

A powerful and timely exploration of this country’s public education goals, and how they are put into practice, by the award-winning author and educator
I ask how to educate a vast population, what to teach and how, who will do it, what the work will mean. We still ask these questions because we haven’t satisfactorily answered them. And the way we answer them says a lot about who we are—and what we want to become.

In the tradition of Jonathan Kozol, this little book is driven by big questions. What does it mean to be educated? What is intelligence? How should we think about intelligence, education, and opportunity in an open society? Why is a commitment to the public sphere central to the way we answer these questions?

Drawing on forty years of teaching and research, from primary school to adult education and workplace training, award-winning author Mike Rose reflects on these and other questions related to public schooling in America. He answers them in beautifully written chapters that are both rich in detail—a first-grader conducting a science experiment, a carpenter solving a problem on the fly, a college student’s encounter with a story by James Joyce—and informed by a deep and powerful understanding of history, the psychology of learning, and the politics of education.

Rose decries the narrow focus of educational policy in our time: the drumbeat of test scores and economic competition. Why School? will be embraced by parents and teachers alike, and readers everywhere will be captivated by Rose’s eloquent call for a bountiful democratic vision of the purpose of schooling.

About the author: Mike Rose, a professor in the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, is the author of Lives on the Boundary, The Mind at Work, and Possible Lives. Among his many awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Grawemeyer Award in Education, and the Commonwealth Club of California Award for Literary Excellence in Nonfiction. He lives in Santa Monica.