Thoughts, links & ideas from the 2008 National Teacher of the Year

Each time I've taken off in a plane since May (which is a lot), I've been writing in my journal, then adding these journal entries on this blog.

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(Note: the blue posted dates are actually the dates I wrote the journal entries, not when I posted them online.)

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Atlanta, GA




I feel like a cow.  I’ve been herded through the cattle chute (shoot?) and loaded for transport (and eventual slaughter?)  The Atlanta airport is huuuuuge!  Apparently the busiest in the world, according to locals.  I believe it.  But the airport is pretty darn efficient.


Our little Redmond airport is efficient, too, but I feel a bit more like a human there.  Small scale is kind of nice.  Just a couple weeks ago an older fellow didn’t quite make it through security with his large pocketknife.  I’m guessing he hadn’t traveled since the 70’s, was a bit confused, and was flustered when they said he couldn’t keep his knife (which was obviously special to him.)


One of the TSA agents said “listen, sir, you just can’t bring a pocket knife on a plane anymore, but tell you what…” and then proceeded to take the knife over to the baggage area, found the gentleman’s suitcase, and tucked it into a pocket so it would be at his destination when he got there (I think he had been helping the gentleman earlier, too.)  I have a feeling that in Atlanta the agent would have had to just say “mooooove it, sir.”  Or called in the reinforcements.


Last night, after my presentation at the PAGE conference, a young teacher came up and asked, “I loved your message about the humanity of children and the need for creativity in education, but how do we make that happen on a national level?”  My wise and profound answer as the national spokesperson for educators:  “I don’t know.”


Essentially, she was asking how to make the Atlanta airport feel like the Redmond airport.  To be honest, I’m not sure that’s systematically possible.  But standing in line today, there were many instances of humanity.  A woman who offered me her spot in line because she knew my flight was before hers.  A ticket agent who went the extra mile (or three) for a family who didn’t understand the self-service kiosk.  The smiles exchanged between strangers.  Few and far between, to be sure, but humanity.


How do we make it happen consistently on a large scale?  Well, you just can’t mandate such things.  It really has to be a grass roots effort from the people on the ground: teachers, students, support staff, parents…  It really can’t be legislated any more that you can require a plant to grow.  The only way to make it happen is to provide the ideal conditions for growth and allow the plant to grow itself.  Only then will we see meaningful and effective change in education.


I think this may be my greatest professional challenge this year.  But I’m actually in a unique position to help do something about it.  I better get mooooving on it.



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